Efraim MESLET

ROBERT MUGABE AND ZIMBABWE:
The tragic tale of a human-made disaster
April 18th, 1980. The new-born State of Zimbabwe, at independence, had so much to hope, and so much going for it. Indeed, the “Jewel of Africa” could honestly raise the hopes and the optimism of its privileged inhabitants. Enjoying a pleasant temperate climate, the spectacular beauty of the Zimbabwean natural reserves and the tremendous amount of wealth offered by its natural resources could have ensure to the “land of Stones” a very encouraging start. Its promising new leader, Robert Mugabe, genuinely talented and holding no less than eight university degrees, inherited a modern, well run and efficient State. The country was enjoying a modern banking sector, skilled manufacturers, an efficient road and railway network, and above all was blessed with one of the most productive and efficient agricultural economies in Africa. Not only self-sufficient, and able to feed the whole Nation, the country was also exporting. Furthermore, the Zimbabwean people were among the best educated in Africa. But for the one looking at Zimbabwe today, the picture could be tragically hard to believe. Yet, twenty six years after independence, Zimbabwe is undergoing an unprecedented food shortage and famine. Zimbabweans are dramatically poorer, are dying of starvation, and their life expectancy has dropped to the lowest in the world in 2006, just 34 for women. The country is currently experiencing a severe hard currency shortage, massive hyperinflation and chronic shortages. In addition to that, a very high HIV infection rate, a level of corruption as rarely reached and constant infringements to the fundamental Human Rights has transformed the “jewel of Africa”, the “bread basket of Africa” into an arid, hostile and desolated desert.

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What went wrong, what can explain such disaster? A horrific war, a nuclear deflagration, or a gigantic tsunami? None of them. If Zimbabwe is today in the midst of what the World Bank calls the worst economic crisis of any country in peacetime1, one man, and one man alone, authoritarian, megalomaniac, greedy and symbol of one of the most unbelievable humanmade disaster, led this country to its dilapidation. Robert Mugabe. During 26 years, this man tragically robbed Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans of their phenomenal potential. How, in a so short period of time and under the reign of one man and of his “protégés”, a country and its population could have such collapsed, far beyond the frontiers of the imaginable? The purpose of this essay will be to describe and to analyze the reasons and processes which led, since 26 years, the Zimbabwe to its actual disaster. Beginning with the obvious and inherent weaknesses due to a 90 years long colonialist, segregationist and racist occupation, this essay will mainly emphasize on the role played by the tyranny of Robert Mugabe, analyzing three main components of his nightmarish leadership. This paper will argue that Robert Mugabe is the man that led Zimbabwe to its actual agony, and the one who has conscientiously robbed Zimbabwe of its political, economical and agricultural tremendous potentials. Politically, he has destroyed, through violence and malpractices, any sort of political opposition. Economically, he elevated cupidity and corruption to a form of art. Using a hasty and ill-planned land reform as a political tool, as well as a catastrophic intervention into the Congo war from 1998 to 2002, he led his country into an unprecedented economic crisis and his people to a catastrophic level of starvation. Finally, embezzling and pocketing any source of international aid, he lost any sort of international credibility and led international donors to cut their aid, betraying once again the Zimbabwean peoples. In the last part and conclusion of this study, we will analyze the African and International reactions regarding Zimbabwe, and will attempt to provide some recommendations for a new strategy regarding Zimbabwe further developments.
1

Christina Lamb: « Mugabe : Why Africa applauds him » New Statesman; Aug 7, 2006, p26

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The burden of a colonial legacy Since the establishment of the British colony of Rhodesia in the 1890’s, including the present day’s areas of Zimbabwe and Zambia and up to its independence in 1980, the case of Zimbabwe did not differed so much from the other African States. A complex colonial legacy, common to the unfortunate whole African continent, led to an arbitrary and irrelevant drawing of boundaries, an unfair and discriminative distribution of land and wealth, and later to a racist white-minority government. With the enforcement of he Land Apportionment Act of 1930, the white settlers helped themselves to the best land, and ejected black farmers from land they have worked for generations, when not enserfing them. Whites settlers, although making up less than 1% of the population, earned more than 70% of the arable land. Later, when the white-minority government, led by Ian Smith, declared unilateral independence from United Kingdom on November 1965, it established an apartheid regime, on a discriminatory and racial basis, which ended after the Lancaster Agreements of 1979 and the election of Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1980. The colonial experience, the unfair distribution of land, the Ian Smith Whites-minority regime, and the anger all of this caused will have a tremendous impact on the politics of Zimbabwe in the post Independence period. But this colonial legacy, as abject as it definitively is, can not by itself explain the today’s state of complete dilapidation experienced by Zimbabwe. The example of its Botswana neighbor, enjoying democracy, stability, human rights and economic growth since its independence, has proved that the Africa’s painful past can be overcame. Africa and especially Zimbabwe are first of all the victims and the hostages of a miserable leadership. As asserted by Robert Rotberg: “Where visionary leadership lifted Asia up out of poverty since the 1960’s, too many African heads of State in the same period presided over massive declines in African standards of living while carefully enriching themselves and their

