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Beast of the Month - April 2002
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe Prime Minister
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Last month, howls of outrage came from the West over the re-election of Robert Mugabe (The Konformist Beast of the Month) in Zimbabwe. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (and Foreign Minister Jack Straw) stated under no uncertain terms that the election was a farce and his government wouldn't be recognized: he also used thinly veiled threats to imply that other African nations would be economically punished if they didn't follow the Brits attempt at making Zimbabwe a pariah state. ("Either you are with us or you are against us.") Meanwhile, the chimp-in-chief chimed in, declaring without irony that, "We do not recognize the outcome of this election... We are dealing with our friends to figure out how to deal with this flawed election." (No word if James Baker would be sent in to settle the issue.)
As recent history would suggest, Western leaders hardly cares about legitimate elections. So what is really up here? In fact, though there was quite a bit of dubious election activity, the widespread margin of victory (54 percent to 40, or by 400,000 votes) appears to suggest that perhaps, minus all fraud in the voting, Mugabe did win the election in an honest vote after all. This is hardly a compliment, however, and indicates the sorry morass that the people of Zimbabwe are in.
After all, why would they rally in any sense over a man who has led their nation into a sorry economic decline? Why would they back a man whose actions against human rights before, during and after the election have earned widespread condemnation from Amnesty International? How could they look blindly as his supporters kidnapped trade union leaders and, after the election, charged his political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai with treason, for which Tsvangirai could be executed?
The answer comes in the form of Zimbabwe's recent history. Indeed, until 1980, the nation was named Rhodesia, after Cecil Rhodes, the diamond baron who lorded over the land in imperialist glee. The nation was a racist state, with white-only rule over the area. Only because it became a politically inexcusable situation did the situation change. Mugabe took over the leadership of the country twenty-two years ago, and, as a leader in the battle against the apartheid state, he was quite popular with the people.
He was also, not so incidentally, quite popular with the Western elite. After all, though he fought the Rhodesian government, he was staunchly anti-communist. And so, there was widespread support for his regime, albeit with some resentment for his leadership of rebellion.
The result? Mugabe has been in power for 22 years now, rule that Alex Burns of Disinformation characterized as loaded with "Nepotism, mismanagement, corruption, and increasingly brutal despotic leadership." Meanwhile, until recently, he reflectively followed the "advice" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The end result of such advice is quite predictable: an economy in ruin while Western powers plunder the vast natural resources of the land from the Zimbabwe people.
Mugabe could get away with it for 20 years, but in early 2000, the piper was calling. The people began demanding some legitimate reforms, starting with the grossly unfair distribution of land in the nation. One percent of Zimbabwe's population owns over sixty percent of the land. The land distribution in the country is not only inequitable, but also racist, with ownership controlled by the white minority.
How did Mugabe react to such protests of his economic policies? Like any cynical politician of recent times (such as Austria's Joerg Haider or California's Pete Wilson) in the most ruthlessly exploitative and inflammatory manner, all to inspire class and racial divisions. He implemented edicts of supposed "land reform" which stole land from white farmers without due process or fair compensation. In places where the farmers would resist his plans, thuggish gangs (inspired by Mugabe's demagoguery) would invade the lands, often killing farmers and others. The end result: an economy still in chaos, and a system of land ownership that is still unjust but exploited for maximum political effect.
The irony, of course, is that if the people of Zimbabwe have anyone to be outraged about, it is Mugabe, who had run the country's unjust land system for twenty years. Yes, he inherited it, but for two decades he did nothing about it, only resorting to a frenzied political solution in an act of desperation.
The UK (and, to a lesser degree, the US) elite has not been pleased with the increasing resistance of Mugabe to their plans for the supposedly former colony. They also may be licking their chops at taking a more active role in African affairs, using the failure of Mugabe as a way to subliminally state, "See, these Africans can't run themselves: they need us good white people to do it." (As offensive as this sounds, such propositions were floated during the Somalia "peace-keeping" disaster from the neo-liberal set.) The attacks of Mugabe in British papers have been fairly unrelenting. Mugabe has only used this to his political advantage, declaring himself a victim of a white-British-homosexual conspiracy. (Mugabe, a master political cynic, has also scapegoat gays in his attempt to evade personal responsibility for his leadership.)
How will this all end? Probably not well: Mugabe's days are probably limited, and by all appearances of his eagerness to exploit social divisions, he will only be forced out with massive bloodshed. Meanwhile, even if he is replaced, it doesn't look too promising: after all, his only viable political opponent (Tsvangirai) is widely viewed as tool for the IMF (and based on his recommendations, rightfully so.) Perhaps that is the worst thing of all about the Mugabe regime: that it sadly may be the best thing that most people from Zimbabwe can really expect to serve them.
In any case, we salute Robert Mugabe as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Bob!!!
African Dislocation: Flashpoint in Zimbabwe
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