Robert Mugabe’s Long Shadow

The despot of Zimbabwe was ousted in 2017. But much remains of his tyranny and misrule.

This month, after President Mnangagwa raised the price of gasoline by 150 percent, protesters hit the streets. Mr. Mnangagwa arguably had no choice, since the government could not continue subsidizing fuel, and the protests were inevitable. The problem was that security forces replied with all the viciousness of the Mugabe era — a crackdown like what Mr. Mnangagwa used to mete out when he was in charge of internal security and earned the nickname “Crocodile.” Soldiers and unidentified thugs went door to door in Harare beating and arresting scores of people at random; 12 shooting deaths were reported; the internet was shut down.

.. Whether he ordered the crackdown remains unclear; one rumor is that his vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, a hard-line former commander of the army who backed Mr. Mnangagwa in the coup, was trying to undermine the president for his own ends.

It almost doesn’t matter. What does is that many Zimbabweans — and potential international investors — concluded that things had not changed with the exit of Mr. Mugabe. The ZANU-PF political machine that the old dictator ran since independence in 1980 was still in command and up to its old ways.

.. A few weeks later he was in Davos, spreading the word that Zimbabwe was “open for business.” At home, he declared that “the people’s voice is the voice of God,” and he promised free elections.

..the 40-year-old challenger, Nelson Chamisa, claimed fraud, and when his supporters gathered in protests, government forces crushed them mercilessly.

.. The economic challenges before Zimbabwe are enormous: vast debts, a battered infrastructure, hyperinflation, soaring unemployment. Confronting them will require foreign aid and investment, lifting the international sanctions imposed during Mr. Mugabe’s rule and restoring a glimmer of optimism for the future in a population that will be asked to make more sacrifices, like the fuel price increase, before things can get better. Under American law, removing sanctions requires a nonpartisan army and respect for the rights and freedoms of all people.

It is far from clear whether Mr. Mnangagwa or ZANU-PF are up to the challenge. But if they have any hope of surviving in office or lifting Zimbabwe out of the mess they helped create under Mr. Mugabe, the time to start is now, by immediately reining in the security forces and opening the dialogue Mr. Mnangagwa has pledged with the opposition and civil society. The United States and other potential donors could create an incentive by preparing a major package of assistance once the Zimbabwe government shows it is really committed to change.

John Bolton Is Right About the U.N.

The U.N. is a never-ending scandal disguised as an everlasting hope. The hope is that dialogue can overcome distrust and collective security can be made to work in the interests of humanity. Reality says otherwise. Trust is established by deeds, not words. Collective security is a recipe for international paralysis or worse. Just ask the people of Aleppo.

.. Contrary to the belief that the U.N. runs on a shoestring, total expenditure for the U.N. system in 2016 was around $49 billion. That’s up 22 percent since 2010. And the abuse of the U.N. system by states such as Russia to protect clients like Bashar al-Assad is a feature of the system, not a bug.

.. “If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”

.. The U.N. adopted what were supposed to be landmark reforms more than decade ago. Yet the mismanagement, corruption, abuses and moral perversities remain.

  • Iran sits on the executive board of the Commission on the Status of Women. The
  • Syrian regime is represented on the U.N.’s Special Committee on Decolonization, dedicated to “respect for self-determination of all peoples.” In October, Zimbabwe’s
  • Robert Mugabe was named a good-will ambassador by the World Health Organization, until an outcry forced the director general to think better of it.

.. “Imagine if the U.N. was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera,” Mario Joseph, a Haitian lawyer seeking compensation for the U.N.’s victims, told The A.P., “Human rights aren’t just for rich white people.”

The Fall of Africa’s Most Hated First Lady

I was often struck by how deeply respectful Zimbabweans were of their president. Many people were obviously unhappy with Robert Mugabe’s leadership. Still, it was not unusual to hear people reference his role in the independence movement, to point out his clear intellectual gifts and his efforts to advance education.

.. The narrative, universally accepted across the country, was that the shy young typist had stolen Mr. Mugabe’s heart and then corrupted him. Mr. Mugabe was a good man turned bad; Ms. Mugabe was the temptress who led him to his downfall.

.. Her whereabouts is unknown — a testament to the fact that it is her physical safety rather than his that is in question in these tense times.

.. Over the course of the two decades since she entered public life, Ms. Mugabe garnered a well-deserved reputation for combativeness. She publicly humiliated key leaders; she has been embroiled in a range of personal scandals because of her volatile temper.