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cronies”2. Among those failed leaders, and maybe the best caricature of those corrupted dictators3, is Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe, elected in 1980 and remaining in power until today. Particularly well known for having single-handedly and literally destroyed his country, the Mugabe accession to power however seemed to promise to the new born Zimbabwe a great and optimistic future. The political destroying of Zimbabwe Mugabe, the last great African liberator still in power, was supposed to be the South African savior. Raised in a Jesuit School near Harare and holding eight universities degrees, Robert Mugabe rapidly became the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and a liberator in the struggle for independence. Elected as Prime Minister in 1980, he soon built primary schools and health clinics that was the envy of Africa4 . He promised reconciliation, forgave his opponents and aimed to build a good working relationship with his former white adversaries; He reassured white business and white farmers about their future and their crucial role in the economic welfare of Zimbabwe, and stressed the need for “gradual and progressive changes” in Zimbabwe future developments. A skilled and motivated leader, an atmosphere of trust and optimism among the principal actors, and even two first years of abundant rains5 gave to the world an idyllic picture of Zimbabwe as one of the richest and promising Nations in Africa, a blessed Eldorado. But Robert Mugabe quickly mastered brutality, war and intimidation, abuses in human rights, mass murders and systematic starvation as political tools. His avowed objective was the establishment of a one-party State ran by his ZANU, and therefore used all means imaginable to muzzle and even destroy any opposition. He thus wiped off in the past 26 years any
2

Roberg Robert I. « Africa’s Mess, Mugabe’s Mayhem » Foreign Affairs Vol. 79, No 5 (2000), pp 47-61

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Quoted from South African Archbishop Desmond TUTU , who called Robert Mugabe a “caricature of an African dictator” 4 David Plotz « Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ; the scheming survivor », available at www.slate.com
5

Martin Meredith « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006)

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dissident voice and destroyed the whole civil society in Zimbabwe. Dealing with his black opponents, mainly the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) led by N’Komo, Mugabe dispatched, only six months after independence, his North-Korean-trained Fifth Brigade with the specific task to wipe out any sort of political opposition, through the use of intimidations, public executions, tortures, mass murders, rapes, and systematic starvation against a part of the civilian population. Those inhuman measures, aimed to leave his throne secure, enabled him to win the 1990 and 1996’s “elections”, and to establish a one party-State. During the run up to the presidential elections in 2002, and in order to isolate his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangira from the “Movement for Democratic Change” (MPC), a new round of violence and intimidation was unleashed on the electorate. But Robert Mugabe did not neglect also more traditional tools of politics. Controlling radio, televisions, and all other forms of press, he initiated a relentless torrent of propaganda6, initiated new legislation making every form of criticism against his supreme authority a criminal offense, and thus muzzled any opponent voice. In addition to that, he subtlety obstructed the vote of the exiled MPC opposition partisans and of the voters who have fled from the violence, by changes to the citizenship laws (forbidding the holding of two passports) and introducing new voting rules, requiring voters to vote only in their home constituencies7. Finally, along with all the tyrannical means cited above , and as every “elected” dictator worthy of this name would certainly not forget to use in such case, massive frauds and malpractices came to “perfect” the “great popular victory of the Zimbabwe Savior” in the presidential election of 2002. Ignoring the fact that the election-monitoring effort of the United Nations revealed that 10 to 25 percent of registered voters were in fact dead8, and from now on “spontaneously elected and applauded” by his terrorized, tortured and starving population, Robert Mugabe publicly announced that “he
6

David Plotz « Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ; the scheming survivor », available at www.slate.com Martin Meredith « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006) Roberg Robert I. « Africa’s Mess, Mugabe’s Mayhem » Foreign Affairs Vol. 79, No 5 (2000), pp 48

