At 89 Mugabe is not immortal
by Stephen Glover
So William Hague has ‘grave concerns’ about Zimbabwe’s grotesquely rigged elections.
Instead of expressing his anxieties, the Foreign Secretary could offer the Zimbabwean people a heartfelt apology on behalf of the British Government for inflicting Robert Mugabe on them in the first place, and then standing aside as he pillaged his country, murdered his enemies and ruined the economy.
What has happened in Zimbabwe is to Britain’s eternal shame. When the Foreign Office handed power to him after the 1980 Lancaster House Agreement, its mandarins muttered that Mugabe was probably a decent chap. So decent that within years he had massacred thousands of Matabele supporters of his arch-rival, Joshua Nkomo.
Having eliminated his black supposed enemies, he largely left alone Zimbabwe’s white farmers until the late 1990s, when he started to confiscate their farms. Africa’s most plentiful country, once a large exporter of wheat and tobacco, soon became a basket-case. Many died of malnutrition.
As the size of the economy halved, Mugabe’s henchmen began printing money on a scale that made Germany’s Weimar Republic look amateur. By the summer of 2008, inflation had reached 231,000,000 per cent. A hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollar note was being printed when the currency finally collapsed. Throughout the illegal seizure of farms, hyper-inflation and murders of Mugabe’s opponents, the Blair Government merely watched. By contrast, it was prepared to intervene in our former colony of Sierra Leone, for which Britain has less moral responsibility. It keenly joined American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Such modest economic recovery as there has been recently in Zimbabwe owes nothing to Britain. In 2009, Mugabe was forced into an uneasy coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – the party he has just stitched up in the elections by blatant vote-rigging and intimidation. Less lunatic economic policies were introduced.
At the same time, the Chinese, with their inexhaustible hunger for minerals, have been moving into Zimbabwe. Gold, diamond and nickel mines are being developed. Members of Mugabe’s regime have been enriched, and there has been a small ‘trickle down’ of new wealth to ordinary people.
Having ‘won’ 61 per cent of the vote to Tsvangirai’s 34 per cent, Mugabe will probably change the constitution to give himself and his twisted regime all the powers he wants. The MDC will be written out of the political process.
In practical terms, there is little Britain or any other western nation can do, other than to maintain sanctions preventing Mugabe and his cronies from travelling to Europe and the United States.
China, which has no interest in democracy, is the foreign power calling the shots in Zimbabwe. As elsewhere in Africa, its only concern is that there should be a strong regime with which it can do business.
Meanwhile, to their enormous discredit, most other African governments are eager to pat Mugabe on the back, implausibly claiming on the basis of reports from a small number of their own election observers that the election was fair.
Yet the Zimbabwean Election Support Network, with 7,000 observers on the spot, says that up to one million people were unable to cast their ballots, mainly in urban areas regarded as MDC strongholds.
Most demeaning of all has been the response of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, who has extended his ‘profound congratulations’ to Mugabe following ‘successful, harmonised elections’.
There may be little that Britain can do, but William Hague should at least speak like a decent human being appalled by the activities of a man who was put into power by a British government, and has caused so much suffering to a once bountiful country.
Most whites have long since left Zimbabwe. They have a long list of justifiable grievances against successive British governments. But so, too, do millions of blacks who remain in the country, or have been driven out of it. Their lives have been blighted.
This 89-year-old self-serving tyrant, who oddly calls himself a Catholic, is not immortal. The only hope for Zimbabwe is that, where Britain and everyone else have failed, his maker will finally take action.
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