Two years after shaking off its long-reigning dictator Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe remains an oppressive country in the grip of economic, environmental, and civil-rights disasters.
Publicly, however, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is optimistic, stating at a recent summit in Dubai that his country is “open for business.”
“Come and make money here,” he said. “All opportunities are opening up — in agriculture, mining and energy.”
Yet Mr. Mnangagwa’s eagerness for foreign investment belies the depth of Zimbabwe’s decline since he took office.
Mugabe’s 30-year reign ended in 2017 to widespread celebration after a military coup ousted the dictator, and installed Mnangagwa.
Things got worse from there.
The economy was left in tatters by what critics describe as ongoing “mismanagement.”
Today the country has some of the world’s highest rates of inflation, and road and rail systems that are deeply degraded.
These crises have been deepened by a drought that is emptying dams, and devastating food production in a nation that was once considered Africa’s “breadbasket.”
A powerful tropical storm, Cyclone Idai, also swept through the country last March, affecting more than half a million people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
This has put Zimbabwe on the verge of famine and economic collapse.
The United Nations is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in food aid for the country, and famine may affect more than 7 million people there next year.
Labor strife and struggle
A U.N. human-rights report also criticized the country for systematic human-rights violations against organized labor.
This includes the abduction, torture and poisoning of a doctor from the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association for attempting to organize a strike.
Such treatment has become common for union leaders, some of whom have been killed for their efforts.
At the Hwange coal-mining facility in northern Zimbabwe, workers haven’t been paid since 2013 and are owed millions of dollars in back wages.
Female relatives of miners who are too afraid to strike have protested peacefully on company property, and have faced death threats, and criminal charges for trespassing.
One hundred days into the protest, one leader told local a newspaper: “Day in, day out, trucks are being loaded with coal, so why is there no money to pay our husbands so that we feed our children and they go to school?”
The women finally gave up in disgust after a few more months of hardship.
The U.N. has called for compliance in Zimbabwe with international labor standards and an end to the climate of violence, retaliation and fear.