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intends to govern until he is one hundred years old”. Tsvangirai was charged with treason, every opposition activists were conscientiously identified, beaten, tortured when not simply murdered, and the last burst of opposition of the Zimbabwean people against its oppressing tyrant proved to have been crushed. To this date, Mugabe has definitively destroyed any other source of political alternative for Zimbabwe and robbed Zimbabweans of their fundamentals human and political rights. The economical and agricultural destroying of Zimbabwe Having secured the ruling if his “one-party State” reign, chained, bled and deprived of its liberties his own people, Robert Mugabe meanwhile decided to starve him thanks to what can be called a caricature of “post decolonization Land Reforms”. Countries can not easily be bankrupted9, but Mugabe made it a sad close reality for Zimbabwe. The redistribution, or more accurately the confiscations of fertile lands, along with an economically disastrous intervention in the Congo War from 1998 were the two major initiatives of the Mugabe’s regime, sharing common ambitious and glorious motivations: immorality, cupidity and corruption. They led to the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy and to a catastrophic impoverishment of the Zimbabwe population, while dramatically enriching Mugabe and his close clique of cronies. Land reforms are a necessary step in any decolonization process, and an important component in achieving economic development in many third world countries. In the case of Zimbabwe at independence, and as a poisoned leg of 90 years of colonial and white minority ruling, a racial imbalance in the ownership and distribution of land was evident. 70% of the arable lands, mainly the best, were controlled by less than one percent of the population, the white farmers. The unfair allocation of land, unchanged since the 1930 Land Apportionment Act, needed to be corrected. But this question was in fact a very delicate issue, because the role of those farms was crucial to the economic welfare of Zimbabwe. Representing 80% of
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Roberg Robert I. « Africa’s Mess, Mugabe’s Mayhem » Foreign Affairs Vol. 79, No 5 (2000), pp 53

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the Country National Income, feeding the entire Nation, providing produce for exports and bringing in foreign currency, those farms were also the main employer of labor in the country and provided homes for over two million farm workers. Furthermore, the issue of land ownership in post colonial Zimbabwe was and remains particularly challenging, as both whites and blacks considered themselves as indigenous. The process of reallocation should have been therefore well-planned, very progressively implemented, and above all intended to achieve the common good of the population. But the personality, the cupidity and the political ambitions of His Majesty Robert Mugabe decided differently. Insensible to those crucial considerations, Mugabe in fact discovered in this issue a useful political weapon, allowing him to deal with the White opposition, to designate a providential scapegoat to his disenchanted population, and ultimately to enhance his personal fortune. But it was not suppose to go that way. The 1979 Lancaster House agreement provided a progressive base for voluntary sales only, emphasizing on the “willing seller, willing buyer” clause. White farmers were allowed to retain control of their land for ten years without pressure, and the farmers who were unwilling to stay in Zimbabwe after independence would have been compensated by British funds on a full market price basis. But since the early 1990’s, Mugabe decided to speed up the land reform process, and above all saw in it a useful mean to definitively muzzle the White opposition. He launched out into violent Anti-white rhetorics, promised to “kill and smash those snakes completely”10 and portrayed the land issue as an historic and anti-imperialist struggle of a deprived indigenous population against a “greedy brunch of racist usurpers”11. As he asserted: “It makes absolute nonsense of our history as an African country that most of our arable and ranching land is still in the hands of our erstwhile colonizers”.

10

Martin Meredith « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006) p 627
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Id, p630

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Thus, in a brutal move forward, Mugabe issued the Land Acquisition Act of 1992 which, implemented in 1997, removed the “willing buyer, willing seller” clause and allowed compulsory acquisition of land with “fair” compensation. The landowners were granted the right to go to court in case of discontentment but in the same time, Mugabe declared that he would disregard any court decision because “I, Robert Mugabe, cannot be dragged to court by a settler”.12 The 1990’s experienced a dramatic turn. As Mugabe and his clique of cronies were using every opportunity to enrich themselves, they did not missed to pocket the providential source of income they would earn from the expropriation of white farmers. Whereas most of the farms they recovered during the 90’s were highly productive and essential to the economic welfare of the Nation, those farms, initially intended for resettlement, ended up in the hands of ministers, government officials, and others privileged members of the Mugabe’s mob. The Mugabe’s personal view of “land reallocation” was taking shape. As a result of that, British and Americans cut their aid to the land reform, alleging widespread corruption. Meanwhile, as the productive and feeding farms were transformed into vacation houses for corrupted officials, and as the international funding was declining, the population at large faced rising unemployment, high inflation, shortages in food supply and malnourishment. In response to the wave of discontentment spreading among the population, Mugabe responded in blaming the whites and “their economic power”, serving to his people the designated scapegoat. The Mugabe personal concept of “land form” was taking shape, as a political tool against the white opposition and a way to satisfy his thirst for easy profits. Further, in February 2000, and as the country faced mass unemployment, growing poverty, shortages, and corruption scandals, Mugabe became more aggressive in blaming the Whites farmers for the economic crisis. From now on deprived of foreign aid and after having robbed the government of its budget for compensations to the dispossessed farmers, but more than
12

Martin Meredith « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006)

