After Mugabe loyalists and inexperienced black farmers took over the land, the economy went into freefall.
Before 2000, farming accounted for 40 percent of all exports; a decade later the figure was just 3 percent.
GDP almost halved from 1998 to 2008.
The central bank began printing money to compensate and hyperinflation took hold.
At its height Zimbabweans were buying loaves of bread with Z$100 trillion notes.
Mugabe was forced to cede some control in 2009 to a unity government that scrapped the worthless Zimbabwe dollar in favor of the U.S. dollar.
Economic growth resumed.
But since Mugabe regained outright control in a 2013 election, growth has faded and the central bank has begun issuing “bond notes,” a domestic quasi-currency that is already depreciating.
It was against this dismal economic backdrop that potential successors to Mugabe began planning for his departure.
According to the intelligence files, Mnangagwa’s overtures to Tsvangirai and white farmers became apparent in early 2015 amid bitter strife within the ZANU-PF party.
On one side is Mnangagwa’s faction – dubbed “Team Lacoste” after the crocodile-branded French fashion chain.
On the other is G40, a group of young ZANU-PF members who have coalesced around Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife, Grace.
In March 2015, the intelligence documents make the first mention of Mnangagwa meeting white farmers, including Charles Taffs, a former president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), the farmers’ professional association.
Some of the gatherings were boozy affairs, according to the intelligence reports.
“Mnangagwa had a slip of the tongue this week that angered Mugabe and Grace, when he told people who were around that ZANU-PF rigged the elections in 2013, this being said while under the influence of liquor,” a March 19, 2015 report reads.
Continued next page