The tragedy of Zimbabwe

Susan Windybank

13 October 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

SW zimbabwe victoria fallsZimbabwe goes to the polls next year with political in-fighting over who will succeed aging despot Robert Mugabe adding to the problems of an economy in freefall (again) and increasing hardship among ordinary people.

These factors are now combining to create a ‘perfect storm’ that could erupt as the country enters a dangerous period in its history — according to Zimbabwean senator David Coltart in an interview with Robert Forsyth in the Spring issue of Policy.

Coltart is the author of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe, a detailed and at times harrowing account of the struggle to achieve democratic change in his beloved country. Reviewed by Forsyth in the preceding Winter issue, the book serves at the very least “as a warning of the terrible damage bad government can to do a country.”

To take just one telling statistic as a case in point: Mugabe turns 94 years old next year, yet he presides over a country where the average life expectancy is 55 years — one of the lowest in the world and lower than when he took power 37 years ago.

When he became leader at independence in 1980, he inherited the ‘jewel of Africa’ — a prosperous country with good infrastructure, abundant natural resources, a benign climate and fertile farmland.  That jewel now lies in ruins, as has been well-documented elsewhere.

Mugabe never dismantled the instruments of repression and control put in place by the white regime he replaced. Instead he has ruled with an even greater iron fist, becoming a black Ian Smith in the process. A report in The Atlantic Monthly entitled ‘How to Kill a Country’ noted back in 2003:

Although Zimbabwe is as broken as any country on the planet, it offers a testament not to some inherent African inability to govern but to a minority rule as oppressive and inconsiderate of the welfare of citizens as its ignominious white predecessor.

Or as Coltart notes in his book: “Rhodes begat Smith and Smith begat Mugabe.”

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