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ever strongly determined to recover the totality of the land, Mugabe simply decided to allow and to encourage expropriations, without any sort of compensation. However, his claim that this land was previously “stolen”, and that paying compensation to the “racist white snakes” would be equivalent to admit the legitimacy of the colonial times distribution of land13 did not gain the popular support as expected. Despite a massive propaganda and a campaign of intimidation, the Zimbabwean peoples, in a last and heroic burst of opposition, defeated Mugabe in the February 2000 referendum, refusing his new amendment to the constitution which if accepted, would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsory without compensation. Furious and shaken to the core, Mugabe attributed the defeat to the Whites and was determined to make them pay for it. Ten years after the results of the referendum, he resorted to the card of violence and in a carefully coordinated campaign, and launched the so called “War veterans” to march on white-owned farmlands. Portrayed in the State-owned Medias as a popular uprising against the racist settlers, or as a “spontaneous expression of land hunger”, the “War veterans association” was in fact closer to a sort of “ZANU-PF youth brigade” than anything else. The majority of those “Veterans” were too young to have participated to the Liberation war, and those gangs of invaders, armed with machetes and springing out from ZANU trucks, were in fact equipped and controlled by the Government. Under the command of a rabble-rouser who called himself “Hitler”, War veteran’s Commander Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, they assaulted, threatened, beaten, killed and expelled whites farmers and their families from their proprieties. As a result, a total of 110.000 Km² of land has been seized. Further, on June 2004, Minister for Land Reform and Resettlement John Nkomo, after having obtained in loot the expropriated farm he expected, vigorously announced that “there will be no such thing called private land”, meaning that all land would soon become State property. Indeed, in the constitutional amendment passed on September 2005, the ZANU-PF-controlled Parliament nationalized Zimbabwe’s farmland and
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Neil H Thomas : « Land reform in Zimbabwe », Third World Quarterly 2003, Vol. 24, No4, p 707

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deprived landowners of the right to challenge in courts the Government’s decision to expropriate their lands. The remaining 3000 white farmers were given 90 days to evacuate their properties without compensation, or face imprisonment. The consequences of the Land Reforms have been dramatic and deadly. Zimbabwe was one of the richest nations in Africa, a cradle of fertile land. Out of originally 5500 productive commercial farms, today less than 500 farms are in any way operational. Overall, around 70 percent of the white owned valuable farming enterprises have been turned over, not to poor landless blacks, but to Mugabe’s clique and relatives. The remaining farms have been invaded by government organized mobs who looted, burned and destroyed them. Not only did those farms feed the entire nation, but they also exported food, providing the highest percentage of foreign exchange earnings! These commercial farms were the largest employers of labour of the country, were highly productive and essential to the economic welfare of the Nation. The impact on food supply has been therefore calamitous: in just a few years, the government of Zimbabwe has managed to destroy its agricultural markets, and to impoverish and starve its population. A once prosperous country, once the “breadbasket” of Africa, became today increasingly dependant on food imports and foreign relief supplies in order to survive14. Seven millions Zimbabweans are dependant on external food aid, and 75 percent of the Zimbabwean population is now living below the poverty line. A country once so rich in agricultural produce is now struggling to feed its own population! A staggering 45 percent of the population is considered malnourished, facing starvation and horrible famine. Even local vegetables are scarce and expensive. Inflation had reached 1000%, making a bottle of Coca Cola costing Z$ 60.000. Foreign Direct Investment dried up, tourism has plummeted, unemployment rate has reached (officially) 70%, life expectancy has plummeted to 34 years,
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« According to Africa’s food security early warning system, Zimbabwe will harvest only 600.000 tons of maize this season. The country consumes an annual average of 1,8 Million tons, leaving it the highest cereal deficit in Southern Africa.” “Christina Lamb from Harare: Mugabe refuses to seek food aid”- 2 April 2006 www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2114280,00.html

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and the unsupportable misery even led some «desperate and starving mothers to throw away their babies”.15 But according to President and nutrition-expert Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean peoples are not dying of starvation. When interviewed in 2005 by the Associated Press in one of his three luxurious farms, seized forcibly from their previous owners, he assumed that his people is “very, very happy”. According to him, the current horrific famine in Zimbabwe is of course not a result of his lamentable and corrupted leadership, but the veritable problem resides merely in the dependency to maize and Zimbabwean unbalanced feeding habits: “We have tons of potatoes, but peoples don’t like potatoes…We have also rice, but rice does not attract them… ” 16 Mugabe’s land reforms are one example of one of the most monstrous governmental crimes of the last ten years. Destroying Zimbabwe's agricultural markets, impoverishing and starving its population, in the guise of defending historical property rights, were for this corrupted leader a tool to ensure his survival, to perpetuate the supremacy of his one-party system of governance. Land reforms, as well as the other Mugabe's disastrous policies must be regarded in this broader context: “It is about keeping power in the hands of ZANU PF at the cost of destroying the country”.17 With 7 millions people at risk of starvation, Mugabe turned food in a political weapon to coerce support for ZANU-PF. Conscientiously starving areas that have voted for opposition in recent election, Mugabe associated the Food weapon with expropriations, violence and intimidation to secure his throne. This is not exactly what “fair land redistribution and resettlement” is about.

