TCS Daily


Zimbabwe: The Nightmare Must End

By Richard S. Williamson - December 16, 2008 12:00 AM

It must end. Zimbabwe is a land devastated by disease, deprivation and despair. Once southern Africa's breadbasket, today it is a basket case. Robert Mugabe led the freedom movement against white minority rule. After coming to power in (1981) he was hailed by his people and neighbors as a liberator. But Mugabe's affection for privilege, position and power has driven him to cling to his presidency through brutal repression.

Mugabe has stolen elections through intimidation, abuse of power and fraud. Free press, rights to association and dissent are denied. Food has been provided to supporters and denied opponents. Demonstrators have been beaten, arrested and exiled. Areas of opposition have been bulldozed into rubble displacing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And when these abuses of power did not suffice in last spring's vote, outright fraud was employed.

The costs of Mugabe's illegitimate reign are not only political repression and human rights abuse. Once prosperous Zimbabwe is crumbling and for many it is in a free fall toward catastrophic collapse.

Zimbabwe dollars are worthless. The inflation rate has soared to over 230,000,000%. Prices rise by the hour. A one million Zimbabwean dollar note is not enough to buy a loaf of bread. The official adult employment rate is below 20%. Store shelves are empty. There is little seed, fertilizer or fuel. Most survive only because millions of Zimbabweans living abroad send money home. Over half of the people desperately cling to life relying on international food aid.

Zimbabwe's health care system, once among Africa's finest, is in shambles. Hospitals are crumbling. Medical equipment deteriorates as parts cannot be replaced. Vaccines and other medicines are in critical short supply.

Cholera is a preventable disease, but not in Zimbabwe. A recent cholera outbreak has killed hundreds of people and spread to thousands. The official government response to this epidemic, in a lame effort at diversion or perhaps due to delusion, was Mugabe's statement that there should be no more concern quite simply because, he declared, the cholera epidemic was over. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates up to 60,000 Zimbabweans may catch cholera. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently said that he is distressed by the "collapse of health, sanitation and education services."

In the face of suffering spiraling out of control and modest international pressure for change, Mugabe and his regime stand in defiance. Mugabe has said "only God" can remove him from power.

The other day Zimbabwe Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said "The Zimbabwe government is taking serious measures to offset any threats. ...We won this country through the barrel of the gun and we will defend it the way we won it."

Zimbabwe's human rights abuse, political repression and sever humanitarian suffering must end. Mugabe must go.

Tragically, Africans have been reluctant to condemn Mugabe's abuse of power or push for change. But the situation has become so desperate that finally the tide has shifted slightly.

Last month Botswana President Ian Khama harshly criticized Mugabe and urged neighboring states to squeeze him out of power. On December 4th, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said, "The fact that Mugabe was a freedom fighter does not give him rights to own Zimbabwe and hang on to power. ...It's time for African governments...to push him out of power." Kofi Annan said this month, "There is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe."

And on December 9th, in a statement President Bush said, "It is time for RobertMugabe to go. Across the continent, African voices are bravely speaking out to say now is thetime for him to step down." French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently also called for Mugabeto step down.

It is time for others, especially Africans, to join the call for Mugabe to go. And ifhe clings to power for yet another month, President Barak Obama will have the responsibilityand opportunity to demonstrate America's fidelity to human rights and our commitment to helpthe oppressed. He should make it a priority to ease Mugabe from power. It's time to liberateZimbabwe from Mugabe's brutal repression.

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39 Comments

Why George Washington was great. He quit.
Mugabe is a great example of those narcissists who refuse to relinquish power.

We are beginning to have a few of those in the USA now as well. Results will be the same if the Constitution is ignored.

And in a few years...
...and article just like that will be written about Obama -- America's Own Robert Mugabe.

Clashing principles
Black Africans have dragged their feet condemning Mugabe because he gained his power by employing brute force against whites, who controlled Rhodesia before him. For black Africans, the use of brute force against whites makes Mugabe a freedom fighter. But Mugabe then turned brute force against everyone, black and white, to choke the life out of Rhodesia to maintain his own power.

Now if this latter use of brute force is not legitimate while the former was, then several troubling questions arise, including: (1) Is the legitimacy of using brute force provided by the skin color of those who use it and those who suffer the consequences, and if so (2) weren't black Rhodesians better off when white Rhodesians used brute force to maintain their control of Rhodesia? Whoops.

