Friday, April 18, 2008

WSJ Editorial: Mugabe Won't Go

It's a sad sign of our times that Democracy Now because of internal politics, namely Black support of the vicious ruthless Mugabe, is not free to report on the situation there. --RB

Wall Street Journal Editorial

Comrade Bob's Staying Power
April 18, 2008; Page A16

Robert Mugabe is putting on a clinic for African despots. A lost election, inflation at 200,000% and the contempt of his people can't budge the octogenarian.

The Mugabe regime wobbled, briefly, after the March 29 elections. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai humiliated the strongman by winning close to or above 50% of the vote in a three-man presidential race, according to tallies from individual polling stations. His Movement for Democratic Change also wrested control of Parliament from the ruling ZANU-PF party. Optimists in Harare speculated that Mr. Mugabe was about to resign.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. Instead, Mr. Mugabe regrouped. Official presidential results haven't been released, and the regime, which somehow let the parliamentary results slip out, is now reviewing votes in enough districts to make sure ZANU-PF gets back Parliament. The counting is unsupervised by independent observers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mugabe let his goon squads loose. So-called war veterans, often led by military professionals, are out in force. "There is growing evidence that rural communities are being punished for their support for opposition candidates," the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said yesterday. "We have disturbing and confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burnings of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country."

This blunt repression has stopped the opposition's postelection momentum. It also makes it harder to find a way out of the crisis. In such a violent environment, a second round in the presidential race is all but impossible. The regime appeared to rule out that prospect yesterday by accusing Mr. Tsvangirai of "treason." The Justice Minister claimed that the opposition leader plotted with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring "an illegal regime change in Zimbabwe."

The old white colonial bogeyman is another Mugabe favorite. With four in five people out of work, millions faced with starvation and millions more forced to flee abroad, not many Zimbabweans will fall for it. Yet people are frightened and unwilling to stick their necks out if the country's establishment won't do so first. A general strike call this week went unheeded.

A way out would have to start with Zimbabwe's African neighbors, who have propped up the regime for the past decade. Thabo Mbeki is the worst offender. The South African President declared last weekend in Harare that there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe. Yesterday his government modified its tone, expressing "concern" about the delay in the release of election results. But also last weekend, at the meeting of southern African states in Zambia, no one had a critical word to say about Mr. Mugabe.

Another stolen Zimbabwe election, amid closed regional eyes, reinforces the worst stereotypes about Africa. A rare encouraging sign comes from Jacob Zuma, the new African National Congress President who is next in line for South Africa's presidency. He rebuked Mr. Mbeki this week, saying, "The region cannot afford a deepening crisis in Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe's long-suffering people are no different from Serbs in 2000 or Filipinos in 1986 who seized an election opportunity to push an illegitimate ruler out. The principle of "one man, one vote" is as valid in Africa as anywhere else. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, one man – Comrade Bob – stands in the way.

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