Zimbabwe - Big House of Stone

The land locked country Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe - remnants of a past empire - and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast stretches of wilderness.

The name Zimbabwe derives from "Dzimbadzemabwe" meaning "big house of stone" in the Shona language. Its use as the country's name is a tribute to Great Zimbabwe, site of the capital of the Empire of Great Zimbabwe. The area that is known as Zimbabwe today was ruled under the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwene Mutapa, Monomotapa or the Empire of Great Zimbabwe, which was renowned for its gold trade routes with Arabs.

At present the fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white community and became the country's first black leader.

Now, he presides over a nation whose economy is in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace.

However, the country faces biggest threat since independence regarding the 2008 election and delay in results.

Using circumstances surrounding the delay in the announcement of results of the March 29, 2008 poll for the Parliament and presidential elections, the chorus of calls for regime change have dominated the airwaves and print media.

Neither the opposition nor the ruling party achieved an outright majority.

However, land issues, which the liberation movement promised to solve is the another main disputed problem of the country. It re-emerged as the vital issue for the ruling party beginning in 1999. Despite majority rule, and the existence of a "willing buyer-willing seller" land reform programme since the 1980s, ZANU (PF) claimed that whites made up less than 1% of the population but held 70% of the country's commercially viable arable land (though these figures are disputed by many outside the Government of Zimbabwe.

Beginning in 2000, Mugabe began an effort to redistribute land from white holders (predominantly large farms) to 250,000 Africans. He  began to redistribute land to blacks in 2000 with a compulsory land redistribution; charges that the programme as a whole is designed to reward loyal Mugabe deputies have persisted in Zimbabwe since the beginning of the process.

Now the country is currently experiencing a hard currency shortage, which has led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods.

Mugabe claims that massive financial isolation through American, British and EU legislation such as the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery act of 2001 is the actual cause of hyperinflation. Under ZDERA, the IMF and other financial institutions are prohibited from extending loans, credit or cancelling debt to the government of Zimbabwe. As Zimbabwe needs to import all its energy, and oil is paid for in US dollars, this made the country vulnerable to financial sanctions like ZDERA.

Zimbabwe's current economic and food crisis, described by some observers as the country's worst humanitarian crisis since independence, has been attributed, in varying degrees, to a drought affecting the entire region, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the government's price controls and land reforms.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009