Saturday, November 18, 2006

Death rate in Zimbabwe higher than in Darfur, Iraq or Lebanon

It's not news that Zimbabwe is falling apart thanks to Robert Mugabe's reign of terror. Most countries take decades to unravel slowly. But Mugabe's incompetence and malfeasance has accomplished that in six or seven years. The Independent reports that average life expectancy for Zimbabwean women has collapsed to only 34 years, the lowest female life expectancy in the world.

Speaking privately, WHO officials admitted to The Independent that the real number may be as low as 30, as the present figures are based on data collected two years ago.


The reasons for this plunge are several. Zimbabwe has found itself at the nexus of an Aids pandemic, a food crisis and an economic meltdown that is killing an estimated 3,500 people every week. That figure is more than those dying in Iraq, Darfur or Lebanon. In war-torn Afghanistan, where women's plight has received global attention, life expectancy is still above 40.

What makes this disaster more tragic and outrageous is that it's largely Mugabe-made. The economic and food crises are largely his fault thanks to his attacks on large industrial farmers, food producers who were also significant employers. The AIDS pandemic isn't necessarily his fault but his oppression and the economic crisis have forced large numbers of qualified medical professionals to flee the country.

Disgustingly, Mugabe retains a large degree of support not only among other African heads of state, but among many ordinary Africans.

In this simplistic dichotomy, anyone attacked by Tony Blair or George W. Bush is necessarily an anti-imperialist saint.

3500 black Zimbabweans are dying every single week because of Mugabe's policies. But Mugabe went after WHITE farmers in his land 'redistribution' program (ie: redistributed to his cronies). And Mugabe's 'liberation' movement (from the 1970s) went after white imperial rule.

As a result, Africa's so-called intelligentsia has largely given him a free pass. I can honestly say that few things enrage me more than when educated and normally reasonable Africans provide nothing more than shameless apologia for this guy.

Never mind that white farmers merely had to flee the country. The worst victims of Mugabeism, the dead and starving, are black.

The rhetorical imperative is to support the big guy against the little guy. Except in this unfathomable definition, the big guys are Blair and Bush, while the little guy is beleaguered but noble Mugabe. Even though Blair and Bush haven't done a damn thing to harm Zimbabweans.

In this twisted paradigm, the little guys aren't those who are starving. The little guys are those with the fancy European cars and fat Swiss bank accounts. This hypocrisy is nauseating.

It looks like 'liberated' Zimbabwe is fairing even worse than 'liberated' Iraq But non-aligned movement types attacked Bush over Iraq while continuing to ignore the statistically worse disaster in Mugabeland. If his misrule causing more deaths than a genocide won't turn Africa's elite against him, nothing will!

Many in the developing world rightly attack Bush for the carnage in Iraq or Israel for the destruction of southern Lebanon. But they laud the author of the even greater carnage in Zimbabwe as some heroic warrior.

Supporting Mugabe is nothing more than racist contempt for the lives of these black human beings. And yes, apologizing away Mugabe's destruction simply because his skin is black IS racist. It's not quite as profane as what Mugabe is doing to Zimbabweans, but close.

But with tragic symbolism, at least one profession is booming: undertakers.

A real nail in the country's coffin.


At 1:32 AM, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

That was a moving piece.

It was bad when Chavez, is arm in arm, with Mugabe.

Unfortunately several of the anti-Mugabe blogs, are friendly to neocons. I believe the left, is leaving a void, not attacking mugabe.

My Hotel Rwanda post I reprinted, I put it on my blog, because there was so much, that was outrageous.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Brian said...

You are absolutely right. One of the great flaws of far left is that the first concern doesn't seem to be whatever positive principles they claim to advance. The first concern seems to be opposing anything Bush and the rest of the far right says.

Their apologias for Chavez, Castro and Mugabe are pathetic. The first two have done a few good things, but overall, they are nothing more than populist autocrats built around their cult of personality. Mugabe's the same way without the few good things.

