Zimbabwe: disaster without end?

The disaster which is Zimbabwe has been going on for years: if one counts UDI, decades. The cholera outbreak is now killing increasing numbers and the hospitals seem completely unable to cope. The EU’s less than emphatic response has been to ban a few more Zimbabwean leaders from travelling (it is unclear how many loopholes there will be).

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu has called for military action if necessary to overthrow Mugabe; a position also supported by Desmond Tutu if African troops are used. The problems with military action are of course considerable. Mugabe has always had an effective army and it might remain loyal. Also of course violence would at least temporarily lead to even more deaths. The only African country with an army immediately to hand which could effect the removal of Mugabe is South Africa. Whilst they undoubtedly have the military strength and since Thabo Mbeki’s departure have been more critical of Mugabe it would undoubtedly be difficult for them to launch military action to overthrow a man who was once a hero of the independence movement.

The West of course has the military strength to perform such an action with ease. However, the weight of history is colossally against such an action and any invasion by western powers is almost inconceivable. There is of course a certain irony in that Harold Wilson also felt unable to use military force in 1965 against the country’s previous leadership.

  • The EU should support African Union involvement financially and logistically as with the Darfur AU mission. I don’t favour direct Western military intervention – it would be seen as neo-imperialist and rally African govts to Mugabe. Personally I would hope that Jacob Zuma, likely to take over eventually as South African President, will take a far tougher line than Mbeki did.

  • KieranJ

    If the people of Africa refuse to rise up and overthrow this thug, they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves.

    Time for the white man to stay to hell out of this disaster and let the people there handle it.

  • Do we need a name for commenters who write about ‘the people of Africa’? Palintologists?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Being Nationalist Irish, I have felt some unease at Britain – the former colonial power – lecturing Mugabe – that clearly would be best left to the EU or other countries whose own track record was not based on exploitation. This also allowed any Mugabe spokesman to deflect attention away from the current situation ( which may need at some stage miltiary intervention) and towards Britian’s imperial past.

  • mnob


    Bit of flawed logic there. If the rest of the EU had a better record at ‘imperialism’ then you might have a point.

    I would also say that you may have difficulty finding any area whose track record was not based on exploitation. (and no simply creating a new state and then denying all responsibility for the past doesnt count)

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    “I would also say that you may have difficulty finding any area whose track record was not based on exploitation. ”

    Ireland – would be a good example. But the point is – expoitation of the country you are actaully lecturing.

  • Jimmy

    I have heard excuses from former ‘imperialism’ to Western apathy and power Politics to describe Africas woes. All of which are somewhat smokescreen although I acknowledge some of its effects. The Problem with Afica are the Africans plain and simple, They have a tribal mentality and have different notions on what it means to be human and the rights and dignitys of being human. They just Think differently.
    I have spoken to many people from NGOs in Africa who went out there based on Alturistic optimism only to have it Quashed by the African System and Mentality itself. They ‘Africans’ cant or wont adopt Civilised values. So why should we care?
    I think we should leave them too it, We in the west need to lose or White Guilt complexes before we start to look at Africa objectively until then we will always be scratching our heads about Africa. Africans practice thier own form of Social Darwinism albeit Mugabes case, for the west to interfere would be gross interferance in macro cultural practices. Why not interfere is Lesotho,sierra Leon or DRG?
    Africa has always been the ‘White Mans Burden’ and will continue to be so.

  • 6countyprod

    Zimbabwe under Mugabe is a disaster. Rhodesia, on the other hand, under Smith, was not a disaster.

    you are so gullible.

    The AU will never do anything against Mugabe. Black African leaders treat him like a hero. Only the people of Zim. can deal with Mugabe. They made their bed, and they will just have to lie in it.

  • joeCanuck

    ‘Africans’ cant or wont adopt Civilised values.

    Just exactly whose values would that be? George Bush’s? N.I. political leaders?

    Utter arrogance of the sort that led to colonisation in the first place.

  • mnob


    In Ireland’s case pretending you weren’t part of it didn’t benefit from it and don’t continue to benefit from it, doesn’t equate to innocence.

    I take your point about being directly involved in Zimbabwe but this didn’t come across in your original post.

  • 6countyprod

    When Nelson Madela doesn’t care about Mugabe or the plight of the people of Zimbabwe, how can you expect anyone else to be interested?

    I would not necessarity support ‘western’ intervention in Zim., but there are a couple of examples of recent successful operations by European forces in Africa: the Brits in Sierra Leonne and the French in Ivory Coast (2002).

  • Shirley McGuffin

    Mugabe was educated by the jesuits. Enough said.

