from the archives…

Robert Mugabe might have pulled off the biggest prank of all time. When he came to power in Zim in 1980 (up until things started falling apart in the southern African country in the mid 90s) many saw him as a responsible gradualist reformer. Then he changed, perhaps back to his real nature. Here is a quote from Newsweek in a March 20th 1978 publication that depicts uncle Bob as we know him today. He may have given up on Marxism but ZANU-PF rules Zim:

Robert Mugabe told Newsweek’s Raymond Carroll and Lynn James he would fight on to make Rhodesia a Marxist “one-party state.”

 

cannibals in zimbabwe?

The economist reports…

“On one occasion, 15 armed invaders, banging on metal objects and chanting war songs, forced their way into Mr Freeth’s house, threatening to burn it to the ground, kill the two men present, rape the women and eat the three children asleep in their beds. Thanks to an earlier beating, Mr Freeth, an emaciated, soft-spoken man of 40, has never recovered his sense of smell. Mr Campbell, 76, was so badly thrashed that his memory is impaired.”

I had absolutely no idea that Zims were into eating little children. But then again it could just be a case of some air-head Economist reporter (and his/her editors) clinging to the notion of cannibalistic Africans irrationally inclined to commit rape and murder. May they soon realize that the world has moved on.

And dwelling on the issue of white farmers in Zimbabwe, I think it might be time for everyone to look at the facts and accept the truth for what it is. It is true that Robert Mugabe and his marauding thugs have committed economic and other crimes by dispossessing thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers of their land. But it is also true that a tiny section of Zimbabweans who happen to be white own(ed) a disproportionate percentage of the arable land in the country. Add into this imbalance the fact that the land may have been acquired through questionable means a few decades back by the ancestors of these farmers and you have yourself an explosive situation.

It is no wonder that even Morgan Tsvangirai (the reformist Premier of Zim) is, according to the Economist, “blowing hot and cold” on the issue. He knows that he cannot, with a clear conscience, defend the system of land ownership that exists in Zimbabwe.

I am in no way supporting violent seizure of land in Zimbabwe. All I am saying is that there is a case for radical land reform in the country. And this is not a question of race and/or ethnicity. I have seen the same tensions in Kenya – where squatters have clashed with fellow Kenyan ( indigenous) owners of large tracts of land. I am totally against illegal redistribution of land. But at the same time I cannot defend an obviously unjust system of land ownership.

It is sad that Mugabe’s illegal (and at times murderous) repossession of land in the country has overshadowed the real land problem in Zimbabwe – to the extent that even a somewhat respected newspaper like the Economist feels no shame in allowing a subliminally racist line like the one quoted above in its pages.

some good news for Zimbabwe

The BBC reports that the World Bank has decided to resume aid to Zimbabwe – the Bank has not lent the cash-strapped African country any money since 2000. Sad though is the fact that most of the money will probably go to clearance of Zim’s arrears to the WB and the African Development Bank (Zimbabwe owes $1 b). But the WB director, Toga Gayewea McIntosh, who is in charge of the group of African countries that include Zimbabwe promised that more grants will follow soon.

According to the Finance Ministry, Zimbabwe needs $8.3 billion for full recovery to be achieved any time soon after years of ruinous economic policies under the strongman Robert Mugabe.

can zimbabwe bounce back?

Morgan Tsvangirai (a man who many believe ought to be Zimbabwe’s president) was sworn in Thursday as Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister. This marks the beginning of a compromise power sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe which forces the aging Robert Mugabe, 85 to share power with Tsvangirai’s MDC. Tendayi Biti, another MDC stalwart, will be Finance Minister.

This raises the question of whether Zimbabwe can bounce back  some time soon. Millions have fled the country. Millions depend on food aid. 3000 have died of cholera and many more remain at risk and the economy has virtually collapsed, with 9 in 10 people out of employment. I am a proud owner of a 100 billion Zimbabwe note. In short, a lot needs to be done and MDC will have it mostly uphill for a long time to come. But will they succeed? If the recent developments in Kenya are any indicators, Zimababweans should be warned that things will get worse before they get better. The same people who while in opposition were screaming about corruption have been coopted into the same shady deals they once fought against (the maize, oil and tourism scandals are testament to this). And the lack of a credible opposition has given the government some immunity against censure in parliament. Zimbabwe may find itself in the same position, unless they actively avoid it.

