Monday, March 26, 2007

What should we do about Zimbabwe?

Rampant inflation, unemployment running at around 80%, a lunatic thug in charge of the brutal ruling party and an opposition that is regularly -and literally - beaten into submission. Life expectancy now hovers around the mid thirties and the former bread basket of Africa is incapable of feeding itself.

Zimbabwe is a mess. I don't think anyone can argue with that. The question is; what can we do about it?

I see so many people discussing this on blogs, news comment sites and so on - but I still don't know what it is that these people expect to happen.

The first thing we have to consider, I suppose, is whether we should do anything about it? Do we have any responsibility to Zimbabwe which acts as a justification to intervene?

Zimbabwe is, after all, an independent country, on a different continent and there is no geographical relationship between us. There is a historical and colonial link - but that was long ago and it was their choice to break that link. There is no direct threat to Britain from Zimbabwe, either - although you could argue that the situation there exacerbates the asylum and immigration problems faced by Britain creating more pressure on our public services and housing stock.

What about a moral responsibility? Well, personally, I believe that we all, as individuals, have a moral responsibility to act in ways that improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves through charities - by volunteering or donating or both - and I believe that for the vast majority of situations, this is is the course to take.

By the way, let me point out that what I have just said does not mean I approve of passing that responsibility on to the state. I don't. In fact, I think that is one of the most damaging aspects of socialism with too many people believing that paying taxes is a better way to help the poor and disadvantaged. It isn't. It is the worst way and guarantees that the genuinely needy will remain needy.

Obviously there are individual actions we can take to apply pressure on Zimbabwe, but the situation there is such that individual acts are not enough. Instead it is a situation where a nation needs to act collectively - and that means through the government. Obviously a government has no moral obligation to any people other than the people it governs, so, in that respect, there is no moral obligation for this government to act on Zimbabwe - unless the people of this country expressed that as their will.

If there is a responsibility - or any other justification to act, what should that action be?

The preferred way for many is sanctions, but do they really work? Don't sanctions and economic embargoes just end up hurting the people you're supposed to be trying to help? Other sanctions - such as sporting boycotts - are unlikely to have any real effect either. They might make us feel a bit better, but I can't see Mugabe being forced to climb down just because Zimbabwe are kicked out of the cricket world cup. It's not as if they were likely to win the damn thing and gain some sort of propaganda coup from that!

As far as I can see, the only action that would have any chance of forcing Mugabe out is military action, but that, like sanctions, has serious implications for the people you're supposed to be helping. On the positive side, military action would be considerably quicker than sanctions, but the "pain" for the populous of Zimbabwe would be that much more intense. Is the swift traumatic death of war better or worse than the slow lingering, but equally certain death of sanctions, starvation and misery?

Even if we did kick out Mugabe through military action - what then? Another despot and the same problem again 20 years down the line? I listen to people talking about the "success" of South Africa - just as they talked about the "success" of Zimbabwe 20 odd years ago when that was the "rainbow nation" and the model for all Africa. South Africa will be the new Zimbabwe in 20 years time - ruled by a despot, no effective opposition (it has none now), a collapsed economy, raging unemployment and riddled with crime (it already is).

So, what should we do? What can we do? I'd really like to know.


Anonymous said...

In response to your question "what should we do about Zimbabwe", I believe Britain stop interfering in the country's internal affairs. As a black American, I'm disappointed that more African leaders are not standing by president Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Britain is the cause of the problems in Zimbabwe and would like to continue have a small white population control the country's natural resources and land. The people of Zimbabwe are being punished for taking back their ancestor lands that was stolen by the British. I believe that Britian's action in Zimbabwe to overthrow the legitimate government of Zimbabwe and sabotage the country's economy will work against her in establishing crediability with black people world wide. Mugabe is seen as a hero because he stands up for his people and refuses to bow down to the WEST. The vast majority of Zimbabweans support him as well as black people world wide. We admire and respect hime for doing the right thing. Britain actions in Zimbabwe is immoral, unjust and racist. Britain has gotten her friends the EU and America to support sanctions on Zimbawe and given the green light for the opposition in Zimbabwe, MDC, to create violence in mayhem in the counry. This is wrong. Black people have suffered because of slavery and colonialism. God did not put whites on earth to rule black people and take their lands. Namibia, South Africa and Kenya will also have an uprising if whites don't return stolen land to the native populations. The world is watching and Britain, EU in America are wrong in how they treat Zimbabwe. You think your are sending a message to blacks in Namibia, South Africa and Kenya that if they take their lands back that you will destroy the country; however, the real message you are sending to black people world wide is that you will do anything to maintain white domination and privilege. The West demonizing Mugabe is wrong and very racist. I ask that you be fair and respect black people continued fight for liberation and freedom from white domination. Imagine sir, if you will, Britain being owned and controled by 1% of black people fron another continent. This is something you cannot image, because it would never be allowed. Now then, sir, I ask why should black people feel any different. Thank you sir, for your time. I hope I have convinced you to stop printing lies and report the truth. Black people worldwide support Mugabe.
Signed todd kidd, black american, new orleans Louisiana

