What happens after Mugabe?

The first part in a series of articles by Todd Moss and Stewart Patrick on the planning that should be happening NOW.

Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis deepens, but the situation could change quickly. Waiting until Robert Mugabe's fall could be too late. The international community

should start preliminary planning now for responses to a transition in Zimbabwe. Any donor strategy cannot be limited to traditional development practice but must be informed by recent post-conflict experiences. This paper lays out a framework for an international effort and identifies priority actions to support a political transition and economic recovery.
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) appears impervious to international pressure to reform. The country is fragile and unsustainable: tensions are high, the ruling party and the military are divided; the economy is close to outright collapse. Transition could occur anytime. Change may come without much warning and a speedy and substantial international response will be necessary.
Mugabe’s departure will create a brief “golden hour,” a fluid situation in which expectations are high and multiple possibilities quickly emerge. Targeted interventions to help set Zimbabwe on the right path to sustainable peace and recovery will be vital at this stage. Once this window closes, the odds of making a difference will become much longer.
Based on these assumptions, this paper argues that (1) the international community should start preliminary planning now for possible responses to a transition in Zimbabwe. Waiting until the day the dictator falls could be too late and (2) given the acute conditions in Zimbabwe today, this response cannot be limited to traditional development practice but must be informed by recent post-conflict experiences. There are lessons to be learned from war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Mozambique.
Why Treat Zimbabwe as a Post-Conflict Situation? Although Zimbabwe has not been at war since 1979, the country exhibits many characteristics of a society in violent conflict.
• The scale of economic collapse. Zimbabwe’s economy has shrunk by a third since 1999, a figure greater than civil wars in other African countries. This compares to an average GDP decline in civil wars of “only” 15%. The purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean has fallen to 1953 levels. The proportion of the population living below the poverty line grew from 35% in 1996 to 80 % in 2003. Inflation, under control in nearly every African country, reached 782% in Zimbabwe in February 2006.
• Political violence and social trauma. Organized violence and intimidation by the state has traumatised Zimbabwean society. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have been forcibly relocated. These conditions have produced high levels of suspicion, low levels of trust, and a steep deterioration of social capital.
• Breakdown of basic services. State social services no longer effectively function. Zimbabwe’s ranking in the UN’s human development indicators has dropped from the 64th percentile in 1990 to the 82nd percentile by 2003. Health professionals flee the country while resources for the health sector shrink.
• Erosion of economic foundations. Agriculture, the country’s principal foreign-exchange earner, has collapsed. Commercial production of maize, the national staple, has dropped 86% between 2000 and 2005. Tobacco exports have dropped by more than 60% since November 2000. Zimbabwe had once been a food exporter, now more than one-third the population rely on imported food aid.This is mostly the result of chaotic land seizures and the departure of at least 80% of the country’s commercial farmers.
• De-formalization of the economy. As in war situations, most people in Zimbabwe now operate in the informal sector. Like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the industries that have endured best are mostly enclave projects like platinum mining that are physically isolated from the wider economy.
• Mass flight of people and capital. Officially, 3.4 million Zimbabweans, or nearly 30% of the population, live outside the country. Land reform displaced 800,000 farm workers and their families since 2000. Operation Murambatsvina displaced another 700,000. The Zimbabwe dollar has collapsed-losing 99.94% of its value against the US dollar in the past five years.
There are of course differences. No large-scale demobilization is required, for instance but thousands of former ‘green bombers’ and members of other government-sponsored militias will need to be reintegrated. Zimbabwe has had recent experience with mostly functional and capable government and a highly educated population. Rebuilding will not be from scratch as in Mozambique and Cambodia. – Reproduced with permission from Africa Policy Journal at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Post published in: Opinions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *