Africa Watch

Mugabe lectures the world as pressure mounts

Mugabe lecturing the world
Mugabe.jpg

At his recent appearances at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and at the United Nations (UN), President Mugabe decided to lecture the world, while back in Zimbabwe his discredited government is coming under increasing pressure.

On his most recent globetrotting trip, which included an appearance at the 17th summit of the NAM and the 71st UN General Assembly meeting, President Mugabe decided it was appropriate to lecture the world – notwithstanding the fact that Zimbabwe is, as a result of his misrule, a country sliding into ruins.

Swansong

In what was probably his swansong appearance at the UN, Mugabe as usual, did not shy away from sharing his hypocritical opinion and accusing some states, and particularly the West, of fuelling the refugee crisis worldwide for selfish interests. He conveniently, or deliberately, ignored the fact that in his own country, as a result of his own selfish interests, millions of Zimbabweans are forced to seek refuge elsewhere.

Millions of Zimbabweans are living under arduous circumstances in other countries and are too scared to return home to face an uncertain future under his government’s rule. Only recently three Zimbabweans died in a disused gold mine in Johannesburg while desperately trying to eke out a living.

One newspaper in Zimbabwe, critical of the Mugabe government, commenting on Mugabe’s UN speech, wrote: “He therefore does not have the moral authority to lecture anybody on conflict resolution or anything for that matter. It is astounding that despite the chaos in the country he has the audacity to stand on an international platform and accuse others of fuelling the refugee crisis.

“President Mugabe has lived up to become one of the biggest hypocrites of our times. Given his manifest failures, we expect a bit of humility from Mugabe instead of his chosen route of hypocrisy and arrogance.”

The UN ‘lecture’ was, in essence, a repeat of remarks he made at the NAM summit a couple of days earlier in Venezuela, another disintegrating country once touted by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema as the utopia South Africa needs to emulate.

Similarities

The similarities between Zimbabwe and Venezuela are striking:

  • Like Zimbabwe, Venezuela is unable to pay its bills and also prints worthless money. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that Venezuela’s 2016 inflation will reach 720% and 2200% next year – figures Zimbabweans are familiar with;
  • Both countries have suffered under charismatic revolutionary leaders, Mugabe being the only leader Zimbabweans have known since independence in 1980, while Hugo Chávez ruled Venezuela from 1998 until his death in 2013;
  • Mugabe seized big commercial farms without compensation, wrecking Zimbabwe’s largest industry, agriculture, and embarked on an ‘indigenisation’ policy in 2008, requiring all Zimbabwean businesses to be majority-owned by Zimbabweans. It is now destroying the entire business infrastructure in the country. In Venezuela Chávez likewise expropriated businesses on a whim, sometimes live on television, ruining the economy;
  • Both leaders have rigged elections and used thugs to intimidate the opposition. Mugabe’s use of so-called ‘war veterans’ is well known, while Chávez recruited gangs from the slums, known as colectivos, to terrorise his rivals, and both blamed an economic war by foes and “imperialists” as one of the reasons why their economies are in dire straits;
  • In both, basic commodities are regularly unobtainable, with a proliferation of black-market basic goods, high levels of inflation and government efforts to control prices, with little effect. In an ironic twist Zimbabwe never ran out of toilet paper, but in Venezuela it has become a scarce commodity, so much so that Trinidad and Tobago derisively offered Venezuela a tissue-for-oil barter deal;
  • As a result of gross economic mismanagement, Venezuela, like Zimbabwe, has been rocked by protests, but while ordinary people suffer, government officials continue to live the good life, wining and dining; and
  • Government response to the protests in both countries is also similar. The police and security personnel are sent in to brutally crush demonstrations.

Fascist state

While Mugabe was lecturing the world, his police and security forces were reportedly using live ammunition on their demonstrating compatriots. The country, in the words of one opposition leader, has become a fascist state, but after years of abuse, intimidation and coercion the people of Zimbabwe are standing up against state tyranny. They had suffered enough and desperation has helped them shed their fear.   

In a country where it is an offence to poke fun at the president, and insulting Mugabe could result in a year in prison, comedians and ordinary citizens using social media are increasingly making fun of Mugabe.

Zimbabweans have also taken their protests overseas and are increasingly lobbying international financial institutions. In a show of defiance Zimbabwean activists and opposition parties have used Mugabe’s presence at the UN to hold demonstrations in New York to bring international attention to government corruption, police brutality and injustice in Zimbabwe.

At the same time a petition was handed to the World Bank (WB), imploring it to deny the Mugabe government lines of credit as punishment for its misrule – opponents of the Mugabe regime being concerned about WB plans to grant Zimbabwe a US$400 million loan.

Zimbabwe owes the WB, the IMF and the African Development Bank (ADB) a total of US$1.8 billion in arrears, which represents just a fraction of the massive debts that have been piling up under Mugabe’s rule.

However, internal WB documents, recommending the new loan, describes Mugabe as “popular” and a “source of stability” and state that a reduction or eradication of human rights abuses is not considered a prerequisite to financial support.

If true, it implies that the WB pays scant attention to good governance and human rights.

In their petition to the WB activists alluded to the Mugabe regime’s crooked record of human rights abuses and lamented: “For an international institution such as the World Bank to now even consider extending financial help to such a government is more than disappointing — it is a betrayal. It would extend the life-span of a crumbling regime that is harmful to the future of the people and nation of Zimbabwe. It is actually likely that such financial support would directly fund the very mechanisms, physical and otherwise, that cause such harm to a long-suffering population.” 

Meanwhile, Mugabe’s former vice President, Joice Mujuru, (once seen as the most likely successor to Mugabe until she also became a victim of the Machiavellian intrigue typical of internal ZANU-PF politics), has taken her political campaign to the Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa.

Canvassing support for her newly formed party, Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), in the build-up to the 2018 elections, she recently addressed a rally in Mamelodi in Pretoria. She urged Zimbabweans in South Africa to go home to register to vote while a solution to ensure that they are able to vote in South Africa, is being sought.

It is expected the Mugabe regime, as in the past, will do its utmost to prevent Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa to vote because they are more likely to vote for the opposition.

In what must be a humiliating blow to his ego, Mugabe has also been told by President Ian Khama of Botswana it is time for him to go. Botswana is finding it an unbearable burden to cope with the many Zimbabweans who have sought refuge in the country.

The pressure on President Mugabe continues to mount and he will sooner than later have to acknowledge that globetrotting will not solve the problems he created at home.

by Garth Cilliers

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