Despite Having Destroyed Zimbabwe, Mugabe Likely to be “Reelected”

Zimbabwean member of parliament estimates conditions are worse than in Darfur

March 24, 2008

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WASHINGTON — Robert Mugabe will likely remain in power after this weekend’s elections despite being largely responsible for Zimbabwe’s implosion, finds a study released today by the Cato Institute.

“Few people believe that [the elections] will be free and fair,” writes David Coltart, a Zimbabwean member of parliament for the main opposition party — the Movement for Democratic Change.

In “A Decade of Suffering in Zimbabwe: Economic Collapse and Political Repression under Robert Mugabe,” Coltart points to the atrocities committed by Mugabe’s government — including the massacre of 20,000 Matabeles in the early 1980s — and concludes that Mugabe cannot give up power peacefully out of fear of prosecution.

Unfortunately that means that Zimbabwe’s political and economic decline will likely continue. Already, Zimbabwe suffers from 150,000 percent inflation and an 80 percent unemployment rate. Life expectancy is now among the lowest in the world, having declined, since 1994, to 34 years from 57 years for women, and to 37 years from 54 for men. Moreover, Coltart estimates, more Zimbabweans have died from the combined effects of malnutrition, crumbling healthcare and HIV/AIDS than in Darfur.

According to the author, institutional weaknesses, which characterized colonial rule and were enshrined in Zimbabwe’s 1980 constitution, are the root of the current crisis. The constitution provides little balance of power between the branches of government and does little to restrain governmental abuse. That has allowed the government to introduce many policies that have crippled the economy, undermined the rule of law, stifled civil liberties and squashed political opposition.

According to Coltart, Western countries and international financial institutions are complicit in the country’s downfall. They have poured billions of dollars into Zimbabwe despite meager results. Other African countries also “ignored very serious deficiencies in governance and in so doing assisted in the perpetuation of the culture of impunity and violence [in Zimbabwe].”

Coltart suggests a number of solutions to rectify the current situation, including restructuring Zimbabwe’s political institutions, limiting government’s interference in the economy, protecting property rights and redressing past injustices.