Stephen Bevan in Pretoria, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:42am BST 19/08/2007
The economy of Zimbabwe is facing total collapse within four months,
leaving the country facing a slide into Congo-style anarchy, The Sunday
Telegraph has been told.
Western officials fear the business, farming and financial sectors may
be crippled by Christmas, triggering a collapse of government control that
could leave the country prey to warlords and ignite long-suppressed tribal
The stark warning of the scale of the crisis comes despite the welcome
given to Mr Mugabe by fellow African leaders at a summit in neighbouring
Zambia last week, where critics had hoped he might be pressurised into
changing his policies.
It also follows reports that Britain's military is reviewing
contingency plans to evacuate more than 20,000 Britons, were any widespread
state of emergency to occur.
Speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject, one
Western official said: "It is hard to be definitive, but probably within
months, by the end of the year, we will see the formal economy cease to
He added: "One of the great dangers in all this, if Mugabe hangs on
for much longer, is that the country will slip from authoritarianism to
anarchy, the government will lose control of the provinces, it will lose
control of the towns and you will have a situation where the central
authority's writ no longer holds."
Asked which other African nation Zimbabwe might end up resembling
under a worst-case scenario, the official cited as an example the Democratic
Republic of Congo (the former Zaire), beset for years by famine, civil war
and inter-ethnic conflict.
There are also fears that a breakdown in law and order could lead to
an outbreak of ethnic conflict between Zimbabwe's two main tribes, Mugabe's
own Shona and the Ndebele in the southwest.
Some political groups are already talking about regime change as an
opportunity to press for independence, while more extreme elements have
voiced agendas that could amount to "ethnic cleansing".
The official added that, because of Mr Mugabe's slum clearance
programme, -Zimbabwe's informal subsistence economy, made up largely of
street traders, hawkers and black marketeers, had lost much its ability to
absorb shocks from the government's three-month price freeze, which has
emptied shop shelves of stocks.
Poverty was now endemic, he said, with 80 per cent of people living
"below any definition of the poverty line."
The fear among Western officials is that as Zimbabwe sinks deeper into
crisis, the task of rebuilding, if or when Mugabe does go, is being made
ever more difficult.
The infrastructure is breaking down after years of no investment, with
both Bulawayo and parts of the capital, Harare, virtually without water
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority generates barely a fifth of
the country's needs and neighbouring countries' generating companies are now
refusing to sell to Zimbabwe except for cash.
John Robertson, a Harare-based independent economist, said the
prediction that the formal economy would cease to function within four
months might even be optimistic.
"We could be a matter of a month or two away from that kind of
collapse, and some would tell you that it's happened already," he said.
"They can't pay the wages that would be necessary for people to carry on
working, because the price at which they're allowed to sell goods is way
below the production costs."
The most immediate effect of the worsening economic situation is
The Western official said that four million Zimbabweans, or around one
third of the population, had already left the country, with "another two
million packing their cases to leave", mostly to South Africa. The "flight
rather than fight" strategy, however, suggests a mass uprising against Mr
Mugabe is unlikely.
While Western governments have publicly backed attempts by South
Africa's president Thabo Mbeki to mediate between the Zanu PF government and
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in a bid to ease the political
crisis, there was little sign of a breakthrough at last week's 14-nation
Southern African Development Community summit in Zambia.
Privately, Western officials now say that "the time for talking is
past", and that reconciliation between government and opposition is
Zimbabwe's neighbours now had to decide whether they were willing to
tell Mr Mugabe that his policies were not acceptable, said the official.
"We're not talking about tanks across Beit Bridge (the border post
with South Africa) but they do have to decide whether there is a stick in
this equation and what that stick should be," he said.
Sun 19 Aug 2007, 14:42 GMT
By Michael Georgy and Shapi Shacinda
LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambian Finance Minister Ng'andu Magande thinks there may
be only one way to influence defiant Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe --
enlist the help of African liberation giants like Nelson Mandela.
"Perhaps with a bit of pressure from President Mugabe's good friends like
Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia's founding father) or old people like Mandela
perhaps, you can see that things can be done differently without anybody
losing out," he told Reuters.
Magande's comments were tacit recognition that Southern African Development
Community (SADC) leaders failed during their meeting last week to pressure
Zimbabwe's long-time leader into enacting political and economic reforms.
Critics say that inaction has tainted regional leaders, raising questions
about their commitment to democracy and easing the suffering of millions of
Zimbabweans struggling to survive the world's worst economic crisis outside
a war zone.
"SADC has a credibility problem because of its failure to adhere to
democratic rules," said Chileshe Mulenga, head of the Institute for Economic
and Social Reseach, a Lusaka think-tank.
"It is a club of presidents who support each other regardless of the
suffering of the people because they all behave like monarchs. There are no
real principles which guide SADC and this is why they are showing solidarity
for Mugabe because of a lack of free and fair elections."
The group, experts say, is also awed into silence by Mugabe's place in
To the western world, Mugabe is a ruthless dictator whose people are victims
of his mismanagement of what had been southern Africa's breadbasket.
But southern African leaders look up to him as a respected liberation hero
who still takes on the United States and former coloniser Britain, even
though he is accused of bringing Zimbabwe to its knees in the process.
His past is one reason Mugabe received the loudest applause when he stood up
at the SADC summit, and it insulates him from criticism by leaders who grew
up regarding him as a legend.
"Mugabe is far more experienced than this younger generation of leaders and
he knows exactly what he is doing," Zambian Information Minister Mike
Mlongoti told Reuters.
"What can they do? They can't pressure Zimbabwe because it is a sovereign
state. Sanctions have not achieved anything and only hurt Zimbabweans,"
"HE IS ISOLATED"
As the new chair of SADC, Zambia will be under more international pressure
to face up to Mugabe.
President Levy Mwanawasa was the first African leader to speak out against
Mugabe, saying Zimbabwe was a "sinking Titanic" earlier this year.
But he has since toned down his position. Western diplomats say he is deeply
worried about the turmoil in Zimbabwe and is seeking the help of SADC
countries to resolve the issue.
But it didn't take Mwanawasa long to realise how difficult that may be.
"He raised the subject of Zimbabwe at the summit and got no support at all.
He is isolated," said a Western diplomat. "All of this proves that SADC
Asked if SADC had confronted Mugabe on human rights, Mwanawasa suggested
it's a taboo subject, as a nearby Zimbabwean official looked on at a news
conference: "We have discussed them and we are satisfied with the answers
which were given."
Mugabe has succeeded in mixing emotionally charged political issues with
economics, making it more difficult for Southern African leaders to
criticise his policies.
His argument that Western sanctions are in retaliation for his controversial
policy of seizing of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks
stirs emotions in a region scarred by colonialism.
Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa spent two hours at the summit
explaining how all of the country's problems -- the world's highest
inflation and severe food and fuel shortages -- were linked to land stolen
by Britain since the late 1800s.
Few SADC leaders could argue with him. To do so would be a betrayal of the
collective suffering of the region.
Magande is seen as one of the region's best economic managers. But he, like
others, argues that a hands-on approach by SADC in Zimbabwe would only
backfire. It's up to Mugabe and opposition groups to resolve their
differences, he says.
That is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Analysts say the more Mugabe is pressured, especially in public, the more he
digs in. Even South Africa, credited with breaking decades of apartheid and
introducing a successful democracy, seems to have little sway over Mugabe.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating between Mugabe
and the opposition, delivered a report on his efforts to the summit, which
ended on Friday. Heads of state described it as positive and encouraged both
sides to accelerate talks, language used several times before.
"The only one that can influence Mugabe is Mbeki," said the Western
diplomat. "But he can't do a thing."
Mugabe, who is known as a great speaker, is likely to keep getting loud
applauses at summits.
"I have heard him speak. It doesn't take him long to get people eating out
of his hands," said another Western diplomat.
Sunday August 19, 2007
The shelves are bare except for what Zimbabwe's limping factories produce -
baked beans at the cost of a month's salary, crisps rationed to two packets
per shopper and all the cleaning fluid you want.
The petrol pumps dried up a month ago. Water and electricity are off more
often than they are on. The national currency has an expiry date of July
2007 stamped on it but it's worth hardly anything anyway, so nobody seems to
Some Zimbabweans find a perverse comfort in all this because they believe,
as the American ambassador put it, that Robert Mugabe is committing regime
change on himself with his mad economics. It cannot get any worse, they say,
but it can.
As bad as Zimbabwe gets, it still seems that there is a long way to fall.
Mobutu Sese Seko ran Zaire into the ground for more than two decades and was
only removed by an invasion. Successive military governments plundered
Nigeria, wrecking its economy and infrastructure and still retained power.
