|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Another side to a sad story
Opposing Mugabe 'no easy task'
It seemed almost inevitable that last week's strike in protest against the bulldozing of illegal housing in Harare and elsewhere would be a flop.
Opposing President Robert Mugabe is not easy.
The media in Zimbabwe, now entirely under the strictest of controls, carried no mention of the strikes.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, joined in only the day before they were due to take place.
The police warned that they would attack any street protests ruthlessly.
That meant they would shoot people down in the streets if necessary.
So coming out in protest required serious courage. And in any society - let alone a quiet, essentially gentle one like Zimbabwe - not many people are prepared to become martyrs.
Even those who are, know that their efforts will often be vitiated.
President Mugabe's men have infiltrated every opposition group inside Zimbabwe.
The police know what they are planning as soon as they have reached agreement.
This infiltration has now spread to Britain, where government supporters appear at opposition meetings and sometimes openly threaten the people there.
Mr Mugabe, sensing his opponents' weakness, attacked them last week in the only places where they matter: the capital, Harare, and two or three other centres of population.
By bulldozing the ramshackle huts which illegal street-traders have built for themselves, he was striking a blow at the people who hate him most.
The police forced some people at gunpoint to pull down their own houses.
Thirty thousand people are thought to have been arrested.
The traders have often drifted to the cities because of the collapse of the rural economy.
They deal in black market goods, especially sugar, and act as illegal money-changers, where people can turn the rands and pounds and dollars which their friends abroad send them into Zimbabwean currency.
And they usually provide the foot-soldiers for any anti-government demonstrations which may be going.
Now, they have to live rough in the cold of the southern hemisphere winter.
Eventually, many will start drifting back home.
It is another victory for Mr Mugabe.
As ever, he has an impressive explanation: "The current chaotic state of affairs where small- to medium-scale enterprises operated outside the regulatory framework and in undesignated and crime-ridden areas could not be countenanced much longer," he declared.
I have met and interviewed Robert Mugabe on various occasions over the years.
He likes giving his opinions, but you sense as he listens to your questions that he has little but contempt for you.
He is used to feeling cleverer and more articulate than anyone he comes into contact with - and he despises those he thinks are less intelligent than he is.
Which happens to be most people.
As a result he has done as he likes with Zimbabwe, wrecking the lives of most of its inhabitants.
So far he has got away with it.
His ministers and his security chiefs are not necessarily evil people, though many of them have become corrupt through serving him.
If it were not for him, most would probably be reasonable enough public servants.
He dominates them utterly. They find themselves, one of his former ministers told me, tongue-tied and stupid in his presence.
It is impossible to argue with him, even if anyone dared to do so.
So what can the outside world do about a man who ruins his own country and murders his own people, yet cannot apparently be dislodged from within?
No-one is going to invade Zimbabwe, that is for sure. After all, it does not possess oil. South Africa, which could bring down Mr Mugabe through economic pressure if it chose, has clearly decided to do nothing of the sort.
In any decent, free society, the Mugabe government's actions would be regarded as a serious crime against human rights.
The entire resources of a once wealthy state have been used to enslave it and make it destitute.
Robert Mugabe has not done all this on his own. Without his ministers, his civil servants, his policemen and soldiers, his regime would collapse.
The outside world shows little serious interest in Zimbabwe, beyond indulging in occasional ritual condemnation of him.
France has moderately friendly relations with him still.
And although the Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe has been among his bravest opponents, the Vatican still managed to give him international recognition by inviting him to the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
If the international community cared about Zimbabwe, it would try the president and his senior officials in absentia for their crimes.
This would be a salutary reminder that serving an octogenarian with no clear successor is a short-term and dangerous thing to do. The day of reckoning is coming closer.
There would be no shortage of evidence, from President Mugabe's appalling massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s right down to the present day.
Short of a national uprising, there is probably no stopping Robert Mugabe, who has slaughtered so many of his people and ruined the lives of the rest.
But if his closest supporters understood that they would have to pay the price for his crimes, they might be less willing to serve him so slavishly.
If you would like to comment on John Simpson's article, please send us your views using the form below.
There is a major problem in that there is no viable and strong opposition in
Zimbabwe. The MDC is opposition of sorts, but to many, the party is neither
ready nor fit to govern. Maybe, better the devil you know. The last elections
have cemented the fact that Mugabe will have a grip on Zimbabwe until the day he
dies, even if he does retire in 2008! The scariest bit is that even those who
wish to replace him from within his party do not come across as being the sort
of people who will make a change for Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe are a
gentle and hardworking people as can be seen in the many NHS hospitals in this
country. If they weren't, Ian Smith may not have lasted as long as he did! Like
a lot of other African countries, Zimbabwe is going to have to hit rock bottom
before it has a chance to bounce back and that will be when a new community
minded and honest group (probably presently unknown) win control. After
Zimbabwe, watch out for Namibia and South Africa ! to have their growing
What utter propaganda from John Simpson! This is the same kind of rhetoric
and demonizing that got the US into trouble in Iraq. The people of Zimbabwe are
not stupid, nor weaklings. They in their majority have accepted and voted for
their government, warts and all. Those who complain are mostly disgruntled
'Rhodie' whites, misinformed foreigners and general malcontents with
power-hunger ambitions. All this because Mugabe had the courage to take back
land that was stolen from the people of Zimbabwe. Let us not ignore the
psychological impact of that on Africans. Do you not wonder why he gets a
standing ovation wherever he goes in Africa? You cannot orchestrate that kind of
reaction. All this comes down to is Western fury at the loss of white privilege
and the subversive example that creates.
