Saturday, October 16, 2010
Mugabe Ending Unity Deal?
Anyone who knows Mugabe’s political history won’t be surprised by this at all. He has a history of making political alliances for convenience and discarding allies at whim.
No, There should be no surprise at all.
Friday, May 28, 2010
That’s the Way to Handle a Heckler
Kudos to Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, for his handling of a surprising heckler during his remarks at an Africa Day celebration. The surprising source? The Zimbabwean ambassador, Machivenyika Mapuranga. What could have been embarrassing, though, wasn’t quite a “tear down this wall” moment, but it is admirably frank and utterly right.
Monday, March 01, 2010
A Bad Plan
Robert Mugabe continues to find creative new avenues to lead Zimbabwe down a path of self-destruction. He’s talented that way.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
At Last, Some Fiscal Sanity
Unfortunately, the fiscal sanity isn’t happening here.
It’s an awful shame when the finance minister from Zimbabwe--one of the most blighted, backward, and failing countries in the world--shows the kind of sense that our own leaders here in America can’t quite fathom. Live within your means. Try to honestly project your revenues. Cut spending instead of printing another trillion dollars.
This is the most positive change I’ve seen in Zimbabwe in a long time. Not because it represents a big step forward (given the actual value of the Zim dollar, I still wonder how they’ll manage to dig out of the hole Mugabe dug for the nation), but because it represents some real power sharing. This is the first meaningful thing that’s been done by a member of an opposition party in a long time.
I wouldn’t and don’t trust Mugabe to keep his word, to share power peacefully, or to allow the kinds of changes that might ultimately save Zimbabwe from the final collapse that would destroy the government and fairly force a civil war, but it’s nice to latch on to a little hope (and change!) now and again. Especially when it is embodied in good ideas.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Currency? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Currency.
Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed a long time ago and all that’s left is people sifting through the rubble. With every rational person understanding that the Zim dollar is worthless (and worth less by the day), the government has lifted the ban on using foreign currency.
Mugabe soldiers on as elected dictator for life, playing games with the MDC, and I can’t help but wonder: even if the MDC “wins’ and Mugabe were to retire to his squirreled away bank accounts overseas, what would they have won? Is there anything left to rebuild? Or is the ruin so complete that the entire nation, its infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and social structures will all need to be completely rebuilt?
My gut, sick and sad and angry, says that’s exactly what will need to happen. Mugabe, whenever he is finally gone, will leave only wreckage behind him and the Herculean task of rebuilding a nation from nearly nothing.
Monday, January 26, 2009
For Zimbabwe: Something Better Than a Hunger Strike
I don’t mean to cruelly diminish Desmond Tutu’s hunger strike, but Zimbabwe’s problems are hardly going to be muted by his dietary choices. Admittedly, Jenny Des-Fountain’s food drive won’t make a dent in the Zimbabwe’s problems, but it might actually save a few lives.
Zimbabwe needs more than a few truckloads of food--and even boatloads of food won’t solve the political and economic problems, either. But though she can’t save the nation nor all of its citizens, though she can’t remove Mugabe nor force recognition of the democratically elected government, she can help some people make it a few more days.
And while South Africa’s government has made a habit of giving Mugabe cover when criticism grows too loud, it’s good to see that some of South Africa’s citizens can still muster a little neighborly care for the citizens across the border.
On a completely different subject, can the Beeb’s web site ever run with normal-length sentences? Nearly every sentence on most of these stories is treated as a new paragraph and it drives me absolutely mad. I realize that typical journalist sentences aren’t measured in the same way as your typical essayist sentence, but it bugs me to see the way the Beeb site handles their copy.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
All I can say is, “Man up, ladies.”
I suppose a hunger strike is nice, but I’m not sure what good it’s going to do for the poor people who are hungry by political design instead of ridiculous choice.
It’s an entirely ‘nother culture, so I’m probably not allowed to comment on it; that would just be too judgmental.
Speaking of something else entirely, if I traded all my money for Zim dollars, I would totally be a billionaire.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
No, that’s not the amount of my own, personal bailout check from Uncle Sugar (pity); it’s the newly revised Zimbabwean inflation rate.
I’ve been so involved in watching our own nation’s political scrum that I’ve neglected to write about the situation in Zimbabwe. I’ll try to rectify that in the near future with a piece that I’ve had in my head for a number of weeks about why we can’t expect Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal to work--and why if it does work, we should worry for the MDC.
