Mugabe's assault on the poor
Mugabe is officially Roman Catholic, but his heart is so black that there is no doubt a special place in hell for him. Truly we're hard-pressed to find such raw evil. At her Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was absolutely correct to list Zimbabwe among the world's "outposts of tyranny."
UN agencies have apparently "condemned" Mugabe's new assault on Zimbabwe's poor, which began four weeks ago. However, their criticism has been quiet enough that I've only seen brief mentions of it in the news. The White House and EU have denounced what Mugabe is doing. Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic leaders have denounced it. Tony Blair is being pressured. Paul Wolfowitz has denounced it, but not strongly enough.
Wolfowitz says Zimbabwe evictions 'a tragedy'These people are not only sleeping in the street, but they're sleeping unprotected in wintertime. (Zimbabwe is in the Southern Hemisphere, which has winter while the Northern Hemisphere has summer.) I ask myself, "What is wrong with us?" when our Western news obsesses about Abu Ghraib, Gitmo prisoners and Michael Jackson (that is the only time you will see me reference him on my blog), ignoring this tragedy where babies freeze to death, amidst cholera outbreaks.
Zimbabwe is in "pretty bad shape and getting worse," new World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Saturday, adding that reports of thousands being driven from informal settlements was a "tragedy." ...
Aid workers say around 200,000 Zimbabweans have been made homeless by a recent blitz by President Robert Mugabe's government on informal settlements and stalls, hurting a population already hit by AIDS and bad harvests.
"These latest reports of hundreds and thousands of people driven out of their homes is both inhuman and it must do enormous damage to development prospects for the country," he said. "It's a tragedy."
Besides the people who have lost their homes, over 32,000 people have been arrested. On what charges? "Illegal" commerce, but the "crimes" are flea markets and informal merchants -- people who are simply trying to eke out a living. Mugabe has defended the destruction, insisting that these urban shanty towns are illegal and overrun with "criminals." If he's looking for criminals, he should first look at himself. Then again, he's technically right: he has made it a crime to seek out an honest living that is not "blessed" by his government. The previous "criminals" were the white farmers, whose sole "crime" was retaining ownership of the farms that their forefathers had started.
Ayn Rand was right. She wrote in Atlas Shrugged, "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
Mugabe used the white farmers as a scapegoat for Zimbabwe's economic woes. His "land grab" made things even worse: white-owned farmland was given to blacks, who often built homes on the land instead of continuing farming, and Zimbabwe's agricultural output plummeted. Meanwhile, Mugabe's government seized any other land it wanted, allowing his cronies to enrich themselves off Zimbabwe's tremendous mineral wealth. Now he needs someone new to blame, and sadly, it's these urban poor and their "informal" economy.
Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is over 80% (contrast that with the last U.S. recession, when we didn't even hit 7%). Since four-fifths of Zimbabweans cannot find jobs (not stable jobs as we know them), they must do what they can to sell goods and services to each other. Yet Mugabe accused them of "sabotaging" Zimbabwe's economy. How can people engaging in voluntary, peaceful economic activity, and not inhibiting others from doing the same, cause any harm to the economy? They're the ones generating economic activity, unlike Mugabe, who is destroying it. But as an avowed Marxist, Mugabe won't allow any economic activity that isn't under his government's auspices.
ZWNews.com explains that part of Mugabe's plan is "destroying informal 'flea markets' in order to tighten its control of the economy." Therefore, he must destroy any commerce not sanctioned by his government, and any merchants who won't give in to his tyranny. This extends to centralizing all foreign currency, which people are using for the simple reason that Zimbabwe's dollar is practically worthless. When people lose confidence in the soundness of their national currency, they must find a stable medium of exchange. It's another manifestation of individual liberty that Mugabe cannot permit to continue.
One estimate is that possibly 1.5 million people are now homeless. A Sunday Herald article said two million, also noting why Mugabe is really doing this: urban dwellers were big supporters of the opposition party in the parliamentary elections earlier this year. This is literally his revenge. Independent Online echoes that and also points out that Mugabe is blocking aid to these people, who are basically refugees. His actions are so criminal that "Even some non-governmental organisations who don't normally criticise the government publicly, such as the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZDHR) and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), have been forced to speak out because of the magnitude of the crisis." The ZDHR estimates between 1 and 2 million people are homeless, far higher than what relief agencies are reporting.
Another ZWNews.com article bemoans the fate of those who won't sell their souls to Mugabe:
Thousands of Zimbabweans made homeless in the government's ruthless clean-up campaign are being herded into re-education camps and told they can have a housing plot only if they swear allegiance to the party of President Robert Mugabe. Those who refuse are loaded into trucks and dumped in remote rural areas, far from their own homes, where food is scarce. Human rights workers say they are being left to die in what they believe is a deliberate strategy by the Mugabe regime to exterminate opponents....That's not all. The extent of Mugabe's tyranny is such that other Zimbabweans are afraid to protest against him, lest they incur the wrath of his police.
...Yesterday police rampaged through Harare, setting fire to the few remaining belongings that many homeless people had salvaged, and warning them against taking refuge in churches. So brutalised is the population that some torched their own possessions on police instructions. A Harare police commander was reported to have authorised the use of live ammunition against people resisting eviction. "I need reports on my desk saying we have shot people," he was said to told his officers. "The president has given his full support for this operation so there is nothing to fear. You should treat (it) as a war."
What can we do? Western nations for years have sent food and money to Zimbabwe, always with the same result: Mugabe and his henchmen seize most of the food and money for themselves, distribute some to their supporters, and prevent all relief efforts from reaching the intended recipients. It should be noted that this happens with many African nations, as well as Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Einstein reputedly said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So what's left?
Should "some nation" send in covert agents to assassinate Mugabe and his top leaders, I question whether Zimbabwe would be worse off with the pursuant social chaos and possible civil war. At least they'd be free to fight for true freedom.
The best option would be what the Second Continental Congress adopted on July 4, 1776:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.This is not possible, however, while Zimbabweans are deprived of firearms to protect themselves from tyrannical government. This is what Noah Webster noted:
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supremepower in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.Now consider what Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi reportedly said in 1558:
The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms. The possession of these elements makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues, and tends to permit uprising. Therefore, the heads of provinces, official agents, and deputies are ordered to collect all the weapons mentioned above and turn them over to the government.The last sounds a bit apocryphal to me, but it's still the same principle.