Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Why Zimbabwe’s problems are our own

The country of Zimbabwe is currently undergoing one of the worst economic and political swings the world has ever seen. Now, just add the topping of encumbering the world’s highest rate of AIDS and you’ve got a sure recipe for destruction. Worst of all, how Zimbabwe deals with this predicament will gravely affect our future.

Zimbabwe currently has the highest inflation rate in the world at an unfathomable 7,638 percent. Let’s put this into perspective and say this degree of hyperinflation was to happen in the United States. If you earned $40,000 a year, only about five of those dollars would be backed by tangible value, such as gold. In other words, the other $39,995 would be worthless. Many economists even say that this so-called official data is not reliable. Some estimate the actual inflation rate to be at least twofold that which was reported. The next highest inflation rate in the world is Burma at 40 percent.

Zimbabwe also has the world’s highest rate of AIDS per capita hovering at around 17 percent. More than 2.2 million Zimbabwean men, women and children have contracted the disease and surely many more are to follow. This does not even account for how many people have HIV. That figure is around 5.5 million.

To make matters worse, over 80 percent of Zimbabweans live under the poverty line. In U.S. dollars, these people make less than $35 per month. This matches an equally startling unemployment rate of 80 percent, which hasn’t ceded since the early 1990s.

Human rights are to Zimbabwe what Michael Vick is to animal rights. The only difference is that Michael Vick has admitted his wrongdoing, apologized incessantly to the animal rights community and the nation as a whole and plans to serve his time. President Robert Mugabe has done none of the above. Not even close. In fact, he has done the nearly the opposite by exacerbating the already perilous inhumanities going on in Zimbabwe. One third of Zimbabweans depend on the foodstuffs provided by the World Food Programme. Mugabe has seized thousands of acres of land from his own citizens because of either political or supercilious military motives. There is essentially no freedom of speech or freedom of assembly under the Mugabe regime. And I use “essentially” only because the Zimbabwe government is “officially” democratic. Blasphemous indeed.

Zimbabwe’s political turmoil is no less unsettling. Since 1980, Mugabe, a guerrilla leader in his prime, has run this country into the ground. Mugabe, the 80-something effective dictator, has corrupted the government to no end. He has won so-called presidential elections in 1990, ’96 and ’02, all of which were more than highly suspect to fixing. Gerrymandering, threats of starvation and fraudulent or selective voter-registration have all accompanied Mugabe en route to establishing interminable gubernatorial power for his party. Now, as Mugabe is ripe in old age and on the brink of aggravating health many look to whom he will name as his successor. Under parliamentary rules, an election must take place. The election is slated for 2008, but who knows whether it will take place at all?

Now, why does this all matter? To put it bluntly, Zimbabwe’s future has ostensible regional implications. Zimbabwe’s main export and import trade partner is South Africa at 33 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Thus, as they say back in my native state of Alaska, “they are tied together like a woven hat.” South Africa, which has undergone unprecedented economic growth and social reform since the days of the apartheid: much of which can be attributed to the leadership of Nelson Mandela: is still in a relatively volatile state compared to fellow first-world countries. If tipped enough, South Africa can fall into a recession, leading back to the old ways of segregationist ideology and government suppression. Like in many African countries, democracy is conditional to their borders. That is, democratic countries only survive when their neighboring countries follow suit. The presence of countries like Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable countries both politically and economically, can only help the cause. However, unlike Zimbabwe, Botswana and the like are not tied so snugly to South Africa.

It is imperative that during the next 18 months, we resolve to refurbish what is left of Zimbabwe when Mugabe leaves office. Currently, South African President Thabo Mbeki is doing more than his fair share of work, mediating talks between the Mugabe regime, officially the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, and their opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change. As early as last week, he even made headway between the two sides as they agreed to hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections next year and Mugabe agreed to surrender his power to appoint 10 crucial legislators to Parliament. This is progress. But along with the South African Development Community and the African Union, we need to ensure that these elections are to be held justly. Without a lasting constitutional democracy in Zimbabwe, the whole region could be in jeopardy of losing their respective democracies. And without Africa, we are but a useless nation.

View Comments (4)
More to Discover

Comments (4)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    cooking kids classesJul 26, 2008 at 5:02 am

    va classes cooking cooking virginia classes

  • W

    WeteverJun 26, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    The whole reaction from the West lead by UK stinks. There are so many countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world with dictators and with populations suffering untold and worse misery. The UK and West are hardly bothered. It would be best for the West to focus on it’s own unethical behavior related to over consumption and short sighted socio-economic, environmental and political policy.

    The real reason for all the ‘concern’ is that the minority white community (2%) who ‘owned'(i.e. siezed) over 90% of the land have incredible influence in the West (there is a huge White community in the UK who immigrated from Zimbabwe with buckets of cash) and have used it to try to get rid of the man who redistributed land in Zimbabwe. Same situation to the American Cubans who presided over a profoundly unjust system in Pre-Castro Cuba. They do all the can to distort the debate about Cuba in Florida and in the US in general so they can get back to power and steal and lead a profoundly unjust system based on abuse and exploitation of the majority.

    How many dictatorships allow elections like Mugabe did? There are a lot worse dictatorships that would not dream of doing this ex. China, Burma, Iraq under Hussein and 10s more. You never hear of them do you? That is because they have no embittered White community that has been dispossessed of unethically and illegally aquired land.

    If the West is so concerned about the ‘suffering’ of the Black majority in Zimbabwe why the sanctions? There are not hurting Mugabe but rather the common man on the street there. Shame on the West and Western media. The entire reaction stinks of racism and deep dishonesty.

  • Y

    yoMar 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Okay todd kidd, you need to get your facts straight. Sure the British regime was horrible, but Mugabe is a corrupt dictator whose agenda is very different from doing what’s best for his country. Mugabe singlehandedly destroyed the foundations for stability and wealth that were set in Zimbabwe. And i’m black too so don’t try and play the racist card with anyone who disagree’s with you. Saying that Mugabe needs to go is truth, not racism.

  • T

    todd kiddOct 6, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Mr. Becquer Medak-Seguin:

    You are part of a British plot to overthrow the legitimate government of Zimbabwe. Black people took back the land that whites stole from them doing colonialism. The British are mad that whites who comprised less than 1% of the population no longer own 88% of the land. Black people world wide admire and respect Mugabe. Black American.