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Three years after Mugabe, Zimbabwe still hurting

Three years after Mugabe, Zimbabwe still hurting

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the struggle to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.


Last Friday, Mnangagwa's security forces swept clean the capital, Harare, ahead of a planned anti-government rally. Mnangagwa warned that anyone involved in what he called an "insurrection" would be dealt with Mugabe-style: rounded up and jailed. The few activists who defied the order ended up behind bars, including prominent local author and Booker Prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga.

Here's why protesters in Zimbabwe are fed up these days.

Political repression. Scores of dissidents have been killed by the security forces since Mnangagwa was formally elected in 2018, in a vote which the opposition claims was rigged. Recently arrested journalists and opposition leaders face up to ten years in prison if found guilty of inciting people to participate in public violence.

Corruption. Mugabe's regime was riddled with graft, but things haven't gotten much better since he left. The latest scandal involves a health minister who was caught inflating the cost of pandemic-related medical supplies; he was fired, but the journalist who exposed the scandal was imprisoned.

Inflation. Inflation is running at 737 percent at the moment, as the government prints money to cover expenses. Granted, that's a far cry from the November 2008, when prices rose annually at a world-record 89.7 sextillion percent (that's twenty zeros), but it's still enough to evaporate salaries and pensions.

COVID-19. Zimbabwe's frail health system has collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors have sued the government over their lack of access to personal protective equipment, and nurses have gone on strike until they get paid in US dollars. Last week, staff shortages at one of Harare's major hospitals resulted in seven stillborn babies in one night. Instead of hiring more health workers, the government has arrested more than 100,000 people for violating lockdown orders.

Food security. The UN says six in ten Zimbabweans are on the brink of starvation due to the combined effects of severe droughts, economic crisis, and the pandemic. Subsistence farmers, responsible for three quarters of the country's food supply, have produced less than half of Zimbabwe's annual maize requirement this year. Mnangagwa's "response" has been to pay $3.5 billion to white farmers whose land was expropriated and left idle, which dramatically decreased Zimbabwe's once-sizable agricultural output.

As popular anger grows in Zimbabwe, the country's plight offers a sobering lesson: removing a dictator doesn't necessarily make things better — particularly if his system and his cronies remain in power. Will ordinary Zimbabweans, who were too afraid to rise up in large numbers against Mugabe, soon feel they have nothing to lose in standing up to his successor? And will Mnangagwa be able to keep them quiet much longer?

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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