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After Mugabe?

Thu 20 Oct 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

While Uganda experiences a bout of renewed repression and Nigeria faces approaching famine due to endemic misgovernment, the sclerotic Zimbabwean tyranny of Robert Mugabe should not escape our scrutiny either. As fears grow of complete economic collapse, LGBT Zimbabweans are among the targets of the faltering Mugabe/ZANU-PF regime. Mugabe and ZANU-PF have ruled Zimbabwe since the end of white minority rule in 1979, but it has increasingly become mired in repression, government corruption and paramilitary violence against a range of designated 'internal enemies.' "War veterans" are nothing of the sort, but are usually urban or rural thugs who appropriate white Zimbabwean farm properties and mismanage them, whereupon they are sold at auction to regime cronies. The opposition also has its problems. The Movement for Democratic Change is a broadly based pluralist social democratic party, equivalent to the British and New Zealand Labour Party, encompassing trade unions, church social justice activists, feminists and some lesbians and gays. Its members have repeatedly suffered assault and harrassment, but it seems to have won Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections. ZANU-PF has crushed opposition before, though- the Shona-dominated ZANU-PF bloodily suppressed a tribal revolt in Southern ZImbabwe among the Ndebele communities, core supporters of ZAPU-PF, former allies during the war of liberation from Ian Smith's apartheid era South African satellite Rhodesia during the sixties and seventies. Although it shared government with Mugabe until 2013, it is once more in the political wilderness. And as for its economy, Zimbabwe is in long-term economic collapse. In a recent Prospect article, Christian Wigstrom (29.09.2016) talks about empty grain silos, abandoned railway tracks and disintegrating roads that lead to silent closed factories. Mugabe turned inexorably into a tyrant after a Zimbabwean referendum (2000) refused to extend his executive powers as Zimbabwe's head of state. Regardless, he then moved to abolish the private ownership of land, disenfranchising white Zimbabwean farmers and wealthy African landowners alike. However, this had immediate adverse consequeces. As Widstrom notes, it meant that further land investment collapsed, given insecurity of tenure, and that insecurity also meant land could not be used as collateral to raise funds. By 2008, hyperinflation had hit Zimbabwe, with its inhabitants forced to covertly use foreign funds to avoid starvation and homelessness. In retaliation, the Zimbabwean electorate elected the Movement for Democratic Change with a parliamentary majority, forcing Mugabe into political cohabitation, which lasted for the next five years. Zimbabwe's hyperinflation problems were solved by demonetising Zimbabwean currency and replacing it wholesale with foreign funds. It meant economic growth and stability returned for the interim as prices stabilised. However, political inexperience and electoral irregularities ate into MDC support and by 2013, ZANU-PF had returned to power. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe first fell afoul of the regime after Mugabe's outburst against the inclusion of a GALZ stall at an Harare international book fair. Unlike neighbouring South Africa, Harare still criminalises gay male sex, imposes draconian censorship policies, arrests all sex workers and uses condoms as evidence, hampering HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, as well as any form of safe sex education. Mugabe regularly labels political opponents as 'gay', but turns a blind eye to Shona 'Green Beret' thugs who practice both heterosexual and same-sex rape within Ndebele and Shona anti-ZANU rural communities. Domestic violence is also rife within Shona society. After ransacking Zimbabwean agriculture, Mugabe now seems set on attacking Zimbabwe's mining industry in its turn. In 2013, the mining industry was nationalised and Mugabe gave licenses to political cronies without administrative or commercial experience in providing stable management for the facilities. This led to a currency outflow of nearly three billion US dollars. By January 2016, it was unable to raise further US currency. As it had earlier retired its own hyperinflated currency and forbidden its nationals to raise money on international capital markets, Widstrom concludes that it has nowhere left to look. Nor can it access the International Monetary Fund, from which it defaulted in the nineties. As civil unrest grows once more within Zimbabwe, time may finally be running out for Africa's longest lived contemporary dictator. Recommended: Marc Epprecht:Hungochani: History of A Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa:Montreal: McGill-Queens University: 2008. Christian Widstrom: "Robert Mugabe has no way out" Prospect (29.09. 2016):http://www. prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/ robert-mugabe-zimbabwe-no-way- out-inflation-bond-notes Craig Young - 20th October 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 20th October 2016 - 12:07pm

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