(Last Updated on July 28, 2013 by Editor)
For decades, Robert Mugabe has thumbed his nose at the world. The long-time dictator has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist, repeatedly insulted foreign dignitaries, ignored regional and international agreements to which he was a signatory, and isolated the country from any legitimate international economic or political engagement. The price of both his brutality and adolescent-like behavior — clearly an attempt to cling to the revolutionary persona of a liberation struggle now more than three decades old — continues to be paid by the people of Zimbabwe.
In 1980, Mugabe became prime minister of the newly renamed Zimbabwe following the liberation struggle from foreign colonial rule in what was previously known as (Southern) Rhodesia. In a rousing Independence Day speech, Mugabe vowed to lead the country under the principles of reconciliation, democracy, multi-ethnic tolerance, and economic advancement. But he wasn’t in power long before his true intentions and preferred political tactics were revealed: In
1983, Mugabe, a member of the Shona people, launched a ruthless genocidal campaign against the Ndebele people, who were supporters of his political rival Joshua Nkomo. The four years of horrific violence were later known as the Gukurahundi massacre.
The brutal crackdown on innocent civilians, labeled as “dissidents” by Mugabe, was executed by his military’s North Korean-trained 5th Brigade and resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 men, women, and children. This horrific event is a defining moment in our nation’s history, the scars of which remain visible in our society to this day. Over the next three decades, Mugabe and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), proceeded to eliminate or imprison his political rivals, use his loyal military and intelligence services to instill fear into society, and change the constitution 19 times to pave the way for his entrenchment in power.
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For 33 years now, Mugabe’s scorched-earth modus operandi and outlandish behavior have made him a laughing stock among around the world, on par with Hugo Chávez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Muammar al-Qaddafi, and Kim Jong Il. In 2010, as a show of professional and diplomatic respect, U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray, along with several other foreign emissaries, attended the funeral of Mugabe’s sister, at which the long-winded despot launched a diatribe culminating in announcing that Western nations can “go to hell.” Most recently, he attacked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) advisor to Zimbabwe calling her a “stupid” and “idiotic” “street woman” in response to her questioning of Zimbabwe’s readiness to hold elections. Regrettably, similar examples of his diplomatic insults abound with few, if any, repercussions for these embarrassing verbal assaults on respected members of the international community.
Mugabe has also spent decades disrespecting and defying regional and international institutions, including the United Nations, the African Union (AU), and SADC — the region’s multi-lateral political and economic arbitration body. Following the landslide victory of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in the 2008 national elections, Mugabe unleashed a torrent of bloody violence against MDC supporters forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw from the run-off presidential election to prevent further bloodshed. Humiliated by the first round defeat, Mugabe was required to enter into a SADC-facilitated power sharing agreement leaving him in the presidency but installing Tsvangirai into the newly reintroduced role of prime minister.
The multi-party agreement, known as the Global Political Agreement (GPA), created the Government of National Unity (GNU) that has acted as Zimbabwe’s governing institution since 2009. The GPA called for a balanced governmental approach along with a series of security sector, media, and electoral reforms before
proclaiming or conducting any national elections. Unfortunately, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party (itself a coerced collaboration stemming from the Gukurahundi massacre) have largely ignored the agreement and made every effort possible to subvert policy changes put forth by Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. The ZANU-PF maintains control over almost all major ministries within the government, the media and security services, and has pilfered hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit diamond revenues.
Mugabe and his regime have diverted these funds needed for schools, hospitals, and
infrastructure while impeding meaningful reforms mandated by the GPA despite his signature and commitment. The Zimbabwe military and state-run media continue to pledge allegiance to Mugabea and openly campaign for ZANU-PF. The military refuses to salute Prime Minister Tsvangirai, and harasses, intimidates, and brutalizes anyone suspected of supporting anyone other than ZANU-PF. Most recently, Mugabe illegally circumvented our parliament and unilaterally declared an unconstitutional election date.
He has also barred international election observers, beyond a limited AU and SADC presence, into the country, claiming they will implement their “regime change agenda.” This constant environment of manipulation is the backdrop on which Zimbabweans head to the polls this week.