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Signs of hope in Zimbabwe

The unity government that joined strongman Robert Mugabe with democrat Morgan Tsvangirai a year ago has lasted longer and accomplished more than many people expected. But it's in trouble, and needs a push from neighbor South Africa.

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The last time the global media checked in on Zimbabwe was a year ago, when strongman Robert Mugabe joined with his political rival in a "unity" government. Few expected this unlikely pairing of a dictator and democrat to last long or accomplish much. Encouragingly, they were wrong.

In the past year, hyperinflation has disappeared – stopped cold by switching to the US dollar. Store shelves are stocked with staples. Schools have opened. The mining industry has restarted. Tourists can once more use ATMs. Builders, painters, and repairmen are working, and political violence has subsided.

Three in 4 Zimbabweans say their economic conditions have improved, according to a poll by US-based Freedom House. This is a remarkable turnaround from the nadir of 2008, when severe hunger and almost universal joblessness plagued Zimbabwe. In elections that year, voters turned against Mr. Mugabe. He may have liberated them from white rule, but his economic mismanagement and political patronage and violence had ruined a country that was once a breadbasket to Africa.

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