Hopes for Zimbabwe from 2008


By now, the issues facing Zimbabwe are daily news.  The country is faced with a cholera epidemic, food shortage, rampant inflation, and tyrannical dictator.  Robert Mugabe’s land reform and domestic policy have bankrupted a once prosperous nation. Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of half a continent, is facing acute food shortages and currently experiencing a drought. Agriculture has collapsed since the embarked on “land reforms” involving the expropriation of thousands of white-owned farms, which critics say he has handed over to his associates. Short-term, the economic situation looks grim, with the inflation rate in the hundred-million percents. Mugabe clings to his power in old age, having recently celebrated his 85th birthday; a year after losing a hotly contested election with embattled Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr. Mugabe blames his country’s crisis on sanctions imposed by the US and the EU.

The country’s hope is through these sanctions, media coverage, and international indignation.  Douglas Alexander, UK International Development Secretary, called Mugabe’s presence at a UN Food Summit meeting “obscene,” saying “I’m outraged by his attendance.”  He calls labels Mugabe’s “profound misrule” as the key factor responsible for the crisis, adding “I’ll neither shake hands with Robert Mugabe nor meet Robert Mugabe … This is not a man with any credibility or any contribution to a discussion on international food.” Currently, Mugabe is banned from European travel; his status as a respected African “leader” by Western leaders is more than twenty years in the past.  Every day he sits in power, his painfully short-sighted, incredulous policies and irreverent ramblings deprive the country of the real leader it needs. Instead of constructively addressing the issues at hand, he wastes his words placing blame, saying “Some people are contriving ways and means of making us collapse.”

The short term must play itself out; this crisis will likely continue indefinitely. Mugabe will eventually die, and even if another dictator steps up and takes his place, in the long term, Zimbabwe has the resources and infrastructure (albeit, crumbling).  A report from the Harvard University Africa Policy Journal states that “the southern African country is in a perilous state of decline and could face a transition at any time. Waiting until the day after the fall of [president] Robert Mugabe could be too late.” The report predicts that “In political democracies, prolonged economic decline almost always sparks political change, through the ballot box or more radical confrontation on the streets.”  Dictators can’t live forever, and there is hope for Zimbabwe in the passage of time.



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