The following article appeared with the title “Mauritius: Saving a Nation and Averting Genocide”— it was so well written, I have nothing to add.
In January 2006 in an article entitled The hopeful continent, The Economist referred to a Gallup International Poll that indicated that Africans are the world’s staunchest optimists. Indeed post colonial African politics has undergone positive developments, which saw in certain parts of Africa a significant shift from single to multi party systems, the presence of opposition parties, the demise of political parties founded by military leaders as well as the introduction of a two-term presidential limit.
However these gains /advancements can easily be reversed, sending the continent and its people into the darkest of ages. In fact, the unfolding human tragedy in Zimbabwe and the recent traumatic post-election violence in Kenya bear witness to this.
polls with a strong expectation to change their destiny and that of their country. Instead the country has entered into deep political limbo which has seen a series of absurd / bizarre events ranging from the non release of the presidential results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the High Court’s outright rejection of the MDC’s petition to force ZEC to release the presidential election results and the decision of ZEC to accede to the demand of ZANU-PF to conduct a recount of the presidential, parliamentary, and local council votes from 23 constituencies!
Regular news feeds coming from Zimbabwe point to a country that is dangerously entering a point of no-return and, if allowed to go unchecked, may cause the genocide of a nation. The latest commando operation approved by Mugabe and his political cronies called Makavhoterapapi, a Shona word for ‘where did you put your cross?’ is profiling innocent Zimbabwean citizens who are being brutally mutilated and massacred. News of an ammunition cargo heading for Zimbabwe has accentuated the world’s concern and fear that Mugabe is gathering a war arsenal against his people.
This year marks 28 years that Mugabe ‘ruled’ Zimbabwe during which he took the country from glorious independence to absolute economic meltdown. Once known as the bread basket of Africa, Zimbabwe currently runs a whopping inflation rate of 165,000 percent (up from the 100,000 pre election rate), has 80 percent of its people unemployed, has one of the lowest life expectancy in the world – 37 years and has some 3 million of its people living in exile.
A decade of trauma and misery
One would expect that these are rather exaggerated figures popularized by western media in an attempt to vilify the Mugabe regime. Alas there is nothing more real than the daily brunt of the average Zimbabwean citizen who has to develop extraordinary survival techniques just to exist. Supermarkets and shops remain constantly empty and if ever one is able to get one’s hands on ordinary bread the price is too high for most Zimbabwean citizens to afford.
I was recently talking to a colleague who is a senior academic at the University of Zimbabwe and was shocked to hear that his monthly salary is just enough to fill half the tank of his car with gasoline and that is if you are lucky enough to get it. To deal with inflation the central bank has resorted to the printing of a 50 million Zim note and even contemplating of releasing a 100 million note in the near future!
The world has kept a close and constant eye on the Zimbabwe crisis and the question that has been on everyone’s lips is – how do we put a stop to the human carnage and free the Zimbabwean people? The West and especially Britain has been reprimanded for interfering into African matters and that it is up to Africa to find solutions to its problems. This no doubt is a fair argument which I strongly adhere to. Unfortunately no solution has yet been delivered except a quiet diplomacy approach of letting the electoral process follow its course!
Two summits (Lusaka and SADC Poverty & Development) have been missed opportunities to deal with the Zimbabwean crisis in a direct and firm manner. For those of us who were there, Zimbabwe’s state of anarchy and crisis was mentioned only by civil society, the Prime minister of Norway and the European Union Commissioner! In fact, it is quite mind-boggling to deal with the thematic of poverty and development in the SADC region and ‘diplomatically’ avoid referring to the Zimbabwean case.
It is imperative that SADC as a region bloc / community (if it wants to maintain its credibility as a relevant platform for people / countries of the region) takes an urgent stand on the Zimbabwe crisis. As Kofi Annan mentioned a couple of days ago “Where are the Africans? Where are the leaders and the countries in the region? What are they doing? It’s a crisis that will impact beyond Zimbabwe and we have a responsibility to find viable solution.”
Many observers believe that Mugabe has been tolerated for too long by his peers who have turned a lenient or at times a blind eye to his excessive and abusive behaviour. This can be partly explained by the prevailing African political culture where status, hierarchy and liberation solidarity forged during the battle for independence rank high and there is no doubt that Mugabe scores full marks in that register. Mugabe’s anti colonialism ranting against Britain has occasionally won him sympathy among other African leaders who found in him a convenient stick to use against the West.
However, patience and solidarity is wearing thin as the quiet diplomacy favoured by the region’s appointed mediator – President Mbeki is not really delivering concrete results. Mbeki’s political autism on the Zimbabwe crisis has been contrasted by the outright position taken by ANC’s leader – Jacob Zuma. However there seems to be a glimmer of hope with the stepping up of international pressure through the harsh condemnation of UN’s secretary general and other foreign leaders. This saw the African Union this week add its voice to the chorus of disapproval; its current chairman, the president of Tanzania, is pressing within the AU and the SADC for action.
The last decade has seen Zimbabwe and the majority of its people slip into a hell hole. At the moment all energies and efforts are concentrated on getting rid of someone who prides on calling himself the black Hitler, however it is imperative to reflect on the needs / requirements of a post-Mugabe era. A decade of trauma, misery and absolute dispossession should give way to prosperity, stability and dignity. The IMF has put aside a US $ 1 billion currency and stabilization fund and there are proposals around important infrastructure projects. Rebuilding and restructuring will also have to review the thorny issue of land reform and ensure that the people of Zimbabwe get their due.
Zimbabwe is a nation in peril and time is of the essence as on a daily basis we hear of horror stories where our brothers and sisters are being savagely exterminated. As Africans we have the moral responsibility to intervene to avoid the genocide of a nation otherwise we shall be held account for the killing of our own people!