There ain’t no justice for Zimbabwe, is there?
For now, though, read the story.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
All Your Zeroes Are Belong to Us
What do you do when hyper-inflation makes your currency worth less than the paper that it is printed on? Lop a few zeroes off here and there and everything will be right as rain.
To the MDC negotiators: just say no to powersharing. Anything that leaves Mugabe with official standing or official government seat is purely a lie. Over these past two decades he has destroyed an economy, watched as infrastructure crumbled, ruined the country’s largest industry (farming, led an violent and oppressive regime, starved political opponents, stolen elections, and still, somehow, maintained some claim to legitimacy. That lie can’t be tolerated any longer.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Check in the Guinness Book of World Records Under Holy Damn, Can That Be Right?
This is an amazing story--amazing in that the country of Zimbabwe still exists as a mostly cohesive entity. That the economy hasn’t collapsed to the point that the government can no longer function just beggars belief.
Zim dollars are worthless--worth less, probably literally, than the paper the stuff is printed on. Which brings up the next story about Zim’s failed leadership:
Intriguingly, if Fidelity continues to refuse to supply the special paper, it will become even more likely that Mugabe’s government will crumble. Without the truckloads of cash to pay off the cronies, military, and police, Mugabe’s true base of support may well crumble. With every passing year, Mugabe’s leverage on the people of the country erodes a touch more; unfortunately, it also leaves more dead, displaced, and unfed citizens suffering under his failing government, too.
It would be funny (although, ultimately, quite damaging) to see the government fail because it could no longer print money. What the democratic process has thus far failed to do may be accomplished by such a small thing as special paper.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Still Providing Cover for Tyrants
Leaders in Africa continue to provide cover for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to continue his illegitimate rule of the country. By resisting calls for sanction and continuing to suggest that the road forward is through a unity government, these leaders are doing their best to provide legitimacy to the tyrant: while no one can seemingly deny that he bullied, murdered, brutalized, and intimidated his way into office, they still imagine that no legitimate representative government can be established without Mugabe and his party.
What they seem to fail to understand is that no legitimate representative government can be recognized untilMugabe and his party no longer stand at the helm of the government. Until power has passed peacefully from Mugabe and to a democratically elected head of state, the government of Zimbabwe is a lie that was forced on its citizens at the barrel of a gun. Specifically, any government that preserves Mugabe’s presidency is a lie and an affront to Zimbabweans.
The continued assertion--even if only by implication--of Mugabe’s legitimacy is disgusting and shameful. Once again, Africa’s leaders are failing Africa’s citizens.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
On the Latest “Victory” for Robert Mugabe
I’ve been stuck on what I want to say about Zimbabwe for a few days now. When Robin left a comment noting that “the thugs won” I realized that at that moment there wasn’t much more for me to say. The thugs--Robert Mugabe and his goons--won through a program consisting of violence and terrorism. They did it with not precisely the complicity of other regional leaders, but certainly with folks like Thabo Mkebi making excuses and providing some cover and legitimacy.
Of course, even those African leaders are finding it harder to excuse the behavior of their old comrade. Sadly, any turn to overt criticism and something other than “quiet diplomacy” will be coming too late to support the change that the people of Zimbabwe deserve. Politics as usual in post-colonial Africa has betrayed the trust between the government and the governed. Democracy has not failed them; this turn of events has proven conclusively that there simply is no democracy in Zimbabwe.
The election was a sham. “Quiet diplomacy” is a lie. The people of Zimbabwe are paying. They are paying sometimes with their lives, with their health, and with a future that seems now to be irretrievably broken. The Mugabe apologists are speaking for one of the most brutal regimes in the world today and for a leader who has proven himself adept only at bullying his way to power. They should be ashamed.
In a country where the media is truly controlled by the government, where the demand for fair elections is met with murder, where the leader threatens a new civil war if the opposition party wins in fair elections, there can be no democracy. This isn’t just whiny progressives childishly complaining when they don’t get their way; this is a brutal government grinding its citizens into the dust.
The US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, has been an unwavering voice of support for the citizens of Zimbabwe. We back home should be proud of him and the job he is doing.
Consider this: Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who won the original election (although apparently not be enough) and recently dropped out of the new round of voting, has been harassed and arrested throughout the campaigning process. That stands as some of the more tender oppression in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
Amazingly, this doesn’t even touch on the mismanagement of the government that has left Zimbabwe’s schools, health care, infrastructure, and economy in ruins. Failed governments don’t often fail more dramatically than this one.
