Issue XVII: Rumble in Rhodesia

5 Jul

The first and only president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, cruised to an opponent-less win in the Zimbabwean presidential runoff. Despite beating the head in of his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, and ruining the economy with an inflation rate of one million percent, old man Mugabe will stay president for another term.

What’s the story behind the story?

The long Rhode
Rhodesia was a British colony named after Cecil Rhodes, the great British imperialist who carved up Africa for the glory of the Queen. As the OG of the blood diamond trade, Rhodes started up De Beers Mining Company with mines in South Africa. In his quest for more mining profits, he moved north into present-day Zimbabwe bringing British settlers to colonize the land. And, perhaps feeling bad about his dirty money, he gave the world the coveted Rhodes Scholarships.

Rhodesia, like South Africa until recently, was a racist apartheid state where a minority of white settlers owned all and governed all of the land. When the British government in the 1960s started pushing the colony towards democracy for all, Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence rather than follow instructions from the motherland.
Vowing that “not in a thousand years” would blacks rule Rhodesia, Ian Smith fought against the black majority and a guerrilla war against his government.

He lasted fifteen years. His main opponent? A certain Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party. Mugabe’s gang took over in 1980 when the new nation of Zimbabwe was born. Bob Marley played at the independence ceremony. Nice…. right?

Outstaying his welcome
Mugabe is a classic example of an independence hero and first president who stays around too long and forgets the classy exit after a term or two à la Washington or Mandela. With a grudge against the British, his veterans and he run the whites off their farmlands to redistribute the land to the black majority. I don’t disagree with land reform and redistribution, but in the process he depopulated the one population able to run large farming estates. Mugabe also still accuses anyone who opposes him of being traitors in league with the British settlers (most of whom have emigrated). Now even his lifelong supporters can’t get food to eat.

Now with a basketcase economy, international sanctions, and pariah status comes the presidential election of 2008. The Movement for Democratic Change ran Morgan Tsivangirai hoping to defeat Mugabe in the first round while Mugabe was still deluded that the people still loved him. Tsivangirai probably landslided Mugabe (who was caught off guard) and even despite all the votes his party stole (in the countryside where 80% of people live and Zanu-PF is strongest), Tsivangirai beat Mugabe 48% to 45%, with the rest going to another opponent. The opposition won a majority in Parliament for the first time.

The election results took days to announce, and Mugabe apparently decided to accept defeat but his generals told him to stay because they were afraid they would all go to jail for their crimes. Mugabe delayed the second round until he could beat up enough of the opposition and intimidate enough people that Morgan Tsivangirai quit the second round knowing the vote would be a joke. Mugabe won without an opponent.

And where were Africa’s leaders? The regional power, South Africa, sat on its hands during this multi-month crisis doing nothing. The always unimpressive, AIDS-denying President Thabo Mbeki never took charge on the issue and let it fester into this pathetic sham election while his political enemy Jacob Zuma showed much more foresight months ago. The African Union allowed Mugabe to attend their meeting this week.

Thabo Mbeki now says that “we need to move with speed” with Zimbabwe now. He wasn’t in a rush before. I guess he’s never spent one billion dollars for bread before.

Links
Washington PostAnonymous report of life in Zimbabwe
Guardian – Video of election stealing

  • Who is worst dictator you have never heard of? Slate.com has the answer.
  • One of the most repulsive creatures in American politics died, Jesse Helms. Jesse Helms, of North Carolina. He battled the gays, the women, the communists, and the liberals. We all owe a debt to him.
  • Unless you have been under a rock, you may have heard that the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that individuals have a right to bear arms in the first ruling on the Second Amendment since 1939. And if you were a privileged Bhatany Report reader, you would have known this case was coming because I mentioned it in November.
  • My favorite election blog has changed locations and is now at www.narconews.com/thefield
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