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“Christina Lamb from Harare: Mugabe refuses to seek food aid”- 2 April 2006 www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2114280,00.html
16

http://www.dictateurs.com/robert_mugabe.php “Mercedes SAYAGUES: “Our main concern is our next meal”, Zimbabwe Independent, Sept. 6, 2006."

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Along with Land reforms, another major initiative of Robert Mugabe definitively precipitated Zimbabwe into an abyssal recession. The Mugabe's personal and poorly justified decision to send 13.000 troops thousands miles away into the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, to support the Kabila's regime against rebels from Uganda and Rwanda, left Zimbabwe with a debt of nearly one million US $ a day at the time where Zimbabwean economy was struggling. Aimed to "allow the stabilization of Congo and the good development of the peace process"18 , the intervention, just as Saddam Hussein went after the oil in Kuwait, was merely a way to achieve his megalomaniac dream of foreign glory and to line his pockets with the Congo's diamonds19. Finally, if having impoverished, starved, deprived, dragged into war and totally destroyed its own country were not damaging enough, Robert Mugabe recently launched the 2005 Operation Murambatsivna (Operation "drive out trash"), most known as the "Zimbabwe's Tsunami". Officially presented as "a vigorous clean-up campaign to restore sanity", as a crackdown against illegal housing and an effort to reduce the risk of the spread of infectious disease in these areas, the bulldozing of home and informal business of over two million peoples in Zimbabwe20 was only the most recent example of the destructive, ruining policy of a callous government. Thus, the current situation of Zimbabwe can easily be summarized in one single world: catastrophic. Today politically, economically, and agriculturally destroyed, with a starved, impoverished, and taken in hostage population, the Zimbabwe of tomorrow is hardly predictable. With over three Million of Middle-class and most of the Zimbabwean workforce which have already fled in Botswana and South Africa21, with public services totally
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« ZIMBABWE: LA TERRE ET LE SANG” (“Zimbabwe: The land and the blood “) an interview of Robert Mugabe by Colette Braeckman ,available in French at: www.african-geopolitics.org/show.aspx?articleId=3329 19 "There are fortunes to be made in the Congo" Tshinga Dube, one of Mugabe's colonels, during a television interview. http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/news/opeds/2003/power_kill_country_am_1203.htm
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http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbabwe/0,,2-11-1662_1741736,00.html Samantha Power: « How to kill a country », Atlantic Monthly magazine, December 2003

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collapsed, and a paranoiac despot, threatening to act like a “Back Hitler”22 for the four next years of his disastrous reign, the close future of Zimbabwe seems particularly and tragically dark. Zimbabwe’s collapse is unfortunately hardly unique in the annals of human-made disaster in Africa. Land reforms elsewhere in Africa, in countries such as Zambia or Nigeria or even South Africa proved to have also be inefficient and ill-planned, and Zimbabwe is unfortunately not the only example of an authoritarian and corrupted one-party system of governance, hiding under a “parliamentary democracy”. Yet what is making the Zimbabwe case particularly vexing and tragic is that it took only few years to one single failed, greedy and megalomaniac leader, although initially hailed by some as the "Zimbabwe Messiah", to rob a prosperous and well run country of its tremendous potential, to destroy and loot it, starving, impoverishing, torturing and frightening its population, while enjoying the complicit silence of most of the African leaders and taking advantage of the inadequate response of the western States.

African and Western reactions Although renowned for his anti-whites, anti-British and anti-Gays violent diatribes23, Mugabe has however very successfully succeeded to portray the spoiling of Zimbabwe as an anti-colonialist and anti imperialist struggle, as “the combat of an indigenous African people for his sovereignty over its land stolen by white-racist-western-gays-imperialist settlers”. In so doing, he has effectively muzzled any sort of African critics toward his regime, even gaining their tacit support. To criticize Mugabe would be regarded as standing along with “the
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« If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. That is what we stand for” Robert Mugabe, cited in Martin Meredith « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006), p 646
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Among others: “The epicenter of hell is Britain, and the Queen or King in power at the moment is the devil” Robert Mugabe

