Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Zimbabwe First, and then South Africa

Let’s compare two countries: Zimbabwe and South Africa between 1975 and 2004, with life-expectancy on one axis, and income per capita on the other axis. Through gapfinder, the trend is similar for many Sub-Saharan African countries, except these two countries are remarkably similar, given that they share common borders and history. The income per capita in South Africa remains at about $10,000 during the 29-year period. In Zimbabwe, it fluctuated between $2,000 and $3,000 per capita. Yet in 1988, Zimbabwe’s life expectancy begins to fall—slowly—from 60 years downward, but then suddenly plunging in 1992 from 55 to 37 by 2002. Today Zimbabwe has the lowest life expectancy in the world, still at 37. South Africa follows nearly the same path, except transposed at higher income and life expectancy levels. In 1992, life expectancy in South Africa was still rising, but then dives from 63 to 45 by 2002. Crisis-mapping is an essential tool, and we can see from this that, naturally, it is the same pattern as Zimbabwe. The causes of this pattern may have several explanations. But it is true that Zimbabwe once had one of the highest per capita incomes and life expectancies in the region, and since then there has been an ongoing land reform policy and currency crisis which has been having spillover effects in South Africa, where Zimbabweans import clothing and food, and where many seek refugee status. Many of the refugees are victims of the ongoing military operation, Operation Murambatsvina, which seizes farms and evicts light-skinned owners. Concurrently, the infant mortality rate in Zimbabwe climbed from 53 to 81 deaths per 1,000 births from 1992 to 2002, and 33% of those between 15 and 49 are infected with HIV. These are all basic statistical realities which reflect the inhumane political status of Zimbabwe at the moment. Robert Mugabe, the President, and his party, ZANU-PF, have been accused of massive human rights abuses, and policies such as the land reform are clearly, immensely destructive. The madness must end, as it has obvious spillover effects--and South Africa is generous enough to grant refugees nearly a citizen-like status. There are no official refugee camps, though the refugees number around 3 of 13 million.

Robert Mugabe must be stopped!

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