Saturday, October 25, 2003

Aidan Hartley has an interesting piece in this weeks Spectator about Zimbabwe. He suggests that Mugabe draws most of his pan-African support from a middle class that derives pleasure from watching white Zimbabweans, in particular, and Britain and the US, in general, receive their comeuppance.

I'm usually a bit sceptical of these sorts of articles: old white 'Africa hand' gets together with his black comrade from the struggle and then tells us where the roots of Africa's problems lie. Nevertheless, there may be some truth in what he says. Hartley quotes a statistic from a study by Lawrence Schlemmer which suggests that support for Mugabe amongst black South African's is partly a function of class. He goes on to remind us of how popular Idi Amins expulsion of Ugandan Asians was amongst the middle class of that country. Hartley doesn't mention it, but it bears pointing out that the irony of all this is that the middle classes of Zimbabwe are the ones voting for the MDC. Mugabe's support is almost entirely rural and peasant based and I suspect that even that is more a result of ZANU PFs use of food aid as a tool of political repression than of genuine love of the party.

The Zimbabwean political system is bankrupt (in both senses) from top to bottom. It's sole purpose now is to service the needs of a crony elite who exchange acquiescence to Mugabes mad flights of fancy for material riches. The great bulk of the people, the overwhelming majority of whom are black, are, of course, facing persecution, poverty and starvation. That this state of affairs prompts admiration from certain people is cause for major concern. It suggests that African elites are motivated more by a desire for revenge than by a commitment to the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy. Again and again African leaders (including Thabo Mbeki) have tolerated the most outrageous excesses simply because the person committing them is a leader of a former liberation movement. If Hartley is to be believed then this attitude is not confined to African rulers but extends to the middle classes too. And that is worrying. The middle classes of Africa have the most to gain from stable, democratic govt, if they, of all people, do not see this, then the outlook for Africa is indeed bleak. The independent Zimbabwean media has been smashed (see my entry further down the page), the opposition is being hounded and the country faces mass starvation and for this Mugabe has won plaudits from an intelligentsia that itself must still have memories of fighting similar oppression.


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