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disastrous Mr. Mugabe
March 20, 2007
Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe,
has spent much of his 26-plus years in power suppressing all opposition,
persecuting defenseless minorities and destroying a once-promising
economy. He has shamelessly tried to deflect all blame for the disastrous
consequences — including a man-made famine and a catastrophically
mishandled H.I.V./AIDS epidemic — onto international scapegoats,
chiefly Britain and the United States.
Now, the 83-year-old Mr. Mugabe seems
to have descended into total power-madness. He has barred opponents
from leaving the country, ordered his thugs to literally crack the
skulls of opposition leaders, accused his own party’s youth group
of plotting against him, and told Western critics to "go hang."
Last week, he threatened to run again in 2008 for another six-year
With hyperinflation making its currency
almost worthless, Zimbabwe is running short of basic commodities
like milk, cooking oil and gasoline. Fewer than one in four Zimbabweans
have jobs, and life expectancy, nearly 60 in 1990, has plunged into
Will no one rescue Zimbabwe? The United
States and Europe have limited influence, and risk playing into
Mr. Mugabe’s racist rhetoric when they try to use it. But President
Thabo Mbeki of neighboring South Africa — the region’s most prestigious
political leader — has enormous leverage, and he should be using
it. South Africa is Zimbabwe’s main trade partner, a big investor
and the source of more than 40 percent of its electricity.
Unfortunately Mr. Mbeki has done nothing,
apparently out of a misplaced sense of liberation-struggle solidarity.
Zimbabwe is struggling to liberate itself from Mr. Mugabe’s deadly
misrule. Its people desperately need all Zimbabweans, and the influential
Mr. Mbeki, to show real-life solidarity with them — and not with
their rampaging dictator.
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