Mugabe Celebrates Birthday amid Hyperinflation

February 22, 2008 03:37 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Zimbabwean President Mugabe, once a champion of African independence, celebrates his 84th birthday in style as his country’s economy crumbles.

30-Second Summary

Robert Mugabe, leader of Zimbabwe since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980, entered office with the backing of a populace who saw him as a patriotic guerrilla fighter.

Nearly 28 years later, the ruler’s 84th birthday on Thursday offered little cause for celebration. The big celebration is set for Saturday, and the the spectacle wil be witnessed by a people who now face 80 percent unemployment and six-digit annual inflation rates.

Fifteen years ago, Zimbabwe enjoyed a standard of living that was the envy of the region.

An article by Richard S. Williamson, U.S. special envoy to Sudan, quotes Herbert, a 28-year-old Zimbabwean, who said, “I remember how beautiful our country was in the 80s ... A lot has changed. Now, our country is dead.”

The rapidly devaluing currency combined with spiraling inflation has left market shop shelves bare and dried up foreign investment, shutting some factories and shrinking production at others. Zimbabweans who still have jobs struggle to buy basic necessities in an economy in which prices double within a month.

Mugabe is up for re-election in late March, and opposition forces look poised for a victory in the cities. However, according to David Coltart, the country’s shadow justice minister, “The government has used state resources to purchase large numbers of tractors and ploughs…in what can only be described as an elaborate form of vote buying.” This may influence the rural electorate, he says.

Ahead of the presidential race, Mugabe has lashed out against senior military officers and members of his own party, accusing them of hiding information on the true state of the economy from him and barring a solution as a result.

The Herald, the government’s mouthpiece, says to Mugabe, “The fact you are fit as a fiddle at 84 means God has a plan for you and this nation.”

Peta Thornycroft, a Daily Telegraph correspondent, disagrees and says in a Council on Foreign Relations podcast that in this election “the economy is the opposition.”

Headline Link: ‘Soaring Inflation Marks Mugabe Birthday’

Background: From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe

Historical Context: Africa’s struggle for democracy

Equatorial Guinea

Key Players: Robert Mugabe

Opinion & Analysis: Assessing Mugabe's record


Reference: Zimbabwe


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