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Whites”, in a pro-western and anti-African view. Yet, in this crude trickery, Mugabe has been also providentially advantaged by the clumsy behavior of two major actors: South Africa President Mbeki and the Western Countries. South Africa is the place the most affected by Mugabe’s action, hosting more than two million refugees from Zimbabwe. A recent study concluded that Zimbabwe’s economic failure has cost South Africa 15 billions of Rands24. South Africa under President Thabo Mbeki is the most powerful nation on the continent, the most influential of Zimbabwe’s neighbors, and definitively the most considered by Western leaders. Yet, president Mbeki, has relied on a socalled “quiet diplomacy”, on a “softly, very softly approach”25, when it is apparent that over the years its sole outcome has been to give Mugabe more time to destroy his country. In fact, Mbeki as many other African leaders, continue to view all politics through the lens of the national liberation struggle, identifying western imperialism and colonialism as the basic problem and solidarity as the only answer26. This outdated rhetoric led him to publicly refrain from criticizing Mugabe while allowing himself or his ministers to publicly supporting him. Surely South African farmers laugh bitter when they heard the ANC labor minister Membathisi Mdladlana, who after a visit to Zimbabwe, very seriously concluded that “South Africa had a lot to learn from Mugabe’s land reform program”27. Thabo Mbeki himself, refusing to criticize the political chaos in Zimbabwe, asserted in October 2000 that: “The issue of whether an elected president of Zimbabwe continues to be the elected president of Zimbabwe is surely a matter for the Zimbabwean people”28. Thus, the actual South African
24

Graham Barrett: “How the world failed the people of Zimbabwe”, The Age, July 14, 2003, available at http://theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/13/1058034872663.html
25

Samantha Power: « How to kill a country », Atlantic Monthly magazine, December 2003, available at http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/news/opeds/2003/power_kill_country_am_1203.htm
26

See Herbst Jeffrey : « Mbeki’s South Africa », Foreign Affairs; Nov/Dec 2005, Vol. 84 Issue 6, p 93-105

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Cited in Gerrit Olivier: « Is Thabo Mbeki Africa’s saviour? » International Affairs 79, 4 (2003), p 819 Cited in Christina Lamb: « Mugabe: Why Africa applauds him » New Statesman; Aug 7, 2006, p26. Ultimately, regarding the atmosphere of violence, intimidations and malpractices that went along the electoral process in Zimbabwe, this non-defendable Mbeki’s citation worth Stalin’s personal definition of an electoral process: “It is not who votes that counts, but he who counts the votes”!

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regime, due to its complicit silent, so called policy of “quiet diplomacy”, and to the racial obsession of a “white supremacy” shared by both Presidents Mbeki and Mugabe29 , has missed the opportunity to fulfill its dream of an “African renaissance” and shares a serious part of responsibility in the legitimization and the continuation of the Mugabe’s corrupted autocracy. Some even accuse Mbeki of complicity, suggesting that South Africa would have benefited from the Zimbabwe brain drain to South Africa and of the influx of well-educated Zimbabweans. But more certain is that the influential position of South Africa could have probably helped to avoid the entire catastrophe in Zimbabwe if Mbeki, as a responsible leader, would have launched an early and decisive intervention to stop Mugabe in his destructive enterprise. Caught in the Mugabe’s trap of portraying the Zimbabwean crisis as an antiimperialist struggle rather than condemning a human-made disaster, South Africa became, involuntarily or not, the Mugabe’s complicit. The incapacity of African leaders to prevent the collapse of Zimbabwe will definitively have a dramatic impact on the Southern Africa region as a whole30. The “African Renaissance”, or the New Program for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative, on which the continent pins its hopes for integration into the world economy, would loose any sort of credibility unless the African leaders, especially the influential Presidents Mbeki of South Africa and Obasanjo of Nigeria, apply serious peer pressure on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s failure is Africa failure, too. But Western Powers as well, particularly Great Britain and the United States share the blame for a particularly clumsy and even incoherent response to the Zimbabwe’s crisis. Originally enthusiastic at the signature of the 1980 Landcaster House Agreements, Western Powers and

29

When, in 2002, Tony Blair persuaded the Commonwealth of Nations to suspend Zimbabwe, Mbeki urged that Britain be the one to exit, and asserted that: "Those inspired by notions of white supremacy are free to depart if they feel that membership of the association reduces them to a repugnant position imposed by inferior blacks" cited in Samantha Power: « How to kill a country », Atlantic Monthly magazine, December 2003 30 For a more developed analysis, see “Zimbabwe: What next?” Africa report No 47, 14 June 2002, available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1482&l=1

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particularly the British Government congratulated the New Zimbabwe leader and committed themselves to become generous donators, supporting the land reform under the willing buyer/ willing seller principle. Twelve years later, when the land Acquisition Act was enacted, empowering Mugabe to buy land compulsory, British and Americans withdrew aid to the land reform program, condemning Mugabe’s corrupted regime. But the Western condemnations and implementation of effective sanctions against Mugabe did not come before the years 2000’s, in fact not before that their main concern became the Government-organized attacks on White farmers. The western awakening and response to the crisis in Zimbabwe stemmed from their concern, not with the killing, torture and intimidation of Black Zimbabweans, but of white commercial farmers and their families. Since, harsh condemnations and measures have been enforced against Mugabe. First, western countries used the financial weapon, regarding the severe corruption of the regime. In a 2002 report by the European Community’s Court of Auditor, it was recorded that 89% of the huge amount of money provided by the European Union had been embezzled by Robert Mugabe and his cronies31, enriching him while leaving his people subsisting on roots and fried termites. The humanitarian aid is from now on directly provided to Zimbabwean peoples through NGO’s. Furthermore, Mugabe’s regime has been suspended from the Commonwealth32 on 2002 (thereby cutting foreign aid on Zimbabwe) and from the IMF in 2003.Finally, the US Government and the European Union imposed on 2003 freezing of assets, financial and travel sanctions against Mugabe and numerous other high-ranking government or ZANU-PF officials. However, While the West was correct in challenging the Zimbabwe government with its human rights Violations, including killing, rape, torture, unfortunately it was two decades too late to make a difference. The violation of human rights in Zimbabwe and the abrogation of the rule of law
31

