Zimbabwe: A Season of Contradictions

Posted by James D. McGee
December 2, 2008
Child Walks Past Puddle Near Harare, Zimbabwe

About the Author: James D. McGee serves as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Zimbabwe.

While celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends last week I was struck yet again by the contradictions of life in Zimbabwe. Most obviously is the contradiction of a land blessed by nature, but unable to feed its own people. While I gave thanks for my many blessings, at least 1.5 million Zimbabweans were suffering from food insecurity. Within a couple of months that number could reach 5 million people, or more than half of the population.

All of this in a country that once fed an entire region on its bounty. The lack of food isn’t the result of any environmental challenges either. In just the past few months I’ve watched Harare glow with the lavender haze of jacaranda, blaze with the glory of the flame trees and now be perfumed by thousands of plumeria. Nature is as bountiful as ever here in Zimbabwe. Tragically, the lush beauty of Harare is contradicted by the emptiness of Zimbabwe’s fields.

Late November is the start of the rainy season in Zimbabwe. Normally the rains are a blessing that allow the crops to grow. But not in this season of contradictions. With little seed or fertilizer available, many fields lie dormant. All the rains will bring is the spread of cholera. As the rains started, Zimbabwe was in the midst of a major cholera outbreak. According to the UN, over 10,000 have been infected already, with over 400 deaths. The rains will only make the problem much worse.

Against this backdrop of suffering, there was one more giant irony last weekend. While millions of Zimbabweans suffered, the country’s illegitimate President, Robert Mugabe, traveled to Doha for the International Conference on Financing for Development. The meeting was meant to be a forum for world leaders to discuss enhancing development work, including sharing “best practices and lessons learned…and obstacles and constraints encountered.” I doubt that Mugabe shared with the assembled heads of state that criminally poor leadership is one of the major constraints to development. Ironically, he could have offered an excellent first hand account of how mismanagement and poor leadership can run a once prosperous country into the ground.

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season. I’ve seen holiday decorations going up at a few stores and malls in Harare. Holiday decorations outside empty stores in a country where very few can buy presents, and even fewer have anything to celebrate. Just one more contradiction in Zimbabwe.



United States
December 5, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

I think that the disaster in Zimbabwe is partly the fault of the US State Dept. which promoted Mr. Mugabe as a suitable replacement for Rhodesia's white government which it opposed.

If anyone can name any black-run, Marxist government that isn't a disaster, please feel free to send the details to Mr. Mugabe.

IAN Smith was prime minister of Rhodesia for 15 turbulent years.

During that period, his government illegally declared independence from British rule (as did America 200 years earlier) and fought a guerrilla war against factions of the majority black population (as did America fight a guerrilla war against Native American tribes).

It was a struggle he eventually lost, paving the way for the black government renaming the nation Zimbabwe.

His supporters considered him a political visionary. His detractors called him a racist who stayed in power for too long.

Born in the then British colony of Rhodesia in 1919, Ian Douglas Smith was educated at Rhodes University in South Africa, a native Rhodesian, a real son of the soil and a crack sportsman.

Until Mugabe took over, the colony of Southern Rhodesia was still ruled by a tightly knit white community of fewer that 250,000 and blacks had the highest living standard in Africa.

The country's black population, numbering some five million, had no say in its political or economic life. Most white Rhodesians could claim British descent and Rhodesia looked to "the Mother Country" with reverence.

During the crisis surrounding Zimbabwe's general election in June 2000, in which a number of white farmers were murdered in a bloody dispute over land rights, Ian Smith remained unbowed. His farm was invaded by squatters, in an incident which he described as "not serious".

When Robert Mugabe threatened to put Smith on trial for genocide, the former Prime Minister welcomed the move. "We had no atrocities," he claimed.

Ian Smith himself felt betrayed, by Britain, by South Africa, by the Commonwealth. And, as Zimbabwe staggered into economic and political crisis, he honestly believed his way was best.

"We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people than any other country on the African continent," he reflected.

December 3, 2008

Solomon in Madagascar writes:

Mr president and commadeur the Air Force and Army of the United States of the America, We can respect the democracy and peaces and right of man, because us project Peaces world are building for protect the all need for execution the democracy and peaces and to iself and to defende the all need us suport and help in the world, Because USA is the leader defence and economic in the world and can and have right Iself in the world for development along time Ago in the five continent. I hope us coperation are contunie and confurme as far as the world peaces and respect the democracy and right of man. Your are the hope and future for generation people in the world. Thank very much, The God us protege, Your coperation, Solomon.

Wyoming, USA
December 3, 2008

Kevin in Wyoming writes:

Seasons Greetings.

New York, USA
December 3, 2008

Ron in New York writes:

Zim-bad-way...just another post-colonial remnant...

a current reflection of earlier corruption.

Mugabe is our own creation.

South Korea
December 6, 2008

Chul-hong in South Korea writes:

A majority of people in Zimbabwe have been suffering from the lack of food and the shortage of basic needs for life, which is mainly not due to natural circumstances, but due to the tyranny regime-Robert Mugabe.

As we know, the dictatorship such as Zimbabwe brings inefficient bureaucracy, which often leads corruptions in ruling its people.

So, under this political condition, enormous assistances from international communities to Zimbabweans are more likely to be swallowed into the Mugabe's own pocket.

The first and best way to help Zimbabweans is stepping down Mugabe and establishing the democratic government.

However, it might take relatively long time to set up the democratic government, since big-power such as China, seeking to acquire vast natural resources, supports the Mugabe's regime.

Therefore, international communities willing to aid Zimbabweans, first of all, must found the system watching the fair distribution and the evenhanded allocation of reliefs.


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