Located in the southern part of the African continent, nestled in the rolling hills of modern day Zimbabwe, are the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The people of Great Zimbabwe lived a life rich in natural resources, including gold. As Great Zimbabwe grew, the people were successful at establishing themselves as a powerful nation. However, after many years as a thriving nation, the people of Great Zimbabwe left the city they had built.

In the 1880s, Cecil Rhodes, a British colonist, arrived on the land presently known as Zimbabwe. He came in search of the gold held by the Great Zimbabwean people. After searching for gold with no luck, he decided to establish a colony in this beautiful landscape, soon to be called Rhodesia. He quickly implemented apartheid policies and began a minority rule similar to neighboring country South Africa.

For many years, the native Zimbabwean people struggled to gain their independence from the British colonial power established by Cecil Rhodes. Finally, in 1980, after many years of civil war, Rhodesia gained its independence from the British and changed the country’s name to Zimbabwe, reflecting the early history of the people.

After declaring independence, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was elected the first president of Zimbabwe. Because of his role as a freedom fighter in the war for independence, Mugabe was the perfect person to lead the country as it faced the world with its new state status. Mugabe is the leader of the Zimbabwe National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the ruling political party in Zimbabwe, which developed out of a desire to fight colonialism. He has been honored for his commitments to fighting colonialism and joins Nelson Mandela and others in an “exclusive club for African statesmen” (United Nations, 2005, pg 15).

With Mugabe at the forefront, Zimbabwe quickly flourished and became a prominent figure in the sub-Saharan African economy. Once known as the African breadbasket, Zimbabwe did not last long at the top of the economic ladder. Almost thirty years after the struggle for independence, Zimbabwe is far from where it once was. With Mugabe still president in 2008, the country faces many challenges. Mugabe has led Zimbabwe through the highs and lows of a postcolonial society, yet in recent years it has been difficult for Zimbabweans to flourish as a strong and powerful people.

Current Challenges

The challenges faced by the people of Zimbabwe are becoming harsher by the day. The country has not seen a prosperous harvest in years. HIV and AIDS are ravaging the country. The economy is devastated with inflation reported to be now over 100,000%, the highest in the world, and there is no end in sight for price increases. The shelves in most grocery stores are empty, and staple resources are scarce. There is no flow of foreign dollars into the country because much of the international community has been alienated. As stated by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2006), “Zimbabwe is characterized as a complex humanitarian situation.” Devastation is felt on many levels for the people of Zimbabwe. Even with the HIV/AIDS pandemic slowly curbing its momentum (it is down from around 33% in 2004 to roughly 20% in 2007, according to UNAIDS), there has been an entire generation of Zimbabweans who have spent all of their lives living in this constant state of turmoil.

A fast track land redistribution, initiated by the government in 2000, was, in concept, a good idea. However, in implementation it failed. The objective of the land redistribution program was to give farms back to the native Zimbabweans. (United Nations, 2005, pg16) Under colonial rule, the white Rhodesians took much of the country’s farmland. It was the plan of the government, with support from many people, to give this land back to the native Zimbabweans. Many farms were taken by force from the White Zimbabweans, which resulted in violence that caused a strong reaction from the international community. The combination of many years of draught and newly resettled farmers caused a major food shortage throughout the country. Though attempts were made to bring farmers back to their land (Mugabe (b), 2006), the country is still facing major food shortages.

To further the plight of the Zimbabwean people, in May 2005, the Government of Zimbabwe embarked on campaign entitled, Operation Murambatsvina, or as translated by the United Nations, Operation Restore Order (United Nations, 2005, pg 7), resulting in major devastation and displacement for the people of Zimbabwe. While still recovering from the operation that destroyed many homes, Zimbabweans continue to struggle with housing issues. In March and June of 2008, the presidential and parliamentary elections took place. As a result, the ruling party continues with one change; Morgan Tsangarai is now the Prime Minister. The country converted to the US dollar and that currency is still being used. Like other parts of the world, rising costs are causing economic challenges with school fees, food, etc. These are times to reach out and support the people of Zimbabwe.

For current headlines:

Zimbabwe New
Zimbabwe Situation

For current statistics:

UNAIDS
UNICEF
World Bank Data