Friday, January 02, 2009

The Zimbabwe Dilemma

When it all looked like there was going to be peace at last in Zimbabwe with the power-sharing agreement, there seems to be far more crisis there than was ever imagined. For long now, the Zimbabwe crisis has generated diverse reactions from across the world. What is not debatable, however, and should not be further politicised is the critical condition of that nation’s socio-economic and political life, now accentuated by the cholera outbreak that has claimed over 1000 persons.
But how did a country that was once the continent’s beacon of hope degenerate to this level of ruin? Some analysts have fingered the West for what they see as its interference in the internal affairs of the Southern African country, particularly its perceived partisanship in the wake of the Zimbabwean government’s land reforms aimed at redistributing arable land in favour of blacks. Others have put the blame for the nightmare in Zimbabwe squarely on its president of 28 years, Robert Mugabe, under whose watch his country has witnessed a blatant abuse of power and human rights.
In addition to that ignoble profile, Mugabe has the unfortunate record of taking Zimbabwe to enviable heights and in a twist presiding over its descent into despondency and corporate failure. Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the country had the shortest life expectancy of 37 years for men and 34 years for women; and at 25 per cent, the one with the highest percentage of orphans in the world. With inflation running into millions in percentage, life there is grinding to a halt.
This sad situation must not be allowed to go on unchecked. And since the tragedy is directly related to the nation’s turbulent political run, that aspect should be resolved to pave way for a permanent solution. The closest Zimbabwe came to peace in recent times was when Morgan Tsvangirai, Presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe’s arch rival, who won the first round of voting in the last presidential elections but refused to take part in the run-off for alleged intimidation, accepted the power - sharing formula brokered by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, three months ago. Sadly, that opportunity has been squandered as the anti- Mugabe elements constantly accuse the country’s strongman of insincerity in executing the spirit and letter of that agreement.
It is indeed worrisome that Mugabe himself has not done much to allay the fears about his design to perpetuate his tenure. The other day at his ZANU PF annual conference, after berating his adversaries and insinuating that African countries lacked the bravery to topple him, he declared with an air of triumph: “ Zimbabwe is mine.”! That is hardly an honorable response of a statesman to the dire need for the emancipation of his people bugged down by every imaginable woe.
Agreed, the West has erred in reneging on its promise to fund the contentious land reforms way back in 2000 and has instead waged concerted attacks on the person of Mugabe. Admitted also that its sanctions against that country have harmed ordinary Zimbabweans more than the ruling elite. An urgent reversal, at least for humanitarian reasons, has now become morally pertinent.
As for Mugabe, the signs are clear enough. At 84 years of age and having ruled his country for three decades, he cannot claim monopoly of wisdom in the leadership of his country. Zimbabwe can clearly not survive under the shadow of their leader’s past glories. So, he should step down now. He should not seek solace in the stand of people like the South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe, on this matter. In reacting to calls for Mugabe’s exit, Mothlanthe argued that, “I don’t know if the British feel qualified to impose their will on the people of Zimbabwe , but we feel that we should support and take our cue from what they (Zimbabweans) want. It is our wish that an inclusive government be established as soon as yesterday…”
While we respect the sovereignty nations and their right to determine of their destinies, no ruler should mismanage his country’s chances of recovery and expect the rest of the world to fold its arms. After all, Zimbabwe ’s despicable political and economic credentials and the woeful state of its citizenry transcend narrow and sentimental considerations. The human family should save it while it can. And Mugabe or any other principality must not be permitted to be a hinderance