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Letter to the Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Situation in Zimbabwe

April 03, 1981

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In accordance with the provisions of Section 720 of the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1980, I am submitting the following report on the internal situation in Zimbabwe.

There is considerable evidence to indicate that the transition to majority rule in Zimbabwe, which was consummated at Lancaster House and came into effect on April 18, 1980, is now gathering momentum both economically and politically.

Economically, Zimbabwe has made considerable progress in the 11 months since independence. Real growth for 1980 is estimated to have been 8-10 percent. Inflation averaged between 12 percent and 15 percent for the year. With the announcement of a high pre-planting price and a good rainy season, Zimbabwe is expecting a million-ton maize surplus this harvest. The mining sector remains solidly prosperous despite some uncertainty about a possibly increased government role.

In the July 1980 budget and the February 1981 economic policy statement, "Growth with Equity", the government has committed itself to the maintenance of a mixed economy aimed at satisfying black aspirations and assuring white confidence by attracting foreign investment and aid to generate continued economic growth.

Zimbabwe's economic success is partly associated with the fact that more than 90 percent of the country's white population, about 200,000 people, have chosen to stay in Zimbabwe. We estimate that about 20,000 whites have left, 15,000 of them have gone to South Africa. Nevertheless, white emigration has led to some dislocations in areas of the economy dependent upon mechanical and technical expertise, e.g. railroad maintenance and telecommunications. The country's 5,000 white commercial farmers have almost all stayed in Zimbabwe.

Politically, the dire predictions which were heard at the same time of independence have not come to pass. Black-white political conflict has been inconsequential. The expected Ndebele-Shona political conflict has materialized; however, despite two bloody clashes in Bulawayo, the tension has been contained by the existing political and military structures and senior leaders on both sides have responded to the problems which have arisen with a view toward the long-term best interests of the country. On the whole, the political scene has been marked by increasing stability and the enhancement of the authority of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.

The process of military integration of ZIPRA and ZANLA continues to move forward slowly despite the collapse of three of the eleven integrated battalions in last month's difficulties. Most observers now believe that Zimbabwe will for at least the near term have a larger army than was initially anticipated, due to the fact that most of the remaining 25,000 guerrillas will probably be incorporated into the new national army.

As noted in detail in the 1981 "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices", independent Zimbabwe on the whole has a good record in living up to the guarantees on civil liberties contained in the Lancaster House accords, in particular those contained in Annex C. Zimbabwe continues to be a functioning, multi-party, parliamentary democracy in which the rights of the population as set forth in the constitution are respected.

The basic rights called for in the agreement such as the right to life, personal liberty, freedom from torture and inhuman treatment, freedom from deprivation of property, privacy and freedom of conscience, expression, and assembly are in effect. Thus, for example, at the time of this report, there are no persons under detention in Zimbabwe because of their political views. In order to end South African control of the press, the government purchased controlling interest from the Argus Groups and invested it in a national press board which appears so far to operate independently. The electronic media are sometimes criticized for being overly enthusiastic about government policies.

The House of Assembly and the Senate which were set up pursuant to the Lancaster House agreement have proven to be active political bodies in which substantive and frank debate is the order of the day. Regularly scheduled elections continue to be held, most recently at the local level. Nevertheless, disturbances led to the postponement of local government elections in Bulawayo following clashes between partisans of competing political parties.

The court system recognized in the Lancaster House agreement functions as set forth in the agreement. Thus, for example, ZANU-PF Secretary General Edgar Tekere, who was charged with the murder of a white farmer, was freed by the court under a law passed by the former regime to protect government officials. While many Zimbabweans may have lamented Tekere's release, it was widely noted that, as promised, Prime Minister Mugabe's government did not interject itself in any way into the judicial process. The public service and the police also operate as set forth in the Lancaster House agreement.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Charles H. Percy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Clement J. Zablocki, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to the Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Situation in Zimbabwe Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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