Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe


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]

NEXT: Are the Anchors Holding?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. How very Atlas Shrugged.

  2. Nick, I’m not accusing you of anything, but I’m curious as to why you refer to the country as “Robert Mugabe’s Rhodesia.”

    Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia are the old colonial names. The country took its modern name from the ancient site of Great Zimbabwe, a large settlement occupied from around AD 1000 to 1550, and which was either a ceremonial center or a trade nexus depending on which interpretation you want to accept.

    During colonial rule, GZ was promoted as the palace of the Queen of Sheba, who was depicted as a white woman in 1920s and ’30s art-deco tourism posters, black natives genuflecting at her feet. You can imagine how this went down with the black locals, especially when archaeologists began contradicting it. So when they achieved independence in 1980, the name Zimbabwe was taken as an assertion of cultural pride.

    Sorry if this post is too didactic; I don’t mean to finger-wag.

  3. Wouldn’t that be ironic if Robert Mugabe is taken out by an assasin sent by or hired by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army?

    If Mugabe’s employees harrass the Chinese employees, or worse, cause the Chinese company to lose money; Mugabe will be gone before Saddam.

    If a Chinese company can introduce capitalism and market economics to Zimbabwe, maybe they can work on the US next?

    What am I saying? The US will never do away with sugar quotas, peanut quotas and all the other Corporate Welfare for farmers & agricultural corporations. Too many farmers & agricultural corporates have too many photos of congressmen with farm animals. How else do you explain agricultural subsidies in this country?

  4. Venezuela still has a wealthy class and an educated class. That might not last much longer though. I know a few Venezuelans, one of whom is trying everything to avoid going back to her homeland when she loses her student visa. — Even though she loved Caracas and her homeland. The reason for this, when I’ve asked her, is because she’s afraid of Chavez.

    (The others are already Perm. Res., if you were wondering.)

  5. Chavez is anti-American, supports the 51% oppressing the 49%, is fighing for the “little guy” against the evil “capitalists” and supports Al Queda and terrorism – no wonder the Left loves him.

    If he does above and turns his nation into a Cuba or Zimbabwe that is politically correct because he was elected and has 51% support. If Bush fights a just war in Iraq that is polically incorrect EVEN THOUGH he was elected and has 60-70+% support. That is the Leftist mentality for you.

  6. Dear Jade Monk,

    Thanks for catching my mistake. I meant Zimbabwe and have fixed that, along with another typo not worth flagging.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.