Africans of all shades and hues don't want to confront questions like these, questions that indict their fond notions of racial justice. That is, what is more just: A color-blind state that secures peace, security and prosperity or color-based state that is by virtue of its color more just regardless of the conditions it brings?

Racism
Doesn't this follow the liberal's definition of racism?

Only a majority, or a minority in power can be racist. White Rhodesian were racist as they had power just as white majority America is racist as it has power.

As BHO is half white and his father was not a slave, will he eventually be considered among the white power structure and be labeled a racist if he doesn't tow the proper line?

As you suggest robertbennett, the only solution is to end race based preferences and discontinue government tracking of race.

Words are fine - But Zimbabwe is not our business to fix
Terrible regimes exist all over the world. And terrible things happen all over the world.

We have no national interest at stake in Zimbabwe that demands anything more than words of condemnation.

We can stop giving them stuff.
And do all the other official shunning diplomatically possible.

I agree with the author
It's not our place to offer any more than our opinion to the chorus.

We should recall the full history if we're going to put Zimbabwe into perspective. Mugabe came to power at Zimbabwe's independence, in 1980. And by 1982 he had already become known as a dangerous, power-hungry dictator who could abide by nothing other than one-man rule. Current events have been a very long time in developing. See this very informative history:

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/zimbabwe504/profile.html

ALSO.. since the bloom has been off the Zimbabwean rose, Mugabe has been kept in power by the collective will of the members of the African Union (formerly Organization of African Unity), whose perpetual aim has always been to prevent any action that might result in the replacement of any member government by a more popular one. The fact that African leaders are now speaking up is a very hopeful sign.

It is not the place of any individual nation to suggest that Mugabe be forcibly toppled, and none has. It is more properly the place of some organization of concerned neighbors to collectively suggest that he step down or face well defined consequences. Botswana and Kenya have taken appropriate steps in this regard.

In no case is it proper for the United States to offer more than its own disinterested opinion in the matter. Our heavy footprint on world affairs has brought about a situation where our imprimatur on any scheme has become a Kiss of Death, ensuring widespread hostility on the part of the world public.

In next year's elections in Iran, for example, we should stay away from the endorsement of any candidate or party we favor, lest we render them instantly unelectable.

Slightly off base
"Africans of all shades and hues don't want to confront questions like these, questions that indict their fond notions of racial justice. That is, what is more just: A color-blind state that secures peace, security and prosperity or color-based state that is by virtue of its color more just regardless of the conditions it brings?"

RB? The article itself says this:

"Last month Botswana President Ian Khama harshly criticized Mugabe and urged neighboring states to squeeze him out of power. On December 4th, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said, "The fact that Mugabe was a freedom fighter does not give him rights to own Zimbabwe and hang on to power. ...It's time for African governments...to push him out of power." Kofi Annan said this month, "There is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe."

There's little to be served in keeping alive a gripe that's now becoming out of date. Let's instead be positive in our support of African leaders who are embarrassed by this vestige of their old, undemocratic past.

What are we giving Zimbabwe?
I'm thinking it's been a very, very long time since we've given Mugabe anything. And in fact he has thrown foreign NGOs out of the country, so they aren't giving him anything either. No one is, that I can see.

Plus, have we done anything diplomatically other than to shun him? Let's let his increasingly concerned neighbors take care of their next-door problem.

Here's a carrot-and-stick plan that's guaranteed not to work:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/zimbabwe-restore-democracy-and-foreign-aid.html

Money transfers
We could make sure no private money is transferred to Zimbabwe.

That was one tool the USA could use to control illegal immigration, tax or suspend money transfer abroad.

Liberty for me but not for thee?
Since someone's ancestors (not mine as my family immigrated in the 1880s) fought and died for the liberty I now enjoy, and they did not do it alone, they had help from France, what should be our duty to continue to help others obtain liberty?

So far, we are squandering the liberty we were given and are backsliding into tyranny once again.

Not just unproductive but cruel
No nation to my knowledge is transferring funds to the government of Zimbabwe.

No private NGO funds are being accepted for work inside Zimbabwe. No NGO activity of any kind is permitted there.

That only leaves private remittances, from family members working outside the country to feed family members starving inside the country.

Are you sure you want to do that?