Stan said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. At least you had the courtesy to put forward a suggestion.

I don't agree that the west is demonising Mugabe - I think he manages that very well by himself - and I don't believe he is a hero to most black people. he's certainly no hero to my 3 (black) Zimbabwean colleagues who regard the man as a murdering tyrant. Nothing less.

However, if you are happy that Mugabe is starving, beating and murdering black people - who am I to disagree.

For what it's worth - my view,as a Briton, on Zimbabwe is the same as yours. We - that is Britain - should do nothing.

As a Christian I believe I have a moral obligation to do something to help the oppressed people - and I do that in my own small way, but the truth is that the mess that is Zimbabwe is a mess of their own making. It has nothing to do with slavery or colonialism.

Take a look at Somaliland - also a former British colony, also blighted by slavery - but fully functioning and progressing. Even though it's starting point was well down the scale in comparison to Zimbabwe.

Until black people like yourself start to acknowledge that your destiny is in your own hands and learn to stop blaming others for your ills, then you will always be "oppressed" in your mind. You should also stop using the ubiquitous get out clause of screaming "RACIST" at every opporunity. It demeans your argument immensely - as does your ignorance of slavery.

Slavery had existed as a practice for thousands of years. It was practiced by peoples of ALL races and it's victims were peoples of ALL races. Had it not been for the "Slave Trade" - i.e. the relatively short period of slave history that involved Britain - and if it had not been for the British Empire and it's military then it is arguable whether slavery would ever have been abolished.

If you check out the rest of my blog, you will see that I am a staunch supporter of Somaliland and that countries right to be recognised as an independent nation. You might argue that I am sending a message demanding white domination, but I would argue that you are being very selective in your interpretation of my opinions. Indeed, it could be said that your view that all we "white people" want is to maintain our "privilege and domination" over blacks is equally racist.

All the best,

Stan, Slough, England

Wolfie said...

@ anonymous

If you love your fellow Africans so much go home and help the change instead of playing armchair minister in the safety of your American home.

Slavery is also alive and well in Africa - but its black on black. You going to help? Or is it going to be the white-man's responsibility again?

Anonymous said...

My comment on Zimbabwe is not about slavery; it's about the people of Zimbabwe taking their destiny into their own hands. I ask that Britain, EU, and America stay out of the internal affairs of Zimbabwe. Mugabe represents a new African leader who refuses to be a proxy for the West. I admire Mugabe over Nelosn Mandela because he refuses to sell out his people. Mandela speaks of "reconciliation" but this does not do anything to bring parity in South Africa between poor blacks and rich whites. Mugabe is a God send and black people world wide support him on taking back the land. Black freedom and liberation from white domination will be a continuing issue for the survival of our people. I'm not a racist against whites but I will forever resist white domination and control over Africa, the land of my ancestors. toddkidd, black american, new orleans, Louisiana.

Stan said...

Mugabe's way of bringing "parity" is to reduce everyone - black, white or pink with yellow spots - down to bare minimum subsistence level. If they are lucky!

If you think that is great for black Africans and if that sort of thinking is typical of Africans, then the future for Africa is bleak indeed.

Personally, as I have said, I believe Africa and Africans can achieve more. And if you look to the model of Somaliland rather than Zimbabwe, you will see that Africans are capable of achieving much, much more.

The only thing holding them back is attitudes like yours which places demonising whites above real progress for blacks.

C'est la vie.