munangatire1_JEKESAI NJIKIZANAAFP via Getty Images_zimbabwe food shortage Jesekai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

The Environmental Consequences of Political Repression

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the military junta that facilitated his rise to power have not done much to change the country since driving the aging despot Robert Mugabe from power in 2017. Zimbabwe is now a poster child for the link between authoritarianism and environmental degradation.

HARARE – Zimbabwe was once Africa’s rising star. Boasting robust human capital, considerable natural-resource wealth, and modern infrastructure, it was the continent’s leading producer of crops such as maize, wheat, and soybeans. Agricultural exports earned it the moniker “the breadbasket of Africa.” How far the country has fallen.

Today, Zimbabwe can barely feed its own people, let alone the rest of the continent. According to the World Food Program, some 8.6 million Zimbabweans need help, and acute malnutrition is expected to rise by 15% in 2020, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the government is failing to provide basic services, such as safe drinking water, health care, adequate housing, and education.

Zimbabwe is also enduring one of the worst economic meltdowns in its history – and the second in a little over a decade. The country is now beset by runaway inflation, severe fuel shortages, prolonged power outages, and mounting unemployment. Some 90% of Zimbabweans now struggle to make their living in the informal sector.

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