Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mugabe's Quiet Exit . . .

. . . does not appear to be in the cards. Robert Mugabe clearly miscalculated the extent to which his own people have had enough of his misrule but he nonetheless looks determined to stay on at any and all costs. As of this writing Mugabe's Zanu-PF party have announced their willingness to have Mugabe participate in a presidential election runoff and the ruling party have decided to challenge the results from 16 constituencies. Since the Zanu-PF party would retain a majority in the Zimbabwean parliament should the results from seven constituencies be overturned, even intellectuals will be able to clearly understand that Mugabe's plan is to remain in power through fraud, fear and intimidation.

As this writer clearly recalls, Mugabe came to power 28 years ago as the "liberator" of black Zimbabweans from the brutal repression of the illegal, white, racist and brutal colonialist regime. That Ian Smith's regime was white, racist as well as brutal (to an extent) is undeniable. It is also a fact that the Zimbabwean economy flourished between 1980 and 1997 after the lifting of western economic sanctions. However, the past decade have seen an economic decline that has been astonishing in its rapidity and completeness. Two statistics stand out most clearly. In 1997 about 10 Zimbabwean dollars were needed to buy a single U.S. dollar. It was reported last Friday that 50,000,000 Zimbabwe dollars are now needed to buy one U.S. dollar, a relative decline of 99.99998%. Life expectancy in 1997 was about 60 years; it is now only about 35 years (and may even be less). While the ravages of AIDS have taken its toll, the lion's share of this human tragedy can be laid at the feet of Robert Mugabe's economic mismangement. No modern neocolonialist oppressor could ever be so incompetent.

Since volumes have been written about this mismanagement elsewhere, I have little to add on this subject. Rather, I would like to focus my remarks on what the disaster of Robert Mugabe means for Africa and the world in the 21st century. It is now clear, even to intellectuals, that Robert Mugabe never intended for average citizens of his country to benefit from the "liberation" of Zimbabwe. Instead, Mugabe's purpose was to expropriate the wealth of his country for the benefit of he and his cronies in order to maintain himself in power for as long as possible. In a world of limitless, inexpensive resources, such actions in limited, isolated locations can be overlooked and ignored by most of the rest of humanity. However, the growth of the world's economy in the early 21st century has caused demand for commodities to grow faster than their global supply. In such an environment, a resource-rich but economically and socially mismanaged Africa will not be ignored by the rest of the world.

Under the current management style of depressingly too many African countries, a ruling elite expropriate as much of their country's wealth as possible and distribute as little as they have to in order to remain in power. Not only does this result in brutal, repressive regimes, it also produces economically and militarily weak "nations". The day that such weak "nations" stand in the way of a growing, dynamic global economy, the strong will come to dominate and control the weak. This is not a statement of what should happen, it is a statement of what will happen. The strong will either make deals with the rulers of such "nations" in order to have access to their commodities or they take them over and directly expropriate their resources. Either way, the average member of such societies remain poor and exploited.

The middle way is to recognize that the current organization of Africa into "nations" is not working either for the world or for the vast majority of Africans. The current "national" boundaries in Africa are largely a legacy of colonial divide and rule. The map of Africa needs to be redrawn to reflect the most fundamental social unit throughout most of that continent - namely tribes. The benefits to the world at large from a better organized, more prosperous Africa would be immense and would justify the expense and committment needed by the world's advanced nations to order to achieve this objective. The alternative would be the continued dyfunctionality of one-seventh of humanity and their continued exploitation by the greedy both inside and outside Africa.

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