Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mugabe should be no surprise

With the exception of South Africa's chief of corruption, scientific fraud and accessory to murder, Thabo Mbeki (or rather the ANC), and most other African kleptocrats political leaders, and some other gangsters (and Jacque Chirac), few disagree that Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is a regime characterised by murder, political violence, use of starvation and theft as political tools, and must go. Few can fail to be moved by the despair of most Zimbabweans, of every colour (though many closed their eyes when only white Zimbabweans were victims of theft, assault, rape and even murder), especially now that Bulawayo now has people drinking sewer water, as Mugabe refuses to fix the water supply or assist that town - dominated by supporters of the opposition.
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Even China has been withdrawing support (if only it would do the same for Burma then it might win respect, after all a new Burmese government is not going to want to turn its back on Chinese investment).
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Setting aside the need to hold the disgraceful South African government to account (which is something the Western media and certainly few governments internationally are willing to do, as if Mbeki somehow basks in the glow of post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela) or indeed the legions of African regimes which, by and large, let their people down (not all, but many), it is worth noting that many noted right from the start that Mugabe was bad news. After all, Zimbabwe has been every bit the one-party authoritarian state since it was founded, New Zealand opened an embassy there under the Lange government, and sent the (allegedly very lazy) Chris Laidlaw to be High Commissioner. Every time I have heard him speaking about Mugabe it is as if things went wrong in the last few years, that there was so much hope - in the days when he banned political opposition and locked up and tortured opponents.
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Now before the usual childish political trick of saying that criticising one government automatically means you support the previous one, it should be clear that Ian Smith's regime had to go - disenfranchising the majority of the population and operating a "benign" version of apartheid doesn't make it right. However, my case is that Mugabe has been worse and it was clear from the very start.
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Mugabe is a Marxist-Leninist, and Marxist-Leninists have spilt the blood of over 100 million people in the last century. Mao and Stalin being by far the worst, but Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung and Mengistu did their best as well. Of course Mugabe is friends with North Korea, and Mengistu - the man responsible for converting Ethiopia from a food exporter in the 1970s to a famine ridden hell hole in the 1980s (not that you'd have learnt that from Bob Geldof) - is now one of Mugabe's chief advisors.
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As Judith Todd has said in her forthcoming book "Through the Darkness: A Life in Zimbabwe" "Torture, corruption and disregard for the rule of law were the norm right away". As the Sunday Times reports:
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"Mugabe broke all the rules – his guerrillas roamed the villages when they should have been at assembly camps, there was widespread intimidation and open violence against many opposition candidates: one such candidate was last seen pinned to the ground having red hot coals rammed down his throat. What fooled many people was that once Mugabe had forcibly incorporated Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu into his ruling Zanu-PF the country was so close to a one-party state that Mugabe simply didn’t need to show the iron fist, but it was always there. “As I try to show, there were a few people, like the guerrilla veteran, Aaron Mutiti, who understood Mugabe from the start. Aaron said in 1980, ‘Family life, religious life and economic life as we know it will progressively disappear if Mugabe gets to power’. "
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Judith Todd's father was PM of Southern Rhodesia, but would be stateless if the NZ government hadn't granted her citizenship (certainly a bouquet for the Clark government for granting this, perhaps helping to make up for the fawning the previous Labour government issued to Mugabe's dictatorship).
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What particularly grates is the likes of John Minto, who blames what Mugabe is doing on the West for "forcing" him to not implement Marxist economic policies at the time which has (get this) created the impoverishment of black Zimbabweans which is what he is responding to. However, Minto, as all members of the new left, are economic illiterates - they think Zimbabwe's economic disaster has something to do with holding onto capitalism, when the Mugabe regime has done progressively the opposite for years. Minto's Marxist credentials are well summarised by Trevor Loudon (and no, opposing apartheid is not a socialist position, it is a position of supporting individual freedom).
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Of course the Maori Party did refuse to condemn Zimbabwe two years ago, refusing to back a Parliamentary resolution damning the regime - a position it has expunged Orwellian style from its website - and which tells you a lot about the racism that lies at the heart of those who founded the Maori Party. Solidarity with a despotic, kleptocratic murderer because he is African is vile, I hope Pita Sharples flies to Zimbabwe to go tell the starving, AIDS ridden, desperate Zimbabweans that it is a "bit of rough and tumble".
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As Phil Goff has said "Zimbabwe has been independent now for 25 years, and was the richest country in Southern Africa. It has been destroyed by incompetence, greed, corruption and authoritarianism to the extent that life expectancy has dropped from 61 to 33 years."
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The only point I'd add is why should we be surprised - and watch South Africa, it could very well be next.

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