I'm afraid that my respect for Nelson Mandela has fallen enormously as a
result of his inactivity over Zimbabwe. No one in the South African government
can seriously believe that Mugabe rules through the democratic will of the
people. They can do something about it (any intervention by the UK would be
dismissed as racist, of course). And the fact that they haven't is a very sad
indictment. After so many years of the wrongs of the empire and UDI, you can
understand why some think that any form of self rule is better than what
preceded it, but, in this case, that is clearly not true.
John Simpson is an astute and analytical observer. It is a pity though that
even though he recognizes the problem of the generality of Zimbabweans, he can
not pass any policy on how outside governments can bail out the masses. A number
of Western countries are not able at all to confront the Zimbabwean situation
because they have nothing to gain. If there was oil in Zimbabwe, or any other
interests of the Western world, we would have seen an immediate intervention
long time ago. Zimbabwe today is a sad state. It is shameful for anyone to
identify himself/herself as Zimbabwean as this would automatically render
feelings of resentment and abhorrence. How long will the whole world watch from
a distance without taking steps to make sure that such dictatorship is not
allowed to prevail?
Mr Simpson is right in saying the Zimbabweans are a quite and gentle group
and it is for that very reason that they need the help of the outside, more able
world to help them through this catastrophe. The world has watched for far too
long as the independent press has been shut down, a lot of people have moved out
and I hope it will not take another 'Sudan' for the world to help out. I'm sure
with the help of BBC and the likes of Mr Simpson we will get that help
As a Zimbabwean in the 'diaspora', John Simpson's article hit the nail on the
head. The world is indeed in a sorry state when a man like Mugabe is allowed to
continue his dictatorial oppression unabated - simply because the country does
not possess anything of 'value' to the international community. Well, here's a
different example: how about the thousands upon thousands of wild animals,
supposedly protected and most of them endangered, that have been slaughtered as
a direct result of Mugabe's land-grab policies. Were those not worth
Mugabe should realise that 1980 was light years ago, and despite his academic
intelligence, none of his policies have been implemented in reality with any
dialogue, sensitivity, scale or appropriateness. He has perfected partisan
self-exculpation and morbid self-justification to a fine level. Zimbabwe will
probably undergo a second Chimurenga revolution between the state beneficiaries
and the dispossessed. South Africa is seeing the crystal ball; the honeymoon is
John Simpson's article is the most informed and insightful of any I have read
about Zimbabwe. We who live here, long for change and to be part of the world
again. It seems it is not ever going to happen.
This is true about Mugabe. He has a low regard of anyone especially if you
are not a member of his tribe as shown by his previous statements that in a
certain suburb of Harare that resides totem less people (in reference to
citizens of Malawian origin). If he is that clever, have we ever heard the
history of his father. Let us have it.
Illegal housing? Imagine the police with guns and dogs raiding the back
gardens of houses in the Home Counties in England and burning all the garden
sheds and glass houses. The purpose is fear and intimidation of those struggling
to survive. To remind them that any uprising would be stopped with unlimited
force. Mugabe's failed his people, his country...
In addition to Simpson's observations, it is important to note that Mugabe
has been nourished on a political diet of flattery, sycophancy and shameless
praise-singing. He now thinks he is a demigod beyond human error. Mugabe is
impervious to any reason from any quota. His case is typical of all dictators -
militarising the state, abuse of the police, lavishly rewarding his cronies,
intimidating the population using the cruel Central Intelligence Organisation,
and also personalising the presidency. Because of his greed for power and
wealth, when he dies, his sycophants are going to go for each other's throats,
creating more confusion.
Because you are unable to control Zimbabwe like a stooge, you call him all
names. How was Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, governed under Ian Smith? Blacks were
killed everyday or doesn't that matter. I wish we in Africa had lots of Robert
Mugabes. Stooges like Morgan Tsvangirai are a disgrace to Africa.
The Simpson article, like most compiled by members of the western media about
African leaders can best be described by just one word, nonsense. We Africans
appreciate the concern of the outside world regarding issues in Africa but don't
like people calling our leaders murderers. President Mugabe is a true African
patriot and people hate him because he is not afraid to speak his
Thank you for this report. It's true. Mr Simpson you are the only one out
there who cares for us Zimbabweans today. My friends and church mates will be
sleeping outside because the destroyers are in my area. My question is: Where is
the organisation called the United Nations if it's also for us. If possible tell
its officials that they don't care. Shame on them. Maybe America might come to
our help. But most of all we still have hope in God. May the world pray for us.
Mr Simpson may God bless you.
I think there is another element that Mr Simpson did not mention: Any action
by the western world to rectify this issue would be seen by sub-Sahara Africa as
potentially racialist. After all, very few nations other than the United Kingdom
give any coverage to the mismanagement of Zimbabwe.
John Simpson's report does not have anything new, which has not been said
before. In a recent African poll Robert Mugabe came third in the greatest
African ever because taking the land from the white minority was one of the
greatest acts of the 20th century by an African. Greater than Mandela being made
John Simpson is right - Zimbabwe has no oil or significant mineral wealth so
is of no interest to the First world. However, I don't understand why full
sanctions were imposed on the Ian Smith government for lesser crimes than Mr
Mugabe is committing, come on the First world you have to put a stop to his
I just cannot understand why countries of the civilised world stand by and
let his tyrant rule, we go into Iraq, Afghanistan, why not
Mr John Simpson's article about Zimbabwe is journalism at its best. He told
the truth that the conventional press hides. My best wishes for Mr John