New Internationalist


January 1981

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THE DISABLING WORLD[image, unknown]

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Map of Zimbabwe

Leader: Prime Minister Robert Mugabe

Economy: G.N.P. is: $480 per person per year
Main exports: gold, tobacco
Rate of inflation (average 1970 - 77): 7.6%

People: 6.9 million/town dwellers: 23%

Health: Child mortality (1-4 yrs): 16 per thousand. Daily calorie availability: 108%ofrequirements Access to clean water: not available.

Culture / Religion: The majority adheres to traditional, ancestor based beliefs with the stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe forming an important shrine. Catholicism is strong in rural areas. Anglicans and other Protestant denominations are also represented. Ethnic groups: Roughly 5.6 million Mashona; 1.4 million Matabele; 230,000 whites, 24,000 coloured, 11,000 Asians. Wide intermarriage among first two divisions.

Language: English is the language of government and teaching; also Shona and Ndebele. Previous colonizing power: Britain. Self-proclaimed independence by whites in 1965. Independence 1980.

Sources: All figures from World Development Report, 1980.

THE spectacle of Mr. Ian Smith, who once said `not in my lifetime' about majority rule in Rhodesia, touring Western cities during late 1980 to try to raise investment capital for the new Zimbabwe is a final anomaly in the history of the country which he tried for so long to keep as a fiefdom of the white minority.

Now that it is finally free and independent under majority rule Zimbabwe undoubtedly needs help from the rich countries. Reconciliation is expensive, especially when so much of the wealth and food production is still in white hands. But more than new business investment, more even than the exploitation of its rich mineral resources Zimbabwe needs a resolution - and reconciliation - of the land question. For it is land more than any other single issue that entrenched the country's split into rich and poor, established the fact of racism and ignited the warfare that finally won independence.

At the time of the independence celebrations last April, 88% of all the marketed crops were grown by 5,400 white farmers. By contrast there were nearly 700,000 African farmers, largely in subsistence production, in the so-called tribal farming areas and many of these had been herded into `protected villages'. Seven years of open warfare threw into ruins what there was of African agriculture, though fully one-third of all the country's wage earners were employed by white farmers. About 1,000 white farmers had left Zimbabwe in the five years before independence.

This heavy dependence on a handful of white farmers stems from the way Zimbabwe's land was divided 50 years ago under the terms of the Land Appointment, later the Land Tenure Act. These acts alloted land by race, reserving the most, and the most productive, for the Europeans. By the end of 1976 each European farmer had access to one hundred times as much land as each African, and these European lands are mainly in the well-watered highveld and eastern areas. During the decade before independence the rural African population grew to four and one-half million people who were dependent on some 40 million acres - whose fertility is so low it cannot adequately support more than one million.

The facts both explain recent history in this fifth richest of all sub-Saharan African countries and give a measure of the problems Prime Minister Mugabe faces. An economy distorted by racism must be rebuilt from the soil upward. The expectations and the real hunger of his people as well as the needs of about 30,000 freedom fighters who have not been integrated into civilian life must be met as a matter of urgency.

Penny Sanger

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The huge gaps between whites and impoverished rural blacks remain.
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War, drought, and needs of over a million dispossessed people have created an economic crisis.
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Women played a critical role in independence struggle. Three women occupy cabinet posts.
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[image, unknown] Coalition govt. of ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union).
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Literacy is around 40%. Primary education is now free.
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State of Emergency continues despite independence. Lawlessness and violence prevalent in rural areas.

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‘At 54 years is poor. Half the health budget is now for rural areas.

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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 095 This feature was published in the January 1981 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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