Zimbabwe. During the year, Zimbabwe plunged ever deeper
into a swamp of economic, political and social crisis. Even
among the country's neighbors, who for a long time loyally
kept President Robert Mugabe back, demands for a regime
change were raised.
According to Digopaul, Zimbabwe entered 2008 with inflation of over 8,000
percent. In January, the rate of increase was 100,000
percent, in February 165,000 and in July the country had
inflation of 2.2 million percent. The central bank announced
that it could be difficult to submit new figures because the
shortage of goods was so large that it was almost impossible
to fill the shopping basket on which inflation calculations
were based. However, an inflation figure of 11.2 million
percent was reported in August. In October, the last report
of the year, inflation was recorded at 231 million percent.
For those afflicted residents who had difficulty coping
with life from day to day, inflation reports were the most
meaningless figures. As the banknotes, in denominations of
hundreds of millions of Zimbabwean dollars, were virtually
useless, more and more of the cash trade was carried out
with US dollars, which only a small part of the population
had access to. Most people therefore had big problems
getting food for the day and according to the UN food agency
WFP, over five million, almost half the population, would
need help with the supply at the beginning of 2009.
Unemployment was estimated at about 80 percent.
According to the UN, only one in five children could
attend school regularly, partly because many teachers could
not afford to travel to their workplaces.
In November, a cholera epidemic broke out, which by the
end of the year had claimed nearly 1,600 lives among the
approximately 30,000 people infected. The entire country was
affected by the epidemic, which was due to the collapse of
both healthcare and water and sewerage systems. The epidemic
was seen as a threat by neighboring countries, and South
Africa declared its border area as a disaster zone.
Politically, there was no illumination either. In general
elections at the end of March, the ZANU government party
lost its majority in Parliament for the first time. Despite
a series of appeals, courts ruled that the two factions of
the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change)
together won a reassuring victory.
However, the result of the presidential election held at
the same time was delayed. The MDC claimed that its own
compilations showed that party leader Morgan Tsvangirai had
won, but while the country was waiting for news from the
Election Commission, police councils were held against MDC
offices and political meetings were banned. Only in early
May was it officially announced that Tsvangirai gained 47.9
percent and Mugabe 43.2. The decisive round of elections
between the two was postponed far more than the Constitution
stipulated, and in the meantime the opposition was subjected
to severe harassment, aid organizations were prohibited from
working, and reports of active military participation in
Mugabe's election campaign came. Mugabe explained that he
"would rather go to war" than let the MDC take power.
A few days before the election, Tsvangirai jumped off
with reference to the regime's violence and planned election
fraud. Over 70 MDC supporters were said to have been killed
and over 200,000 people driven away from their homes by
government militia. The election was held, despite appeals
from the outside world to try to resolve the crisis first,
and Mugabe, who lacked challengers, got 85.5 percent of the
vote. Now the world was trying to intervene. South Africa's
President Thabo Mbeki resumed his mediation efforts and
managed to get rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai to meet.
Meanwhile, Parliament was opened after more than four months
and for the first time ZANU was forced to leave the
important office of President.
In September, Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed an agreement
to form a joint government. Tsvangirai would be given a
newly created post as prime minister. But despite several
interventions from the neighboring countries, the continued
negotiations ended in disagreement over how the most
important government assignments would be distributed. The
MDC refused to agree that ZANU should retain control of the
police, which was regarded by the opposition as the regime's
most important tool for oppressing the people. In the last
months of the year, reports came that a growing number of
opposition supporters and human rights activists
"disappeared". Jestina Mukoko, the leader of the Zimbabwe
Peace Project, was indicted in December along with several
others for overthrowing activities and accused of recruiting
people for a coup attempt.