Investor’s Business Daily
March 30, 2007
Africa’s Ills: Famine, disease, crumbling infrastructure, poor education, shrinking incomes — these are just a few of Africa’s afflictions. And, as Zimbabwe shows, many are self-inflicted.
African leaders often point fingers at the West for “not doing enough.” But last week’s meeting of the Southern African Development Community shows why sensible wealthy nations are reluctant to give aid.
For at that meeting, some of Africa’s so-called leaders disgraced themselves by endorsing the brutal, murderous regime of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe’s 27 years of misrule have taken a country that was once prosperous — the breadbasket of Africa, it was called — and turned it into a poverty-stricken hellhole rife with famine, genocide and terror, and lacking rule of law.
The Heritage Foundation’s recent Index of Economic Freedom ranked Zimbabwe 154th out of 157 countries in terms of economic freedom — and dead last in Africa.
“Corruption is endemic, inflation is in triple digits, most economic activity is informal, and controversial land reform has seriously undermined agricultural production,” the report said. Gee, tell us what you really think.
Sadly, that description doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Mugabe has wrought. His thugs have taken to beating and jailing thousands of his opponents.
The U.S. State Department’s 2006 human rights report scored Mugabe for his “unlawful killings and politically motivated kidnappings,” along with routine use of torture.
Seizures of farms from highly productive farmers have led to widespread hunger. Meanwhile, economic mismanagement has sent inflation soaring to 1,700% a year. Real output per person has plunged two-thirds since 2003.
With the economy imploding (see chart at link below), the government has simply taken to printing money. Faced with such economic chaos, more than 3 million people — many of them Zimbabwe’s most productive citizens — have become refugees in neighboring countries.
Given that performance, you’d think Mugabe would come in for a bit of criticism by other leaders in the region.
But you’d be wrong. At the SADC meeting, 14 leaders issued a communique in which they, as the Times of London put it, “reaffirmed their solidarity” with Mugabe. That is, they supported a murderous dictator and even called on the West to drop sanctions against his regime.
The very day the SADC repeated its support for the 83-year-old tyrant, the U.N. issued a frightening forecast of more starvation for Zimbabwe, where some 1.4 million people are, in U.N. parlance, “food insecure.”
Zimbabwe once had plentiful food — it even exported it to neighbors. Today it needs 1.8 million metric tons of food to feed its people, but grows a third of that.
After all this, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the European Union had the temerity to say Friday he’ll soon seek “substantial” food aid from Europe.
If the EU has any sense of morality, it will say sure — we’ll give you all the food you need. But Mugabe has to go.
Sadly, they won’t do that. Because even as Zimbabwe prepared its request for European food aid, Mugabe was announcing in Harare that he’ll be “running” for president in 2008. If the past is any guide, his foes will be beaten, arrested, tortured, disappeared or forced into exile.
And Zimbabwe’s horrors will multiply.
We remember well in the 1980s, when the anti-apartheid movement — including African nations — agitated forcefully for sanctions and a cutoff of trade and aid to South Africa’s apartheid regime. It worked.
In fairness, we call on the world to apply the same tough sanctions against Zimbabwe and Mugabe, whose crimes far outstrip anything of which South Africa’s rulers were guilty. No more aid — until Mugabe goes.