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Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has earned a reputation as one of the leading thugs of Africa. The leader of Zimbabwe has turned a once self-sufficient nation into a starving wasteland in which a very few elites garner all of the wealth to themselves. Those who oppose his efforts to enrich himself at the expense of the millions of starving Zimbabweans get treated to a painful form of government attention, as the London Times reports:
THE beating stopped as the sun began to go down. After two-and-a-half hours, the fourteen men and one woman held at Matapi police station in Mbare township, Harare, had suffered five fractured arms, seven hand fractures, two sets of ruptured eardrums, fifteen cases of severe buttock injuries, deep soft-tissue bruising all over, and open lacerations.
The 15 included Wellington Chibebe, the leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), and senior officials of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
“As a case of police brutality on a group, it is the worst I’ve ever seen,” a doctor who helped to attend to them said.
President Mugabe’s security agencies are notorious for violent assault, but this was the first time that the top strata of the Opposition had been subjected to severe physical attack.
Some of the victims spoke for the first time yesterday about the assaults that took place after police broke up an attempted protest by the trade unions against the Government’s ruinous handling of the economy.
The savagery of the attacks is seen as indicating the jitteriness in the Government over its hold on power amid the desperate poverty into which President Mugabe has sunk Zimbabweans. “It was carried out as a deliberate, premeditated warning, from the highest level, to anyone else who tries mass protest, that this is what will happen to them,” a Western diplomatic source said.
Zimbabwe has a long and twisted history, as do many of the African nations in the post-colonial period. Formerly the British colony of Rhodesia, it first gained independence by fiat in the mid-60s under white Prime Minister Iain Smith. Britain refused to recognize Smith's declaration and pushed UN sanctions on the country. A civil war erupted, which threw Mugabe and fellow rebel Joseph Nkomo to power and brought South African troops to Smith's aid. The war continued until 1979, when all sides agreed to a democratic form of government and independence for the new nation of Zimbabwe.
This supposedly showed how colonial masters could be overthrown; Stevie Wonder sang that "peace has come to Zimbabwe", but it came in the form of Mugabe, the first PM of Zimbabwe and later its first (and only) "executive president". Mugabe started a program of kicking out the white farmers, who had remained in Zimbabwe and produced enough crops to feed the nation, and giving the land to other interests. These other interests did not have much interest in -- or talent for -- farming, and Zimbabwe had to import more and more food, falling further and further into poverty.
Mugabe has broken the agricultural back of the nation and created massive inflation. He has destroyed the economic system of Zimbabwe. His political supporters have rigged elections and rewritten the nation's laws to keep themselves in power. The only organized civil opposition has come from the labor unions, which have pushed to get free elections in order to push Mugabe out.
It comes as no surprise that Mugabe's use of force has escalated into the open, but it is a worrisome development, at least in the near term. It indicates that Mugabe either feels so secure that he can openly beat the opposition leadership, or his position has become tenuous enough that he feels he has to do so. Both conditions indicate that Zimbabwe will experience a great deal more violence in the near future, and the former portends more than the latter.Sphere It View blog reactions
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