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Zimbabwe: Change We Can’t Believe In

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Zimbabwe: Change We Can’t Believe In

Posted by Rebecca Brocato on February 13, 2009

Zimbabwe: Change We Can't Believe In

His country’s unimaginable crisis is not stopping Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe from hosting a birthday party that will make Steve Schwarzman’s 60th birthday celebration look like a backyard barbeque. On the menu for Mugabe’s fete: “2,000 bottles of champagne (Moët & Chandon or ’61 Bollinger preferred); 8,000 lobsters; 100kg of prawns; 4,000 portions of caviar; 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates; (and) 3,000 ducks.” Such luxury is par for the course for a man who two years ago celebrated his 84th with 20,000 cronies in a Gweru soccer stadium. 

This blatant example of Mugabe’s hubris exemplifies why observers must call Wednesday’s creation of a unity government in Zimbabwe into question. Months of violence and chaotic negotiation culminated in Wednesday’s inauguration of beleaguered opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister and the creation of a “unity government” in Zimbabwe. In a speech after the ceremony, Tsvangirai pleaded for an “end to human rights abuses and political violence.” However, the tenuous compromise – which was reluctantly implemented only after intense pressure from the South African Development Community – is ill equipped to foment lasting change and will most likely allow Mugabe to retain his chokehold on the country he has destroyed. 
According to the deal, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, will take control of 13 government ministries, but will have no control over military matters or the country’s security apparatus. Further, as the Guardian notes in a recent opinion piece, “While the MDC has put one of its smartest men in as finance minister, Mr. Mugabe’s man remains at the central bank,” making reform of Zimbabwe’s failed economy basically impossible, given that most of the country’s hyperinflation is caused by the government’s policy of printing money in order to pay its debts.
Zimbabwe’s current crisis and rampant corruption is unconscionable. The World Health Organization reports that more than 70,000 people in the country are infected with cholera, constituting an epidemic that could terrorize the region as Zimbabweans flee across borders.  Inflation is at 231 million percent and the Zimbabwean dollar is useless. Five million people need food, 94% of the country’s schools remain closed, and there is more than 90% unemployment. And while the image of Mugabe presiding over Tsvangirai’s swearing in ceremony was obviously meant to signal to the international community a new era of development and cooperation, it is obvious that the dictatorial Zimbabwean president is up to his same dirty tricks.