Plague Of Misrule

by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

It’s a tough holiday season in America. Thousands of families face eviction, while others just have to delay buying that 52-inch plasma TV. Thanks to Bernie Madoff, even caviar sales are down.

Count your blessings. In Zimbabwe, once a wealthy country that exported food, millions struggle daily against starvation, and inflation is counted in millions of percent. Nothing works – except the ruling regime’s network of thugs. For the holiday season, cholera, the plague of the poorest poor, has killed 1,200 people and infected 25,000. President-for-life Robert Mugabe, the man who destroyed his country, first claimed that the disease didn’t exist. Now he blames Britain and the CIA for the outbreak.

Cholera spreads through infected water and food supplies; Zimbabwe’s sanitation has broken down utterly, while its medical system is in complete collapse. The disease is readily treatable with cheap saline solutions, but Zimbabweans don’t even rate that much.

Ambulatory victims struggle across the border into South Africa, hoping to survive. More than a million Zimbabweans have abandoned their country, preferring life in foreign slums and the risk of anti-foreigner violence.

No country in our time has plummeted so far so fast with so little engagement by the rest of the world. Why? Dictator Robert Mugabe was a hero of the global left for decades, so today’s leftists avoid discussing his crimes. Better to let Africans die than admit that “We were wrong.”

When I visited Zimbabwe in early 2003, the once lovely country was already gripped by political violence, inflation, hunger and general breakdown. Some of us tried to write the truth, but nobody cared.

Six years on, the UN wrings its grubby paws but bows to oppressor regimes that condemn all interference in a country’s domestic affairs. Folks, the neocons may have gotten a great deal wrong, but they were morally sound when they stressed the inhumanity of allowing a butcher to seize power then hide behind claims of sovereignty.

The Bush administration – which genuinely sought to help Africa – has lately wagged a finger, withdrawing support for a con-job “power-sharing” deal Mugabe pretended to offer his opposition (while stringing the world along month after month). But the Bush years are effectively over, while Team Obama can’t find Zimbabwe on a map.

The worst villain, though, has been South Africa, an increasingly authoritarian state whose leaders behave with a selfishness humbling to run-of-the-mill African kleptocrats.

When I entered Zimbabwe through the capital’s somnolent airport almost six years ago, I shared the common assumption that South Africa must mean well by its neighbor – human solidarity among the liberated and all that crap. But I soon witnessed South Africa’s deadly greed.

The global media’s stock explanation of South Africa’s failure to act to save Zimbabwe’s people remains the old saw that veterans of the liberation struggle can’t bring themselves to publicly criticize an old comrade – they don’t want to give the former colonial powers the satisfaction.

That excuse may have applied 20 years ago, but not now. There are two main reasons – both ugly – why the region’s great power, South Africa, won’t help the people of Zimbabwe.

First, politically connected South African businessmen have been buying up Zimbabwe at fire-sale prices. There’s little left of any worth that the fat-cat profiteers from Jo’burg don’t already own – but they’re determined to grab that, too.

When Mugabe falls or dies, South Africans will hold the deed to an entire country. South Africa’s buying a colony.

Another reason for South African prevarication emerged in the last year. Since its celebrated victory over apartheid, the new South Africa has developed into a one-party state with democratic trappings (disappointingly similar to Putin’s Russia). The ruling African National Congress was all for free elections – as long as it remained an all-powerful monolith.

But as its impeccably tailored, incompetent former president, Thabo Mbeki, was shoved to the sidelines during a struggle within the ANC’s politburo, a new specter loomed: real democracy. A splinter group broke from the ANC to contest upcoming elections.

Simultaneously, Mugabe’s determination to rig Zimbabwe’s elections at any cost could no longer disguise the people’s overwhelming revulsion toward him. Attempting to stave off a loss of power, he entered cat-and-mouse “negotiations” with the opposition.

Amazingly, the world bought it. Colluding with Mugabe, South Africa disingenuously pledged to be an honest broker.

There was as much chance of spotting polar bears along the Limpopo River as of Zimbabweans getting a square deal. The ANC’s ruling faction dreads the notion that honest democracy could come to Zimbabwe. Next thing you know, South Africans might demand clean elections, too.

If the world wants to alleviate the misery of millions in Zimbabwe, we must sideline South Africa and act directly to remove Mugabe and his ruling clique.

We won’t, and the world won’t. Black Africans serve wonderfully for charity appeals, but no competent state will lift a finger to save their lives.

Merry Christmas. ExileStreet

courtesy NY Post / copyright 2008 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

3 Responses to “Plague Of Misrule”

  1. Plague Of Misrule : Hatnews Says:

    […] We won’t, and the world won’t. Black Africans serve wonderfully for charity appeals, but no competent state will lift a finger to save their lives. – […]

  2. Faraway Says:

    South Africa’s leaders need a rocket up their backsides to wake them up. They do not deserve the world wide attention they’ll get in 2010 with the World Cup. Maybe a world wide campaign to threaten to take this event away from them could do the trick.

  3. from EXILESTREET « Throughhisown’s Weblog Says:

    […] from EXILESTREET Posted in Zimbabwe by throughhisown on December 30th, 2008 Plague Of Misrule […]

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