Land is an extremely emotive issue in Africa, and the highly skewed distribution - with much of the most productive land in the hands of a small number of white commercial farmers - had long been seen as an injustice that would have to be corrected. A military deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in support of the embattled government of President Laurent Kabila was also very costly in budgetary terms, but allowed massive profiteering from natural resource extraction by Zimbabwe's generals, ensuring their continued support.
THEWORLDTODAY.ORG MARCH 2010 PAGE 18 ZIMBABWE Richard Horsey, OPEN SOCIETY FELLOW AND FORMER UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL, BASED IN SOUTHERN AFRICA Turnıng Thırty Almost exactly thirty years ago, on March 4 1980, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. As Bob Marley performed before assembled international dignitaries, Mugabe took up office on April 18, the day of formal independence from Britain. Hopes were running high, and he was the man of the moment. But today Zimbabwe is virtually a failed state, mired in political and economic crisis. A year into a unity government which has pressed the pause button on bitter divisions, the country’s future is uncertain. | INDEPENDENT THINKING ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS THEWORLDTODAY.ORG MARCH 2010 PAGE 19 p RESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE’S imprisonment, invite comparisons with BITTER struggle against white rule, and his long Nelson Mandela. Indeed, his stature on the African continent – both for his success in Zimbabwe and for his staunch support of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa – is hard to overstate. After thirty years at the helm, and having just turned 86, one might think that the time was ripe for him to do what Mandela did at the same age – retire from public life and spend his time in ‘quiet reflection’. of current efforts should therefore not be to isolate and sideline ZANU-PF, as many including Britain are doing, but precisely the opposite. The unity government has many problems, but one enormous benefit has been that it brings former political enemies around the same negotiating table, day after day. This has helped moderate the polarisation, and it provides an opportunity for the international community to engage with all sides. By reaching out to more pragmatic and forward-looking elements within ZANU-PF, rather than backing them into a But there is no sign of that. corner, we increase the chances of a negotiated political settlement for the post-Mugabe era. Difficult as this may be – and although distasteful to some – the alternative is that HANGING ON ZANU-PF, or factions within it, attempt to cling on to power at His reluctance to step down is in some ways all costs. And with its recent history of political violence, those understandable. Another freedom-fighter-turned-despot, the costs could be high indeed for the people of Zimbabwe
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