Once hailed as a rare success story in a continent plagued by coups, civil wars and corruption, this country enters its 10th year of independence Tuesday with little of the jubilation that marked its birth.
When President Robert Mugabe led the white-ruled British colony of Rhodesia to independence as black-governed Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980, he inherited one of the healthiest agriculture-based economies in black Africa.After having waged a bloody, seven-year guerrilla war for control of his homeland, he promised the 100,000 whites and 9 million blacks peace and prosperity.
Many analysts believed Mugabe's Zimbabwe could serve as an example for the white rulers of neighboring South Africa, who maintain their black majority is not ready to run the country.
Today, though still black Africa's most prosperous nation, Zimbabwe is ailing.
The economy is hemhorraging through shortages of foreign currency and a lack of foreign investment, both symptoms of bad policy making.
Exporters who earn hard currency complain they get little encouragement from the government, and because there is no investment code the only significant foreign capital has been plowed into a baked beans cannery and a bubble-gum factory.
The leadership of Mugabe's avowedly egalitarian and socialist state is crippled, thanks to a series of corruption scandals.
Five Cabinet ministers, a provincial governor and a junior minister have resigned and several others face prosecution in the latest scandal, the black marketeering of cars and trucks.
A war in neighboring Mozambique is bleeding this country's treasury to the tune of half a million dollars a day. The 12,000 Zimbabwean troops there are guarding supply lines vital to landlocked Zimbabwe's survival.
At home, unprecedented popular discontent is growing over a host of ills ranging from official greed and economic mismanagement to record unemployment and galloping inflation.
And homeless blacks often complain that land hunger, the main cause of the war for independence, remains nine years later. While 160,000 families were promised plots, only 40,000 have actually been resettled.