How else can you build pressure?
Since most on this board don't seem to want to do anything to help in the first place, why should it bother you or anyone here to cut off ALL money into the country?

As you suggest, all money belongs to the government anyway.

Zimbabwe needs a currency
New Jersey is ending its use of toll tokens. Why not take them all off New Jersey's hands and pass them out in Zimbabwe for use as a currency. It will take Mugabi at least a few months to figure out how to inflate that coinage; maybe the economy will begin to work a bit.

It can't be any worse than what they have now. Yes, famous last words, I know. But think about it.

They still helped.
And, we inspired their revolution that went horribly wrong.

You still refuse to discuss the point. If you won't risk your liberty to help others obtain liberty, how long will it be before your liberty is at risk?

Is China cruel for sending North Koreans back?
What is more important, people or the state?

Give up on liberty because it costs too much?
The USA tried ignoring the world once allowing millions to be murdered by tyrants like Stalin (and covered up by the New York Times.)
It brought us to a war we didn't want, but one that we had to finish to survive.
The lesson learned from WWI was not to resow seeds of tyranny in those we defeated. Defending and rebuilding Germany and Japan was in the best interest of USA liberty and national security.
Because the source of the attacks upon the USA are from the middle east, it is imperative we lead an effort to end such attacks.

We can do this the easy way, turn the middle east into glass with our nuclear weapons, or do the hard, dirty work we are now doing. Those who despise liberty will not go away and will not stop attacking us. We either kill them, convert them or render them impotent.

I support all tools to accomplish this. From nuclear weapons to diplomatic and private citizen exchanges. The message the USA needs to clarify, support and stand upon is we are the shining city on the hill and we must embrace it. Since we are not embracing such attitude, we are losing it as we speak as the economy is being nationalized for political expediency.

When one sticks his head in the sand his arse is an inviting target.

There are international problems that seriously impinge on us and others that do not
Zimbabwe is an easy case because it's only of interest to us in the sense that we find Mugabe's misgovernment and cruelty to his own people regrettable. It presents no threat to us, and "saving it" would provide no benefit to us beyond making us very temporarily feel self righteous. And within weeks of our victory we would find that we don't know how to govern Zimbabwe a whole lot better than Mugabe does.

If Obama is foolish enough to seriously commit to fixing Zimbabwe he will have proven a lot dumber than I think he is. It's literally a no win situation.

The moral low ground
You really don't make the slightest distinction between the victims of an oppressive government and the government itself, do you?

For you it was perfectly reasonable to punish the Iraqi people for Saddam's misdeeds, even in the face of evidence that sanctions had little or no effect on his ability to maintain a repressive security apparatus. And those half million children who died early, from avoidable diseases and malnutrition, were acceptable losses.. pawns in our game.

Likewise with the sick and the dying in Zimbabwe. The more victims who die, the more we can point our finger at the evil man, Mugabe, who made us enforce sanctions.

Not only is this a very cynical world view, it has no human dimension. This is insect thinking.

Why not?
You were certainly opposed to US efforts to topple Saddam with force.

I recall you suggested we should leave Iraq alone and when the people are fed up with their tyrannical leader they will depose him just as the USA did over 200 years ago.

How many Iraqi would have died, and did die, opposing Saddam?

Econmic 'crises' caused by government regulation
Our current economic situation is not due to the cost of defending liberty.

It has everything to do with government regulation of the economy.

Liberty for me but not for thee?
The USA, defender of the free world, should do nothing?

I don't advocate boots on the ground or even planes in the air, but the USA does need to take a position opposing Mugabe or else further erode our moral leadership.

You value your liberty so much you don't want to share?
Liberty for me but not for thee?

The government is significantly more than defense. Defense is the only part of the government that has been effective in the past few years. Have you noticed the USA has NOT been attacked since 2001?

You value your liberty so much you don't want to share?

In a free market, all transactions are win-win. Promoting liberty to others is also win-win as they become trading partners to build wealth instead of people we need to waste wealth upon to defend ourselves.

I still don't know what you mean by OCD.

I wrote earlier that I'm OK with cheap talk talk - but talk is mostly useless
Marjon,
I thought you were the libertarian here. My sense is that I'm less of a libertarian; but yet I have a problem with government using my tax dollars and potentially risking my life in the interests of doing "moral" tasks defined in terms of someone else's moral judgements.

