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Martin LeFevre: The Problem of Mugabe

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The Problem of Mugabe

There is a squabble between the West and southern Africa on how to deal with the sclerotic tyrant Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe has become a touchstone of the differences, and indifferences, shared by the EU, US, and AU regarding the people of Africa. It also provides a painful case in point in the difficulty of dealing with evil.

The tangled history of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe encompasses African nations’ struggles for independence from colonial rule; the proxy wars between the US and the USSR; and decades of blatant corruption in many African countries. Mugabe is one of the last in a long line of African president’s-for -life, so-called leaders who keep beating the drum of colonialism, while continuing to abuse, enchain, and impoverish African people.

Things turned really nasty with when Mugabe instituted Operation Murambatsvina (“Drive out the trash”) in 2005, a hideously callous policy of razing slum areas across Zimbabwe, without providing any alternative for the impoverished people who inhabited the slums. This crime against humanity, which turns on its head Jesus’ teaching to care for the poor (Mugabe is a Roman Catholic), has extremely adversely affected the lives of millions of people.

Ten years ago, female life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 63; it is 34 today, giving Zimbabweans the shortest lifespan in the world. Inflation is about 1700%, and unemployment is over 80%, making the purchase of food and other essentials of life a daily nightmare for the Zimbabwean people.

Since forcibly expelling white landowners, who, as a carryover of colonialism, continued to own a sizable proportion of the prime land in the country, Mugabe has found another scapegoat for his problems—homosexuals. The authorities have carried out bribery, detention, beatings, and even rapes against gays in Zimbabwe.

So far, the EU, led by Britain, has conducted a half-hearted and hypocritical sloganeering campaign against Mugabe and his ruling party, Zanu-PF. It is half-hearted because there is no real attempt to bring the egregious human rights abuses in Zimbabwe before the Security Council. It is hypocritical because neither Britain nor the United States have one ounce of moral authority left in the world after their unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

Even so, the “softly, softly” approach by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), led by Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, is absurdly inadequate. And when Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said that his recent talks with Mugabe were a "great success,” and that "we have agreed on the way forward, but it is between me and Mugabe," one could almost hear Julius Nyerere turning over in his grave.

Back when Idi Amin was committing similar atrocities against the Ugandan people, Nyerere, unwilling to wait for the ‘international community’ to act, sent Tanzanian troops in to rid the region, and the world, of that tyrant. Though such a course of action is neither possible nor proper now, that doesn’t mean the SADC leaders should get in bed with the likes of Mugabe, under the illusion that they can slowly wean him from evil.

The devil and his conduits are nothing if not cunning, and know how to use truths, and half-truths, to keep themselves in power. The word colonialism, as Mugabe and others use it in the 21st century, is code for racism; and racism, although different than in the blatant old days, is alive and well in the world. So, to that extent the octogenarian ogre Mugabe is right when he rails against Britain and the United States for hypocrisy.

In terms of disease, poverty, and neglect, Africans suffer more than any people on the planet. People of color are still subconsciously thought of as less important. Undercurrents of superiority and inferiority infuse international politics, and they converge on the continent of humankind’s origins. And Robert Mugabe is a master of exploiting the resentments of racism.

Is Mugabe an ‘African problem,’ or does he pose the ultimate challenge to human society—that of evil in power? Certainly at one level the question comes down to racial undercurrents in human history. But at another level, much more relevant to a dark age plunging toward an increasingly dark future, it is a question for humanity itself.

Addendum to "The Problem of Mugabe":

After the neo-cons hearts, someone from Uganda wrote and drew a labored parallel between Bush's invasion of Iraq to rid the region of Hussein, and Nyerere's invasion of Uganda to rid that region of Amin. Apart from the stated casus belli (a supposed threat by weapons of mass destruction from Hussein), and the utter chaos and millions of refugees that have resulted from the US/UK invasion, the cases are completely different.

Hussein was America¹s boy in the Œ80¹s, when he was fighting Iran. We supplied him with arms and intelligence, and turned a blind eye when he gassed Iranians. Bush Senior also looked the other way when Hussein was about to invade Kuwait, which Saddam took as a green light to do so. Probably he needed a war to test new weapons, define his ³new world order,² and seal US power as the sole remaining Œsuperpower.¹

Nyerere, on the other hand, always saw Amin for what he was. Besides, Amin invaded Tanzanian territory and formally annexed a section across from the Kagera River on November 1, 1978. Only then did Nyerere, joined by Uganda exiles, mobilize army reserves and counterattack. Saddam was contained; the US/UK attack on Iraq was completely unprovoked.

Martin LeFevre


To me Zimbabwe, Iraq and Uganda are in the same boat. Iraq and Uganda were dealt with military Action, and rightly so. Probably Zimbabwe will need somebody to go in and remove Mugabe to stop the suffering of the ordinary people. Please stop critising President Bush, at least he did something. I remember during the days of Idi Amin we were begging for anyone to send in troops to rescue us from death, distraction and life without hope, until Tanzania sent in troops.Look at Sudan ( Dafur ) UN, EU have been spending more money on conferences than doing anything.In the beginning 500 people had been killed now it is 500000. It is easy to sit in the comfort of Universities and Countries in EU or America and criticize Bus, When you have never been in the stuation like in Iraq or zimbabwe. Believe me, the people who suffer are the ones who are too poor to move to other countries. So I will take ten President Bushes than the intellectials who do not do anything but talk.

Paul Lule



- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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