But because the neo-cons opposes these guys, they are transformed into some sort of anti-imperialist saints. The left should be more concerned with the people, not the leaders.

I loathe imperialist neo-conservativism with every fibre of my being but someone like Mugabe is inflicting just as much damage (witness the stats I posed about the death rate in Zim being higher than in occupied Iraq).

You are right about the void left by the left's failure to go after these guys. I look at what they're doing and I'm appalled. Not because Bush or Cheney or Coulter say so. But because I'm a progressive and what's going on in those places goes against everything I believe.

You are absolutely right. This mindless 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' nonsense has gone too far. While we're at it, the left also needs to acknowledge that Islamism is just as antithetical to progressive ideals than the Christian Theocracy Brigade, if not more so. There really is negligible difference between Christian and Islamic religious extremism and we need to be raising this issue.

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?" -Gandhi

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Canadian and we lived in the north-east part of South Africa for four years, from 2001 to 2005, just south of the Zim border. What was going on in Zim was in our faces daily, and I was astounded when we moved back home to BC and there was virtually nothing in the news about the massive human rights abuses going on there. I now realize that, of course there’s nothing newsworthy going on there . . . they don’t have oil and they don’t have a nuclear bomb. The media gets to choose what we hear, they shape our perception of “world” news and, furthermore, what can you expect when many of the networks are owned by the entertainment industries? (Hence, the daily obligatory story about a Hollywood star.)

In the small S. African town where we lived, I knew a (white) Zimbabwean (‘Rhodesian’ they like to say) ex-farming family who fled as they were about to enter their retirement years and were forced to leave behind everything they’d worked for. But they’ll manage. The tragedy is that these farms, which provided the food for the country and now have been redistributed to Mugabe’s cronies, are now laying dormant because they don’t know how to farm them. So starvation is a real and ongoing atrocity in this country.

My husband had to go to Zim a couple times on business. He noticed that the man he had meetings with there was carrying a large briefcase with him everywhere but never opened it in their meetings. After lunch in a restaurant he finally opened it and it was packed with local currency to pay for lunch. The currency is abysmally devalued, something like $1.00 US = $260.00 Zim.

At least weekly on the news we would see yet another report of fleeing (black) refugees being rounded up in South Africa, bussed back over their border and dumped. Some refugees cross over in Kruger Park where the borders of Zim, S. Africa and Mocambique are defined by the meeting of two rivers at a place aptly named Crooks Corner. When I visited that spot, there were four crocodiles plainly visible in the river. Many a would-be refugee has met his/her grisly end trying to get through Kruger Park. You can imagine the desperation they are driven by.

You rightly point out that other African heads of state are turning a blind eye and S. Africa, as the most advanced (read ‘Western’) country of sub-Saharan Africa, ought to be taking a lead. However, Pres. Thabo Mbeki and others of the upper echelon were “brothers in the struggle” with Bob Mugabe during the Apartheid decades, and we in the West can not grasp this cultural bond. We have no comparison. Mbeki can not betray his brother.

It will be interesting to see if S. Africa descends into the downward spiral that has affected nearly every other African country after they’ve become independent of their colonial invaders. Nelson Mandela is a miracle that has kept S. Africa on an even keel behind Mbeki, but he’s aging rapidly and losing influence. Mbeki, according to the constitution, must resign his presidency after this current term. So who is elected in S. Africa in their 2009 general election will likely determine S. Africa’s ultimate direction.

(I once heard that Mandela was the only African head of state to give up his presidency voluntarily at the end of his term; that all other changes of government in other African countries have been violent. I wonder if that’s true?)
In the meantime, the media shapes our world focus to Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, N. Korea. No doubt in ten or twenty years from now some Hollywood producer will film an exposé on the Zim debacle (a la “Hotel Rwanda”) and we in the west will rush in as scandalized and avenging angels – too late.


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