Doris Lessing has a searing piece in The New York Review of Books about Robert Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe. Snippets:
"You have the jewel of Africa in your hands," said President Samora Machel of Mozambique and President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to Robert Mugabe, at the moment of independence, in 1980. "Now look after it."
Twenty-three years later, the "jewel" is ruined, dishonored, disgraced.
Southern Rhodesia had fine and functioning railways, good roads; its towns were policed and clean. It could grow anything, tropical fruit like pineapples, mangoes, bananas, plantains, pawpaws, passion fruit, temperate fruits like apples, peaches, plums. The staple food, maize, grew like a weed and fed surrounding countries as well. Peanuts, sunflowers, cotton, the millets and small grains that used to be staple foods before maize, flourished. Minerals: gold, chromium, asbestos, platinum, and rich coalfields. The dammed Zambezi River created the Kariba Lake, which fed electricity north and south. A paradise, and not only for the whites. The blacks did well, too, at least physically. Not politically: it was a police state and a harsh one. When the blacks rebelled and won their war in 1979 they looked forward to a plenty and competence that existed nowhere else in Africa, not even in South Africa, which was bedeviled by its many mutually hostile tribes and its vast shantytowns. But paradise has to have a superstructure, an infrastructure, and by now it is going, going? almost gone.
One man is associated with the calamity, Robert Mugabe. For a while I wondered if the word "tragedy" could be applied here, greatness brought low, but Mugabe, despite his early reputation, was never great; he was always a frightened little man. There is a tragedy, all right, but it is Zimbabwe's.
The latest news is that Mugabe, under a contract with a Chinese company, is importing Chinese farmers to grow food, since the forcibly acquired white farms are not producing. He says this is because there is no farm machinery. Yet all the expelled white farmers had been forced to leave behind their machinery. If lack of machinery is the problem, then why not import some? But is the story true? It has the tone of zany, brutal, hasty improvisation that characterizes news from Mugabe. We can pity the Chinese, who may not be protected against Mugabe's arbitrary cruelties. And what about the poor blacks who will yet again watch their land being taken from them?
[Link courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily]