Friday, November 27, 2009
This is another one of the world's sad stories. A country, prior to 2000 that was widely considered the bread basket of Africa with a vibrant agricultural sector. Now, the country is still plagued with widespread starvation, poverty and hyperinflation. I could spend hours rhyming off numerous statistics and facts illustrating the steep decline of this country but I am afraid I would lose you in the detail. To summarize the decline, here we have a country that in the 80's & 90's experienced average annual GDP growth of 4%-5%, to an annual drop that escalated to almost 20% in 2003.
What caused this sudden sharp destruction of a success story? Another one of the world's horrendous regimes, Robert Mugabe & his ZANU-PF party. In addition to widespread corruption, this regime committed two primary acts that obliterated its economy:
a/ Participation in the war in Congo from 1998-2002 that cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars, and;
b/ A land redistribution in 2000 which resulted in the forceful and violent eviction of over 4,000 white land owners by government backed vigilantes, know as the "War Veterans"
Not only was this land redistribution morally wrong and racist, it essentially placed highly productive agricultural land in the possession of savage goons and militias that occupied theses farms but did nothing to continue cultivating the land. Some of the best farm assets seized were transferred to high ranking officials of the ruling party. This move, rationalized by Mugabe as creating equality, resulted in dramatic drops in the country's crop production.
Now having illustrated the genesis of this "mess", one might wonder how such a man stays in the seat of power. As is the case with many other unpopular regimes, violent and vicious repression of opposition parties and demonstrations. The government even arrested and violently beat Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC opposition party. He was shown on TV around the world with terrible cuts, bruises and swelling on his face. Of course, according to Mugabe, his country's problems are all a result of "racist" foreigners primarily in Britain and the US. He even went so far as to ban the BBC, Sky News, CNN and many others.
Are we starting to see a pattern here? I sometimes wonder if there is a secret university somewhere that provides a degree titled, "The Propaganda of Scapegoating the Developed World to Divert Attention from your own misdeeds". I could imagine Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran, standing at the podium handing out degrees to the likes of Chavez, Mugabe, Ortega and a myriad of others. During the graduation party, their form of celebration would consist of openly practicing the most effective forms of torture and coercion.
Back to the matter at hand. I recently read an excerpt on the personal life of a prominent member of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe: Gideon Gono. When reading this keep in mind that the country is experiencing widespread starvation and rapid decline in life expectancy to the mid 30 years (from 60 in 1990):
"Gono and his wife live in Borrowdale Brook, a northern suburb of Harare. They have just completed on construction of a new "castle-like" house, equipped with: 47 en-suite bedrooms; a glass swimming pool with underlights; a gym; mini-theatre; and landscaped gardens. Estimated to have cost USD $5 million, it is equipped with iris-scanning security measures as well as extensive camera coverage aiding perimeter control" - quoted from "Lavish life of Mugabe’s looter-in-chief". The Sunday Times. 2008-12-21.
I could go on and on here but this whole situation leads me to a few key questions: Why has the current South African government stayed silent and not applied any real pressure on the Mugabe regime? Why is the African Union inclusive of Mugabe at their summits? How can they allow citizens of their continent to suffer so terribly? Is it because of their own skeletons? Supporting, or not openly criticizing Zimbabwe's regime is NOT a unified protest against colonialism. It is incomprehensible, immoral, disgraceful and by no means bolsters the credibility of other African governments. The only hope is the terrible refugee influx of Zimbabweans and its cost to neighbouring Botswana and Zambia will result in these countries being forced to invade this country and change the regime. They could do what the Vietnamese army did for Cambodia by invading and eliminating the terrible Khmer Rouge, although that was for very different reasons. I hope this African nightmare ends sooner than later.