- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

The degradation of Zimbabwe by the Zanu PF party of dictator Robert Mugabe continues. Within the past week, another opposition leader has been murdered by a band of Zanu PF party thugs, boosting the opposition death count to more than a dozen, while a fifth white farmer has been killed by so-called Zimbabwe war "veterans," those roving hordes of bandits who, since February, have been systematically terrorizing the countryside killing, beating and raping their way to occupying more than 1,500 commercial farms at Mr. Mugabe's behest. As of Friday, the "director of land acquisition" for the Mugabe government posted a list of more than 800 white-owned farms slated for immediate seizure on a "first-come, first-served" basis, thus unleashing an appalling, state-sanctioned chaos across the nation. Lawlessness rules.

Who benefits? Certainly not the fledgling opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which, according to the Times of London, is now loathe to nominate candidates for the June 24-25 parliamentary elections for fear they will be assassinated. Certainly not the farmers, whose families and livelihoods are in constant peril. But what about average Zimbabweans? As a result of the land-grabbing campaign of violence and political intimidation, initiated to mask a disastrous economy, shore up support for the faltering Mugabe regime, and retard the growing popularity of the MDC, the entire country teeters at ruin's edge. As this newspaper's Ross Herbert has reported, bread shortages have been predicted within six months, a time when the current wheat crop should be heading for flour mills but very likely won't, given the havoc wrought on the nation's agriculture. Little wonder that neighboring Botswana now finds itself hosting an influx of Zimbabwean refugees, along with Zambia, South Africa and even flood-ravaged Mozambique.

Again, it is worth asking, who benefits? The answer, of course, is Mr. Mugabe and the Zanu PF party, whose drive to hold power at any cost is laying waste to a once-promising post-colonial African nation. (Mr. Mugabe has even begun urging Namibians to seize white-owned farms there.) But there is something equally as dispiriting as Mr. Mugabe's wanton disregard for life, property and those laws, more than two millennia in the making, civilization offers in their protection. That, of course, is the international reaction to the Mugabe reign of terror.

To be sure, there has been much in the way of hand-wringing from Tony Blair's Great Britain, and Bill Clinton's United States, both of whom continue to pipe up with not extremely relevant statements about the importance of "free and fair" elections (lots of luck). Then there is the great disappointment of Africa. The Organization for African Unity has offered nothing not even the mildest criticism of the current rule by terrorism. South Africa, the regional superpower, has, in the person of President Thabo Mbeki, remained on the quiet side, appearing to fear a power vacuum in Zimbabwe more than regional destabilization. Last week, The Times of London reported that the secretary-general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress party (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, had publicly thrown his support to "the comrades in Zimbabwe." Mr. Motlanthe declared that Zimbabwe's problem is not, as the unenlightened might think, the absence of democracy, but rather "the need to speed up land reform." Land reform, indeed. A better term is larceny by mob rule. Will that be Southern Africa's fate?

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