Zimbabwe. A year-long, violent state campaign ahead of
the 2002 presidential election drove Zimbabwe inexorably
toward economic collapse and international freezing.
President Robert Mugabe's regime replaced free-thinking
judges against regime-loyal jurists, harassed and threatened
journalists and let "war veterans" - in effect the ZANU-PF
armed branch of the ruling party - attack companies,
hospitals and aid organizations and demand them "damages"
for dismissed staff. Foreign embassies were threatened with
acts of violence and were told that the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs did not guarantee them any protection.
Countryaah, the government announced that virtually all around 6,000
white-owned farms would be expropriated. Around 1,700 farms
were occupied by "war veterans" for more than a year.
President Mugabe issued a decree in November that gave the
state the right to evict white landowners without prior
judicial review. In addition, a law on the largest allowable
area for agriculture was introduced, which was expected to
result in the forced cutting of most farms owned by whites.
This was thought to pose a serious threat to food production
in a country where half a million residents were starving.
The government banned private organizations from
distributing food to the needy, as all NGOs were suspected
of engaging in government-hostile propaganda.
At a meeting in Nigeria in September with foreign
ministers from the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe promised to stop
the land occupations, restore law and order, respect freedom
of speech and intervene in violence and threats. In return,
the Commonwealth promised financial support for a fair land
reform. However, the "war veterans" dismissed the settlement
and the state almost immediately broke all promises. Among
other things, a law on compulsory licensing for journalists
was envisaged, which was expected to make free news
reporting impossible and exclude all foreign reporters.
Relations with the outside world were further cooled by
the government's refusal to allow foreign oversight of the
presidential election in 2002, when Robert Mugabe is running
for a new six-year term. Almost all foreign aid is withdrawn
because of the political violence on the part of the state
power and partly the financial neglect. The International
Monetary Fund suspended all credit since Zimbabwe slipped by
more than US $ 50 million in repayments. Zimbabwe found it
difficult to get supplies of fuel and electricity after
missing payments, the foreign exchange reserve was almost
depleted and the inflation rate was up 98% in December. Food
and tobacco production fell by 25% during the year and GDP
fell by 7.3%.
In December, the usually high-court Supreme
Court-appointed court judge ruled that the land reform
program was legal. However, HD dismissed the charge against
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for terrorism and
sabotage. He was prosecuted for saying in a speech in 2000
that Mugabe should resign before being driven away from
power by force. The result will allow Tsvangirai to run for
office in the 2002 presidential election.