Friday, June 10, 2005
On this day:

Mugabe's Zimbabwe

In that long post from yesterday evening, I wrote about how foreign aid and debt relief is not the answer to Africa's many problems:

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is a shining example of why new efforts by Western nations to extend debt relief and foreign aid to African nations are misguided. Mugabe's government is engaged in a crackdown on "black-market" merchants, most of whom want nothing more than to provide a decent living for themselves and their families. While the Mugabe regime may be an extreme example, it has much in common with the corrupt and socialistic governments that hold power in Africa and much of the Third World. Why on Earth would we want to forgive their debts and throw more money into these backwater cesspools? ...

Today, NRO's David Frum elaborates on that point:

So if this is the year that Tony Blair wants the world to save Africa, why not start with Zimbabwe?

Today is the second day of a general strike in that miserable and oppressed country. The strikers have a long long list of grievances, but the trigger for the protest was President Mugabe's three-week-long campaign to raze shanty houses. Two hundred thousand Zimbabweans, the poorest of the urban poor, are threatened with homelessness.

The houses belong to urban squatters. At other times, of course, Mugabe has encouraged and promoted squatting - when he was engaged in his campaign to confiscate the lands and force from the country Zimbabwe's remaining white farmers. (Nobody has covered this heart-rending story better than the UK Spectator. Their articles are now behind a subscriber wall, but if you are interested in this issue, you might consider signing up.) The farms stolen by the squatter campaign were not of course redistributed to the landless: They were lavished on Mugabe's inner circle and his own family, including his wife.

Now South African President Mbeki - Mugabe's closest ally - threatens to take that country, the most important and once most hopeful on the continent - in the same doomed direction.

Surely these stories give the final lie to the Sachs/Annan/Geldof theory that Africa suffers only from insufficient foreign aid? The story of southern Africa is one of unbroken decline toward poverty and tyranny underneath governments - let us be frank - to a very great extent installed by the US and Britain. The west is often blamed, not without justice, for propping up the Saudi monarchy/restoring the shah in 1953/assorted derelictions in Latin America, etc. Somehow Mugabe rule in Zimbabwe and African National Congress rule in South Africa never get mentioned in this polemical list, even though Mugabe already and Mbeki bids fair to do more harm to their subjects as any Latin American generalissimo ever did.