What remains for us to decide after reading through this recounting of vile governance is to find a way to effectively support the people of Zimbabwe in their hope for a good government. And, I believe, that means supporting Tsvangirai’s call for an African solution.
For the sake of legitimacy throughout the governments of the region and for the sake of the legitimacy of any government that would be placed after any removal of Mugabe, this eloquent call for basic freedoms, good government, and the restoration of democracy seems right on. I wonder, though, how quickly surrounding nations will be to not only criticize Mugabe, but to use their own diplomatic levers as an effective lever to force Mugabe to negotiate the transfer of power? So far, none of the nations that make up the SADC or the AU has shown that kind of initiative or will in relation to Zimbabwe’s ongoing problems. And the UN is as toothless as an old lion--all roar, no bite.
There is no practical way for Western nations to take a direct part unless we are asked by the MDC--and even then it would be a risk. Mugabe plays the race card with brilliance and any belief that a new government is just a stooge for Western powers (specifically either the UK or the US) could lead to a weak new government. The best role we could play would simply be to extend our offers of knowledge, help, and friendship to the MDC and the citizens of Zimbabwe along with a promise to help them limp out of their economic crisis once a new and truly representative government is in place.
The people of Zimbabwe deserve better than Robert Mugabe; the SADC and AU have the opportunity to help make that “better” happen. To that end, I think Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has a series of good suggestions that could do a good deal to help salvage Zimbabwe. As he says, though, the need to act is urgent. I urge you to read his piece--it’s an honest (and, in terms of Thabo Mbeki, blistering) look at the situation. It doesn’t read particularly hopeful, but it is unflinching about the prospects.
A last “must read” in this opening salvo is Counterterrorism Blog’s “Africa’s Shame and Zimbabwe’s Greater Threat. It answers the question of why we should care about the future of a small, landlocked country in Southern Africa. It leads to a longer post on another site.
More links follow in the extended entry.
Monday, June 09, 2008
When the citizens of Zimbabwe voted for change--a peaceful, democratic vote for change in the way their interests were represented by their government--I was hopeful that there would be a reasonably calm change in the government. I, very obviously, misplaced my faith in a big way. Here’s a report from the Beeb:
I’ve been watching the news every day and it’s only getting worse.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Is it True? Zimbabwe Could be Taking Steps Toward Freedom
Given the reports of irregularities and the pressure placed on voters, I imagined that ZImbabwe’s election would have the same dismal results as the last few elections. But the determination of the opposition--and, indeed, the faith peaceful, democratic change--looks to have overwhelmed even Mugabe’s ability to bully, buy, and cheat his way to victory.
That is a truly amazing thing. To his credit, and if these early reports are correct, he is doing what he needs to do to negotiate a peaceful exchange of power.
Amazing. There is reason for hope for Zimbabwe today--and if this all comes to pass, I will be celebrating soon.
If power does change hands--and if the new leadership proves to be devoted to liberalizing, responsible monetary policy, and finding ways to solve the current crisis, then it will be important for Western powers to be ready with offers of assistance in the transition. Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, schools, and health care system will be a monumental task both in the sense of the effort involved and the potential to revive what was once the most promising nation in the region.
For the citizens of Zimbabwe, this is looking like a time for joy and celebration--but soon the hard work of rebuilding will bring its own pains. I’m hoping that the United States can find a way to be a productive partner in the rebuilding process, nurturing a relationship that will help bring peace and stability to a country that has lost far too many years to Mugabe.
If the moment of meaningful change has come, it will be because of people like the folks at Sokwanele who have worked so hard for so long to see the potential for something better. God willing, I will be able to meet some of them in the coming years in a nation of free men and women.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sokwanele’s Creative Use of Internet Technology
Check out what Sokwanele, one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful voices in support of non-violent, democratic change, is using Google Maps in a unique and powerful way. By mapping election irregularities Sokwanele is showing us just how “fair” the upcoming elections are going to be. For instance, I can see in Bulawayo, where I lived for a time when I was a boy, that there have been cases of political cleansing, violence, and disruptions of the right to freedom of association.
Clicking on one of the icons on the map brings up a synopsis of the story and a link to the incident in their database. The offenses can be filtered by incident type, too.
It may not change the results, but dictators like Mugabe don’t often do well with bright light shining on their transgressions.