The government exists to do things I can't do personally, such as collective defense in situations that truly are of overriding national interest. I know that it's sometimes hard to make choices about "the national interest," but I don't see Rhodesia as a hard choice situation. It doesn't occupy a bottleneck to trade. It doesn't threaten any of our necessary allies. It doesn't contain critical resources. Etc.

Those who want action on things that are not of overriding national interest, such as Zimbabwe's bad ruler, should be free to contribute or actually participate in fighting to remove that ruler.

Opposing tyranny IS in the national interest
We have failed to learn that lesson for decades.

Opposition should run the full spectrum of shunning to full scale attack. (The threat of force must be on the table if any weaker sanction are to be believed. Look how well 'oil for food' worked.)

Many of the problems the USA faces today are the result of supporting tyrants simply because they did not align with the USSR. "He a *******, but he is our *******." That policy is and was very shortsighted.

One bad apple can affect the whole barrel is more true today in our shrinking world.

One policy which would have a tremendous impact, which the Libertarian Party supports (I think) is to essentially open the border to all immigrants. Why should we only tolerate illegal workers from Mexico? Allow ALL with valid passports and not criminal record to enter the USA to work or start a business. Millions would welcome such an opportunity to escape tyranny.
(BTW, end all federal welfare first.)

I submit many countries would then try to restrict their best and brightest from leaving.

If the USA is so great, lets prove it.

Principles
"Intelligencia" can rationalize any choice.

The really smart people have principles which they use to make the right choice.

racist to criticize
I think this author should be careful to criticize Zimbabwe. When talking about how good a place it was before, the bread basket etc. it really means that it was a decent country when it was Rhodesia and run by white people. So liberals might consider it racist to suggest regime change.
journalist: Where were you born? Rhodesia.
Where were you raised? Zimbabwe.
Where would you like to live? Rhodesia.

Language,borders,culture
Culture matters.

4000+ year of civiliaztion
For those that are still taught the origins of Western Civilization, several thousand years of trial and error have led us to where we are today.

Maybe it it too much to expect some primitive cultures to adapt, but that has been the path humans have been on, adapt or die.

what about sanctions against Rhodesia?
So you must have also been very angry when they imposed sanctions against Rhodesia and the old white South Africa before. Or are you like most liberals who only want intervention in their own pet causes?

A very good question
It would be useful to examine the differences between sanctions that have worked in the past and those that either didn't work then or haven't a prayer of working now.

In the case of the outlaw white minority regimes, they were both governments dependent on foreign trade for their existence. When that trade was effectively curtailed, they caved. The sanctions worked.

With Saddam's Iraq, that approach was certainly worth a try. But it was apparent after the first year that Saddam was NOT dependent on either the world's good will or its trade. He was still able to maintain an army and a repressive security apparatus in the face of sanctions growing more and more severe.

It was there for all to notice, that the only people being hurt by the sanctions regime were the Iraqi people. Yet it persisted. Not only that, the UN put into place a perfectly silly Oil for Food program that allowed income flowing into Iraq to be readily diverted into weapons programs.

Yet all concerned persisted in the folly. For years.

In Zimbabwe, on the other hand, they're already a pariah state.. as is the DPRK. They are immune to restrictive trade practises because they already have no trade. Because they have no money.

What keeps them afloat is thugs loyal to El Jefe, Robert Mugabe. Find another cure.. one that will cause the thugs to disappear.

In closing, let me clue you in as to why there will NEVER be an effective sanctions regime initiated against that other pariah state, Myanmar.

It's because everyone is making money doing business with them. With the US, China, India, Korea, Thailand and a half dozen other major countries profiting, who's left to enforce sanctions?

The same is true of Sudan, vis a vis France and China.

good question, long answer
Jeez, you didn't have to write that huge lame rationalization. You could have just said; yes, I'm like other liberals in that we believe in US intervention in our favorite PC causes.

Short answer
That was a long answer? I was decribing the way some sanctions work, while others don't. And I got it on half a page. I think that's pretty concise.

"You could have just said; yes, I'm like other liberals in that we believe in US intervention in our favorite PC causes."

I guess my answer was over your head. Let's try it this way:

I'm like a lot of people. There's hardly a cause that can be improved by US intervention. In fact, I can't think of a single one.

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