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spiral: HIV/AIDS, state capacity, and political conflict in Zimbabwe
T. Price-Smith and John L. Daly, United States Institute of Peace
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Once regarded as the emerging star of postcolonial Africa, Zimbabwe is
now a nation teetering on the brink of economic and political collapse.
In recent years, the country has been wracked by rising levels of politically
motivated violence, elections marred by widespread fraud, an ill-advised
military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the seizure
of farms from white populations without due regard for the law, and violence
against supporters of the political opposition.1
Aside from its rampant governance problems, Zimbabwe is also beset with
a declining GDP, a high rate of inflation, persistently high unemployment,
and increasing poverty. To make matters worse, the southern portion of
the country has experienced significant drought over the past few years.
Finally, Zimbabwe exhibits one of the highest levels of HIV/AIDS sero-prevalence
in the world, with approximately 34 percent of the adult population now
infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.2
This study traces
the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on both the withering economy and
the tottering apparatus of governance in Zimbabwe. This task is complicated
by the presence of other factors contributing to Zimbabwe’s malaise, namely,
extensive political corruption within the Mugabe regime, a land distribution
crisis, and an enduring drought in the south of the country. Given the
complex mix of factors working to destabilize Zimbabwe, it is perhaps
best to think of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a powerful "stressor"
that is exerting a significant negative influence on the nation’s economic
health and political stability. In the context of poor governance (i.e.,
low levels of political will and state capac-ity), HIV/AIDS reinforces
a vicious spiral within affected societies, threatening the stability
of the state. In the case of Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS induced mortality and
morbidity have already begun to destabilize the country, and this effect
will intensify in the near future.
has recently come to be seen as a threat to both international development
and national security. The nascent field of "health security"
is fast developing; as yet, however, few studies have assessed the threat
posed by infectious disease to states and societies at both the microlevel
and the macrolevel.3 This study
illustrates how HIV/AIDS is acting across various domains demographic,
economic, and institutional to compromise Zimbabwe’s economy and structures
of governance and, ultimately, to undermine its national security.
is beset with many other infectious diseases (notably, tuberculosis) that
promise to impede its economic development, the HIV/AIDS epidemic threatens
to have by far the most severe impact in the decades to come.4
HIV/AIDS constitutes both a direct and an indirect threat to Zimbabwean
governance and national security. It also prom-ises significant economic
and social dislocation for many other states in Sub-Saharan Africa whose
populations exhibit high HIV seroprevalence levels, including Swaziland,
Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, and Nigeria.
We begin this report
by briefly chronicling the influence that epidemic disease has had on
the stability of human societies throughout history, noting the social
and political destabilization that occurs as a result of extensive contagion.
Next, we review the utility of the concept of state capacity and apply
it to the case of HIV/AIDS and Zimbabwe. The report then moves on to dissect
the corrosive effect of HIV/AIDS on Zimbabwe’s national institutions.
First, we examine the demographic effects of the disease, in the process
exam-ining the economic and political consequences of the large cohort
of orphans generated by HIV/AIDS induced mortality. Second, we detail
how HIV/AIDS undercuts economic productivity at the microlevel (the level
of family and firm) and the macrolevel. Third, we analyze the deleterious
effects of the epidemic on the institutional structure of the state, including
national military forces, to assess the ultimate effect of the disease
on governance. Finally, after briefly reviewing the Zimbabwean government’s
response to HIV/AIDS, we offer a set of policy recommendations for the
international community in general, and for the U.S. government in particular,
designed to ameliorate the spread of HIV in Zimbabwe.
1. For an intriguing
analysis of the increasingly despotic behavior of the Mugabe administra-tion,
see Sandra J. Maclean, "Mugabe at War: The Political Economy of Conﬂict
in Zimbabwe," Third World Quarterly 23, no. 3 (2002): 513–528.
2. This ﬁgure
comes from the UNAIDS epidemiological fact sheet for Zimbabwe. Similar
data are available for other countries; see www.unaids.org
3. For a detailed
discussion of health and security concerns and their relationship to the
concept of state capacity, see Andrew T. Price-Smith, The Health of Nations:
Infectious Disease, Environmen-tal Change and Their Effects on National
Security and Development (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002); and Andrew
T. Price-Smith, ed., Plagues and Politics: Infectious Disease and International
Policy (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave/Macmillan Press, 2001).
4. Almost 75
percent of HIV-positive individuals in Zimbabwe are coinfected with tuberculosis.
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