Zimbabwe may be far from the tipping point.
That said, everyone except Mugabe and his inner circle seems to agree that
with inflation accelerating so fast no one really knows what it is, and with
much of the economy decamped to the black market and a system of bartering,
total economic meltdown cannot be far off.
The US ambassador's prediction sent a shudder through the upper echelons of
Zanu-PF (the ruling party) and prompted Mugabe to order the police and army
into the shops to enforce the cutting of the prices of everything by at
least half. While it demonstrated Mugabe's loose grasp of the causes of
inflation, the efficiency with which reductions were imposed also showed
that in some way he remains very much in control.
Mugabe's neighbours are divided and even those bearing the brunt of his
chaos appear paralysed. He arrived at the summit of southern African
Presidents to thunderous applause. To many, he remains a liberation hero and
it offends their African nationalism to see him pushed around by the
Americans and British.
The Angolans are behind him. The Zambians and South Africans are more
critical, but Mugabe appears scornful of Thabo Mbeki's efforts to mediate a
settlement between Zanu-PF and the opposition. Zanu-PF delegates simply
didn't turn up for the first round of talks. When they did, there was little
evidence they viewed them as anything more than a sop to Mbeki.
Mbeki says he wants to reach agreement on terms for a free presidential
election next year. Why would Mugabe agree to that? He's spent seven years
rigging elections precisely because he knows he's going to lose and has no
intention of surrendering power - at least not to anyone outside Zanu-PF. He
can go into another election pretty much on his own terms and may not need
to rig it so much after all. The opposition is weak and divided and has lost
the confidence of the people.
About one-third of the population is estimated to have walked out of the
country, most to South Africa. That relieves pressure on the regime by
removing some of those most likely to rebel, along with potential opposition
voters. It also provides a steady stream of hard currency back to Zimbabwe.
Mugabe appears to retain the loyalty of most of the security chiefs, partly
because they are old comrades in arms, but also for more immediate
interests. The central bank is little more than a cash dispenser for the
elite who buy dollars at the official rate and sell them at 800 times more
on the black market.
Some of Mugabe's inner circle also have good reason to fear what will come
next. The military and police chiefs have enough blood on their hands to
face trial under another administration, although the opposition has offered
an amnesty and power sharing in an effort to encourage Zanu-PF to dump
Yet there are signs of discontent among those around Mugabe. Questions
continue to swirl around the death of the head of the presidential security
guard, Brigadier General Armstrong Gunda, who was supposedly killed when his
car was hit by a train. Six days before Gunda was killed, about 15 members
of his force were arrested and accused of plotting a coup, although not the
general. Ordinary Zimbabweans are still trying to work out if there really
was a coup plot or whether Mugabe was simply demonstrating once again that
he still sets the agenda.
But the mystery over Gunda hints at the direction any solution may have to
come from. The region's leaders can't provide the solution, neither can
Britain. Change will have to come from within and if the opposition can't do
it, perhaps Zanu-PF's survival instincts will kick in and it will ditch its
greatest liability. But don't count on it happening soon.
Chris McGreal has been reporting from Africa since 1990
From correspondents in Lusaka, Zimbabwe | August 19, 2007
THE United Nations' refugee agency has made a contingency plan in
anticipation of thousands of Zimbabwean refugees flee their country's
worsening political and economic situation.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief, Antonio Guterres, said the
contingency plan on Zimbabwe had been developed in readiness for any influx
of refugees to neighbouring countries.
He said over three million Zimbabwean have so far left their country even
though only a limited number have applied for asylum in neighbouring
"Many Zimbabweans who are leaving that country are in need of humanitarian
assistance even though they have not asked for asylum," said Mr Guterres,
who has been in Zambia to assess the refugee situation.
"It is our wish that the problems in Zimbabwe will be solved. We have no
mandate to intervene but we are discussing with the humanitarian community
to see how we can help," Mr Guterres said.
