Something about Zimbabwe and her political (and now social, economic, everything) situation has struck a chord with me more than any other issue on the international scene. Other countries have tragic issues that are just as serious and deadly as those in Zimbabwe, nevertheless, the fact that Zimbabwe was considered the “shining star” and “bread-basket of sub-saharan Africa makes this situation all the more incredible.
Robert Mugabe has been in power since 1980, he has one of the longest reigns of dictatorial power in the world. While he has always been ruthless and pushed for the marginalization of Whites in the country, up until around 2000 he made rational decisions that grew the economy and provided a measure of stability and hope for a region that so desparately needed it. Since then his land reform policies, cracking down on the opposition, stifiling what little free press there was, and preventing most international aid from entering has turned this country into ruins.
Today Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world (3,731% in May ’07), households are limited to 4 hours of electricity use (if they have access to electricity), only 10% of the essential winter wheat crop has been planted, many factories have closed, and the only farms that produce anything are those supported by the government and those have a difficult time producing enough crop. Most people are in abject poverty and have little hope for any improvement so long as Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party are in power. Mugabe consistently stifles any opposition and has only been hardened and more dedicated to this practice since realizing that no leaders in Africa seem to care or to condemn him.
Mugabe regularly blames the West for the economic situation of his country, saying that countries like the US are using subversive actions to sabotage their agriculture and destroy their economy as punishment for his land reform policy. This, of course, is ridiculous. However, heaven forbid an other African leader doing anything about it. Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda said:
Leaders in the West say Robert Mugabe is a demon, that he has destroyed Zimbabwe and he must be gotten rid of – but this demonising is made by people who may not understand what Gabriel Mugabe and his fellow freedom fighters went through…(and) given their experience, I can understand the fury that goes through President Mugabe and his colleagues. (bbcnews.com)
While I respect what these fighters went through during the colonial struggles, in this case the ends do not justify the means. Where was the “fury that goes through President Mugabe” in his first twenty years in power? What Mugabe and his fellow freedom fighters went through has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the current situation in Zimbabwe. What all of these problems can be attributed to is a person who refuses to relinquish power and will do anything to maintain it. Leaders like Mugabe often use rhetoric condemning former white policies and then implement opposite policies that lead to the demise of their country. But all of this is ok, they say, because they are no longer subject to racist western ideals, besides we never would be in this situation in the first place if it was not for the white man. Naievity and stupidity like that is what got them into this situation. African leaders are the only ones who can fix this, aside from internal revolt (which won’t happen). But they are so beholden to their revolutionary ideals that they turn a blind eye. When I read articles like the one about the comments of President Kaunda and also South African President Mbeki, it sure seems that they all admire what he is doing. It is sad and troubling.
Of course no in the West will do anything about it. If there is one thing we have learned it is to not get involved in Africa if we don’t have too. More significantly is the fact that we simply have no interests in Zimbabwe, economic or otherwise. And while it would be nice to have the US flex some muscle, honestly there are more pressing issues in the world for America. The big fear is that other countries are going to follow the same path as Zimbabwe. Both Venezuela and Bolivia are well on their way to ruin, and while they may never fall as far as Zimbabwe, their futures are not bright. One would have thought that considering the fact that socialism and dictatorial policies have completely failed everywhere they have been implemented ( USSR on the extreme, China [which is ironically implementing capitalism in its communism!], and even France), countries would learn their lesson and stop it already. But some are so engrossed with such idealism that nothing can be done to deter them. It is sad, sad, sad. It is nice to think of no rich no poor, everyone equal, but get real already. It never has been, never will be, and never can be – it is not possible. More countries should learn from the poor example of Mugabe, rather than defend him as revolutionary who fought against tyranny; the thing he hated he has become.