By Gershom Ndhlovu
It is good for a poor Third World country standing up to the European Union and telling its leaders to stuff it, but to do so by closing ranks with the tyrannical Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe is surely something else. By doing so, Southern African Development Community SADC) leaders, and their chairman Dr Levy Mwanawasa in the forefront, are helping strangle that country’s millions of citizens who have to scrape a living.
The octogenarian leader of Zimbabwe is not any different from the Burmese ruler who is brutalising the people who are protesting against the military rulers. It is painful to see TV footage of Zimbabweans swimming across the crocodile-infested Limpopo, jumping electric fences into South Africa and facing police and civilian vigilantes who chase them like dogs across fields as they escape from the hunger and oppression unleashed by Mugabe’s regime.
Stories abound of how the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe buys foreign exchange on the parallel markets at very high rates which is then sold to Mugabe’s lackeys at the so-called official rate to enable them go shopping and send their children to school abroad and, basically, globe-trot when the people can’t even afford a plate of sadza on a daily basis.
Once a proud people, Zimbabweans have to daily trek across the border post between their country and Botswana at Ramokwebana and at Victoria Falls into Zambia, for menial jobs for a pittance, if only they can go back with a loaf of bread or a “Pamela” for their families.
In the face of all this, Mugabe’s top lieutenants can afford to charter whole Zimbabwe Airways planes to ferry guests to weddings and similar jaunts and when they do so, the fly the planes themselves.
What is going on in Zimbabwe is not any different from what is happening in Darfur in Sudan except that there it is the case of the Muslim Arab ruling class trying to annihilate the Christian and other non-Muslim Blacks and yet the African leaders acknowledge the existence of a problem there and are willing to send peace-keepers to that part of the continent.
Mugabe can stand on the UN lectern and accuse US president George Bush of having blood on his hands, but what about the blood of Zimbabweans oozing out of his own hands? What about the blood of the Zimbabweans whose bodies are encased in concrete and dumped in Lake Kariba by his notorious Central Intelligence Organisation for mere political dissension?
It is not that SADC leaders in particular and African leaders in general, and more so South African President Mbeki who prefers the so-called quiet diplomacy, are not aware about what is truly going on in the land of the Monomatapa.
Is this what Mbuya Nehanda fought for, is this what Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Parirenyatwa and all the bombing victims of the rebel Rhodesian regime died for at Chikumbi, Kavalamanja and elsewhere?
I don’t think so. If anything, I think all these people must be turning in their graves to think about what is going on in that country.
For a long time, African leaders through their club, the Organisation of African Unity tolerated coups and counter-coups; today the African Union tolerates tyrants like Mugabe and murderers like Sudan’s President Bashir and want to show us they are brave by challenging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has threatened to boycott the forthcoming EU/AU summit.
When things get worse in Zimbabwe, as they are bound to, the same leaders will turn round to accuse the West of letting the situation get out of hand like what happened during the Rwandan genocide over a decade ago and on Darfur now.
Going by Mugabe’s recalcitrance at the UN just over a week ago, no amount of dialogue will work with the old rag. He just needs to be strangled by economic sanctions that finished off his predecessor Ian Smith, until he wizens further.