Some 1000 Zimbabwean refugees have entered Zambia, according to official
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- By David Masango Lusaka - Talks between the Zimbabwean
government and opposition parties, are progressing well says the facilitator
of the dialogue, South African President Thabo Mbeki. "[We reported that]
this is work in progress. Delegates are meeting on the basis of an agenda
they agreed on themselves. "The summit called on them to speed up the
[negotiation] process so that elections in March should be held in an
environment of peace and stability," he said, speaking to the media after
the conclusion of the Southern African Development Community's Summit. The
two parties involved in the talks are the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition
Movement For Democratic Change (MDC). The 27th SADC Summit in Lusaka
received a report from President Mbeki and another from Executive Secretary
of the SADC Secretariat, Tomaz Salomao. Dr Salomao had been compiling a
report for some months on Zimbabwe's ailing economy, and presented this
document, including a proposed turnaround plan, to the Summit. President
Mbeki said all SADC leaders were concerned that by election time, expected
to be in March next year, all matters should have been removed, adding that
the negotiating parties themselves were saying that. Asked about the civil
bodies' concerns regarding the talks, Mr Mbeki explained that he had met
them on Tuesday, and they were satisfied with the way the talks were going.
"The matters that [the civil society] raised that they felt should be
discussed were already on the agenda were already on the agenda - so they
agreed that we should proceed the way we are doing," said President Mbeki.
In March this year, at the close of their two-day extraordinary summit in
Dar-Es-Salaam, SADC leaders mandated President Mbeki to spearhead the
promotion of dialogue among political parties and interest groups in
Zimbabwe. Host President Jakaya Kikwete at the time said all the leaders
were unhappy with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which was described as unhealthy
for democratic dispensation. The SADC leaders, President Kikwete added, also
strongly appealed to the political parties in Zimbabwe to co-operate and
give the peace initiative a chance to work. The Tanzanian president who is
also chairman of the sub Troika for defence, security and peace, said the
leaders also considered and discussed the diplomatic and economic situation
in Zimbabwe. To this effect, the leaders called on the international
community to help Zimbabwe and the SADC region at large to return to normal.
On the issue of the economy in that country, the leaders at the Tanzanian
Summit felt that the situation should not be left to deteriorate beyond the
current levels. To this end, the SADC Dr Salomao was tasked to analyse the
situation and advise on a positive way forward. The Zambian Summit in this
regard, recommended that an economic recovery plan be drafted by SADC
finance ministers and the Zimbabwean government. South Africa has long
expressed a stance of collective action towards resolving the economic,
political and social crisis of its northern neighbour. Amongst others the
recent summit also noted the continued strengthening of regional integration
and a number of successful elections held in the region, including in
Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Ivory Coast. They also
discussed strategies for infrastructure development for regional
integration; achieving a Free Trade Area by 2008; regional food security;
women representation in decision-making positions; and they also committed
to fight HIV and AIDS, amongst others. In that regard President Mbeki
explained that the SADC region would be able to have a free trade area by
the end of next year as planned. He said SADC states had just one year left
to remove tariffs on goods. - BuaNews
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Lusaka - Southern African heads of state have mandated
their countries' finance ministers to draft an economic recovery plan for
Zimbabwe, in tandem with that country's government. At the conclusion of the
Southern African Development Community's (SADC) 27 Summit, the leaders
issued a communiqué which amongst others stated: "(The) Summit took note of
the Report of the Executive Secretary on the economic situation in Zimbabwe
and mandated the SADC Ministers responsible for Finance to use the Report of
the Executive Secretary in consultations with the Government of Zimbabwe and
draw up an economic plan to support Zimbabwe." Executive Secretary of the
SADC Secretariat, Tomaz Salomao had been compiling a report for some months
on Zimbabwe's ailing economy, and presented this document, including a
proposed turnaround plan, to the Summit. SADC is composed of 14 countries
namely, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho,
Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Tanzania, Swaziland,
South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The 27th SADC Heads of State and
Government opened in Lusaka earlier this week, after a series of meetings by
the Council of Ministers and Committees of senior officials from the SADC
countries. The Summit was briefed that the negotiations between Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and both factions of the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were progressing smoothly. Morgan
Tsvangirai, leads the MDC's anti-Senate faction while Arthur Mutambara,
leads the MDC's pro-Senate faction The leaders at the summit commended South
African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mandated to facilitate the talks
between the ruling party and opposition in his country's northern neighbour.
In addition, the Summit welcomed the progress made in this regard and
"encouraged the parties to expedite the process of negotiations and conclude
work as soon as possible so that the next elections are held in an
atmosphere of peace allowing the people of Zimbabwe to elect the leaders of
their choice in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity." President Mbeki
received further accolades from the regional body, by being elected as its
deputy chair. The new chair of the SADC is Zambian President Levi Mwanawasa.