  • Greenflag

    jimmy ,

    ‘The Problem with Afica are the Africans plain and simple, They have a tribal mentality and have different notions on what it means to be human ‘

    So not like the Europeans then who have committed more mass genocides both against non Europeans and against each other historically than Africans ever have ? Coming on an Northern Ireland focused blog , a state which is world renowned for it’s ‘non tribalism’ makes the comment above even more ludicrous than ironic 🙁

    The problem with Africa is poverty , economic underdevelopment and populalation pressure in some parts of the continent which has given rise to conditions not dissimilar from Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th century .

    Mugabe needed to be removed a long time ago as far back as the early 1990’s when the rot began . Now it will take an internal coup d’etat which would be problematical as to outcome . Many of Mugabe’s top military clique are vested in the present regime and their lives would be on the line .

    From a population of 15 million some 4 million have fled the country to South Africa , Botswana and some to the UK and even Ireland . Half of the remaining population are starving ann Mugabe still clings on .

    If we ever needed proof that there are times in history when the ‘status quo’ can only hope to be removed by force of arms then this is one of them . Will it happen ? Probably not until several million Zimbabweans die in the streets or more likely in the remote rural areas 🙁

    Progress is not guaranteed neither in Zimbabwe nor for that matter in Northern Ireland or anywhere else .

  • Greenflag

    Surly McMuffin ‘

    ‘Mugabe was educated by the jesuits’
    enough said .

    Whats that supposed to mean ? – Millions of people worldwide have been educated by the Jesuits and I’d suggest that 99.99% of them have become productive members of the societies in which they live .

    Unless you know different of course in which case you might want to enlighten the rest of us ?

  • 6countyprod

    The problem with Africa is poverty , economic underdevelopment and populalation pressure

    Africa should be a success story. It has the resources, land and manpower (and woman power) to enable it to stand by itself.

    The root problem with Black Africa is tribalism and corruption which, of course, leads to poverty and underdevelopment. With the exception of a few countries, tribalism denies the majority of the populations of many countries basic things like access to clean water, medical facilities, education and an opportunity to progress.

    Ghana and Senegal are setting a good example for other anglophone and francophone countries to follow, as is Mozambique for the Portuguese speaking countries.

    In many ways, independence has been a bigger disaster for African countries than colonial rule, but, at least in some places, with well-monitored ‘western’ help, things are starting to look a little bit better.

  • 6countyprod, I’m not gullible, just somewhat less witty than I thought I was this morning.

    My real gripe is with the ‘Africa-as-an-entity’ mentality. I’d love someone to explain to me how Zimbabwe ought to hold the interest of your average Libyan or Ghanian or Ethiopian person in a way that it ought not hold the interest of your average Irish or French person.

    On tribalism, it really is hilarious for anyone from this part of the world to describe it as a problem for ‘Black Africa.’ God knows we’d never have politicians appealing to so-called tribalism while lining their own pockets and those of their class.

    And isn’t it an amazing coincidence that the really violent outbursts of African ‘ancient ethnic hatreds’ (I know, I know, the ancient ethnic hatred canard was coined for the Balkans, but bear with me) tend to happen in precisely the same areas that have the greatest mineral wealth, most notably the Congo and Sierra Leone/Liberia etc? Heaven forfend that egregious corruption and exploitation in Africa would sit alongside struggles over resources, just as they do elsewhere on the planet.

  • mnob

    Can I join in with the ‘problem with Africa’ brigade …

    The problem with Africa is that power was handed over from the colonial powers too quickly – without first building up an ‘indigenous’ middle class.

    The remarkable (and mostly uncommented) feature of South Africa is that a black (and I use that phrase deliberately in this case) middle class was and is being allowed to build. One silver lining to all of this is that all the people of South Africa are looking with alarm at what is happening across the border and realise that is not what they want (and appear frustrated at the inaction of their politicians).

  • rob

    What’s happening in Zimbabwe is crazy…I think Mugabe should go…donno why its taking soo long

  • Greenflag

    ‘The problem with Africa is that power was handed over from the colonial powers too quickly ‘

    So the land and scarce resouce grab of the colonial powers for Africa from the 14th /15th century was eh not a problem ? The same thing that happened to the Australian aboriginies and the American Indians would also have happened to the Africans had it not been for two factors – one was the ‘failure’ of the white man to impose his numbers to any great extent in sub sahahran Africa due to his lack of any immunity to malaria in te colonial era . Only in the highland areas of Kenya and in South Africa south of the Fish river could Europeans thrive with their transplanted agricultural civilisation .

