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Zimbabwe Country brief - April 2006


The political and economic outlook for Zimbabwe is grim.  Political repression continues unchecked.  Peaceful demonstrations are violently suppressed and opposition supporters are subject to arrest and sometimes violent intimidation.  Deeply flawed parliamentary elections in March 2005 saw President’s Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party returned to power with an increased majority. The political dominance of ZANU-PF was further consolidated in Senate elections held on 26 November 2005.

After years of Government mismanagement and corruption, Zimbabwe’s economy is in ruins.  The economy has contracted in real terms in each of the past five years, inflation is in triple digits and unemployment remains high.  There has been a dramatic drop in agricultural production and millions of people are currently facing food shortages.

Bilateral relations

Australia maintains formal diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe, with respective embassies in each country’s capital.  Australian relations with Zimbabwe are severely strained due to the ongoing anti-democratic and economically harmful policies and actions of the Mugabe regime.  Australia has historically been a strong supporter of the Zimbabwean people, including for their independence prior to 1980. 

Before Zimbabwe’s December 2003 withdrawal from the Commonwealth, Australia was deeply engaged in the Commonwealth’s efforts to bring about reform in the country.  In response to the Mugabe regime’s failure to reform, Australia implemented a set of “smart sanctions” in October 2002 that included visa restrictions on senior government officials and a freeze of their assets (if any) in Australia, and a halt to non-humanitarian assistance and defence sales.  These sanctions were expanded in March 2004 to include visa restrictions against senior management officials of state-owned enterprises.  No sanctions apply to sporting events or trade. 

The Australian census in 2001 recorded 11,610 Zimbabwe-born persons in Australia, an increase of 30 per cent since 1996. Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales have attracted the largest numbers of Zimbabwe-born persons.


Two-way merchandise trade with Zimbabwe has declined in recent years, due largely to the deteriorating state of the Zimbabwean economy. Australian exports to Zimbabwe in 2005 were valued at $3.4 million, comprising mainly machinery, chemicals and telecommunications equipment. Australian imports from Zimbabwe were valued at $3.5 million, comprising mainly unprocessed tobacco.


While mainstream development and cooperation has been halted, Australia continues to provide humanitarian assistance.  In 2003-04 Australia provided $2.3 million for food, HIV/AIDS, water supply and sanitation and other humanitarian programs.  Australia has provided $49 million in food assistance throughout southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, from 2002 to 2004. Australia is providing a further $3 million for humanitarian relief assistance to southern Africa, including Zimbabwe. Australia has also provided over $1 million in humanitarian assistance to the victims of the recent crackdown on the urban poor of Zimbabwe.