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The Death of Zimbabwe

March 31st, 2008 - 5:15 pm

Among the many miseries of life, few match the horror of Zimbabwe. Ruled by a crackpot kleptocrat who covers his oppression with anti-colonial and often racist rhetoric, this once wonderful country is up to its nostrils in the muck of doom. Once upon a time I spent more than a week there, with tobacco farmers who were being driven off their land so that friends and relatives of the tyrant could move in. These good farmers had created a wonderful program to train young blacks, and then give them land, once they had mastered the business. Both the farmers and their young proteges have been wiped out; the farmers have scattered as far away as Tasmania, God only knows what has happened to the poor kids.

Here follows a first-hand report from inside the Hell that is Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Here and there, the “Western World” clicks its tongue, but does nothing more. If the West were worthy of its name, it would have–long since–supported the suffering people of Zimbabwe, whose entrepreneurial and artistic energies are legendary. But no. In part because of post-colonial guilt, in part because of the fear of being accused of racism, in part because the West has lost its vocation to support freedom, nothing happens. Just as nothing happens in Darfur, and nothing happens in Iran. Until the muck starts sucking us down, we will say to ourselves, “it’s their problem, after all, who are we to tell them what to do?” and we will intone, “let diplomacy handle it.”

Now they’ve held “elections.” It sure looked bad for Mugabe. But now the “official” numbers are coming in, and guess what? He looks to be the winner after all.

So here’s the report. I’ve removed the author’s name, and the name of a person who sent an email to my friend. Read it and weep:

Yesterday¹s optimism was, of course, uncalled for.

Early this morning, the election commission began announcing the results of
the contest for House of Assembly in the most excruciating bit of television
I¹ve ever seen. With puerile graphics behind them, three members of the
commission face the camera looking grave. One at a time, in English, Shona
and Ndebele, they read the results, district by district, often mangling the
pronunciation of candidates¹ names and stumbling over the figures. Going
through ten, in English alone, took 30 minutes. By 9 p.m. tonight,
interrupted by cartoons and West African soaps, they had completed about 60
out of 210 Assembly constituencies and 60 Senate seats.

For most of the day, the MDC and ZANU-PF seemed to be tied after every round
of announcements, as if they were reading the results to keep an even score
and create dramatic tension. Tonight¹s results put the MDC slightly ahead,
but is that yet another ploy, a twist in Act II that will be resolved by a
change in Act III?

Who knows? All that is clear is that the official results are markedly
different from the tabulations done by non-government observers who went to
all the polling places and added up what was posted outside.

Even more alarming is that when you listen carefully to these ³official²
results, you realize that almost everywhere ZANU takes a seat, they win by a
HUGE margin ­ of thousands of voters – while the MDC usually squeaks through
by the hundreds. Since it¹s obvious that a vote for a ZANU parliamentarian
is a vote for Mugabe, it is growing increasingly clear that Mugabe will be
the official winner.

People here in the heart of opposition territory are stunned and dismayed.
³Am slowly losing hope,² my friend…wrote in a text message about three
hours ago. ³We are doomed. That¹s the end of this once beautiful country.²

But the streets are utterly calm and there has been no call to arms by the
opposition leadership. In fact, rumor has it that the leader of the
opposition isn¹t even in the country.

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