See United Kingdom parliament website on : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040128/debtext/40128-02.htm
32

On December 2003, in protest against the suspension, Mugabe himself withdrew his country from the Commonwealth of Nations, charging what he and Mbeki called a “racist decision” aimed to enhance the “white supremacy”.

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were not a new phenomenon that began in 2000. For the West, however, such violations appeared to be inconsequential as long as they only affected the black majority. When between 1983 and 1987 Mugabe unleashed his North-Korean-Trained Fifth Brigade to massacre 20.000 Black Zimbabweans, alleged members of the opposition party ZAPU, the western Governments did not seemed so much concerned by the tragedy, simply acknowledged the fact that they might be not agree with the anti-opposition activities of Robert Mugabe but nevertheless emphasized “that Zimbabwe remained an important model for the rest of southern Africa, both politically and economically”33. Thus, condemning Zimbabwe for the violations committed against the Whites farmers after twenty years of a criminal silence about the atrocities committed against Black Zimbabweans did not helped Western countries to gain any credibility nor influence, and only reinforce the Mugabe’s beliefs of a “Western imperialist coalition” against him. As Western countries were seen to act and to be concerned only when white-farmers were being attacked, it therefore made much easier for Mugabe to portray the crisis as an “anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggle”. Also, the International Crisis Group noted in a October 2002 report on Zimbabwe that “The international media’s over-concentration on the plight of white commercial farmers has given Mugabe’s liberation rhetoric greater resonance in many African quarters, reinforcing belief that the West cares about Zimbabwe only because whites suffer.”34 Therefore, although the sanctions imposed today on the Zimbabwean government are totally justified, they simply came twenty years too late to make a difference. Focusing exclusively on the status and the sort reserved to white farmers, Western States forgot to consider it within the Mugabe’s strategy to ensure the survival of his throne. Land reforms and expulsion of White farmers
33

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Africa Frank Wisner in 1984, cited in Margaret C.Lee: “The Western Response to the Crisis in Zimbabwe”, University of Oslo 2003 This view was shared by the British Government, who noted that: “On some key indicators of a fair society such as active political opposition and the existence of a free press, Zimbabwe scored highly” 34 International Crisis Group Report No. 52, Zimbabwe: The Politics of National Liberation and International Divisions, Octobre 17, 2002, p. 1.

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were definitively abject measures but only some of the tools, along with starvation, torture and intimidations used by Mugabe to definitively crush any opposition. Thus, the clumsy behavior and the criminal silence of the Western powers just reinforced the Mugabe’s antiimperialist rhetoric and deprived them of any possible influence or credibility to save Zimbabwe from the clutches of its tyrant. The most dangerous consequences of those western and African failures to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe have to be regarded in a broader scope, particularly for the one looking at the future perspectives for Zimbabwe. Today condemned, sanctioned and isolated, Mugabe will however continue to seek support for his criminal governance, and the Zimbabwean leader is now looking East. Incensed by the worst “Pariah” states on earth as a counterweight to Western supremacy, Mugabe is dangerously looking toward Chinese and Iranian investments. Not very regarding about human Right issues, the Chinese regime is already heavily investing in Zimbabwe35, paving the way for a dangerous Chinese influence in a destabilized region. Congratulated and strongly supported by the respective Venezuelan and Iranian Presidents, Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe already obtained during a visit in Teheran on November 2006, an approximate US $ 200 Millions promise of Iranian investments in Zimbabwe36. African and Western States should work together to prevent such kind of dangerous alliances at every costs, regarding the high risk of long destabilization in Zimbabwe, and the dangerous risks of contagion to the Southern Africa region.

