Zimbabwe's racist, socialist dictator Robert Mugabe under house arrest

After nearly forty years of ugly mismanagement and carelessly ignoring of basic needs of a normally run sovereign state, the military has placed the crusty despot, Robert Mugabe, under house arrest.  His wife of many years, Grace, has fled, it is said, to neighboring Namibia, to the west.

One cannot rue this turn of events, as a worse situation can scarcely be envisioned than has been the case for decades.


Military patrol in the capital, Harare.

It is barely useful to speculate on the reaction of the U.S. to these developments, since President Obama paid little attention to the country for  eight years.  It does not seem likely that President Trump will see much benefit to jumping in, since we have few trade arrangements with the country.  Their product lines are marginal at best.  The better part of valor, it would seem, might be remaining observational, hands off.

Since 1980, Robert Mugabe has run Zimbabwe with an eye to enriching himself – and making life for his citizenry, including his European-backgrounded farmers, businessmen, and landowners, unnervingly uncomfortable.  And enduringly poor.

When Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia, now a dirty word not ever mentioned in the once bountiful country in southern Africa, it was the breadbasket of that continent.  But Rhodesia stopped existing in 1976, replaced by Zimbabwe, run by the egotistical Robert Mugabe.  When Mugabe took over, his initial intentions sounded beneficent.  He was at that time just ascended to the newly renamed country, something of an idealist.  That ebbed rather soon.  As the years passed, he reverted to perhaps the unhappy African ruler stereotype: greed, avarice, obliviousness to the needs of his people, and his one-time good intentions were extinguished in a rush of takeovers of land and property.  Shortages soon eventuated; inflation ballooned.

Cattle belonging to others now became his, to use or hand out to favored underlings.  Food became scarce, as the economy no longer worked, out of balance by decrees that placed price controls unrealistically set and impossible to observe.

My own experience in Zimbabwe, with Canadian friends living in Namibia and Lesotho at the time, was one of sorrow, as we had difficulty obtaining food, bakeries functioned once a week or less, mail was spotty and unreliable, and services were shabby, even in upscale establishments.  Cafés and restaurants were amusing, as the term "waiter" meant a shoeless skinny person without the barest knowledge of where the cutlery went and how to serve water, let alone wine.

One bargained with urchins on the streets for fruit, gasoline, household necessities.

The roads were in poor repair.  The fantastic riches of the country were in its exotic topography, which resembles the rocky likes of the painted desert, but with colossal rock formations that resemble a giant's playroom, boulders perched precariously and impossibly on each other in random and bizarre formations.  And the wildlife, phenomenal clutches of biodiversity and biomass – elephants, zebra, gazelles, dik-dik, antelopes, lions and cougars, and others fleet of foot and hungry of eye.  Water is not plentiful, and many of the herds are skinny, their ribs showing from lack of forage and hydration.

White property owners who have resided in the country for many decades have long been disenfranchised and have seen their property stripped, their livestock stolen, depredated by Mugabe's pets, wholesale squatting becoming the norm.

Former owners have salvaged what they could, sealing their few assets inside their clothing hems, as diamonds, or buying multiple air tickets they will convert back to cash once they have landed elsewhere.  The country has little it can sell.  Industry has languished, unsupported by the rule of dependable law.

Exit restrictions confine the outgoing Zimbabwean emigrant to a paltry few dollars, making selling one's possessions something of a joke.  Smuggling jewelry out is a career endeavor in order to leave with something with which to start afresh elsewhere on the continent.  Inflation long ago ruined the economy, in a bid to outrace the rocket inflation of Germany in pre-WWII Deutschland.  Beer at one point was several million units of local currency.

It remains to be seen what the army can do to correct the misery that has been Zimbabwe for so long.

Meanwhile, the country holds its breath.  What will become of these long suffering tribal people?

After nearly forty years of ugly mismanagement and carelessly ignoring of basic needs of a normally run sovereign state, the military has placed the crusty despot, Robert Mugabe, under house arrest.  His wife of many years, Grace, has fled, it is said, to neighboring Namibia, to the west.

One cannot rue this turn of events, as a worse situation can scarcely be envisioned than has been the case for decades.


Military patrol in the capital, Harare.

It is barely useful to speculate on the reaction of the U.S. to these developments, since President Obama paid little attention to the country for  eight years.  It does not seem likely that President Trump will see much benefit to jumping in, since we have few trade arrangements with the country.  Their product lines are marginal at best.  The better part of valor, it would seem, might be remaining observational, hands off.

Since 1980, Robert Mugabe has run Zimbabwe with an eye to enriching himself – and making life for his citizenry, including his European-backgrounded farmers, businessmen, and landowners, unnervingly uncomfortable.  And enduringly poor.

When Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia, now a dirty word not ever mentioned in the once bountiful country in southern Africa, it was the breadbasket of that continent.  But Rhodesia stopped existing in 1976, replaced by Zimbabwe, run by the egotistical Robert Mugabe.  When Mugabe took over, his initial intentions sounded beneficent.  He was at that time just ascended to the newly renamed country, something of an idealist.  That ebbed rather soon.  As the years passed, he reverted to perhaps the unhappy African ruler stereotype: greed, avarice, obliviousness to the needs of his people, and his one-time good intentions were extinguished in a rush of takeovers of land and property.  Shortages soon eventuated; inflation ballooned.

Cattle belonging to others now became his, to use or hand out to favored underlings.  Food became scarce, as the economy no longer worked, out of balance by decrees that placed price controls unrealistically set and impossible to observe.

My own experience in Zimbabwe, with Canadian friends living in Namibia and Lesotho at the time, was one of sorrow, as we had difficulty obtaining food, bakeries functioned once a week or less, mail was spotty and unreliable, and services were shabby, even in upscale establishments.  Cafés and restaurants were amusing, as the term "waiter" meant a shoeless skinny person without the barest knowledge of where the cutlery went and how to serve water, let alone wine.

One bargained with urchins on the streets for fruit, gasoline, household necessities.

The roads were in poor repair.  The fantastic riches of the country were in its exotic topography, which resembles the rocky likes of the painted desert, but with colossal rock formations that resemble a giant's playroom, boulders perched precariously and impossibly on each other in random and bizarre formations.  And the wildlife, phenomenal clutches of biodiversity and biomass – elephants, zebra, gazelles, dik-dik, antelopes, lions and cougars, and others fleet of foot and hungry of eye.  Water is not plentiful, and many of the herds are skinny, their ribs showing from lack of forage and hydration.

White property owners who have resided in the country for many decades have long been disenfranchised and have seen their property stripped, their livestock stolen, depredated by Mugabe's pets, wholesale squatting becoming the norm.

Former owners have salvaged what they could, sealing their few assets inside their clothing hems, as diamonds, or buying multiple air tickets they will convert back to cash once they have landed elsewhere.  The country has little it can sell.  Industry has languished, unsupported by the rule of dependable law.

Exit restrictions confine the outgoing Zimbabwean emigrant to a paltry few dollars, making selling one's possessions something of a joke.  Smuggling jewelry out is a career endeavor in order to leave with something with which to start afresh elsewhere on the continent.  Inflation long ago ruined the economy, in a bid to outrace the rocket inflation of Germany in pre-WWII Deutschland.  Beer at one point was several million units of local currency.

It remains to be seen what the army can do to correct the misery that has been Zimbabwe for so long.

Meanwhile, the country holds its breath.  What will become of these long suffering tribal people?