The summit also elected Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and King
Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson
of SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation respectively. -
19/08/2007 13:25 - (SA)
Finweek's Harare correspondent Chris Muronze
Harare- President Robert Mugabe's government might back off from its price
monitoring and control policy which has caused severe shortages of basic
goods in a desperate bid to quell consumer mutiny and disgruntlement.
The Sunday Mail, a government mouthpiece, generally believed to mirror
government policy and feeling, reported that there was a need to come up
with realistic prices to end food shortages in the troubled southern African
The paper quoted consumers saying there was a need for the government to
come up with realistic prices that will also cushion manufacturers and
consumers that will guarantee supplies in the long run.
This, analysts say, shows there could be a shift in the Mugabe government's
position on its price control policy and could reverse the policy.
Consumers also criticised the government for wasting time and resources
investigating cases of overcharging instead of making sure supplies were
A consumer said: "There should be a distinction between profit-making and
profiteering. As consumers, we accept that businesses must make profits, but
we are against profiteering.
"We would want the government to protect us, but some of the prices which
have been set are not viable and this explains why the goods are not
Another consumer said: "I want to cite the example of electricity tariffs.
Half the time we have no electricity supply in my area and we have to resort
to buying firewood at $75 000 per bunch to prepare one meal.
"If you prepare 20 meals using firewood, you would have used nearly $1,5m
and yet most people are still paying monthly bills of $200 000 for
"This explains why Zesa (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) is failing
to service its debts because if one can fork out $1,5m for firewood every
month, they can surely pay $1m to ensure that they have electricity
throughout the month."
This comes after Mugabe ordered businesses to slash prices of basic goods by
50% in June threatening defiant ones with arrests. He also said his
government would not hesitate to take over defiant companies.
The aged leader, 84, and in power since independence from Britain 26 years
ago, accused industry of profiteering and causing runaway inflation.
Zimbabwe has the highest inflation in the world, believed to be above 4 500%
The government's crackdown on retailers and manufacturers has seen goods
disappearing off the shelves and are now available on the black market.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
19 August 2007
The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed
by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai staged rallies today in Harare, the
capital, building to the official launch September 9 of its presidential and
general election campaigns.
National elections are slated for March 2008 after local council elections
Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa said hundreds of supporters
turned out for the rally in Harare. He said the opposition faction will
expand urban and rural outreach to sensitize members and the public to the
importance of the elections.
Chamisa expanded on the strategy in an interview with VOA reporter Chinedu
The Tsvangirai faction called a meeting Sunday with Zimbabweans emigrés in
South Africa to discuss their demand to be able to cast votes in next year's
ballots. The party says eligible Zimbabwean citizens should pressure Harare
for the right to vote.
Tsvangirai was not at the meeting but was to address a Johannesburg rally
Elsewhere, party officials said about 29 members of the faction remained
behind bars at the Nehanda police station in the Mkoba suburb of Gweru, the
The activists were arrested on Saturday as they met to form a burial
society. Police said they were being held under the Public Order and
Security Act, which forbids the holding of public meetings without
But Mkoba parliamentarian Amos Chibaya told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe said no formal charges had been pressed.
:: Innocent Madawo - The Southern African
Sunday, 19 August 2007
What transpired at the SADC heads of state summit in Lusaka last week
has left me wondering whether south African leaders know exactly what is
going on in Zimbabwe or they are just so blinded with their love (or is it
fear) of President Robert Mugabe that they just don't care.
How on earth could Zambian president, Levy Mwanawasa say problems in
Zimbabwe are being "exaggerated"?
How can anyone exaggerate hunger affecting 3-4 million people; 80%
unemployment; more than 5,000% inflation; 3-4 million Zimbabweans exiled;
hundreds of opposition and civic activists beaten up, tortured, jailed and
killed? How possible is it to embellish that when most of these statistics
are churned out by none other than the government or its agencies?
Mwanawasa should know better. Not long ago his own country was in a
situation not even as bad as what is prevailing in Zimbabwe. But he is
president now because long-time president (for 27 years), Kenneth Kaunda,
allowed free and fair elections that toppled him in a labour and
civic-driven vote not unlike the one being suppressed in Zimbabwe.
Why then, Mwanawasa do you want to help suppress Zimbabweans from
exercising what you benefited from? We thought you were your own man when
you stood out and condemned Zimbabwe as "a sinking titanic". How powerful is
Mugabe's hold on you?
As for South African president, Thabo Mbeki, I wonder whether we are
really underestimating the thinking behind the so-called "quiet diplomacy".
