Zimbabwe – Hell in Paradise

Amid rampant unemployment (est. 70%), repression, unbridled lawlessness, hunger, intimidation and an unchecked, untreated AIDS epidemic, Zimbabweans go to the polls Thursday, March 31. So secretive, brutal and repressive is the quarter-of-a-century old regime of President Robert Mugabe, 81, and his all-powerful ZANU PF party, that no one believes in the official figure of 5.6 million registered voters for 120 seats in parliament. Thirty are handpicked by the president.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of second largest town of Bulawayo called Sunday, March 27, for peaceful Ukraine-style street protests to overthrow the ruler, because Thursday’s election was certain to be rigged. If he were to put on his vestments and lead a march on Mugabe’s palace, he feared he would be alone. “The people are so scared.”
Since Mugabe came to power, Zimbabwe has been transformed from an African paradise with a 4.5% growth rate to the fastest shrinking economy in the world. Three quarters of the population live below the poverty line. Life expectancy has dropped from 61 to 39.
Yet Mugabe is expected to engineer another win for his ZANU-PF as he did in 2000 and 2002. He trumpets the poll as free, open and democratic and is echoed by his lone patron, South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC, predicts that widespread crop failure and drought in the once thriving country could leave seven out of 12 million Zimbabweans hungry before the end of the year. The quarter of a million-strong white population has been whittled down to no more than an estimated 35,000.
Tsvangirai, a former trade union head, has managed to survive long enough to run against Mubabe after being in and out of prison for years and constantly hauled back to face fresh charges ranging from plots to kill Mugabe to plans for sabotage against the country. More than 400 MDC partisans have been murdered by government militias since his party emerged in 1999. He himself escaped an assassination attempt last July.
Now, says the opposition, the ruler’s strong-arm tactics have “eased.” The thugs who raid government opponents’ homes by night no longer murder and torture; they merely threaten to cut off food to whole, starving communities. No surprisingly, Tsvangirai’s campaign attracts very small, albeit enthusiastic, audiences.
debkafile‘s special correspondent reports: The anti-torture group “Redress” says that no free elections are possible in the current climate of fear. Countries deemed hostile to the ruling clique have been banned from sending monitoring teams for the vote, even former US President Jimmy Carter’s peace center in Atlanta, which Mugabe brands a “terrorist organization.” Zimbabwe’s supreme court has barred more than three million expatriates from voting.
The last independent paper, Daily News, has been bludgeoned, beaten and bombed into silence. The foreign press is absent or rigidly monitored. Any real reporting is done with hidden cameras.
Mugabe’s anti-Western and anti-White rhetoric has increased as polls approach. The MDC is accused of acting as a proxy for the government’s enemies.
The country, isolated by sanctions, is acutely short of foreign exchange. The World Bank’s lending program is “inactive due to arrears.” Western donors have frozen economic assistance; the European Union bans visas for Mugabe and his top associates, while the US has lumped Zimbabwe with Iran and North Korea as an “outpost of tyranny.”
North Korean advisers are known to have spent most of the 1980s in the country, training Mugabe’s infamous Fifth Brigade and his bodyguards. They came with $18m worth of military hardware, T-544 tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and small arms.
No one knows if and when they left. They set up compulsory indoctrination centers for young people, teaching them blind loyalty to the ruling Party and its leader and hatred of political opponents, especially Whites and any other non-Black communities. They were also inducted into Korean martial arts and such assassination techniques as strangling with bootlaces. Young female inductees were rumored to have been forced to provide sexual favors to instructors and officers.
An ever-present scar on the Zimbabwean psyche, especially in Matabeleland, is the memory of the terrible massacre, pillage and rape – The Gukurahundi – unleashed during the North Korean era by the Fifth Brigade. No one knows the number of victims.
The writer, Peter Godwin, in his memoir “Makiwe” (the African word for white man), ventured into the site of the massacre in its immediate aftermath and found a scorched land, a ghost-land of silence and destroyed villages, and survivors too traumatized to speak.
In 2000, after the opposition won almost half the seats in elections, Mugabe loosed the “war veterans” with their machetes on white-owned and even black-owned farms, pillaging, destroying, murdering, raping their victims. Fire burned throughout the country. But the White owners were not the only victims. More than 400,000 Black farm workers and their families were thrown out of work and have been utterly destitute ever since. The captured white farms were not turned over to landless peasants but commandeered by party hacks and ZANU PF apparatchiks.
In 2001, a second rogue state leader, Muammar Qaddafi, became Mugabe’s best friend. Giving up on influence on the Arab world, he preached African jihad against the Whites and lavished cash and oil to buy influence. Together they spread hate of Whites, including Jews. Mugabe’s new patron pledged $1m for his campaign fund, signed a $360m oil deal and handed out several loans to rescue the country from collapse. Today, Zimbabwe is mortgaged to the hilt, its ruler believed to have signed over to Qaddafi most of the country’s high-value assets: a stake in or ownership of its refineries, the Mozambique-Zimbabwe oil pipeline, the Harare Sheraton, Victoria Falls hotels, some 20 large ranches and mansions and even the famed Hwange national game reserve.
There are stories that poachers are killing off the game in this and other reserves out of desperation for food.
With inflation at a rampant 700%, bread is priced out of reach of the poor.
Hospitals are bare of the most basic equipment and supplies – even aspirin; surgical nurses bring kitchen rubber gloves from home. More than 700 die every week from AIDS, a million AIDS-orphaned children roam the streets in packs.
In 2002, the UN reported DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe had systematically plundered Congo’s mineral wealth during the 4-year war in which 2 million died. “Zimbabwean troops drafted to support the Kinshasa government were reinforced in places like Kasai where Zimbabwean parties own interests in diamond mines,” said the report, accusing Congolese and Zimbabwean government and military officials of transferring at least $5 bn to private pockets.
Commander of Mugabe’s defense forces, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, dismissed the UN report as a Western plot to tarnish his country.
Despite fears of the ubiquitous secret police, Zimbabweans know quite a lot about Mugabe’s foreign adventure in DR Congo. They revealed to debkafile‘s special correspondent that more than 11,000 Zimbabwean soldiers were sent to the country during the Congo war to guard Mugabe’s diamond and mineral mines, his payback for guarding the Kinshasa government. The planes returned home loaded with incredible wealth amassed by their ruler and top military brass and also the body bags of the soldiers who had been killed or died of horrible diseases rife in the DR Congo hell hole.
Delivering the Easter Mass at Bulawayo’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, Bishop Ncube urged worshippers to remain hopeful. “Somewhere there will come a resurrection for Zimbabwe.”

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