Unfortunately, the tragic history of Africa tends to repeat itself in a very regrettable manner: A region populated by relatively defenseless farmers is set upon by a gang of wellarmed bandits, who force the farmers out of their lands, divide, loot, and spoils the land
35

Roger Bate: « Zimbabwe’s new Colonialists », Weekly Standard May 25th, 2005. available at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/654nqqde.asp
36

« Mugabe est en Iran pour obtenir des investissements », Jeuneafrique.com, November 20th, 2006, available at: http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/zimbabwe/zimbabwe.asp

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among them. In 1893, the tragedy has come to Zimbabwe, and the gangs of well-armed bandits were British settlers, led by Cecil Rhodes. Independence and hundred years later, the corrupted regime of Robert Mugabe would come to strangely resemble the banditry of Cecil Rhodes. Indeed, the Zimbabwe has become one of the best examples of “how not to govern”. Suffering twenty years of a criminal and corrupted autocracy, this so promising and wealthy country became one of the fastest shrinking economies in the world. Most of the people who could leave the country already fled, and the remaining are today relying on food aid, roots and fried termites to trying to survive the horrific famine. Their leader already tried almost all means available to destroy and bankrupt the country, and definitively erased the words Good governance, Democracy and Human rights from the Zimbabwean vocabulary. The scene may looks like grimly familiar to the many millions of people in the world who live and die at the mercy of dictators: it is one in which gangster governments come to regard their countries as personal property. It should not. Yet, still familiar but always astonishing, is the silence and the incapacity or the delay of the powerful and influential African and Western powers to act. South Africa is in the unique position of being able to cut Mugabe’s supply line, and has chosen not to. Without South Africa on side, there is little more the West can do. Unfortunately, the Zimbabweans will probably have to get ride of Mugabe in their own way. “The utter chaos and human misery in their country and the improbability of foreign intervention leave them no choice”37.But Mugabe, who should remain in power until 2010 did not and will not allow them a large room of maneuver. Its destitute citizens might be so preoccupied with finding food and staying alive that they will increasingly tune politics out. “May rain abound and fertile fields […] May leaders be exemplary”38. May the next ruling power and the reality in Zimbabwe become more than just an insult to this optimistic quote

37

See Gerrit Olivier: « Is Thabo Mbeki Africa’s saviour? » International Affairs 79, 4 (2003), p 823

38

Zimbabwe National Anthem : http://www.123independenceday.com/zimbabwe/national/anthem/nationalanthem.html

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from the Zimbabwe national Anthem. May Zimbabwe not become a lost cause. .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BARETT GRAHAM: “How the world failed the people of Zimbabwe”, The Age, July 14, 2003, http://theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/13/1058034872663.html BATE ROGER: “Kingdom of Mugabe”, The Weekly Standard, March 14, 2005 p38-40 BATE ROGER : « Zimbabwe’s new Colonialists », Weekly Standard May 25th, 2005: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/654nqqde.asp BRAECKMAN COLETTE AND MUGABE ROBERT: « ZIMBABWE: LA TERRE ET LE SANG” (“Zimbabwe: The land and the blood “), an interview of Robert Mugabe by Colette Braeckman ,available in French at: http://www.african-geopolitics.org/show.aspx?articleId=3329 20

GERRIT OLIVIER: « Is Thabo Mbeki Africa’s saviour? », International Affairs 79, 4 (2003) HERBST JEFFREY : « Mbeki’s South Africa », Foreign Affairs; Nov/Dec 2005, Vol. 84 Issue 6, p 93-105 International Crisis Group Report No. 52, “Zimbabwe: The Politics of National Liberation and International Divisions”, October 17, 2002, p. 1. LAMB CHRISTINA : « Mugabe : Why Africa applauds him », New Statesman; Aug 7, 2006 LAMB CHRISTINA : “Christina Lamb from Harare: Mugabe refuses to seek food aid”- Times, 2 April 2006 www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2114280,00.html LEE MARGARET C.: “The Western Response to the Crisis in Zimbabwe”, University of Oslo 2003 MACLEAN SANDRA J. : “Mugabe at war: The political economy of conflict in Zimbabwe”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 23, No3, pp 513-528, 2002 MEREDITH MARTIN: « The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.” (London: Free Press, 2006) « Mugabe est en Iran pour Obtenir des Investissements » (« Mugabe is in Iran to seek investments »), Jeuneafrique.com, November 20th, 2006, available in French at : http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/zimbabwe/zimbabwe.asp NEIL H THOMAS : « Land Reform in Zimbabwe », Third World Quarterly 2003, Vol. 24, No4, p 707 PLOTZ DAVID : « Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ; the scheming survivor », www.slate.com POWER SAMANTHA : « How to kill a country », Atlantic Monthly magazine, December 2003 http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/news/opeds/2003/power_kill_country_am_1203.htm ROBERG ROBERT I. « Africa’s Mess, Mugabe’s Mayhem », Foreign Affairs Vol. 79, No 5 (2000), pp 47-61

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SAYAGUES MERCEDES: “Our main concern is our next meal”, Zimbabwe Independent, Sept. 6, 2006. UNITED KINGDOM PARLIEMENT WEBSITE on : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040128/debtext/401 28-02.htm “Zimbabwe: What next?” Africa report No 47, 14 June 2002 http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1482&l=1

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