Freedom in the World
Zimbabwe began a process of public consultation on the drafting of a new constitution in 2010, but significant political violence by government supporters marred the outreach effort. Also during the year, an international body tasked with preventing the use of diamonds to fund armed conflicts eased a 2009 suspension of Zimbabwe’s diamond exports, despite ongoing abuse, corruption, and military control at the country’s mines. While media regulators granted licenses to a number of new outlets in 2010, state dominance of the broadcast sector and a highly restrictive legal framework remained problems.
In 1965, a white-minority regime in what was then colonial Southern Rhodesia unilaterally declared independence from Britain. A guerrilla war led by black nationalist groups, as well as sanctions and diplomatic pressure from Britain and the United States, contributed to the end of white-minority rule in 1979 and the recognition of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980. Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), first brought to power in relatively democratic elections, have since ruled the country.
Zimbabwe is not an electoral democracy. President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party have dominated the political landscape since independence in 1980, overseeing 18 amendments to the constitution that have expanded presidential power and decreased executive accountability. Presidential and legislative elections in March 2008 were marred by a wide-ranging campaign of violence and intimidation, flawed voter registration and balloting, biased media coverage, and the use of state resources—including food aid—to bribe and threaten voters. The period leading up to the presidential runoff in June 2008 featured accelerated violence against the opposition, prompting a UN Security Council resolution declaring the impossibility of a fair poll. Mugabe ultimately ran unopposed, and the vote was declared illegitimate by observers from the African Union and the SADC. Although the September 2008 GPA called for a new, independent election commission, the body had not been formally constituted by the end of 2010.