Since gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has experienced low intensity conflict marked by periods of escalation and political violence. Conflict today remains rooted in disputes over national power, economic hardship and pre-colonial disputes which have not been resolved.
After independence in 1980, Robert Mugabe’s political party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), entrenched control over state institutions and the economy. The contest between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, a key opposition party launched in 1999, has helped maintain the violence which accompanied the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe. The political landscape continues to be characterised by mistrust and attempts to eliminate challenges to power. The situation is further complicated by widespread company closures and capital flight.
A Land Reform Programme that started in 2000 has been blamed for the country’s food insecurity and for causing massive unemployment and starvation. Hyperinflation in 2008 added to an already fragile landscape, with a severe shortage of basic commodities, a cholera epidemic and political turmoil, which was nominally ended with the signing of a power-sharing accord in 2008 called the Global Political Agreement.
Zimbabwe continues to face problems relating to corruption, human rights violations, and a stagnant economy. Large numbers of Zimbabweans have emigrated as a result. Tensions regarding this economic stagnation escalated in 2015, resulting in widespread protests calling for economic reform, and in some cases, for the resignation of President Mugabe. These protests continued in 2017, particularly with ZANU-PF’s announcement of 93-year-old Mugabe’s candidacy in the 2018 elections.
These protests have prompted violent crackdown from security forces, who enjoy relative impunity. Turmoil including infighting in mainstream and opposition political parties and worries about vote rigging mean the prospects are for another hotly contested election.
Last updated: September 2017