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Washington, D.C., September 15, 2009 – Zimbabwe is experiencing economic progress, but President Mugabe maintains a tight grip on the country's political apparatus, panelists said at a Voice of America (VOA) seminar on the one-year anniversary of a power-sharing agreement.
"The violence, the intimidation, the violation of basic human rights continues on a pervasive scale," said Tom McDonald, a former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe. "I think however you look at this …. Mugabe and the thugs around him are up to their old tricks."
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McDonald joined in a discussion of Zimbabwe 12 months after the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Under the GPA, Mugabe, the country's ruler since 1980, agreed to share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now the prime minister. Tsvangirai won the presidential polls in general elections in March 2008.
Briggs Bomba, a Zimbabwean economist with the advocacy group Africa Action, said he has seen economic progress firsthand.
"The Zimbabwe that I witnessed in December and the one I saw when I went back in July are completely different in terms of the economic situation and the livelihood," he said. Food stocks are up, prices are down and local industries are beginning to produce goods.
On the political front, Bomba said there is still a need to "open up the political space," despite evidence that grassroots organizers have been able to hold political gatherings.
McDonald was not optimistic about the political situation. "Not only do I think the power-sharing agreement has some very serious problems, I think the jury is very much out on whether this is going to succeed or whether this is just another maneuver by Comrade Mugabe to … stay in power."
Marian Tupy, an analyst at the Cato Institute, a political think tank, said the GPA is a temporary measure at best. Moreover, he said Mugabe has breached the deal repeatedly. "One of the most important disappointments of the GPA is that the political atmosphere has not been freed up to the extent that we would like it to be," he said.
Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA-TV moderated the program. VOA broadcasts 9.5 hours to Zimbabwe weekly through the Studio 7 radio program, in Shona, Ndebele, and English. Programs and more information are available online at www.VOANews.com/Zimbabwe.
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