By Santosh Beharie
What happens after
Robert Mugabe? Nobody knows or seems to care, says author Geoff Hill, who, in
the past four months, has travelled the world in search of answers.
the best-selling author of The Battle for Zimbabwe and correspondent for the
Washington Times, believes that it is essential to start planning for the
Speaking on the Wham (What happens after Mugabe) factor
at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College, on Thursday, Hill said the
danger that existed in Zimbabwe was that no one would be ready when change
"The international community has no
plans in place to rebuild the economy, agriculture or the media, nor to bring
back the four million exiles who have fled Zimbabwe. I have likened the
situation to a dog chasing a car and catching one - what does it do with it when
it does?" said Hill.
During the past four months, Hill has been on
speaking tours of Britain, the US and Australia. He delivered an address to the
Royal Institute for International Affairs at Chatham House, London, ahead of the
December Commonwealth meeting in Abuja.
In July, he was invited to
Washington DC to address the prestigious Cato Institute and the Heritage
Foundation. In September, he addressed the International Institute for Strategic
Studies in London.
"I'm trying to reach out to anyone with the funds and
the necessary expertise, like NGOs and the G7, to come on board and help plan a
blueprint to rebuild Zimbabwe, because so far there have only been talk shops,"
said Hill, who stressed that he had no allegiance to either President Mugabe's
regime or Morgan Tsvangarai's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
He says the debate about bringing change to Zimbabwe seems
to be centred less in Southern Africa and more in London, Brussels and
Washington, where regular calls are made for an end to the rule of
"Yet, those in favour of regime change
have yet to announce any plans - let alone budgets - for putting Zimbabwe back
together when Mugabe goes." The task is formidable, he says, when it comes to
rebuilding what used to be one of Africa's biggest economies. At a glance:
Law and order has broken down and the police are
Inflation is running at more than 600% and could
reach a figure as high as 1 000% this year;
Seven out of 10 adults are
The state-run youth militia have set up a terror
network across the nation;
Commercial farming has collapsed in the wake of the
government's coercive land reform programme and food agencies estimate that
three-quarters of the population don't have enough to eat;
There is virtually no public health system in a
country where 3 000 people die every week from Aids;
More than 500 000 skilled Zimbabweans have moved to
Britain and an estimated two million now live in South Africa. In addition 70%
to 90% of all university graduates are believed to be working outside the
Hill's passion for Zimbabwe is clear. Having grown up in Malawi,
South Africa and Zimbabwe, he became fluent in the Shona language.
October 1980, he joined The Manica Post newspaper in the eastern Zimbabwe town
of Mutare. After the nationalisation of the press in 1982, he moved to Australia
and spent eight years with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Hill and his Burundi-born wife, Hope, returned to Zimbabwe, where he worked as a
writer and hosted music programmes on FM radio.
In 2002, he moved to
Johannesburg, where he is Africa correspondent for newspapers in London and
Over the past three years, Hill has interviewed hundreds of
ordinary Zimbabweans, as well as members of the Mugabe government, the
opposition and some of the two million exiles now living in South
Released late last year, his bestselling book, The Battle for
Zimbabwe, is said to have generated more press than any other non-fiction title
published in South Africa this year.
More than 75% of the 8 000 print
run was sold out within the first 12 weeks and he has been commissioned to write
a sequel on the Wham factor.
Hill argues that the total costs of setting
this "tragic" country back on course will run into billions and that donor
countries should already be funding research to map out future plans.
Britain and South Africa, training schemes could be set up right now for young,
exiled Zimbabweans in fields as diverse as justice, agriculture, teaching and
"Sadly, there seems to be lots of talk and few cheques. When the
time comes, let's hope those who have been shouting the loudest for change will
be willing to meet the bills," he says.
Over the past two years, while
researching his book on Zimbabwe, the question most people asked Hill was: will
what has happened there be repeated in South Africa?
"My own view is that
it won't. The logic being that, just because Uganda fell under the tyranny of
Idi Amin didn't mean that neighbouring states like Kenya and Tanzania followed
suit and started butchering their people.
"The Zimbabwean crisis is very
much a product of Mugabe's need to stay in power long after the electorate has
tired of him. But, if similar circumstances do ever emerge in South Africa, my
worry is that we won't see them coming."
- This article was originally
published on page 17 of AFP on
October 10, 2004