• Humanitarian crisis

    Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s leading economies. For two decades after independence, its health and education systems were among the best on the continent and it was a net exporter of agricultural products.

    During the last decade, political, economic and humanitarian conditions began to decline. The Government of Zimbabwe, plagued by corruption and misguided policies, failed to ensure the basic needs of its people were being met. By late 2008, half of Zimbabwe’s population needed food aid, water supplies had broken down, a cholera epidemic had claimed thousands of lives, public schools and hospitals had closed, and life expectancy had almost halved. Economic mismanagement and hyperinflation of more than 230 million per cent had brought the economy to a halt.

  • Political and social turmoil

    Following disputed elections in 2008 characterised by violence and protracted political negotiations, a government of national unity was formed in February 2009 between the three main political groupings – ZANU-PF and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change. Progress was made in stabilising the economy and reopening schools and hospitals. However, the country continues to face high unemployment, inadequate public services and widespread poverty. Meanwhile, the Southern African group of countries, SADC, has been working to encourage the Zimbabwean political parties to resolve outstanding issues and put in place the necessary reforms ahead of fresh elections.

    The people of Zimbabwe continue to suffer from politically-motivated violence, human rights abuses and a lack of free and open space for democratic debate.

  • Our position

    The Elders seek to support the leaders and people of Zimbabwe to work towards a peaceful, prosperous and stable future that fulfils the democratic aspirations of its citizens. They believe this requires:

    • An end to politically motivated violence
    • Democratic conditions, including free, fair and credible elections
    • Respect for fundamental human rights, including an open media and freedoms of association, assembly and speech
    • A government that responds to the needs of all people in Zimbabwe and provides essential services
    • Economic opportunities, allowing people in Zimbabwe to fulfil their potential
    • Assistance from the international community to address immediate humanitarian needs and support economic recovery and development

    The Elders follow developments in Zimbabwe closely and hope to contribute, wherever possible, to building peace and prosperity for the Zimbabwean people.

  • Our work

    The Elders played a catalytic role in increasing humanitarian assistance to support the restoration of basic services in Zimbabwe in 2008 and 2009.

    In November 2008, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel attempted to visit Harare to draw attention to Zimbabwe’s deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Prevented at the last minute from entering the country, the Elders stayed in Johannesburg where they met representatives of Zimbabwean civil society, business and politics, as well as refugees, donors and UN agencies.

    Kofi Annan speaking at an Elders' press conference on Zimbabwe

    Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter speak at the Elders' press conference on Zimbabwe in Johannesburg,
    24 November 2008

    The attention drawn to the situation encouraged political leaders to resolve their differences – to conclude negotiations on the formation of an inclusive government and focus on addressing the basic needs of the population. The visit also persuaded leaders in southern Africa to take a more assertive approach to tackling the political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. Read The Elders' report.

    In May 2009, The Elders reached out to the development ministers of 18 donor countries and the European Commission, urging them to expand humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe. They argued that providing allowances to teachers and doctors, rehabilitation of water and sanitation, and food security assistance could all be considered 'lifesaving' given Zimbabwe’s deteriorating humanitarian situation. The Elders learned that several major donors subsequently increased their funding to Zimbabwe – including for activities beyond emergency health and food assistance. 

    Ahead of the 36th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit in August 2016, Kofi Annan, Archbishop Tutu and Graҫa Machel wrote to its leaders calling on them to "support a successful and inclusive transition in Zimbabwe."