May be Tsvangirai and his MDC will do things differently. I wish them well.

mugabe and tsvangirai failing Zimbabwe

There comes a time when convention and ideology needs to be brushed aside for the sake of the well being of a nation. Now is such a time for Zimbabwe, once Southern Africa’s bread basket but now a basket case in its own right. The truth be said, Robert Mugabe’s land policies had some merit. It is inconceivable in any democracy that a tiny percentage of the population (most of foreign origin whose grandparents and parents stole land from native Zimbabweans) should own huge tracts of land while the vast majority subsist on tiny parcels. This system was simply unsustainable and was bound to explode with or without uncle Rob (next watch South Africa under Zuma…..). That said, it is indisputable that Mugabe bungled the entire process. Forceful evictions, cronyism and outright thuggery made the whole process seem like it was being run by a bunch of kids.

So now the water has been spilled. As they say where I come from, maji yakimwagika hayazoleki (once water has been spilled you can’t put it back into a container). The Zimbabwean economy is paying dearly for Rob’s misadventures. The political process has also been a major casualty of the land mess. And millions of Zimbabweans have been forced to flee their own country. A few questionable elections have been held. Many have been jailed for political reasons.

With all the above in mind, I can’t help but wonder why the hell Robert Mugabe and Robert Tsvangirai are continuing in their dillying and dallying instead of reaching an agreement to start fixing the country. Perhaps Tsvangirai does not want to cede any ground on principle. But this is no time for principles or unncessary fights. People – with only one life to live like all of us – are dying daily because of the intransigence of these two men and their aides. Someone needs to lock them up in a room without food or bathroom break until they come up with a plan to save Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, South Africa continues to be a big disappointment in this affair. They are the last country one would expect to tolerate arbitrary tyranny – regardless of the color of the skin of the tyran.

these not so serious leaders of zimbabwe

It has been ages since Zimbabwe held elections but until now Robert Mugabe (having stolen the elections) and his nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai (the supposed winner) are yet to reach a deal to form a government. This deadlock is not about policy. It is not about how these two men will stear Zimbabwe out of the mess it has found itself in. It has nothing to do with increasing school enrolment, creating jobs or improving post-natal care for rural women. The squabbling that continues to deny the people of Zimbabwe a government is over cabinet posts – posts that are to be filled with men who are as alienated from the struggles of the rural folk as that infamous French queen was. It is a tragedy. It is a total travesty.

The regional leaders are still calling for more summits. Opportunities to spend tax payers money while discussing how to divide that money among the same corrupt men who seem to have completely lost direction and the interest to serve their people.

Do these guys know the inflation rate in their country? Do these guys see how Zimbabweans are suffering in camps in South Africa or in the other countries in Southern Africa?

It is a shame. A big shame. Who cares about who holds what posts? As a the former president of Kenya would say: will this in any way increase the number of utensils in any ordinary Zimbabwean’s house? Whatever happened to policy?

zimbabwean leaders, stop acting childish

Am I the only one tired of the antics of Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai? This struggle over which ministries to give to which party is turning into child play. How hard can it be to agree on which posts to take? This is not rocket science. And what gives these lunatics of leaders the idea that they can continue to mortgage their citizens’ lives as they leisurely engage in inane political fights??

Zimbabweans are hurting – no one needs a reminder about this. And I just read an article about the collapsing school system. This is particularly sad because education holds the key to the future. If Zimbabwean children lag behind they are going to have a hard time catching up and competing in the increasingly globalized labor market – if and when their economy recovers and sanity returns to their country.

Quite frankly, I am simply sick and tired of the circus that is the negotiations. Mugabe and Tsvangirai should be locked in a room without food or bathroom break until they come up with a deal that will work for Zimbabweans and stop the madness that has characterised this once promising African country.

after kenya, zimbabwe …. bad precedences?

So the big news coming out of the continent today is the big signing of a deal between Robert Mugabe and his long-time foe Morgan Tsvangirai. The deal guarantees Tsvangirai, the legitimate winner of the last presidential elections in Zimbabwe, powers for the day to day running of the country while Mugabe still leads the military and the cabinet.

