As a libertarian, I feel that the only legitimate role a government has is protecting the individual rights of its public. This includes its democratic rights.
Before things get too morbid, enjoy this comic by South African cartoonist Zapiro. Satire like this is not allowed in Zimbabwe, as the state controls all media. To those who are not Africans, this is not traditional dress code, but thanks to Robert Mugabe most of Zimbabwe can't afford clothes either.
The Hallmarks of Democracy
I personally feel the world would be a much better place once everyone learns to worship me. Most people regard democracy as a better alternative, because it is a system of government "for the people by the people". Since most people are idiots, this amounts to a government for idiots, by idiots. Zimbabwe is a case in point.
For the purpose of this discussion, democracy is characterised by:
- Organised political parties in competition for government power
- Free and fair elections
- Civil and political liberty
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe claims that Zimbabweans are enjoying a democracy. Judging by the definition above, this claim seems highly unlikely.
Organised political parties in competition for government power
Membership of an opposition party in Zimbabwe, particularly membership or suspected support of the MDC, is effectively a passport to torture.
Even the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been beaten by Zanu-PF mobs and had to travel abroad to seek medical attention.
Due to these discretions, Zimbabwe has been described as a one party state. Zimbabwe effectively has no opposition and the ruling Zanu-PF party undermines any competition.
Free and Fair Elections
The international community has questioned the fairness of Zimbabwean elections for quite some time. The mere fact that the government refused to release the election results of March 2008 for nearly a month, is reason enough for concern.
The escalating violence since the 2008 election makes it clear that a free and fair election in Zimbabwe is a myth.
Civil and Political Liberty
The British government has paid restitutions to Zimbabwe for building its economy. Under the leadership of Ian Smith, Zimbabwe became known as the bread basket of Africa. For the first few years of Robert Mugabe's regime, the government continued this success and even achieved one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.
The situation worsened the moment Robert Mugabe started nationalising white-owned farms. This greatly jeopardised civil and political liberty. Many workers were tortured for defending their employers (and by extension their livelihood). Zanu-PF war veterans (many of whom were too young to be in any war in the first place) claim these workers are brainwashed by the white colonialists and that they want to hand leadership of Zimbabwe back to colonial powers.
Since Ian Smith negotiated the independence of Zimbabwe from British rule in the first place, this is just insane.
Such blatant racist persecution resulted in Zimbabwe experiencing an economic meltdown. Zimbabwe is currently experiencing the highest inflation in the world, and nearly the highest inflation of all time. The once bread basket of Africa is now searching for crumbs in the bush.
There is no civil or political liberty in Zimbabwe. One would expect international organisations like NEPAD, SADC or the AU to take action, or at the very least condemning the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. However, this is not the case. South African president Thabo Mbeki, leader of the SADC, adopted a 'quiet diplomacy', and even went as far as to deny that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe.
He has blocked any kind of international intervention and even criticised international governments when they wanted to discuss Zimbabwe's dire need at the UN. Mbeki sees sanctions as a Western solution to problems, which would be ineffective in Zimbabwe. The irony is that Mbeki supported sanctions against the apartheid regime not so long ago.
This lame duck syndrome has effectively discredited his reputation as head of the largest economy in Africa, both locally and abroad. Despite tarnishing his own image, Zimbabwe is still not getting any better. In fact, indications are that the situation is getting worse.
How the International Community Can Help Zimbabwe
John Prendergast, co-director of the International Crisis Group's Africa Program, proposes the following:
- Constructive engagement to urge Mugabe and ZANU-PF toward democracy. This would include international monitoring of the Zimbabwean elections and freedom of the press to report on the elections.
- An active international effort to get ZANU-PF and MDC together for negotiations has so far been unsuccessful. Mugabe refuses to enter into dialogue with just about anyone.
- Total isolation of Mugabe's government. I think an arms embargo is a good start.
- Supporting the NEPAD initiative to get African governments to exert pressure on Mugabe and ZANU-PF to stop the political violence against their opponents.
- Freeze Zimbabwean assets held internationally.
- Financial and logistical support for anti-Mugabe elements in Zimbabwean society. This could amount to political interference, but it's the lesser of two evils at this point.
Find Out More
- Amnesti International page on Zimbabwe.
- Living Zimbabwe, a blog about life in Zimbabwe. See footage of the post election violence. Someone please show this to Thabo Mebki so he can wake up.
- More Zapiro cartoons at the Zapiro cartoon gallery.
- United States Institute for Peace page on Zimbabwe.
- Wikipedia page on politics in Zimbabwe.