    The Africans because of their pastoral culture and contact with ‘disease ridden’ europeans over a long period via the Roman and Greek and Egyptian civilisations , had developed natural immunities to many of the the animal engendered diseases that destroyed many of long isolated and non pastoral peoples such as the American Indians and the Australian and Tasmanian indigenes .

  • Kathleen

    The African union needs to do more. The pressure for Mugabe to go should come from within Africa, and the AU should also be able to help the cholera victims. I still think the west should provide aid. Its terribly hard to watch. Its all very well theorising, but help could be given, especially with a disease that is so easily treated.

  • joeCanuck

    especially with a disease that is so easily treated.

    Rehydration is the main treatment and it’s pretty effective but it’s very hard to do when the infrastructure has collapsed and clean water is difficult to find. But if the neighbours intervened, I’m sure the NGOs could quickly set up temporary water purification sites.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The pressure for Mugabe to go should come from within Africa,’

    The President of Botswana has been calling for Mugabe’s resignation for at least a decade and the recently deceased Zambian President also called for his removal . There is no other way than a miltary led overthrow of this desoicable regime . Mugabe will never cede power while still alive . Hitler had the same problem .

  • Greenflag

    ‘donno why its taking soo long ‘

    Because he has 11 billion dollars (USA dollars ) in Swiss Bank accounts and uses the money to keep his generals and other influential Zimbabweans on his side . The monies he has looted /deducted from naive foreign donors and his own people over 25 years is now being used to prolong the starvation of the people it was supposed to feed.

    Maybe God will intervene eh :(?

  • deirdre

    It absoluelty distresses me to see the complete hash that Mugabe has made of Zimbabwe since he came to power after the civil war. At the time Western powers got a hint of his genocidal meglomaiac tendencies when he tried his first bit of ethnic cleansing on the Ndebele tribe. Those in power in Europe, America and the UK should have dealt with him then instead of allowing him to carry on destroying a once wealthy and resource-packed country. The reason the West kept him in power was that he wasn’t a Russian stooge. The Russians had supported Joshua Nkomo( a rare mistake) and the Ndebele and Mugabe took it out of their hide by refusing them preferential status. Thus he was seen as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in Africa, especially in Southern Africa where the mineral wealht is concentrated.
    (Also, get over the idea that colonialism is always a bad thing. Why is it only the British Empire you all get so exercised about? What about the Russian Communist Empire or Hitler or the Spanish etcetc? Compared to some of those the Brits were positively altruistic.)
    Back on thread though, Zimabwe used to be one of the great success stories of sub-Saharan Africa. It has great natural resources, mineral wealth and at one time it had great pastureland and arableland. We let the people of Zim down with misplaced guilt over a colonial past that we’re not responsible for and we allowed a madman to destroy it to keep Russia out. Was it thre right choice? Emphatically NO and we must now do the right thing and remove Mugabe and help rebuild this ravaged country. Anyone willing to volunteer for active duty to go out and help or do you all just want to continue wringing your hands and blaming empire?

  • sean

    President Mugabe was once the darling of Britian and America, the Queen of England even held a Banquet in his honour, He has been awarded countless honorary degrees by the West. The question has to be asked , how could this highly educated man and African Liberation hero ,be a guest of the Queen of England one day and then the subject of a deliberate dehumanisation media assult by pro Western private media houses the next. LAND REFORM, is without doubt the main reason British and American Imperialism has decided he has outlived his usefulness. Under the settlement treaty known as the LANCASTER HOUSE AGREEMENT , Britian as the former colonist power was to finance Land Reform, and compensate the white farmers , who had virtually all of Zimbabawe fertile land under their controol. Under pressure from the War Veterans Association , and other organised Landless groups, he decided to fast track LAND REFORM after BLAIR refused to honour Britian part of the Agreement and compensate the White Colonist. Thatcher had before him honoured the agreement.Blair feeble excuse for not honouring the agreement was that it would deter forign investment in Zimbabawe. President Mugabe and the ZIMBABABAWE people knew Blair was lying and the real reason was to derail LAND REFORM and protect the 4000 White farmers , who were mainly of British stock. Zimbabawe simply had not the resources to compensate the White farmers, and President Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Goverment even if they had , were not going to pay compensation to what were the descendants of Land Thieves , to get their very own lands back that were taken from them at gunpoint. As the fast track programme started , the British and American media prompted no doubt by their political master went into over drive , in a vicious anti Mugabe onslaught. All the ills of Zimbabawe were laid at his door, Drought, Aids, everything was used to help paint the picture they wanted, which was a African despot. Regime change was firmly on Britian and America agenda, and one AMERICAN diplomat is on record of saying that , that to achieve their goal they would make the economy of Zimbabawe Scream. Sanctions were rolled in ,they they covertly stared to fund the MDC , and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as the preferred pro Western stooge party that would best serve their selfish interest. Sanctions have done exactly that , they have virtually destroyed the Zimbabawe economy. Zimbabawe is denied the right by these illegal SANCTIONS , to seek loans on the INTERNATIONL financial markets , farm spares ordered from European and American companies are not honored as pressure is put on the compaines not to do business . Even oil shipments are sabotaged , and it is common for Zimbabawe to order and pay for shipments that are not honoured by the oil companies as America or Britian offers more to the seller . Sanctions has thousands of Zimbabawe lose their livelihoods as factories close down or European and American markets refuse entry on goods produced in Zimbabawe. The main major American and British media houses never ever mention the horrendous SANCTIONS that has no doubt been a major factor in the economic collapse of Zimbabwe , and deliberate only focus on the results , which they blame on President Mugabe and his Goverment. Britian and America there is no doubt what so ever are behind the scenes engineering the collapse of Zimbabawe mainly through SANCTIONS , and a well organised media campaign. The bottom line is , they will not allow any Goverment of National Unity , to be formed and will settle for nothing less than their creation the MDC, led by their own man Morgan Tsvangirai to govern Zimbabawe .

