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Zimbabwe’s Scientists Hope Political Change Will Revitalize Research


Protesters gathered at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare this week, amid political ructions that precipitated the end of Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule. Credit: Getty

Scientists in Zimbabwe say they are hopeful that the sudden change of political power in their country could spell a new era for its beleaguered research system. Those working in the nation hope that the shift will unlock and attract research funds from overseas, while Zimbabwean researchers abroad say that the potential for new order in their country could encourage them to return home.

The authoritarian regime of Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old who had been president of Zimbabwe for 37 years, ended abruptly on November 21 when he resigned following military and political pressure. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice-president whose firing by Mugabe this month set off the revolt, was sworn in as the country's leader this morning. Elections are expected to be organized next year.

The ructions have been widely celebrated both inside and outside Zimbabwe. The southern African country’s economy has been in free fall for almost two decades since Mugabe fast-tracked a programme of land expropriation, which destroyed investment in its agricultural sector and undermined confidence in the economy. The turmoil led millions—including scientists—to flee the country, many into neighbouring South Africa.