Thursday, 3 April 2008

Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe

1980 will always be perceived as an important year in the history of Zimbabwe. It was the year the Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister of the country. He stayed in that position until 1987. After that he was appointed President and discontinued the role of Prime Minister. It meant he had increased powers and control over the country. Prior to 1980, he was the Secretary General to parties that were supressed due to their opposition to white rule. His current part is the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Despite is involvement in the end of white majority rule in that country, he has made several decisions which have had catastrophic effects. To say he is reviled by the international community is an understatement. Over the past 28 years, the economy has spiralled out of control, healthcare is poor and foreign-relations are non-existant.

The economy
In this article, it's reported that the current rate of inflation is 24,000%. The country has also recently introduced a $10m bank note. As an example of the price change of products, the current retail price of the state-owned Herald newspaper is $3m. That is a 200,000% more than it's price in January 2007. A further example is the value of basic food ingredients. On the TV news yesterday I noticed that a simple bag of flour was $12.5m. These statistics mean that citizens find it difficult to get information about what is going on and also starve becasue they cannot afford the basics for meals. So, Mugabe wanted an end to the white majority rule and he's now forgotten about the people he fought for in the first place.

International relations
I don't believe that nations such as the United States have any right to intervene in the running of the country, regardless of whether they oppose Mugabe. However, this doesn't mean they cannot apply sanctions. In this document, there are details about restrictions, which include the following:
"The new Executive Order prohibits U.S. persons, wherever located, or anyone in the United States from engaging in any transactions with any person, entity or organization found to: 1.) be undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe; 2.) have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to these entities; 3.) be or have been an immediate family member of a sanctions target; or 4.) be owned, controlled or acting on behalf of a sanctions target."
This means that a US citizen cannot conduct any business with the current Zimbabwean government or it's supporters. The European Union has also implemented sanctions and these include travel to Zimbabwean government members being banned from travelling to EU countries and European-based assets being frozen. The EU ruling was introduced in 2002, but it has already been broken as Mugabe was allowed to attend an EU-Africa summit last year. At that event he signed a pledge which meant he would introduce democracy. Allowing him to attend that summit means the strength of the sanctions has been weakened and that 'pledge' doesn't necessarily mean he'd do anything.

Honours and awards
This has proven to be a highly controversial subject. In June 2007, The Times reported that Mugabe had just been stripped of an honorary degree that had been awarded to him by the University of Edinburgh in 1984. That was the time that a British university has done that. The University of Massechusetts has also given him an honrary degree in the past and there was a large camapign to revoke that award aswell.

In March 2007, Andrew Robathan MP called for Mugabe's Order of the Bath medal to be revoked. However, Margaret Beckett (the Foreign Secretary at the time) felt that there were more important matters to deal with. While it's true that the oppression of the Zimbabwean people takes priority, I do not believe that Robert Mugabe should have any awards such as those that I have mentioned. They are for people who have achieved great things, not for people who destroy countries and intimidate people.

The opposition
For many years, the largest opposition body has been the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is lead by Morgan Tsvangirai. His period as leader of that party hasn't been easy. In 2003, he was arrested for organising anti-government protests. This was a move to silence both competition and free speech - both would mean that his control over the country would have been weakened. In 2004, the Guardian reported that Tsvangirai had been accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe, but he was later found to be not guilty. If it was true, it would have meant that Tsvangirai had gone down to Mugabe's level - that would have been terrible.

In Zimbabwe, there are separate elections for the House of Assembly (210 seats), the Senate (93 seats) and the role of President. Both the lower (Assembly) and upper (Senate) houses operate on plurality voting systems (First Past The Post) and the election for President is uses Universal Adult Franchise, which basically means you can vote if you're an adult. If none of the presidential candidates receives 50% of the vote, there is a runoff between those with the most votes.

At the time of typing, Mugabe's Zanu-PF has lost the elections for the houses. The full results can be found here. Tsvangirai's MDC won with 99 seats, compared to Zanu-PF's 97.

As for the Presidential election, one of two things could happen. Either Mugabe will step down and Tsvangirai would be elected, or there would be a runoff as neither man as achieved the required 50% (despite the MDC saying otherwise). This could potentially take a long time and would give Mugabe an opportunity to use coercion to get people to vote for him.

Robert Mugabe has destroyed the quality of life for the people of Zimbabwe, despite being involved in the ending of white majority rule. International relations are hostile and he uses intimidation to retain control. In short, he has to go. Morgan Tsvangirai would have to keep his promises though. Without that, sanctions would not be lifted and the country would go nowhere.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, Election, Government


Anonymous said...

You've written a pretty thorough analysis here. Obviously I agree with you that Robert Mugabe's time is up. As an American, I know that I look at the elections from a completely different perspective than Zimbabweans. I continue to try to understand the reasons that some citizens have for wanting to keep Mugabe in power. Some interesting background reading on the more recent evolution of Mugabe's State, can be found in "When A Crocodile Eats the Sun" by Peter Godwin.

In terms of entrenched US intervention, the crisis in Zimbabwe has not reached levels that warrant that kind of involvement. America's government is extremely wary of becoming enmeshed in the business of sovereign nations (especially African nations). The newer Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine was recently enshrined by the UN in 2005, and seeks to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is an international commitment by governments to prevent and react to grave crises, wherever they may occur. A situation of widespread crimes against humanity is probably the only way that the US would ever insinuate itself on Zimbabwe. Until that time (let's hope it never comes) sanctions will most likely be the order of the day, as you have pointed out.