  • 6countyprod

    Ciarán, (sorry for misspelling your name earlier)

    Just a couple of thoughts on your gripe with the ‘Africa-as-an-entity’ mentality

    Africans themselves (the political class) strive for some form of general African unity. Kaddafi has been pushing it for years. Africans I reckon have a family-tribal-national-African identity priority.

    Zimbabweans have a lot in common with Ghanaians and possibly Ethiopians, but less so Libyans or Egyptians. Things like farming, music, food and even football bring them together. You would be amazed how much people living in the bush in west Africa know about Mugabe and places like Rwanda and Burundi. There is possibly at least one short-wave radio in every major village. The French magazine Jeune Afrique is read avidly in Arab-African countries and Black-African countries. There is a special affinity between Black Africans though.

    The problem with Africa is that power was handed over from the colonial powers too quickly – without first building up an ‘indigenous’ middle class.

    Colonialists did not have much choice about handing over power. Most countries declared their independence from their colonial masters without thinking through the implications. Some allowed the former colonialists to help them while others expelled them. If you compare, say, the actions of Guinea and Ivory Coast in the 60’s it gives a clear example of the does and don’ts of establishing a new country. Guinea had a lot more resources than IC, yet ended up suffering while IC prospered. Reason being: the Ivorians let the French help them get things going, while the Guineans kicked the French out.

    Actually the colonial powers did build up an indigenous political class, but the mistake they usually made was training only one or a small group of related ethnic groups who then became the de facto leaders of their countries at independence. Because of the nature of tribalism, these rulers keep most of the country’s wealth for their own people, which in time led to a build up of resentment in the other groups in the country resulting in the countless coups that Africa has witnessed.

  • Greenflag

    6 county prod ,

    You may not be able to count but you know your political history of Africa . Maybe you should ‘transfer ‘ some of that historical acumen to Ireland -North and South .

    Here’s a little help using your own words with just a few minor changes to allow for the Northern Irish and indeed the Irish situation .

    ‘Actually the colonial power did build up an indigenous political class after several generatons , but the mistake they made was empowering only one of the ethno sectarian groups who then became the de facto leaders of Northern Ireland at independence ( UDI 1920 ). Because of the nature of tribalism, the Unionist rulers keep most of the province’s wealth for their own people, which in time led to a build up of resentment with the other group in the province resulting in the endemic rebellions and revolutions that Northern Ireland has enduredover the past 80 years and Ireland generally for several centuries .

  • 6countyprod

    I’ve told you before and I’m not telling you again, 6 into 26 just doesn’t go!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    Actually it does – 4 times and with 2 left over – bringing us back to Greenflag’s old chestnut repartition.

  • Greenflag

    6 county prod ,

    ‘I’ve told you before and I’m not telling you again, 6 into 26 just doesn’t go!’

    Full marks for getting the numbers wrong again:(. There are alas amoeba like unicelled organisms lurking under the frozen surface of Titan who though lacking in fingers and toes attain a higher standard of mathematical computation than yer good self 😉


    ‘Actually it does – 4 times and with 2 left over’

    That’s right . And the two county size area can be left on the other side of a new border after a fair repartition implemented by the UN/EU .
    Speed the day and be done with this farce of an Assembly.