Once we left Matobo National Park we had just enough time for a brief stop in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare before catching a flight on to Rwanda. In our day and a half in Harare we found the same things we found elsewhere in Zimbabwe: Evidence of a prosperous past, signs of recent decline, and hope for a better future.
In the 1960s, Rhodesia was the most prosperous country and fastest growing economy in Africa, though it was ruled by a small white minority. In 1980 a violent civil war brought the renamed Zimbabwe to majority rule under Robert Mugabe. Recognizing the ties between the white minority and Zimbabwe’s prosperity, Mugabe ruled pragmatically at first, urging reconciliation and upholding property rights.
But hopes for stability faded as Mugabe clung to power and crises came and went. The economy went into deep decline. By the early 2000s he turned to the majority’s worst instincts as he implemented land redistributions that forced white land owners off their property, caused whites to flee the country, unleashed racial violence, and turned the world against his regime. The once bright star of Africa became a pariah state with a disastrous economy.
In November 2017, the Zimbabwe army forced Mugabe out of power. Presidential elections will take place this summer. I’ve heard lots of different sentiments about Robert Mugabe here — a hero, a villain, a leader, a thief. But there seems to be widespread agreement that his time was up. And expressions of hope that the future might be better.
I hope they are right. Harare left a real warm spot in our hearts. People were so friendly, the weather was fantastic, parks and roads were lush and green. I really hope this country can reclaim its better days.