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Zimbabwe: The end of a dream?

Wolfgang H. Thome l eTN Africa  Jun 23, 2008

As Zimbabwe was led down the road of ever increasing violence by its brutal rulers over the past few weeks, the patience of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and of Morgan Tsvangirai and his fellow opposition supporters has finally run out. With more and more people being killed, mercilessly beaten up, maimed and tortured, they finally thought that enough was enough and the Zimbabwean people should not suffer any longer over an election campaign that had been perverted to the very core.

The results of the first election round were, by broad international consensus, clearly stolen by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in their desperate attempt to hang on to power, causing the run off to become necessary in the first place. The regime and their obviously demented leader then unleashed a barrage of violence, intimidation, threats and hunger on the population, nearly unprecedented in history, not only in Africa but anywhere in the world and threatened a civil war if the opposition would ever come to power.

The result of the pulling out of the MDC ‚Äď finally decided on Sunday after an agonizing period of deliberations and consultations ‚Äď now reverberates across democratic Africa and the rest of the world. Robert Mugabe, erstwhile liberator-turned-brutal dictator, has clung on to power in the face of his own people, whom he led to near total ruin over the past 8 years of his 28 years at the helm of his country. His own legacy of having defeated Ian Smith‚Äôs apartheid regime ‚Äď in spite of ongoing murmurs since then about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity ‚Äď would have been cast in iron and for eternity, had he stepped aside at the end of the ‚Äė90s, but greed for power overcame the former liberation hero and he now has a place in the bad book of history not much different from other tyrants and despots like Bokassa, Taylor, Mobutu, Mengistu (incidentally in safe exile in Zimbabwe until now) or Banda, besides a few others.

The MDC decision yesterday should also be a wake up call for those African countries, and China for that matter, which were and continue to be well near complicit with the illegal regime, having for years at end extended overt and covert support to Mugabe and ignored the desperate plight of the Zimbabwean people with complete disregard to the reality on the ground and open contempt for any democratic principles.

China, in fact, already under international pressure over their recent behavior in Tibet and the acts of their goon platoons accompanying the international Olympic torch relays, has most recently been overtly adding to the situation in Zimbabwe by boosting the regime’s weapon and ammunition supplies, aimed at inflicting further suffering upon the Zimbabwean people, as events of the past weeks show.

South African President Mbeki in fact excelled doing not only an apologetically and appeasing ‚ÄúChamberlain‚ÄĚ with Mugabe even during the last few weeks but by doing so bringing the entire capacity for reality judgment of African leaders into question when he first concluded there was ‚Äúno crisis‚ÄĚ in Zimbabwe and then looked the other way as violence and suffering reached new unprecedented heights in that poor country. He then allegedly played a key role to have the Chinese weapons and ammunition delivered to the regime boosting their capacity for violence, while some of his own misguided countrymen, probably encouraged by the attitude of their own president, unleashed another wave of terror on Zimbabwean refugees who had sought shelter in South Africa.

This ‚Äúhead in the sand‚ÄĚ approach in fact severely dented if not outright spoiled Mbeki‚Äôs own legacy, while to the surprise of many his most likely successor Jacob Zuma repeatedly spoke out decisively and with evident force on the problem, making him as a result more electable and gaining stature abroad.

Many of the present African leadership within the SADC region (Southern African Development Cooperation) and beyond, however, now have the proverbial egg all over their faces and they should hasten to help to put things right from here on. Notable exceptions here are Zambian President Mwanawasa. who was most outspoken in condemning Mugabe and his uniformed hoodlums and the first to tighten the screws on the regime. Just a few days ago Rwandan President Kagame condemned the Zimbabwean rulers without mincing words. It is time now that SADC and other African leaders tell Mugabe to get out of office and allow the winner of the first round of the elections some weeks ago, Morgan Tsvangirai, to be sworn in as duly elected new president, to lead his country out of the political and economic abyss and return Zimbabwe to the civilized family of nations.

Zimbabwe was an economic success story immediately after independence and even before, when in spite of harsh sanctions the country still maintained a positive balance of payments and exported plenty of food into the wider African neighborhood, whenever droughts destroyed harvests in other countries. In fact, the first 20 years of Mugabe’s rule still maintained the resemblance of economic stability, in spite of the developing kleptocracy. But, over the past eight years the country degenerated rapidly from bread basket to basket case.

Now considered a near failed state the country’s currency is in accelerated free fall with inflation rates in the million plus percentage region, itself a dubious global record, foreign currency reserves have disappeared, shelves in shops are empty, petrol and diesel have all but run out, constant power outages keep much of the country in darkness, over 80 percent of the population are jobless, over a third of the adult people have become economic migrants and political refugees outside the country and life expectancy in average is now only about 37 years, with child deaths amongst the highest in the world.

Hundreds of MDC supporters were killed, maimed, tortured and jailed since the first election round and the regime continued with absolute impunity to inflict terror on the voters to beat them into casting votes for Mugabe, while continuously harassing and arresting the opposition leaders to prevent election canvassing. If the pull out of the MDC is going to change these terror tactics by the country’s security goons will much depend on what pressure is now being applied on the regime by its neighbors and what, if any sanctions in particular South Africa is going to impose to force a swift solution.

The so-called land reform, which saw productive farms and ranches handed to Mugabe’s cronies, only consequently turned them into unproductive waste lands, has starved the country of food and the once thriving tourism industry too has all but collapsed owing to lack of fuels, lack of other supplies, lack of foreign exchange for marketing and importation of equipment and most important a total pariah reputation as a country in the key producer markets for tourists around the world like the US, the UK and the EU mainland nations.

It is hoped, however, that once a new and democratic government has been formed at some time in the future, a new breed of politicians with renewed compassion for their compatriots will then swiftly reverse the grotesque actions taken in the twilight days of Mugabe’s draconian dictatorial rule and restore sanity to a country relentlessly raped and savaged for years by its ZANU-PF overlords. There is high confidence that a future president Morgan Tsvangirai would be able to return Zimbabwe into the family of civilized nations, turn the economy around and make amends for the evils perpetrated against society at large in the final months and weeks of Mugabe’s terror regime and mend fences with his neighbors. And should criminal charges against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity be preferred, in Zimbabwean courts or in The Hague, it would at least offer some late justice for those who suffered endlessly and lost their lives.

That all said, for now must all continue to pray for the innocent victims in Zimbabwe and hope for both divine as well as neighborly intervention, to bring an end to the ongoing crises.

Zimbabwe: The end of a dream?
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