Zimbabwe‘s dictatorial Robert Mugabe has added another misery to the long list of miseries he has inflicted on his long-suffering country - cholera.
That’s in addition to a brutal police state, a ruined economy with 90 percent unemployment, an “official” inflation rate of 231 million percent and the 5 million people that the United Nations says face starvation next year.
The cholera outbreak is due to polluted water and large parts of the once modern capital of Harare are without running water or sewage disposal.
The government insists the outbreak is under control although its efforts in that regard consist of urging people not to shake hands. The U.N. says it is not and that as of Wednesday there have been 775 deaths - up more than 200 from Tuesday - and 16,141 cases. The disease is not only spreading rapidly in Zimbabwe but is spreading into neighboring countries as desperate refugees seek treatment. Zimbabwe’s four major hospitals are closed for lack of drugs, doctors, staff and medical equipment. The situation is certainly far more dire in the rural health clinics.
And the country is paralyzed by a political deadlock. Mr. Mugabe has refused to abide by a power-sharing agreement reached after the opposition won a majority of the National Assembly last spring. He insists on his party retaining the ministries that control the military, the intelligence services and the police. The opposition insists on getting at least the police.
President Bush and the European Union have called on Mr. Mugabe to step aside and urged the other African nations to join in the demand, but the best the African Union can muster is to urge further “dialogue.” South Africa, which carries the most weight with Zimbabwe, has been especially timid and has responded to the most recent outrages by saying it would resist any attempt to remove Mr. Mugabe by force. No one is suggesting doing that. But for anyone who cares about the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans, it’s not a bad idea.
Cholera is easily preventable and curable and in this case the cure begins by excising Mr. Mugabe and his circle.
Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.