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.
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.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: Click to see the meanings of 2-letter acronym and abbreviation of ZW in general and in geography as Zimbabwe in particular.
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.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Zimbabwe in 2008 was 12,697,612, ranking number 71 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.010% yearly, and the population density was 32.8234 people per km2.