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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Zimbabwe

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Zimbabwe, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In the March 2008 parliamentary election, Zanu-PF, the party led by Robert Mugabe, lost its majority in parliament for the first time in 28 years. After months of turmoil, his party won the run-off election in June, after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (of the Movement for Democratic Change), the only challenger, pulled out on the grounds that a free and fair election was not possible because of violent attacks on his supporters. Under a power-sharing deal signed with the opposition in September 2008, President Mugabe remained head of state, head of the cabinet and head of the armed services. Further talks were put off until January 2009, when Tsvangirai declared his party's willingness to join the power-sharing government.Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in February 2009.

In a speech after his inauguration, Tsvangirai called for an end to human rights abuses and political violence. However reports in the Zimbabwe Times said that Tsvangirai had come under fire for not achieving an adequate 'tribal balance' in his selections for nominations to the cabinet. The Ndebele community was particularly outraged as only one Ndebele representative was included. The selections were instead mostly dominated by Shona Karangas, the biggest tribal group in Zimbabwe. After Mugabe's predominantly Shona government, the Ndebele thought they would achieve greater recognition from Tsvangirai. The group, who make up 20 per cent of Zimbabwe's population, say they have borne the brunt of the country's economic crisis. Members of the community called Tsvangirai's selections 'a betrayal' of the community; however others suggested he had simply chosen the best people for the jobs and had not been considering tribal issues in his selections.

European communities in Zimbabwe faced further hardship during 2008. By June 2008, it was reported that only 280 white farmers remained and all of their farms were invaded. On 28 June, the day of Mugabe's inauguration as president, several white supporters. A British-born farmer, Ben Freeth and his in-laws, Mike and Angela Campbell, were abducted and found badly beaten. Mr Campbell, speaking from hospital in Harare, vowed to continue with his legal fight for his farm. Then, on 28 November 2008, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal ruled that the government had racially discriminated against Mike Campbell, denied him legal redress and prevented him from defending his farm. The tribunal also found that the Campbells were entitled to compensation for the expropriation of their lands.

The situation of Zimbabwe's people, and in particular the country's children, is horrifying. One in five Zimbabwean children (an estimated 1.3 million) are orphans; many are out of school because their guardians or parents cannot afford school fees and uniforms; others have been affected by the death of one or both parents. UNICEF has made the rising levels of child abuse a major advocacy issue.

In February 2009, UNICEF released data regarding the crisis in education in Zimbabwe, particularly in rural areas. In a country which used to have the best education system in Africa, 94 per cent of schools in rural Zimbabwe remain closed and 66 of 70 schools visited were abandoned. UNICEF reported that: 'in the only fully operational school found during visits, a third of pupils were reporting for classes'. Many of the abandoned schools have been vandalized.

The year 2008 saw a massive decrease in numbers of teachers in schools, a plummeting school attendance rate from over 80 per cent to 20 per cent, and postponement of national exams. In 2009, schools were opened two weeks late, exam results have not been released and learning only resumed in some urban areas for the few who could afford to subsidize teachers' salaries and pay exorbitant tuition fees in US dollars. UNICEF has invested $17 million over the last two years in the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture – to help 100,000 children with school fees and to provide books and learning materials as well as constructing classrooms and toilets. However the lack of teachers is still critical.

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