Zimbabwe Update

RS21595 -- Zimbabwe Update

August 15, 2003


Zimbabwe is facing triple digit inflation, shortages of cash and fuel, and an adult HIV infection rate of 33.7%. The commercial farm sector has been severely damaged by land seizures, and both food production and tobacco exports are declining. The government of President Robert Mugabe, now 79, has taken some measures to deal with economic problems, but these have not proven effective. Meanwhile, the political situation remains stalemated despite reports of possible talks between the ruling party and the opposition. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is facing treason charges, and human rights groups continue to report violence against opposition supporters. The United States has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe leaders in an effort to promote change. In July 2003, President Bush said that President Mbeki of South Africa, who has been non-confrontational with Mugabe, is the "point man" on Zimbabwe. Analysts differ on whether Mbeki's approach can achieve an early resolution of the Zimbabwe problem. This update on Zimbabwe reviews the current situation there and assesses prospects for change. For background, see CRS Report RL31229(pdf), Zimbabwe Backgrounder and CRS Report RS21161(pdf), Zimbabwe Election Chronology.