Surely a country "burdened" by no less than three million Zimbabweans
crossing over in thousands everyday, should actively and urgently seek a
lasting solution to the troubled neighbour's problems.
Unless, of course, Zimbabwe's troubles and loss of its people is a
massive economic gain to South Africa. One just has to look at how many
Zimbabwean professionals are running South African hospitals, schools,
newsrooms, companies and more. Could it be that Mr. Mbeki has realized that
Zimbabwean exiles are worth more to him?
As for the rest of SADC leaders, well, I kind of sense jealousy. After
all Zimbabwe is really an economic giant that is only slumbering. Should it
be woken up to play, it will rule the commercial playground again in no
This is the only way I can rationalize what is going on in SADC about
the Zimbabwe issue. Forget all this "solidarity with a brother state"
nonsense. Forget the phony condemnation of Britain and the US and others. It
is all about insecure regimes happy to have national and international
attention on someone else not themselves.
Everybody knows what the real issue is in Zimbabwe. It is about a
politically and economically suppressed nation. A nation needing relief from
an 83-year-old khulu whose recycled ideas and personnel are just too spent
to recharge a modern economy needing modern leadership and ideas.
It is not a personal issue against Mugabe or anybody. It is an urgent
national and regional matter that needs to be addressed now.
Mandela, Kaunda, Nyerere, Nujoma and even Mugabe's own idol, the late
Kamuzu Banda let their countries free to seek new leaders. This is all we
are asking for please, President Mugabe.
14:48, August 19, 2007
The second summit between the European Union (EU) and Africa,
which has been long delayed over the Zimbabwe factor, will take place in the
Portuguese capital of Lisbon in December, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis
Amado said Saturday.
Amado, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency,
told the press that one of the EU's priorities for the second half of 2007
is the holding of the Dec. 8-9 EU-Africa summit.
EU member states and African countries held their first summit
in the Egyptian capital of Cairo in 2000, with the aim to promote relations
between the two continents.
The second EU-Africa gathering was originally slated to take
place in 2003, but was postponed indefinitely after the imposition of
sanctions on Zimbabwe by the EU and due to Britain's objection to the
presence of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in the event.
When asked whether Mugabe would be invited for the meeting this
time, Amado said the preparatory work for the gathering is still underway
and the issue of Mugabe's attendance will be resolved in due time through
National Post, Canada
Among those few of us who pay attention to events in sub-Saharan Africa, it
has become a great cliché to say that the region needs more "made-in-Africa"
solutions. The white man -- with his colonial legacy and predatory,
mercantilist mindset -- is simply not equipped to deal with African
challenges, the theory goes.
So what happens when African leaders get together to discuss Robert Mugabe,
and address the appalling economic and political degradation he's brought to
Zimbabwe? They shuffle around and look at their shoes.
On Friday, a conference on the subject that wrapped up in Zambia proved to
be a continental embarassment. The assembled African leaders refused to even
admit that anything much was the matter in Zimbabwe. In fact, when Mugabe
adressed the crowd, he got the biggest applause of the conference's opening
Meanwhile, back in Zimbabwe, people are now murdering one another over the
country's dwindling food supplies. Unemployment is anywhere from 50% to 70%,
depending on who you listen to. Inflation is in five digits.
As recently as 2000, this country, blessed as it is with some of the best
soil in the world, actually exported food to its neighbours. But then Mugabe
drove out the white farmers, destroyed thousands of small businesses in
Harare that were seen to be politically suspect, transformed the country's
democracy into a one-man dictatorship, threw out foreign reporters, and
generally transformed the country into an African version of North Korea
(which, as RW Johnson recently pointed out in a National Post artice
documenting Mugabe's longstanding admiration for Pyongyang, is hardly a
Commentators will chalk all this up to "African solidarity": African leaders
don't want to criticize their own. But when does "solidarity" become nothing
more than a cover for cringing political infantilism? In no other part of
the world -- except perhaps the Arab states -- do nations have such low
standards for how they and their neighours are governed.
People get the governments they deserve -- and the West cannot force
Africans to change in this respect. But let us remember last week's disgrace
the next time African leaders lecture us on Western racism. If racism is
defined as believing black people to be undeserving of the good things we in
the West take for granted -- such as, say, freedom and good governance --
then the biggest racists could be found, last week, emptying the mini-bars
in Lusaka's best hotels.