Today marks 30 Golden Years of the Glorious Rule of Robert Mugabe over the southern African Paradise of Zimbabwe.
I take this opportunity to wish, on behalf of all our contributors and readers, a Happy Fucking Birthday to the Mugabe Regime - although I suspect cake may be in short supply.
In honour of such an illustrious occasion, I present to you Mark Steyn on Zim:
On April 18th 1980, the Union Flag came down in Harare and the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Lord Soames, transfered executive power to the first Prime Minister of independent Zimbabwe. On the thirtieth anniversary of Zimbabwean "freedom", how's it working out?
Zimbabwe didn't have to be like this. "You have given me the jewel of Africa," Robert Mugabe told Ian Smith, his notorious white racist predecessor, at independence in 1980. Actually, at one point Africa had quite a lot of jewels. But through the Sixties and Seventies decolonization delivered the continent into the hands of Afro-Marxist kleptocrats-for-life who reduced viable economies and some of the richest farmland on the planet to an impoverished coup-wracked dump. Mr Smith was a racist but he was not an incompetent and, a generation after Zimbabwe's neighbors had achieved and squandered independence, he bequeathed (albeit reluctantly) a going concern to Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.
Mr Mugabe then got to work. In 1990, after one decade of Zanu-PF stewardship, the arrangements put in place by Lord Carrington at the Lancaster House conference were still holding, just about. In 2000, after two decades of Mr. Mugabe's rule, per capita income had fallen by half, inflation was running at over 100% and unemployment at 60%, and the government had no idea how to correct any of these lamentable developments except by forcing white farmers off their property and turning productive land to dust.
Today, after three decades, there's no point running any economic numbers: Zimbabwe is off the charts. Last year, the central bank introduced a new 100 trillion dollar banknote. The following month, concerned that the numbers were getting too long to print on any regular sized bill, they had another currency revaluation and removed 12 zeroes from the Zimbabwean dollar: One trillion dollars is now worth one dollar. Unemployment is around 95 per cent. Maize and soya production have fallen by over half since 2000.
There are fewer white farmers to blame. Many were murdered at the urging of Mugabe, and, as is traditional, after hacking up the landowner and his missus the killers then eat the cattle and clog up the irrigation ditches with their carcases and sit and watch as the land returns to dirt, and somewhere at a international agency a bewildered economist tries to figure out why food production falls when a working farmer is replaced by a machete-wielding goon. Those fortunate landowners who aren't dead are mostly fled.
Yet the official position is that the present situation remains the fault of the white minority and of Britain. Mr Mugabe famously described his Commonwealth colleague Tony Blair as a "gay gangster" leading "the gay government of the gay United gay Kingdom."
Back in 1980, Robert Mugabe was a cold but courtly Afro-Marxist. He liked cricket for its "civilizing" influence, he had English hunting scenes on the place mats at Government House, and he spoke in the elegant vowels of a post-war London drawing room, not the flatted tones of the veldt settler. He was always an economic illiterate, and a vicious killer as required, but he was not, as he now appears to be, stark staring nuts. Many have speculated on the reasons for this. In Zimbabwe, it became widely believed during the Nineties that he'd been driven insane by tertiary syphilis.
Reliable sources claim Mr. Mugabe's manhood has crumbled away to nothing. A few years back, George Potgieter, the manager of a Harare engineering company, wound up in the dock after telling his workers that (according to court records) "they had no brains because they were being led by a president who had a rubber penis made in China". The workers immediately seized Mr Potgieter and took him to the nearest police station for breaking the Law and Order Maintenance Act, which forbids exposing the President to "hatred, contempt or ridicule".
I'm not sure what extradition arrangements we have with Harare, so let me hasten to add that neither I nor the management of SteynOnline are for one minute suggesting Mr Mugabe has a rubber penis - or, if he has, we're sure it's very impressive and top of the range, certainly not some factory-made Chinese thing. By the way, I'm no shrink, but it seems to me that if one's twig and berries crumble away to nothing it could conceivably lead one to an unusually intense animus against certain forms of male sex. Thus, Mr Mugabe's speech in 2000 accusing Britain of a plot to impose homosexuality throughout the Commonwealth.
So on this thirtieth anniversary, with his country in worse shape than his penis and no rubber substitute to hand, there's now something for everyone to complain about. On the British right, Mugabe's assaults on the white farmers vindicate everything they always said about him. On the British left, the rampant homophobia cost him the support of all those champagne socialists who cheered his rise to power in 1980. And in the mushy centre there's the usual anguished hand-wringing at every Commonwealth Conference. Mugabe's thugs smash oppositions newspapers, corrupt the judiciary, undermine elections, and kill political opponents, and the Commonwealth issues another statement expressing "deep concern" and urging "all parties" to desist from violence.
The general effectiveness of this approach was perfectly encapsulated by the then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, emerging triumphantly from a crisis meeting on Zimbabwe in 2002: "Everybody has agreed that nothing will be done before the elections," said M Chrétien. He was boasting of this as a diplomatic feather in Canada's cap, and indeed it was widely reported as such by his poodle press. But it is in its way a brilliant summation of the multilateral approach to even pipsqueaks: "Everybody has agreed that nothing will be done." That's "soft power" in a nutshell.
And after the stolen election Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the continent's heavyweights, flew to Harare for a "working lunch" with the old mass murderer. Their suggestion was that he form a coalition government including members of the party he'd stolen the election from. Mr Mugabe laughed so hard his rubber penis fell off. To be honest, Mr Mbeki's heart wasn't really in this "compromise" proposal: After Mr Mugabe's cheerfully straightforward fraud, intimidation and violence paid off on election day, the South Africangovernment had sent him a congratulatory telegram. Mr Mbeki has supposedly committed Africa to self-policing its commitments to good governance. Yet he has a consistent track record of going out of his way to kiss up to even the most psychotic dictators in the name of "African unity."
After the theft of the 2008 election, Mbeki and others prevailed on Mugabe to form a "national unity" government with Morgan Tsvangirai, his rival and the rightful winner, as Prime Minister. Under the agreement, Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party would control the police, and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF the army. In practice, the Prime Minister's "government" controls very little, including even trumped-up treason charges against its ministers. Last year, a truck swerved into his car, inuring Mr Tsvangirai and killing his wife.
Thus, the "jewel of Africa" after thirty years of "independence" with every facet of its inheritance reduced to rubble, near total unemployment, and mass starvation. Robert Mugabe is not Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong-Il. He's a nothing, but he meant it and he understood that the weaselly Commonwealth communiques condemning violence by "all parties" didn't: Whether or not he has no penis, he understood that "world opinion" has no balls. "Everybody has agreed that nothing will be done." Happy Zimbabwe Day.