Skip to comments.Zimbabwe -- Mugabe departure could not be too soon
Posted on 06/01/2003 4:27:25 AM PDT by Clive
Mugabe departure could not be too soon
NEWS on Zimbabwe early this week is that the country's strongman, President Robert Mugabe, is contemplating retiring after ruling Zimbabwe for a continuous period of 23 years.
Although no time frame was given, Radio Botswana reported on Monday that "sources" quoted South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki saying that Mugabe recently hinted to him his desire to retire. RB also quoted "sources" saying that an undisclosed number of Mugabe's Zanu PF members of parliament recently met in South Africa for private talks on the thorny issue of his possible successor, an indication that the news about his impeding retirement may be true after all.
While efforts by The Gazette to verify the truthfulness of the news drew a blank, the prospect of Mugabe's exit from Zimbabwe's political scene, however remote, ushers a new hope for millions of Zimbabweans who have been turned into political and economic refugees in neighbouring countries.
When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 - a historical event in which Mugabe played a monumental part - its economy was the second largest after South Africa's, and countries like Botswana depended on some food imports from that country, counter balancing them with supplies from hostile apartheid South Africa. Large scale farming by Zimbabwe's commercial farmers, coupled with a large and highly productive industrial sector, meant that Zimbabweans produced not only enough food for themselves, but also a surplus that earned revenue and provided jobs for the citizens.
But this success was reversed when Mugabe became more and more intolerant of dissent. Some of his political opponents were harassed or imprisoned; for instance whole communities in Matebeleland were brutalised - tortured, maimed or killed - as the liberator turned into a repressive power hungry autocrat. The last straw was Mugabe's controversial land reform programme - implemented by violent gangs of "war veterans" - which resulted in government forcibly repossessing productive land from white commercial farmers for distribution among black Zimbabweans. As this happened, the country slipped into near anarchy. Many Zimbabweans were forced to flee their country, scattering all over the world to eke a living as displaced persons.
Events in Zimbabwe have not only affected people in that country. The unstable political situation has meant that tourism, which has the potential of being Southern Africa's biggest revenue earner, was devastated as tourists voted with their feet and stayed away from Zimbabwe and the rest of Southern Africa - which packages its tourism product jointly with Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's instability has infected its neighbours in other ways too. Botswana, for example, has to deal with thousands of illegal immigrants who cost the country millions of Pula in various security apparatus and other scarce resources.
The Gazette sincerely hopes Mugabe will retire soon, and pray that his departure will be followed by a smooth political transition. Zimbabweans were subjected to a lot of blood letting during the liberation war. They deserve a long lasting peace.
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