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Hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - U.S. Policy Toward Zimbabwe Chairman

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Good afternoon. Our hearing today will examine the current U.S. government policy
toward the Republic of Zimbabwe and consider how our policy toward this southern African
nation may develop in the years ahead. Zimbabwe is considering a new constitution that will
lead to the elections in 2012 that had been postponed from this year.
There has been mutual hostility between the United States government and the Zimbabwe
government of Robert Mugabe since that country became independent in 1980. Mugabe and his
supporters blame America for not supporting its liberation struggle, while the United States has
criticized Mugabe's government consistently for human rights abuses, especially against its
political opponents. With U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray encouraging U.S.
businesses to invest in Zimbabwe last month, it would seem that U.S. policy is in the midst of a
transformation.
Following independence from Great Britain in 1980, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's
policy of political reconciliation was generally successful during the next two years, as the
former political and military competitors within ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-
Patriotic Front and the rival Patriotic Front-Zimbabwe African Peoples Union began to work
together. Splits soon developed, however, and PF-ZAPU's leader, Joshua Nkomo was removed
from government.
When PF-ZAPU was accused of initiating a rebellion due to the removal of Nkomo from
the cabinet, government military forces began a pacification campaign primarily in his base in
the Matabeleland area, which resulted in as many as 20,000 civilian deaths.
In part through its control of the media, the huge parastatal sector of the economy and the
security forces, the Mugabe government managed to keep organized political opposition to a
minimum through most of the 1990s. Beginning in 1999, however, Zimbabwe experienced a
period of considerable political and economic upheaval. Opposition to President Mugabe and the
ZANU-PF government had grown, in part due to the worsening economic governance issues. At
one point, one U.S. dollar was worth more than 2.6 billion Zimbabwe dollars. Following the
seizure of white-owned commercial farms beginning in the 1990s, food output capacity fell 45%,
manufacturing output dropped by 29% and unemployment rose to 80%.
The opposition was led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was
established in September 1999. The MDC led the campaign to handily defeat a referendum that
would have permitted President Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office. Parliamentary
elections held in June 2000 were marred by localized violence and claims of electoral
irregularities and government intimidation of opposition supporters. Still, the MDC succeeded in
capturing 57 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.
The last four national elections -- the presidential election in 2002, parliamentary
elections in 2005, harmonized presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008, and the
presidential run-off in June 2008 -- were judged to be not free and fair by observers. In the
March 2008 elections, two factions of the opposition MDC, known as MDC-T to denote Morgan
Tsvangirai's faction and MDC-M for the group led by Arthur Mutambara, gained a combined
parliamentary majority. Mugabe was declared the winner of the June 2008 run-off election after
opposing candidate Tsvangirai withdrew due to ZANU-PF-directed violence that made a free
and fair election impossible.
Negotiations subsequently took place, and in September 2008 the three parties signed the
Global Political Agreement (GPA), a power-sharing agreement under which Mugabe would
retain the presidency and Tsvangirai would become prime minister. In February 2009 Tsvangirai
was sworn in as prime minister, and new cabinet ministers and deputy ministers from the two
MDC factions and the ruling party also were sworn in.
There is serious contention within the ruling party for the right to succeed President
Mugabe once he leaves office, and added to the division within the opposition, politics in
Zimbabwe is in flux to say the least. It is in this environment that the United States faces the
challenge of examining our current policy and determining how it might best be adjusted. I look
forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how the U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe may
change to help that nation reach the desired goals of democracy and good governance.


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