Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe

The living standards of the Zimbabweans have plummeted as the country’s gross domestic product has shrunk by more than 40 percent in the past five years, so the mainstream media tells us.

To attribute this state of affairs solely on the Mugabe presidency without talking about external forces that contributed to the plunge of the living standards of Zimbabweans is intellectually dishonest. The introduction of structural adjustment in that country in the early 1990s can be seen as THE process which eroded the living standards of Zimbabweans. It is the introduction of structural adjustment in that country that facilitated the increase of illegal settlements that Mugabe has been tyrannically demolishing in the past weeks.

President Mugabe terms this demolition of informal settlements: “Operation drive out dirt”, and promises to build 2 million homes by 2010 to replace the informal settlements – a promise economists say he cannot afford. The main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has been reported as saying the campaign is aimed at breaking up its stronghold among the urban poor and forcing its supporters into rural areas, where Mugabe’s Zanu-PF dominates.

The South African government stance of “Quiet Diplomacy” towards Zimbabwe has been criticized as ineffective, nationally and internationally. Calls for South to intervene have increased.

Strangely, no one is making any strong demands that the African Union (AU) should intervene in Zimbabwe. If anyone has a right to intervene in that country, it should be the AU, not South Africa. We do not need an imitation of the US that goes around playing policeman and telling sovereign states what changes they should implement in their own countries. It is to guard against such moves that we have structures like the AU and the South African Development Community (SADC).

Robert Mugabe is a dictator, no doubt, and he rules by an iron fist, and has even stated in public that he intends to rule until he is 100. As for the opposition, MDC, because of the donations and funds it has received from overseas — particularly from countries like the UK and US, it has been accused of being agents of foreign powers, who are bent on fomenting discord and trying to reverse the gains of the liberation war.

The fact that the MDC is pushing for the neo-liberal agenda has not help improve its image. And its vagueness as to how to deal with land reforms in Zimbabwe does not advance its cause.

In the last elections, which were held two months ago, the MDC did not do so well. The disputed elections gave President Mugabe a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The MDC is challenging the election results in the new electoral court on the basis of compelling evidence of massive vote-rigging, according to The Sunday Independent.

Political commentators compare Mugabe to Pol Pot, and the Amnesty International claims that: “The people of Zimbabwe are being sold out – in the interest of a false ‘African Solidarity’.” Tony Blair has repeatedly called for Mugabe’s resignation, and in 2002 Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth.

In a surprising move, last month, Britain suddenly ended the two-year moratorium on returning asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. Now, the question is: “If Mugabe’s government is as bad as the [British] Foreign Office claims, why is the [British] Home Affairs sending failed asylum claimants back to Zimbabwe?”

As much as I think the Zimbabwe situation is serious, but I also believe that there are other conflict-ridden areas on the continent that urgently and desperately need the attention Zimbabwe is getting. Places like the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Eritrea come to mind.


My name is Mandisi Majavu, am joining up forces with with Justin Podur. I’m based in South Africa, Durban; and predictably my blog will focus mainly on African politics. As a philosophy student, I like to practise my philosophical skills from time to time, and so tend to ramble about nothing. So please bear with me.

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