I hate that Sokwanele’s creative use of the technology is so necessary, but glad that technology is serving a good cause.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Mugabe’s Government: Strangely Resistant to Change
Robert Mugabe’s government is signaling rather loudly that it will not only do what it can to influence the vote in upcoming elections, but that it might not abide by election results if they don’t like them.
You might imagine that a country with six digit inflation, a wrecked economy, and little in the way of opportunities for its people might be in the mood for change. Not Obama level change, mind you, but real change that might allow the country to find its way out of the wilderness. In practice it hasn’t worked that way because of a combination of constitutional rule changes rigged to give the ruling government a head start in every election, strong arm tactics by government agencies, some remaining popularity because of Mugabe’s war record, a system of payoffs and corruption that has allowed Mugabe to influence the most powerful people in the country, no recognizable free press, and the dependency of voters on the largesse of the government.
But there was always the hope that an overwhelming response from voters might provide change when they finally grew tired of their government’s incompetence. For supporters of the MDC and other opposition organizations--not to mention we outsiders who hope only the best for Zimbabwe--can’t help but feel even more disheartened by the increased open defiance of democratic principles. Not surprised, necessarily, but deeply disappointed.
There is a point to be made from this, as well, for us about the dangers of dependence on the government for our livelihoods. I’m going to leave it alone for another day, though.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
There Should Be Some Kind of Award for This…
Not every country could hit 100,000% inflation and still claim to be “functional"--although that term might be overstating things a tad.
So, congratulations to Mugabe for breaking new ground; sympathy to the citizens for having to live under such a nincompoop.
Someday, when Mugabe is gone and someone is trying to pick up the pieces that are left, Mugabe’s defenders and apologists will be able to look on all this and laugh. Mostly because they were probably taking payoffs the entire way through and fat stacks of $10 million (Zim) notes still look impressive. “Ha ha ha, that Mugabe, he was always such an overachiever.”
I’m trying to put together the financing to do a trip to Mozambique next year--an actual journalistic endeavor of sorts--and was hoping to hop the border to get a look at Zimbabwe, too. I wonder how possible that will be this time next year?
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Hope, from the Sokwanele Blog, explains a little about normalcy in Zimbabwe. As always, Sokwanele remains an excellent resource for gaining a realistic understanding of what life is like in Mugabe’s country--a frustrating, ugly view, no doubt, but far more honest than anything you’ll read from New African’s Baffour Ankomah, an apologist who not only glosses over the depredations of Mugabe’s government, but blames Western powers for Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Dog Collar Protest
While Archbishop of York John Sentamu’s protest might be a tad dramatic, it brought attention to what he was saying on this clip from YouTube. And what he was saying was just good sense.
For Zimbabwe to even begin addressing its problems--dead economy, broken infrastructure, joblessness, a decimated farming industry, eroding freedoms, widespread hunger--Mugabe has to go. Leaving our disgust and anger silenced won’t make that happen and neither, apparently (and just as disgustingly), will leaving it to Mugabe’s neighbors. What will make it happen--or, at least, help prepare for what happens when he dies or is too old to carry on as the head of state--is to support grassroots organizations like Sokwanele--folks who work for democratic change and the protection of personal liberty in Zimbabwe. From their About Sokwanele page:
When you run into people who insist that everything is fine in Zim, that it isn’t as bad as the media portray, and that the only problems are caused by the financial sanctions from the West, visit Sokwanele and read their writing, see the pictures, and understand that these are Zimbabwe’s citizens. I applaud them for what they are doing.
Thanks very much to Matthew from Billy Ockham for pointing out the video.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I Didn’t Know it Was Possible to Insult the Zimbabwean Dollar…
With a single matchstick costing something on the order of Z$3,000, according to the BBC, is it any wonder that someone might choose to use Z$.10 notes as gimmick business cards? They certainly aren’t useful for anything else and to print real business cards would be far more expensive.
But anyone trying such a thing might do well to remember that Mugabe’s regime isn’t known for a sophisticated sense of humor.
Does it possibly get better for Zimbabwe before it gets tremendously worse? There’s little on the shelves, scant hard currency (meaning: stable currency from outside of Zimbabwe) to import things like fuel, infrastructure failing, and not nearly enough food to eat. With inflation having, apparently, achieved escape velocity, the economy is certainly wrecked; it’s hard to imagine a recovery any time in the near future without the help of outside agencies. It’s impossible to imagine that help coming while Mugabe still rules.
In the words of the Boomer Bible, “Poor bastards.”
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