Skip to content

Mugabe’s Folly

March 22, 2010

I think I need a little help from my literary friends here.  I am sure there is some great masterpiece, probably a Shakespeare play, which would aptly describe the folly of a man such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  A story that tells of a man so consumed with a past injustice that all his decisions are born from desires of retribution, even if this means destroying himself and the very thing that he thought he was fighting for.  Zimbabwe’s condition is dire and its president may have just put the death knell in any hopes of progress for the near future.  Mugabe has championed the new Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Regulation which dictates that within five years businesses must be at least 51% owned by “indigenous Zimbabweans”.

Now I understand why Mugabe is often revered by those who live, or have lived, in previously colonized nations.  He literally fought for the independence of his country from an oppressive occupying government and won.  As a British colony a white minority group prospered and had held sway over national decisions with their own interests in mind rather than those of the black Zimbabweans.  The ascension of Mugabe to President signaled the end of an era and the beginning of a hopeful future.  He brandished a fiery rhetoric and castigating the white colonizers and their allies.  He became a hero to his struggling black countrymen. 

Until today he is often continued to be seen in this manner.  Even in the light of his record of brutalizing enemies and leading his country into economic and political disaster, I remember debating with a classmate in Tanzania whether or not he has created progress in Africa.  My colleague offered that Mugabe was successful in “developing” Zimbabwe because he was protecting his people from continued exploitation by the West and put the country into the hands of Africans as it should rightly be.  I ventured that it was probably little consolation to the majority of Zimbabweans, whose lives seemed to be measurably deteriorating, as to what the color of their leaders’ skin was.  Only a fool would be proud to gain the captain’s position of a sinking ship. 

It is a powerful narrative that Mugabe exists within.  It is a not uncommon story and it is transferable.  It tells of oppressed peoples fighting for their freedom.  Our nation began with a similar story.  The narrative is imbued with various racial, religious and political conflicts depending on the context and makes clear dichotomy between who is good and who is bad.  Mugabe was a freedom fighter and he won, the only problem is the curtain did close.  There was no sunset to ride into.  The business of governing his country is obviously something he lacks the ability and ethics to do in a competent manner.

I too believe that Africans should be governed by Africans, but I also believe we need to rid ourselves of the mythology surrounding many of the leaders who have led the fight to accomplish this goal.  Most who read my blog probably think this is a moot point.  That no one in their right mind would support the likes of Mugabe.  I would beg to differ.  I would say that many people in developing countries, if not support, are at least sympathetic to leaders like Mugabe, Chavez and Ahmadinejad on an emotional and/or political level.  My very Christian room mate in Tanzania had Osama Bin Laden as the screensaver on his phone.  I don’t think he supported terrorism, he just saw the story of a man who is willing to fight the power.

I do not know the personal history of Robert Mugabe, and he may have at one time actually cared for and acted in accordance of the well-being of the citizens of Zimbabwe, but it is clear this is no longer the case.  Zimbabwe’s economy was formerly built on the back of a strong agricultural sector.  A small amount of white owners controlled and benefitted from owning a majority of arable land in Zimbabwe.    In 2000 Mugabe began his redistribution of white commercial farmers land to black Zimbabwean farmers with disastrous results.  It was executed poorly, with a feeling of lawlessness and was instrumental in an economic decline that has little signs of stopping in consideration of current events.  The two graphs below do not even show the worst of the two indicators as data for the last 5 years wasn’t available in the World Bank Quick Query database.  One article said inflation had reached 231,000,000% last year!

Zimbabwe Graphs

So, despite the fact of

  • The failure of the arable land redistribution.
  • The rise of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai whose supporters were threatened and killed by the ZANU-PF party and Mugabe gained less votes in the elections.
  • A blatant disregard for the unity government formed with Morgan Tsvangirai which is Zimbabwe’s only hope at attracting foreign aid and investors.
  • Sanctions.

Robert Mugabe has decided that pushing a law requiring all “foreign” owned companies to sell 51% of their business to Zimbabweans is the progress that his country needs.  First I do not see how this will help the poor of Zimbabwe.  The poor of Zimbabwe can not afford to buy a business.  This is going to help the powerful black elite of Zimbabwe of which Robert Mugabe is the ring leader, but you shouldn’t listen to me discuss the law, you should check out this enlightening discussion of four Zimbabweans.  Robert Mugabe is a powerful man with an understanding of the power of narrative and the ability to employ the politics of race to enrich himself and his friends.  Mugabe utilizes the rhetoric of a man fighting oppression while he oppresses his own people.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: