The Enduring Tragedy of Robert Mugabe

080131-F-1644L-121Zimbabwe’s only president has run the country to the ground.

By Peter Bjel.

In Zimbabwe there is a paradox. Presidential and parliamentary elections take place routinely. Depending on the results, however, no one hears of the outcome until voting irregularities and electoral frauds have been fully utilized to make the results favorable to the ruling regime. This past summer, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was reelected President by a two-thirds majority in polls that the opposition party are calling “illegitimate”.

The country’s only president since independence, Mugabe is highly educated and used to share platforms with esteemed world leaders as he preached reconciliation after nearly a century of repressive white-minority rule. But during this progressive period, Mugabe began building the apparatus of an authoritarian system in Zimbabwe, marginalizing and brutally eliminating sources of opposition to his rule.

Zimbabwe used to be a net exporter of foodstuffs to other African countries and was once held as a model of economic advancement. Today, hyperinflation of its currency has only stopped because U.S. dollars are used as a de facto currency in place of the worthless Zimbabwean dollar. It has relied on the donor community to prevent mass starvation that at one point threatened over half the population. The suspension of some sanctions has stopped the chronic shortages of fuel, energy, and basic foodstuffs, but this may soon change for the worse.

Today, nearly one million Zimbabweans, among them badly-needed professionals, have left the country for neighboring prospects and hope in the last ten years. The epidemic of HIV/AIDS—14.3 percent prevalence as of 2009—has compounded the demographic deficit. A power-sharing agreement, hammered out in 2009 between Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), collapsed in August in the wake of another fraudulent election—the seventh since 1980—in which Mugabe emerged with an inflated two-thirds majority.

The story of Zimbabwe’s free-fall is linked to …

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