The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe on Sunday accused President Robert Mugabe of “criminal negligence” for purportedly driving his southern African nation toward starvation, disease and bankruptcy while enriching his political cronies.
While inflation skyrockets to 230 million percent and a cholera epidemic kills hundreds, Mr. Mugabe splurges on his circle of supporters, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee wrote in a letter to the Sunday Times of neighboring South Africa.
“What is the Mugabe regime doing? It is buying hundreds of cars so that every minister and governor can have multiple vehicles. It is buying plasma televisions for judges,” he said.
“Instead of spending scarce resources on water purification chemicals that might stop the cholera epidemic, they are manipulating currency to make a personal profit.”
Mr. Mugabe has blamed the nation’s problems on international sanctions imposed on his autocratic regime. His information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, last week accused Britain of spreading the cholera outbreak in a “genocidal” attack that has killed nearly 750 people. Within days of declaring a national emergency, Mr. Mugabe said the cholera crisis had ended.
Mr. McGee, a frequent critic of Mr. Mugabe’s human rights abuses, said the government, itself is guilty of “criminal negligence” for the economic, political and health crises.
“The widespread hunger in Zimbabwe, the cholera epidemic and the collapse of the education and health care systems are not the result of any targeted sanctions,” the ambassador said. “These disastrous failures result from the decisions by a few Zimbabwean leaders to put personal interests ahead of the public interests.”
Mr. Mugabe is under growing pressure to resign or form a coalition government with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round of the June presidential election with nearly 48 percent of the vote to Mr. Mugabe’s 43 percent. Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff because of political violence he blamed on Mr. Mugabe’s supporters.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to discuss proposed actions against Mr. Mugabe at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Monday.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who is due in Washington on Monday to receive an award from the National Democratic Institute, last week said Mr. Mugabe should be forced out and tried for crimes against humanity if he refuses to resign.
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
• Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who receives the W. Averell Harriman Award from the National Democratic Institute. The NDI also will honor the Women’s League of Burma with the Madeleine K. Albright Grant and Ferdos Majeed Mohammed Ameen of Iraq with the Andi Parhamovich Fellowship for her efforts to strengthen democracy in her country.