This deal is kind of the same that Kenyans adopted after the disputed presidential elections last December. While in Kenya’s case it wasn’t as clear as to who won the election, in Zimbabwe it was as clear as the springs of Nyandarua that Morgan Tsvangirai beat the senile Mugabe in the polls. The sharing of power with a political thief in the mold of Mugabe is an affront against democracy. The nature of democratic elections is that winners take it all. Losers should accept the results and wait for the next election cycle. This applies equally to incumbents and the opposition. I was mightily pleased with the poise by which UNITA handled its loss in the just concluded elections in Angola – although if you ask me I think they should pull up their socks and grants Angolans true democracy by being more competitive.

Anyway, as happy as I am for Zimbabweans, I hope this phenomenon – of presidents stealing elections and then appointing the real winners prime ministers – does not catch on on the continent. I hope that Kenya and Zimbabwe are the last to go through this weird electoral circus.

how much longer can Zimbabweans tolerate Mugabe?

A day after Zimbabwe’s March election there were already rumors that Robert Mugabe had lost and was trying to negotiate a graceful exit from power. But Rob was to have none of this. He ordered the electoral commission not to announce the results of the presidential election even though the opposition’s tallies confirmed their claim to victory. Meanwhile parliamentary results confirmed that Rob’s party, the ZANU-PF had lost its majority in Parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In desperation, Rob ordered for a recount in several constituencies but even this did not overturn the original results.

With Mugabe having lost the election and his apparent resolve to stay in power come what may (evidenced by his failed attempt to purchase weapons from China) it remains to be seen just how much longer the people of Zimbabwe can put up with this crazy old man before all hell breaks loose and people pour into the streets. It has to happen at some point. Political Science theory says that revolutions happen just when things begin to get better and Rob may have initiated this process by allowing the MDC to win the elections. He could have simply rigged the vote to give himself a clear win – both for the presidency and parliament. But by allowing the MDC to win parliament and the presidency (although a run-off is in the offing) he has shown his people that he is indeed beatable and demystified himself.

The writing is on the wall for Rob and his cronies. But he still has support from a significant segment of the Zimbabwean population and thus any kind of uprising against him will almost inevitably be met with stiff opposition from his supporters. He may be a thug to most non-Zimbabweans but to his country people he is an independence hero who sacrificed a lot for his country. Because of this there is an increasing risk of conflict within the country.

As the international community continues to watch from a distance, (with South African president Mbeki makeing silly statements like this) Zimbabwe keeps moving even closer to the tipping point. I believe total collapse can be avoided by having Rob step down (forcefully if necessary) before it is too late. The alternative is to wait and send in peace keepers after the fact.

zimbabwe’s kenya-esque election

It all sounds too familiar. Elections are held, but the government fears that the wrong people might be winning. The election officials know the results but are not releasing them for some mysterious reason. All things then break loose, with disastrous consequences.

The credibility of the election process is tarnished and everyone is left guessing who really won the election.

I am not saying that this is how Zimbabwe will pan out but I am worried at how eerily familiar the situation there seems.

Right now, with 52 constituencies counted, the government has half the seats and the opposition the other half. Tsvangirai’s party has 25 and Mutambara’s 1. A couple of Mugabe’s ministers have lost their parliamentary seats. Other results are being delayed for some mysterious reason even as Tsvangirai’s party, the MDC, continues to claim that it has won 60% of the votes cast to Mugabe’s 30%. The MDC also claims that it has won 99 seats in parliament against ZANU-PF’s 96 while 15 went to other opposition groups.

The real results have been delayed by the electoral commission …….. no prizes for guessing why. The weird part about this is that even after uncle Bob showed the world what he is capable of over the last two decades, I was still kind of optimistic that he was going to hold a relatively acceptable election (please prove me right Mugabe, please…)

To future would be African “riggers of elections” : if you have to rig, please be tactful. Do it without delaying results simply because this creates suspicion. Do it without having voter turnout being higher than voter registration. And do it in a way that half the government ministers do not lose their parliamentary seats because if they do and you still win, even the dumbest among us will smell a rat.