Zimbabwe is in quite the state of turmoil, and has been for many years now. Robert Mugabe, the crazed quasi-dictator of Zimbabwe has essentially driven the country into the ground. Inflation is the highest history has ever seen. In January of this year, the inflation rate hit 100580.2%. That is one of the craziest things to think of. People in Zimbabwe have actually had to bring wheelbarrows full of money just to buy simple items.
It has not been a good time to be living in Zimbabwe for the last few years. Mugabe, who had widely enjoyed some respect as being the only African leader to truly stand up to the colonial powers, has really managed to mess things up. His party has constantly attempted to destroy the opposition through intimidation and occasionally even violence.
Mugabe’s controversial plan to seize land from white farmers to redistribute to landless blacks has not had the effect he intended. Instead, food production has dropped dramatically and the population has suffered greatly. It has become a bit of an unstable place, and most foreign governments would advise you not to go visit.
So due to a variety of factors, the official opposition is in no state to contest Mugabe’s rule. Despite the fact that an election is coming up at the end of March, there is no chance for them to win. So enter Mr. Makoni.
Simba Makoni is a former finance minister of Mugabe’s ruling party. This alone is huge because it grants him a lot of credibility with the party faithful. These people may not necessary want to vote the party out, but may also feel that it is time for a change in leadership. Many feel beholden to Mugabe because he led them to independence as a nation, but it does appear to be clear that something needs to change. So Makoni provides a great alternative choice. It allows them to still vote for the party that led them to independence, but provides some much needed fresh blood. Mugabe has ruled the country since 1980, but I guess I’m of the opinion that 28 years may just be a little too long.
There has been some talk of the two opposition factions trying to work something out to join Makoni in his quest for the presidency. But he has rejected any kind of coalition with them, fearing it would just alienate the voters he is trying to take from Mugabe. However, one of the two main factions is still backing Makoni’s presidential run, and that could be enough to turn the balance.
It will be an interesting time to watch, because if Zimbabwe begins to settle down that means that nearly the whole Southern tip of Africa will be a stable and quasi-democratic area. It means increased trade and economic activity, and I believe that South Africa would be extremely eager to vault into Zimbabwe to work on some development. Here’s hoping.