Mugabe: crocodile with no tears
From Vanity Fair
The tragic irony of Zimbabwe is that what is today a hellish country should by all evidence be a paradise. Its high, malaria-free interior is a magical place: sweeping vistas of long tawny grasses slope up to the mountain ranges of the eastern highlands; in the north the land falls sharply down to the Zambezi River, which tumbles magnificently over the Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is blessed with rich, loamy soil. Beneath it lie generous seams of gold, chromium, coal, iron, and diamonds. At independence in 1980, Mugabe inherited a sophisticated, well-maintained infrastructure. The black middle class grew fast, and Zimbabwe enjoyed the highest standard of living in black-ruled Africa.
But that was yesterday. The most recent World Values Survey shows that Zimbabweans are today the world’s unhappiest people. Their economy has almost halved in size in the past 10 years. The unemployment rate is more than 80 percent. About half of all Zimbabweans are reliant on food aid. Some 20 percent of the population is afflicted with H.I.V./aids. Zimbabwe today has the world’s shortest life span—the average Zimbabwean is dead by age 36 (down from age 62 in 1990). As a result the country now has the highest percentage of orphans on the planet.
This is a society dominated by terror. After Mugabe’s politburo decision, in April, his security forces launched yet another operation. They called this one Operation MaVhoterapapi—Operation “Whom Did You Vote For?” Harare’s hospitals rapidly filled up with its handiwork. People in Zimbabwe have a name for what has been happening. They call it simply “The Fear.”
The world’s major powers are unlikely to take significant steps against Mugabe. Zimbabwe lacks both of the two exports—oil and international terrorism—that attract direct intervention. The German government did finally press the banknote company Giesecke & Devrient to stop sending banknote paper to Mugabe, and G&D acceded to this request in July. Even as the West adds diminutive darts to its tiny quiver of sanctions, the greatest pressure is likely to come from within Zimbabwe, as its society continues to fall apart.