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Zimbabwe: Current Issues - page 16 / 19





16 / 19



Congo Intervention

Zimbabwe’s deployment of 10,000 or more troops to support the government of President Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often cited as a particularly costly drain on Zimbabwe’s resources. Finance Minister Simba Makoni, regarded as a pragmatist, told parliament on August 30, 2000, that the war in Congo had cost the government $200 million over two years. (Other estimates are considerably higher. BBC

report, January 20, 2000.) Makoni warned that this level of expenditure and said the government

“at the earliest opportunity.”

Some reports

Zimbabwe’s economy could not withstand was committed to bringing the troops home have claimed that a few well-connected

Zimbabwe business people, and perhaps elements of the military, through the Congo war. (“Ruthless Backers for Congo Diamond

are enriching themselves Mine,” Financial Times,

London, May 27, deployment as a

2000.) President Mugabe contribution to regional

and other Zimbabwe officials explain the Congo peacekeeping and stability and maintain that

Zimbabwe’s troops will leave once a the Congo conflict, see CRS Report Process and Background.)

United Nations peacekeeping force is deployed. (On RL31080, Democratic Republic of the Congo: Peace


Zimbabwe, according to United Nations data, has the third highest HIV infection rate in the world, with more than 25% of working-age adults testing positive for the virus. (See CRS Issue Brief IB10050, AIDS in Africa). Because of AIDS, the rate of population increase is expected to be zero in 2002, and the population will begin to decline in 2003. According to the Zimbabwe Health Minister, AIDS-related deaths totaled 100,000 in 2000, (BBC, June 3, 2001), and a June 2001 UNICEF report predicts that life expectancy, now 44 years, could fall to 27 in a decade. (Zimbabwe officials dispute the UNICEF prediction.) Without AIDS life expectancy would have been 70 in 2010. In Harare, the capital, 240 of the 340 people who die each day die of AIDS-related diseases, according to government data, while the number of AIDS orphans nationwide has reached 600,000. (The Independent, London, February 10, 2000). Widespread illness is reported in the communal areas, where many households are headed by children or the elderly.

President Mugabe, in public speeches and interviews, acknowledges HIV/AIDS as one of the challenges Zimbabwe faces, among other challenges, but he seems to have given land, the Congo intervention, and other issues higher priorities on his policy agenda. In January 2000, the government introduced a special payroll tax known as the “AIDS levy” to fund AIDS programs. Labor unions and others strenuously opposed the levy, charging that the funds would likely be diverted to some other purpose, and by May 2000, AIDS activists were protesting what they maintained was a large discrepancy between the amount raised through the levy and the amount actually going to AIDS projects. In July 2000, however, the chairman of the AIDS Levy Fund claimed that the fund was benefitting millions.

Relations with Britain

President Mugabe has long blamed many of Zimbabwe’s problems, most notably the inequity in the distribution of land, on Britain; but his relations with the government of Prime


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