This is supposed to be an optimist blog. And I recently wrote a very positive piece about Africa. But Zimbabwe continues to veer between tragedy and farce.
I started loathing its President Robert Mugabe around 25 years ago when he started talking “one party state” like it was some utopia to be achieved. Fortunately he never quite achieved it, despite immense violence expended in the effort. What he did achieve was turning Zimbabwe from Africa’s bread-basket to its basket-case, with GDP collapsed by half, a 95% unemployment rate, and hyperinflation so extreme that I made nice profits selling genuine but worthless Zimbabwean $100 Trillion bills to collectors as novelty items.
All of which thoroughly impoverished the black inhabitants Mugabe so loudly professes to exalt. This racism of his regime, added to the incompetence, rapacious klepto-“socialism,” and blood-soaked brutality, makes it all the more detestable, with Mugabe relentlessly braying blame on white people for the economic catastrophe he himself wrought. This was exemplified by his campaign to drive out Zimbabwe’s white farmers, confiscating their lands for supposed redistribution to needy blacks (including phony “war veterans”) while of course actually giving them to rich regime cronies whose feckless mismanagement made a wasteland of them. (See again my review of The Dictator’s Handbook.)
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (“Changirai”) must get high marks for courage in battling, over long years, against this monstrous regime. It’s a miracle he’s even still alive. In the 2008 election, despite pervasive intimidation and vote rigging, Tsvangirai decisively outpolled Mugabe; but the regime cooked the electoral books enough to trigger a run-off. Tsvangirai then bowed out, on the ground that just too many of his supporters were being killed by Mugabe’s thugs. An understandable decision – but perhaps the opposition should have seen it through, to dispatch Mugabe once and for all.
Afterwards, Mugabe was forced by other African leaders into a power-sharing deal – whose terms he grossly violated. (However, the opposition did get control of the finance ministry and managed to put to rights many aspects of Zimbabwe’s shattered economy.)
Recently BBC News aired part of a nauseating so-called documentary parading Mugabe’s supposed “human” side – amiably chatting with wife and kids at dinner, and blandly burbling that if his people still need him, even at 89, he can’t say no. I wanted to get a washcloth to clean the slime off my TV.
Actually, the old monster was reported ready to slink away in ’08 – but his pals said, “Oh no you don’t,” too afraid of retribution without their front man.
Another presidential election was held July 31 – a rushed election, to foil any efforts to make it clean. Mugabe and his gang of murderers are cockily crowing their 61% landslide. If you believe their count. And ignore all the stuffed ballots. And the legions of people stopped from voting. And beaten, tortured, or killed. Tsvangirai called the election a “farce.”
But the African Union’s observers saw nothing amiss; a free and fair vote they said. And South Africa’s President Zuma not only congratulated Mugabe but “profoundly” congratulated him.
I am profoundly sickened. Is there a washcloth big enough to wipe up this slime?