The once charming town of Victoria Falls, which used to hum with travelers from around the globe, is now derelict and largely empty of tourists. About half of the shops in town are either empty or closed altogether. The fear among ordinary Zimbabweans is palpable. Few people in this police state will talk about politics, and no one does so without looking nervously for the dreaded agents of Mr. Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organization.
The response of the African leaders to this man‐made catastrophe has been to close ranks around Zimbabwe’s leader. Some have publicly agreed with Mr. Mugabe’s claim that his country’s economic woes are due to (targeted) Anglo‐American sanctions, rather than the government‐sponsored destruction of Zimbabwean commercial agriculture. Of course, supporting Mr. Mugabe does not further the cause of African brotherhood; most of the victims of his disastrous policies are black Zimbabweans.
Then there is the shambolic negotiation between Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The talks, which are supposed to pave the way for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in March 2008, take place under the auspices of South African President Thabo Mbeki. Zimbabwe is economically dependent on South Africa, so Mr. Mbeki is in a position to force change or end Mr. Mugabe’s reign overnight. Unfortunately, Mr. Mbeki has done more than any other African leader to help Mr. Mugabe hang onto power. It was Mr. Mbeki whose back‐room meddling split the MDC and whose “election observers” declared two stolen elections in Zimbabwe as free and fair.
Mr. Mbeki claims that the negotiations between ZANU-PF and the MDC have made much progress. He hopes to have them successfully concluded by this Saturday, but that is unlikely to happen. The MDC representatives I met two weeks ago in Johannesburg, though, do not believe that Mr. Mugabe will allow a free and fair election. The U.S. State Department echoes this pessimism, saying the human‐rights situation in Zimbabwe is “becoming worse every day.” Washington last week imposed financial and travel sanctions on 38 Mugabe cronies.