Saturday, March 17, 2007
Update: Read the Austin Bay report. And then go to Sokwanele to see the result of Mugabe’s brutal regime. The pictures aren’t pretty, but I think they get the message across.
Introduction: I began writing this on Friday, but circumstances conspired against me finishing the thing. I figured I would wait until Monday to finalize the thing. Instead of working on the magazine that I should be laying out, I decided that I wanted to finish this instead. The decision came because i came across a few stories today that fit with the rest of this piece and those new stories come in the extended entry. It’s still unfinished in that I don’t have enough space to say all that I want to say and it hasn’t been edited or polished up at all. Apologies for the rough state of the thing, but that magazine really does need some work--and someone has to pay my bills.
When I close my eyes and see Zimbabwe, she isn’t like the reality we see in the papers. She’s still beautiful, strong, educated, and blessed. The Zimbabwe in the papers is a stranger to me. I can’t remember the last time I saw good news from the country--news untainted by suspicion or word of Mugabe’s latest insanity.
A few examples might do. First, The New Republic has a story entitled “The Other African Genocide.”
The conditions Mugabe rendered in Zimbabwe do not merely stem from idealistic economic and social policies gone awry. He has undertaken a campaign of violence and starvation against political opponents, the fallout of which is killing tens of thousands, if not more, every year. In 2005, there were roughly 4,000 more deaths each week than births, a rate that the famine has surely increased. This is worse than brutality. The United Nations says that “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” constitutes genocide, and that is exactly what Robert Mugabe has wrought.
Read the rest. It is terrifying to read James Kirchik’s account of the systematic destruction Mugabe’s government has brought to what was once one of the more promising African states. It’s been easy to ignore for most people because the killing isn’t often done with outright violence. As Kirchik notes, this isn’t machete wielding masses cutting down hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens; this is a slow, methodical starving of a population where food is used as a weapon and as a way to bring the population to what the government considers a manageable level.
As early as 2002, the BBC was reporting that people in Matabeleland, the southern region of the country where the minority Ndebele tribe lives, were starving. That same year, on the eve of a massive drought, the Minister of Zimbabwean State Security said, “We would be better off with only six million people--with our own who support the liberation struggle. We don’t want all these extra people.”
Zimbabwe’s tragedy isn’t as explosive as, say, Somalia. It isn’t as bloody as, say, Rwanda. And it certainly isn’t as noticed as the Sudan.
What Zimbabwe is, though, is devastated and desperately in need of help. Where is the UN? Where is the African Union? Mostly doing what large, international organizations do in times of crisis: precisely nothing. It is so much easier to say “never again” once the bodies have been buried than it is to take action.
American Spectator has a look at Mugabe’s maneuvering to remain in power and the economic damage that he has caused to his nation.
Cleverly, as Mugabe usually acts when he isn’t simply brutal, the self-ordained “father of Zimbabwe” has had floated the idea of rescheduling to 2010 the presidential election due at the end of his term in 2008 in coordination with the parliamentary elections. This device would prolong his stay in office while giving him time to sort out the current bitter infighting within his own ruling party, Zanu-PF.
Meanwhile his country’s economic state is disastrous. What once was a balanced economy before he assumed power in 1980 now borders on bankruptcy. The national inheritance of a modern agriculture and growing mining and manufacturing sectors has been squandered. Inflation neared 1600 percent in January of this year and international banking circles predict it to reach a possible 5,000 per cent by the end of the year.
Barring intervention or a civilian uprising, Zim will continue to die slowly--bleeding the people who can manage to leave, starving those left behind, and nearly drained of opportunity with an infrastructure so neglected that almost nothing remains of the country I knew. Its population as depleted as its farms, its industry ruined.
And on the same day that I am reading these stories, the gentlemen from Sokwanele sent me this link.
Mugabe apparently attacked the IMF as “nonsense” among many other tired familiar rants. I’d have to say though that I can’t think of many things as utterly nonsensical as paying £36 for 2 litres of milk!
The cost of Mugabe’s mismanagement of Zimbabwe is concrete. The effects of his misguided policies are, bluntly, killing the nation’s citizens--millions of people who will die before they should, who will never achieve their potential, who are being destroyed by their own government.
And here’s the headline of the day:
The prayer meeting, which one of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) organizers insisted wasn’t politically oriented, was broken up because the government currently bans political rallies in some parts of Harare.
Police shot dead one person and arrested leaders of the opposition and civic groups in a foiled prayer meeting in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare on Sunday.
According to the official New Ziana, the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its allies wanted to hold the meeting in Harare in defiance of a ban.
Both leaders of the two factions of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, were arrested, as were National Constitutional Assembly (NAC) Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, top MDC officials Tendai Biti, Job Sikhala, Elias Mudzuri and Grace Kwinjeh.
The news agency said MDC and its allies had planned to hold the prayer meeting in Highfield in defiance of a three-month police ban on rallies in some areas of the capital in the aftermath of riots by the party’s supporters last month.
How much longer until the civil unrest becomes an uprising? When that comes the cost will be in the blood of the citizens who have already been most hurt by the government’s policies which is why if a peaceful path to government change can be found, that non-violent path is immensely more desirable than another African civil war. But with an African Union intent on providing cover for Mugabe and the United Nations mostly ignoring the growing unrest, finding that non-violent path seems more and more unlikely. Gift Tandare died protesting a tyrant; the name, though, is just one of the tens of thousands of deaths that Mugabe can claim.
Sokwanele, grassroots political activists devoted to non-violent political change, have this to say:
His bemusement is because Zimbabwe’s inflation is heading fast towards 1800% (it surged to 1,729.9 percent in February from 1,593.6 percent the previous month); life expectancy for women is 34 and for men 37 (average); HIV/AIDS statistics in our country are among the worst in the world and we’re facing massive food shortages and wide spread hunger; etc, etc, etc
Seriously…. What does the ZANU PF government expect us to do? Keep our mouths shut and passively starve to death?
I hope that Sokwanele’s principled devotion to change without resorting to armed resistance truly brings the changes that it envisions. A civil war would be one more disaster that a beautiful country and its citizens just don’t deserve. Robert Mugabe may not be part of the “Axis of Evil"--their international influence is too marginal to make such a lofty list--but his actions truly are evil: he has knowingly starved his citizens an wrecked an economy leading to untold dead and thousands chased from their homes. He brought calamity when he promised reconciliation and peace. And through the ruin, he continues his quest to be president for life.
For those Americans who can somehow look at our government and see tyranny or burgeoning dictatorship would do to take a long look at Zimbabwe, where those accusations aren’t misplaced.