The hell that is Zimbabwe and what to do about it Posted by: McQ
on Sunday, July 13, 2008
We all read the news reports about what is happening in Zimbabwe. Of course, for the most part, they're sanitized stories which convey the crux of the big picture. Understanding the impact on the people of Zimbabwe is rarely a part of the reportage, although you are left to imagine it.
If you really want to understand that impact in its most personal form, I'd recommend Cathy Buckle's blog. I've recommended it before, but it is an important source for unvarnished information about the state of the country.
Buckle is a white Zimbabwean, born there and trying to cope with and survive the hideous debacle that has resulted from Robert Mugabe's deadly rule. She's written a couple of books about it, and weekly she puts a "letter" up on her site addressed to "family and friends". It puts a face on the crisis.
In the main supermarket in my home town this weekend there were too many empty shelves to count. In the fortnight since Mr Mugabe was sworn in as President for his sixth term, everyday life has gone from struggle to complete crisis. No one is coping now and in the last two weeks virtually all foodstuffs, toiletries and household goods have completely disappeared from stores. On what should have been a busy weekend morning in our once thriving town, the car park was virtually empty and the only things to buy in the cavernous supermarket were cabbages, butternut squash, lemons, fizzy drinks and a few packets of meat.
"Where are all your goods?" I asked one shop attendant. There is nothing," he said, "the suppliers say they have nothing to deliver." I stood while he weighed the butternut squash I had chosen and exclaimed in shock at the 30 billion dollar price sticker he fixed to the vegetable.
"Can I show you something?" the man said and before I could answer he took his most recent pay slip out of his pocket. For an entire month the shop assistant had earned just 28 billion dollars - not even enough to buy one single butternut squash. Eight hours a day, five and half days a week and his entire salary was not enough to provide even one single meal. He told me he had a wife and a child to support and said with remorse and shame in his voice:
"I am failing them and if I do not jump the border to look for work this month then they are surely going to die."
They are simple words stating a simple fact - people are surely going to die here in Zimbabwe if this situation continues for much longer. Despite their desperate determination to stay in power and retain their 28 years of leadership of the country, Zanu PF have so far not even acknowledged the critical shortage of foodstuffs and basic medicines let alone done anything about resolving it.
Everywhere people have stories of such deprivation and suffering to recount and we are a nation in a permanent state of shock. Shock that our lives have been reduced to this. Shock that yet again the UN have been unable to find a common voice. Shocked that the violence and brutality continues and shocked that yet again we are hearing of talks about talks about talks. On the 29th March the MDC won a parliamentary majority, It is long past time for them to be sworn in and take up the reigns and lead Zimbabwe out of this hell.
Her point about the "talks about talks about talks" once again vividly illustrates the inability of world bodies to act with any speed or decisiveness in obvious crisis situations where people's lives are at stake. This is really no different than Darfur - a place the world has been talking about for years but has really done little to protect the defenseless people there.
It's a pity. In Zimbabwe, people are dying because the world is afraid of offending, apparently, a power-hungry octogenarian tyrant. It would seem his concerns rate higher than the concerns of thousands, if not millions of Zimbabweans who, like the shop assistant Buckle quotes, are going to die, if nothing is done soon.
In reality, yes, I know it isn't as simple as saying "let's hat up, grab our kit and head in there and topple this deadly regime". It's a sovereignty issue. None of the countries that might want to see his reign ended would want the same model applied to them at some time in the future.
And look an Myanmar. We literally begged to be allowed to help over a million people devastated by a storm and were, essentially, turned away - and left.
There has to be a better way to address situations like these, and I'm at a loss to provide a reasonable solution given the way the world presently works. However I do know that the UN is essentially ineffective. I do know that in situations like this sanctions usually hurt the most vulnerable while the privileged in these countries shrug them off. And I do know that acceptable or not, the most effective way to end this sort of misery and murder is direct intervention. But I also know that unless there is a method to such intervention and wide participation among countries, such interventions will fall to the US, and frankly that's just not something we need to be doing.
So, unfortunately, until such a time that the world is ready, willing and able to determine a course of action which will remove murderous tyrants such as Mugabe from power we're stuck with reading dispatches such as Buckle's, sympathizing with her plight and secretly celebrating the fact that we don't live there.
I’ve always wondered why people didn’t just pay mercenaries to go in and fight back. I’d donate a fair sum of money, if there was a way to privately fight the murderous thugs. Of course, the "then what" problem arises. In the meantime, though, I don’t see any plausible moral objection to sending in mercenaries in a case like this.
There is one very simple thing the United States can do. It would not completely prevent situations like this in the future, nor would it lead to an immediate resolution of the current problem. However, it would certainly be better than what we are doing now, which is accomplishing nothing.
What we can do is put aside the absurd idea that people are never right to use violence to defend their lives and property against their government. We can stop pretending that both sides are morally equivalent, and that they should hold talks. We can instead come out, publicly, and tell the world that what the Founding Fathers once wrote still applies. Namely, we can tell the world that:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
These are simple words, but incredibly powerful in their application. What the United States government must do is make it abundantly clear that we do not believe Robert Mugabe to be the legitimate ruler of Zimbabwe. We need to make it clear that should the people of Zimbabwe successfully rise up against his tyranny and institute a new government which respects their rights, we will be the first to recognize this new government and establish diplomatic, commercial, and even possibly military relationships with it. We need make no public guarantee to assist the people in rising up (although we certainly would be within our rights to help, and I would strongly support such help). Just making it clear that we would recognize the new government should one be instituted (even if it were instituted by an armed uprising) would be much more helpful than all our current efforts.
Now, it is likely that, as a previous poster mentioned, the people of Zimbabwe will not ever be free until they recognize that freedom is worth fighting for, even if the fight is long and hard. They need to know, however, that if they do indeed fight for and win their freedom, that we will accept them into the world community with open arms, whether other nations do or not.
I’ve always wondered why people didn’t just pay mercenaries to go in and fight back. I’d donate a fair sum of money, if there was a way to privately fight the murderous thugs. Of course, the "then what" problem arises.
Back in the day, you could have joined the Rodesian Army. Some actually did.