By Chippla Vandu
Zimbabwe could rightly be viewed as a textbook case of all that could possibly go wrong when a freedom fighter mutates into a despot.
Not too long ago, Al Jazeera English television indicates that the Zimbabwean economy could expect to shrink by roughly 7.7% this year. Amidst the turmoil of political and economic uncertainty, Robert Mugabe sits tight in Harare clearing himself of any blame for what is currently going on.
Zimbabwe's economic decline began around the year 2000 — about the same period Mr. Mugabe decided that the time had come to implement a radical land redistribution program.
This program saw choice pieces of land seized from mainly Caucasian (white) farmers and handed over to people Mr. Mugabe considered Zimbabweans—in reference to the fact that several Caucasian Zimbabweans retained nationalistic links with Great Britain, which in the first place dispossessed indigenes of their land with the barrel of a gun.
European mainstream media reports at that time—and BBC reports in particular—stated that Mr. Mugabe handed land over to his cronies and people who knew next to nothing about farming. The BBC was declared persona non grata in Zimbabwe and expelled. Till this day, it remains unable to report from Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has always had sympathizers and admirers. Being a man who was highly instrumental in freeing Rhodesia—later to become Zimbabwe—from the clutches of white minority rule, his name, it appears, once resonated with freedom, hope and prosperity for the future. Indeed, for Zimbabwe flourished to a certain extent after Mugabe became president in 1980. Rather than hunt down or expel Ian Smith—the last Caucasian ruler of Rhodesia—Mugabe allowed him to retire peacefully in comfort.
This must have been the Mugabe of the past for power, it appears, has corrupted the Mugabe of the present. The evil trappings of power are made manifest when a leader ceases to rely on logic and facts, choosing instead to believe in vile illusions to perpetuate his stay in power. Mugabe did not cause Zimbabwe's prior ills. The minority white government did. By fostering racist policies and giving the best lands to Caucasians, it created its own homegrown apartheid, which future generations would have had to deal with in one way or another.
But as Nelson Mandela showed to the rest of the world, it is possible to right wrongs in such a way that practically all of society gets to benefit. The Mandelan doctrine, it appears, either failed to spread northwards to Zimbabwe or if it did, fell entirely on deaf ears. Land redistribution—from Caucasians to Afros (blacks)—went on not just in Zimbabwe but also in South Africa and Namibia. The latter two countries seem to have adopted much more reasonable approaches.
For those who still think that Robert Mugabe is a hero, think again. This writer has come across people in the past who have proudly stated that Mugabe is about the only African leader who has had the guts to face up to Tony Blair and other western leaders. It isn't Tony Blair or the British subjects he governs that are starving today or fleeing like refugees to South Africa and Mozambique. It isn't Tony Blair that is currently overseeing an economy that has been in continuous decline for the past seven years.
Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) may have naively relied on foreign support to win elections in Zimbabwe in the past or to forcefully remove Mugabe from office. Yet, when a 'democratically elected' government treats its opposition like scum (see this Al Jazeera English report), one must not only question its sincerity but also whose interest such a government represents.
Mugabe, it seems, couldn't give a damn about Zimbabweans. He is only interested in power. A one time hero, it appears, will in all likelihood be confined to the pages of history befitting of tyrants and malevolent dictators.
Yet the ultimate tragedy is this: why does Mugabe, in falling from grace to despondency, take the entire Zimbabwean nation down with him. Why?
Chippla Vandu is a writer and research scientist. He blogs as Chippla.
Please e-mail comments to email@example.com