It’s been a busy few weeks for Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe.[mug]
Being a devout Catholic, nothing was going to stop him from attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Not even an itsy bitsy little travel ban imposed upon him from Europe could prevent him! And while he was there, he even was able to work his diplomatic muscles. What better time for him to become more acquainted with his good friends in England, Tony Blair and Prince Charles, who he had so slyly been arranged to sit next to? Unfortunately, Blair skillfully avoided his seat and the possibility of an international incident. Fortunately, Charles was not so lucky, and was almost forced to (gasp!) shake hands with the man! Could you imagine the scandal?
Pity not the Zimbabwean leader, however; Mr. Mugabe doesn’t need friends. He’s got a country to run.
While he will no doubt be following the events in the Vatican City for the next couple of weeks closely, he may have to spend some time analyzing his own position in the world. After winning the Zimbabwean elections by a 14% margin on March 31st on his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party ticket, one would think that the president would have a clear mandate. His party also won 78 out of 120 of the representative positions in addition to the 30 seats Mugabe is allowed to hand-pick.
The former hero of Zimbabwe, Mugabe is now facing the outrageous claims that he may or may not have fiddled just a little bit with the statistics. Just because some areas had more Mugabe votes coming out of them than they had in actual population, just because many people were turned away at the polls, just because voter registration in some areas was based on utility bills which many of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (telling name), could not produce because they could not afford utilities, and just because no ballots from the millions of Zimbabweans abroad were accepted, they claim that the election was fixed.
“My personal opinion is that the elections were rigged. Definitely,” says electrical engineering junior Gugulethu Mabuza, a Zimbabwean student. “MPC’s strong point is in the cities. So Mugabe decreased the parliamentary representation in the cities and increased the parliamentary representation in the country.”
But most knows that Mugabe has always had his heart in the right place. As one of the liberators of a country that had previously been under Apartheid-like conditions, he was instrumental in ending years of oppression.
“He contributed quite a lot during the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence,” says Dr. John Makumbe, a visiting professor from the University of Zimbabwe. Makumbe had to leave the country for political reasons, but plans to return this summer. “A lot of schools were built, a lot of hospitals and clinics as well as health centers. A lot of roads were built.”
Mugabe made Zimbabwe a dominant African power during much of the 1990s by boosting literacy rates, providing clean water, and allowing his country to prosper agriculturally and be largely independent.
All good things must come to an end, however, and Zimbabwe’s economy began to decline around 1998. Mugabe’s plan to redistribute the land from the rich, white commercial farmers to the poorer population by forcibly driving them out, backfired. The farms could no longer be tended to as they had been before and the country began to have problems even feeding itself, despite providing food to places like South Africa for years. Services declined and Mugabe attempted to pass a constitution through congress in February 2000 that would have given him and his party more direct control over everything from economic issues to the military.
After the measure failed, people claimed that Mugabe began fiddling with election results in order to pass his constitution through congress. And Mugabe was looking to the world like a dictator, perhaps even a hilarious caricature of one considering his formerly strong position for democracy.
But many believe Mugabe is paving the way for the continued future of his party, considering that he is now 82 years old. Also, his constitution would stipulate that he would have power even after getting out of office, including immunity to all of Zimbabwe’s laws.
“There’s always that reluctance to say whoever’s going to take over should not be a puppet of the Western countries. We’ve seen it happen time and time again,” Mabuza says. “But at this point, anyone is better than Mugabe.”
Others, however would disagree. South Africa, for example, still supports Mugabe whole-heartedly. “The [African National Congress in South Africa] views itself as a liberation party,” Dr. Makumbe says. “And it views Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, as a liberation party. And so the ANC would like to keep the liberation party in power.”
That’s not to say that Zimbabwe’s recent hard times would not also be an economic boost to South Africa; the two countries have had a recent history of economic rivalry which recently has come to a halt. South Africa is able to edge in on Zimbabwe’s tourist industry and trade with the now underdeveloped nation. But we all know that’s not how a politician’s mind works! South Africa obviously just truly believes Mugabe has the legal right to rule.
And so what are we doing about such malicious accusations on the character of Mugabe? Why, of course, we are taking the high road! The State Department said that the United States would not get involved even before the election was held and is continuing to stay out of the region’s affairs. If there’s one thing American diplomacy has been touting since Vietnam, it’s non-interference in the workings of governments worlds away. They don’t even have any commodities we need, not that a silly thing like that would matter.
So Mugabe appears to be safe from the harsh world community for now, back in the welcome arms of his mother country. Now he can finally get back to doing what he has done best of late: engendering even more distrust and unrest among his own people. It’s good to be the king.

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