Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Zimbabwe Watch: 5-16-07

Imagine if, in the 1930s, the League of Nations had appointed Nazi Germany to head a hypothetical commission charged with combating anti-Semitism. That is the analogy that comes to mind in light of Zimbabwe's appointment to chair the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development. The Times of London explains:

ZIMBABWE may have left 700,000 of its citizens without accommodation by bulldozing their homes, caused millions more to starve after violent land seizures that destroyed farming and so mismanaged its own economy that it has the world’s highest inflation. But it has been chosen to head a United Nations body charged with promoting economic progress and environmental protection.

Western countries and human rights organisations were outraged yesterday by the choice of Zimbabwe to chair the UN commission on sustainable development. The British government condemned Zimbabwe’s election as “wholly inconsistent” with the body’s aims.

The decision to put Zimbabwe in charge of the commission was made by its fellow African nations. The Christian Science Monitor examines their motivations for this seemingly inexplicable move:

By giving Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the yearlong chairmanship, Africa has signaled defiance of the West, which has attempted to isolate Zimbabwe for alleged human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.

Many African nations have grown increasingly frustrated by the development policies of Western donors that they see as intrusive and harsh. When Australia cancels a cricket tour to Zimbabwe, as it did this week, or when the European Union refuses to hold an EU-Africa summit, as it has for the past six years, because of Mr. Mugabe, many Africans see the pressure as neocolonial habits that must be broken. For many across the continent, Mugabe's muscular land confiscation from white farmers and talk of social justice still have appeal.

In a recent piece for the New York Sun, Tawanda Mutasah describes exactly what this "talk of social justice" looks like in practice:

I had never seen a combat machine gun in a civilian hospital until the day I went to Harare's Avenues Clinic to visit two women, pro-democracy leaders who had just survived a brutal, methodical beating at the hands of the police.

"We went through unspeakable torture. Each time that night when we heard the sound of boots returning, our bowels loosened," Grace Kwinjeh said of the ordeal she and Sekai Holland, 64, underwent.

Now they were attempting to heal while under armed guard, hearing those same boots approaching their bedsides intermittently throughout the night.

Zimbabwe's "3/11" — the day 50 people set out to attend a prayer meeting but ended up suffering hours of torture by security agents — shocked the world and raised hopes that President Mugabe's impunity might at last be halted.

But barely a month later, the television news cameras are pointing elsewhere, and international leaders are switching off their phones, declining to hear the shrill cries coming out of Zimbabwe. Why?

As Mr. Mutasah notes, it is Zimbabwe's neighbors that have been instrumental in preventing the international community from taking sterner measures to stop Mugabe's atrocities.

Finally, this recent item from Agence France Presse reminds us of the importance the Mugabe regime places on silencing independent media:

A Zimbabwean court has turned down a request to allow two sister newspapers shut down by the government four years ago to resume publishing, media reports said Thursday.


The newspapers were shut down in September 2003 for breaching the country's tough media laws by operating without obtaining a license from a state-appointed commission.

The Media and Information Commission (MIC) has twice refused to grant ANZ a license despite a supreme court ruling in March 2005 that threw out the ban.

Gowora questioned a government delay in appointing an impartial body to deal with ANZ's application after the supreme court declared the MIC biased.

"It is obvious in this case that further delay in dealing with the registration of the applicant will cause prejudice to the applicant and, in an abstract sense, to its readership," the privately-owned Financial Gazette quoted the judge as saying. "The applicant made its application in 2003 and, four years on, it has not been registered."

In its heyday, The Daily News had a circulation of 150,000 and offered an alternative voice to the state media.

In short, most African regimes would rather stick it to The Man than do anything about the monster in their midst. Is it any wonder why so much of that continent is in such horrific shape?


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