Saturday, March 17, 2007

Zimbabwe (Updated)

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.

Read the Rest...


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