Potential Hot Spots: Zimbabwe Crumbles Into Chaos


: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

June 4, 2007: Zimbabwe's government has admitted that so far this year only ten percent of the "normal wheat crop" has been planted. The reasons given include lack of fertilizer, lack of tractors, lack of fuel and electrical energy shortages. The government began a program about six weeks ago to ration electricity so that farmers would have reliable electricity during the planting season. Zimbabwe is already suffering corn shortages. With no alternatives, more people are fleeing the country. For an increasing number of people, the choice is between starvation and getting out. The number of refugees crossing the border has increased from 4,000 a month in 2004, to nearly 20,000 a month now. The population of 12 million appears to be shrinking as a result. Some 80 percent of the whites have already fled. The flood of refugees is having an impact on neighboring countries. South Africa believes it has lost 3 percent of its annual GDP because of the cost of taking care of the refugees. Most other African leaders are reluctant to criticize what is going on in Zimbabwe, because the same corruption, incompetence and blame shifting ("the colonial powers") is present, to some degree, in most African countries.

June 2, 2007: Numerous engineers and construction workers are leaving Zimbabwe. The economic crisis has left them without work. Many are off to South Africa, which will host the World Cup football (soccer) finals in 2010 and needs skilled construction workers to help build infrastructure.

June 1, 2007: The Zimbabwean government issued a statement that said it has begun "compensating" white farmers for farms seized since 2000. The compensation would be for "improvements" on farms—which indicates the government isn't paying for the land but for buildings and roads built on the land. The government claims that the whites seized the land illegally. It is not clear, however, what the former farmers will be paid or when. One statement indicated the government would determine what the improvements were worth. The government has tried to convince some white farmers to return with offers like this, but it hasn't worked. No one trusts the government.

May 27, 2007: Zimbabwean police arrested over 200 members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), at the MDC headquarters in the capital. The police alleged that the activists were involved in a fire bomb attack on police stations and merchants in the capital. The allegation mentioned a "criminal bombing campaign" throughout Zimbabwe. The MDC denied the charges. The action by the police is another in the "ratcheting up" of pressure on the MDC. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 2008. The MDC is really the only effective opposition party in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government already forbids political protests in Harare (Zimbabwe's capital).

May 17, 2007: Based on statistics from April 2007, Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate is now 3,710 percent. Factories are operating at about a 30 percent capacity, and unemployment: is about 80 percent. These figures are consistent with the food and energy shortages that plague the country. Despite last year's "currency reform" (which lopped three zeroes from the old Zimbabwean dollar, ie, $100,000 Zimbabwean dollars became $100 Zimbabwean dollars) people still have to lug around huge amounts of cash to pay for common food items ­ when the food can be found. Postage to mail a letter" costs $40,000 Zimbabwean dollars to mail. As of the first week in May, that is roughly $2.50 US ($15,000 Zimbabwean dollars per US dollar.)

May 12, 2007: Zimbabwe is one of the worst economically managed countries on the planet. It has one of the most autocratic and increasingly erratic dictators, Robert Mugabe, whose dictatorship has overseen the destruction of what was once one of Africa's most productive agricultural economic sectors. But not according to many African nations, and the United Nations. Zimbabwe was elected to head the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development. When 50 nations voted on a secret ballot, the result was 26 for, 21 against, three abstaining. Zimbabwe's election is a disgrace.


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