.. wore designer outfits while she fed the rural masses and didn’t hesitate to get into physical altercations with those who crossed her or her children.

.. She was just 31 when she married Mr. Mugabe in 1996; at 52, she remains relatively youthful.

.. The people who opposed her most fiercely are veterans of the movement

.. Grace Mugabe has fared particularly poorly compared with Sally Mugabe, Robert Mugabe’s first wife, who was the quintessential African first lady. Sally Mugabe was well educated. She had strong independence credentials, having been imprisoned for speaking out against the colonial rule of what was then Southern Rhodesia. And when her husband became prime minister in 1980, she quickly stepped into the maternal role: She was known across the country as Amai, or “mother.”

Mugabe and Other Leftist Heroes

unleashed a war of atrocity against his ethnic rivals in the Ndebele tribe, promising that he would pursue his enemies “until all dissidents are eliminated

.. The scale of Mugabe’s killing, estimated as high as 20,000

.. When will they stop confusing national independence with individual freedom, liberation with liberty?

.. As for the other Mugabes, Fidel Castro tyrannized Cuba for decades, yet was paid flattering tributes on his death last year, including from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 

.. Yasir Arafat’s turn on the world stage began and ended in terrorism, intermixed with corruption and human-rights abuses. Yet the rais never lacked for admirers on the left

.. Naomi Klein has any regrets about her fervent championship of the Bolivarian Revolution

.. Joseph Stiglitz has any second thoughts about his close ties to the ruinous Argentine government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

.. Western thinkers have been tempted by the prospect of influence abroad, along with the power that comes with it, particularly when both are denied to them at home.

.. The visiting economist calls for heavy deficit spending or a currency devaluation, but collects his speaking fee in dollars and doesn’t live through the eventual default.

.. Zimbabwe’s tragedy is just a fuller version of a post-colonial story of disastrous ideological experiments accompanied by foreigners who cheered those experiments and then looked the other way when they failed. There needs to be a reckoning with them, too.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

That week, however, the inflation rate in Zimbabwe had officially reached eleven million per cent, the highest in the world; analysts later reckoned it to have been two hundred and thirty million per cent. Eighty per cent of Zimbabweans were out of work. Chronic malnutrition was prevalent, and starvation was spreading in the countryside. Close to two million Zimbabweans depended for survival on food handouts from international aid agencies. Twenty per cent of the population was infected with H.I.V./AIDS. Zimbabwe’s life expectancy is forty-four years for men, forty-three for women.

.. “No one is starving—they are driving nice cars! As a Christian, though, I think it is a challenge by God, and the attention being drawn to Zimbabwe is maybe to highlight that we are the new people of Israel, and that we have our own Moses.” I understood “Moses” to be his uncle.

.. He is, on one hand, the man who liberated our country from the white colonialists, and he is also this man who has murdered and repressed in a dictatorial manner,” Tsvangirai told me. “I say: he is the founding father of Zimbabwe, and the problem we have is to save the positive side of his contribution to this country, and to let history judge his negative contributions.” He added, “For me, I find it quite profound that he is quite an old man who has mismanaged his own succession.”

.. Some thirty thousand people are believed to have died in Rhodesia’s civil war, which black Zimbabweans refer to as the Liberation War, and which whites call the Bush War.

.. The land issue did not go away, however. It dated to the eighteen-nineties, when great swaths of land were granted to white settlers, while Africans were forcibly confined to designated “communal lands”; a century later, most blacks were still landless. In its first decade, Mugabe’s government purchased some six and a half million acres, about a third of the white-owned land, and settled some fifty thousand families on it. But there was little follow-through, and most of the black farmers did not thrive. In 1990, Mugabe secured a constitutional amendment that allowed his government to requisition land at will, and to set the purchase price.

.. In the late nineties, Tony Blair’s Labour government and other Western donors refused to continue subsidizing Zimbabwe’s “land reform.” In retaliation, Mugabe staged a constitutional referendum, in February of 2000, that would give him wider powers, including the authority to confiscate land without consultation. The M.D.C.—which, in those days, had close ties to Zimbabwe’s white farmers—campaigned forcefully against Mugabe’s bill, and it was defeated. A few weeks later, groups of machete-wielding so-called “war veterans” simultaneously invaded white-owned farms across the country. Mugabe made it plain that the land invasions had his blessing.