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Power corrupts

Lynda Moyo looks at Africa's emergency

Written by . Published on April 24th 2008.

Power corrupts

Zimbabwe struck gold at the World Swimming Championships at the MEN Arena earlier this month. But the country was too devastated to celebrate any triumphs.

The 49,000 Zimbabweans living in the UK, according to the 2001 UK census, will triple by the next census in 2011. And whilst we constantly debate asylum seekers and immigration from our cosy homes, it's no wonder Zimbabwean's are looking for the emergency exit. Economic collapse. Hyper inflation (£1 = $59,227). Drought. Malnutrition. Life expectancy average of thirty-five. One million orphans. HIV/Aids epidemic. This is 'an unpresidented state of affairs for a country not at war' according to the World Bank. But Zimbabwe is fighting a war. A war with itself.

When any man in power does not achieve what he set out to do, he is overwhelmed to correct where he went wrong.

On March 29, Zimbabwe had its long overdue election. The prediction that the election was 'likely to be flawed' by the Human Rights Council was more than an understatement: the whole world and all its leaders knew it would be decayed to its very core. And the fact that we're still waiting for results confirms those fears.

So where did it all go wrong for the country once described as the bread basket of Africa?

Black ethnic groups in Zimbabwe make up 98% of the population. As with most of Africa, tribes are a fundamental part of Zimbabwe's past and present in a similar way to that of the four constituent countries in the UK or the various religious groups. The majority people, the Shona, comprise 80% to 84%. The Ndebele are the second most populous with 10% to 15% of the population. Robert Mugabe, the leader who's found power addictive, is from the Shona tribe.

Confidential spoke to two Zimbabweans with Mancunian connections, one younger, one older, one Shona, one Ndebele, to get an insiders view. The picture they paint is common to both.

Takura Tendayi, 26, a Shona, has lived in Manchester for the last 8 years and knows only too well the plight of the country and how a once widely celebrated Robert Mugabe has become a demon dictator.

He said: “When any man in power does not achieve what he set out to do, he is overwhelmed to correct where he went wrong. Mugabe's good intent in the beginning won him the love of the people. He helped us gain independence. But looking back do we know what covert means he used to gain his favourable position to become party leader? There are many terrible stories of 'Bob's' underhand tactics. These might explain why he's been able to hold on to power for so long.”

And what of the opposition? Morgan Tsvangirai claims to be the spokesman of change. Yet because of the overpowering nature of Mugabe's regime, little is known of the opposition leader's true credentials. “The leader of MDC is not much different than the former honourable Mugabe,” says Tendayi, “in that both were fighting some sort of tyrany at some point on their way into power. With similar backgrounds and not knowing much about Tsvangirai we might end up with more of the same.”

Elliot Ndlovu is now 51 and Ndebele. He studied in the North West before returning to Zimbabwe in the 80s. At that time he had no reason not to want to return to his home country. But in the last year he has fled to South Africa for a better life.

He said: “Mugabe was a hero only to the Shona. They saw him as a person who was liberating them, not only from the Whites but also from the Ndebele people. It was black against black and actually diverted attention away from the whites and meant they could go on with their business without being disturbed. It was left to the human right organisations to bring the world attention to 20,000 people being killed for no good reason. Mugabe's rule went from bad to worse to a point where it affected everybody. People began to protest but they discovered that his ruthlessness went beyond killing the Ndebeles. He was prepared to kill anybody who stood in his way.”

Looking to the future, like many Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, Ndlovu believes Zimbabwe has hit rock bottom and the only way is up. He said: “I am very optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe. I believe that what is happening at the moment are the kicks of a dying horse. I never expected Mugabe to easily concede defeat and feel sorry himself. He is a fighter and a ruthless one at that but at the moment he is fighting against the whole of Zim, so his days are numbered. All we ask is for the international community to assist where they can.”

The Zimbabwean people have done their part in rejecting a ruthless dictator through the ballot box, but Mugabe isn't one to give up without a fight. And once a new leader is in place, Zimbabwe will decide its own fate. Zimbabwe's national anthem, Blessed be the land of Zimbabwe includes the line: 'May leaders be exemplary'. We can but hope.

The next leader most certainly has a job on his hands.

And history is, as far as an independent Zimbabwe goes, against the leader. As Tendayi told Confidential: “Who is to say we are not going to witness the same selfish rule and corrupt leadership under the new leader?”

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

speechlessApril 24th 2008.

Unbelievable, first Dougie says it's not our problem, then David Ottewell denies there's a problem at all!

David OttewellApril 24th 2008.

Good stuff. I recently got an old friend (an author from Zimbabwe) to do a guest blog for me on the situation. Since then things have only got more depressing.blogs.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/…/post_247.html…

Jimmy KrankyApril 24th 2008.

Dougie you're dead wrong. You're forgetting how we [uk residents ancestors] along with half of Europe ****ed Africa up. It's shame there's no oil in Africa because everyone we'd all take notice and try and sort it out then, but no, the country is no use to us now the slave trade is over so everyone just washes their hands and says it's up to the continent to sort themselves out. Dispicable.such a beautiful land and amazing people are blighted by this bull****.

dougieApril 24th 2008.

Not our [uk residents] our problem.

AnonymousApril 24th 2008.

Jimmy. No oil in Africa? Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria..... And didn't most of the slave trade happen from West Africa not South? Colonial guilt plays a huge part in our in action in the continent. What does it look like if the former colonial powers arrive again with all guns blazing. The tragedy of Zimbabwe is that it was a rich, successful country that feed its own people, as well as others in Africa. One paranoid 'mad' man has helped bring the place to its knees (though I am sure some of the white farmers didn't help by still treating there black workers with contempt after independence so fueling Mugabes attitude) People haven't washed there hands of the country, but would we want another Iraq? Many in the west desperately want other Africa states to rise up and challenge the situation. But they haven't. The behaviour of South Africa has been appalling. You imply that we want to leave the continent to sort itself out being a negative thing. But surely they should aim to take there destiny in there own hands. Do they want arms length colonialism? God knows we left a mess behind in many places, so we are not going to do much better now. Zim's citizens are to be applauded for wanting to affect change via the ballot box, rather than inviting action from outsiders or rioting. They are the people who are showing the true way forward. The problem is those in power just won't listen....

Zambian born, British breadApril 24th 2008.

Jimmy, you hit the nail on the head. It’s easy to condemn his actions and say what a demon dictator he is but I'm absolutely flabbergasted by the international community’s complete lack of action, even though the whole world can see what’s going on. I challenge anyone to find me a clearer definition of western hypocrisy

speechlessApril 24th 2008.

That was a joke everybody!!! before you all start getting your knickers in a twist, I'm aware that David was just responding to Jonathan's request!!!!!! Just looked funny to my eyes!

JamesApril 24th 2008.

Dougie, you the world is completely interconnected now. Problems across the world can lead to other problems. In fact that has always been the case. To bask in our Western privileges and thumb our nose at the rest of the world would be self-delusional in the extreme. And it would be dull too.

Jonathan SchofieldApril 24th 2008.

David, good stuff indeed. Nice to have the MEN writers tuning in. Hey, this is like the old Manchester Guardian days isn't, international news with a Manchester slant in the Manchester media. Could you put a link to our story from your MEN blog? That'd be all right wouldn't it?

David OttewellApril 24th 2008.

No problem.

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