A lack of African criticism is worsening the crisis in Zimbabwe
Once considered the 'bread basket' of Africa and hailed as a success of post-colonial transition, the African nation of Zimbabwe now teeters on the brink of economic collapse. The country's embattled leader, President Robert Mugabe, has become emblematic of many of the problems in post-colonial Africa. In an article written for the New Statesman, William Gumede, former deputy editor of the South African newspaper the Sowetan, sees Zimbabwe's government as a 'symbol of the descent of African liberation movements into brutal dictatorship.'
After helping to overthrow the country's white leadership in the 1970s, Mugabe took office as the first black leader of Zimbabwe in 1980. That legacy of liberation, according to Gumede, is currently what is keeping Mugabe in power despite astronomical inflation and shortages of basic necessities. Many of Mugabe's opponents, Gumede writes, have been forced to 'soft-pedal so that the president could not paint them as stooges of the West.'
According to Gumede, blaming Zimbabwe's problems on the West has allowed Mugabe to consolidate power and silence his critics. And rather than face the widespread political repression and financial insecurity, Zeina Awadreports for Al Jazeera that many Zimbaweans have simply decided to get out. The economic and political conditions in the country are causing many of the country's residents to 'swim through the crocodile infested Limpopo river, cut through razor wire, and walk across the bush for hours' seeking a new life in neighboring South Africa, Awad writes.
In order to solve the emerging crisis in Zimbabwe, Gumede suggests that '[a]ll governments must be kept on their toes.' The lack of criticism from Africa's leaders surrounding Mugabe has gone far beyond supporting African liberation movements -- it is posing a danger to Zimbabwe's residents. Now, Gumede writes, South African President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders must realize that 'Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe represents the worst backsliding of African liberation movements.' The time has come to speak out.
Go there >>Africa: How We Killed Our Dreams of Freedom
Go there too >> Zimbabweans Risk All for a New Life
Related Links from the Utne Reader Archives:
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne Reader