"Frankly obscene," Australia's foreign minister said.
Australia's Stephen Smith was referring to Zimbabwean dictator Robert
Mugabe's appearance at a U.N. food conference earlier this month.
Yes, a dictator who uses starvation to scatter and kill his own people
making an appearance at an international conference devoted to raising food and
feeding the hungry is an obscenity -- though I add, without cynicism, that the
situation isn't all that unusual. Petty tyrants, terrorist enablers and tribal
killers cluster about the wine and cheese smorgasbords of international
community fetes and summits.
At these forums, they blame the United States for, well, virtually
anything and everything. Anti-Americanism -- or in Mugabe's case, a worn-out
'60s-style "anti-imperialist" pitch aimed at Great Britain -- provide media
camouflage for their hideous genocides and cruel depredations.
Mugabe, a classic Marxist rebel leader, plays this game quite well.
Toppling Southern Rhodesia's white dictatorship made him a cult hero. The
left-leaning internationalists gave Mugabe's mass murder in Zimbabwe's Matebele
land a pass. That brutal campaign of the early 1980s, conducted against his
former anti-colonial allies, included imported North Korean
But his obscenities are catching up with him.
His greatest obscenity is his war on his own impoverished nation.
Mugabe's tyranny has savaged Zimbabwe, making the country yet another tragic
example of a nation brutalized by its own government. Zimbabwe is blessed with
rich farmland and ought to be an agricultural breadbasket. It was, until
Mugabe's "land redistribution" and "farm policies" turned it into a starving
Once a major regional food producer, today a substantial number of
Zimbabweans go hungry or flee. Since 2000, an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans
have escaped to neighboring nations, with South Africa a preferred destination.
Zimbabwe's economy is a string of obscene numbers. In late 2007, the
Zimbabwean government said the annual inflation rate was 7,600 percent. The IMF
forecast predicted 100,000 percent. A 2008 estimate said 200,000 percent. These
statistical differences are meaningless -- the currency is a fraud, another form
of governmental theft.
In early 2008, Zimbabwe's estimated unemployment rate ran from 50 percent
to 80 percent. Whatever the number, Zimbabwe's once flourishing tourist industry
has all but disappeared. In 1999, 1.4 million tourists visited Zimbabwe. In
2007, only a handful came. Commercial agriculture jobs once boosted Zimbabwe's
economy. Since 2000, Zimbabwe has lost between 250,000 and 400,000 agricultural
Mugabe's latest trail of obscenities involves election theft, violent
intimidation and more murder. Under Mugabe, elections have been little more than
window dressing for his cult control of the nation. His use of the police,
military and loyal militias like the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans
Association has kept opponents intimidated and citizens terrorized.
However, his obscene economy and brutal arrogance has led to a loss of
grassroots support in his own once-plaint political organization, the ZANU-PF.
Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election confirmed this. Election
observers believe that if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, did not win the March vote outright, he came
close. The MDC claimed victory. Under any circumstances, Mugabe's electoral
window dressing fell, and with it fell the last media facade masking his
Mugabe has manufactured a run-off election, scheduled for June 27,
pitting him against Tsvangirai. The "war veterans" are out with their clubs and
knives. The MDC claims at least 40 of its supporters have been killed since
March 29. Moreover, they allege that Mugabe is plotting to assassinate
Tsvangirai. Mugabe's police have repeatedly detained and harassed
Nobel Prize winner former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has
called for international peacekeepers to ensure the elections are fair and safe.
It may not matter. This week, Mugabe said he will ignore the election results.
Yet the political heat on Mugabe is increasing -- primarily from Europe and the
United States. The real disappointment is South Africa President Thabo Mbeki.
Mbeki was supposed to help "mediate" Zimbabwe's political crisis, but his
mediation has been a biased farce in favor of
Why? "Old radical solidarity" is one possible reason. Mbeki's memories of
anti-colonial struggle produce a soft spot for Mugabe. Pray that it's blarney,
but this kind of embedded, selfish bitterness from the political past does scar
the present and damage the future. True or not, Mugabe continues to kill and
steal, with obscene impunity.