Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Zimbabwe the next failed African state?

I certainly think so, and South Africa sees the possibility. The Zimbabwe government led by Robert Mugabe has led the largest peacetime economic downturn in Africa's history. What was once a thriving nation is going through an unprecedented decline to basket case status.

How bad are things? Even South Africa, always loath in the past to criticize Mugabe, is talking (relatively) tough:
South Africa is trying to avoid Zimbabwe becoming a "failed state", its deputy foreign minister has said. [...]

He said South Africa wanted Zimbabwe to change its economic policies, in return for a loan, which is being negotiated.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's government has again ruled out the idea of holding talks with the main opposition party.

Zimbabwe is going through an economic crisis, with shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, and rampant unemployment and inflation.

It has asked South Africa for an emergency loan so it can repay its debts to the IMF and avoid expulsion.

There had been reports that South Africa was insisting the government hold talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), or even that they form a coalition government.

"We are negotiating in the... broad context that we need fundamental economic changes, and how do we minimise the political tensions of Zimbabwe without necessarily talking about governments of national unity," Mr Pahad said.

He said the conditions of the loan had not been finalised.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has denied responsibility for the economic problems - blaming them on a Western plot to remove him from power.

The South African government has been criticised at home and abroad for not taking a tougher line with Mr Mugabe over alleged human rights and electoral fraud.

But Mr Pahad defended South Africa's policy of "quiet diplomacy".

"All our interventions on the Zimbabwean issue have been to prevent a failed state on our doorstep," he said. [...]If they approve the loan I hope they get concrete promises from Mugabe to change economic policy.
Machiavelli could well have used Mugabe as the model for the bad Prince. His depredations, ideologically driven decisions, and desire to destroy his opponents have brought Zimbabwe to a point where it will take years and years of hard, dedicated work just to reach the economic milestones achieved 20 years ago.

And all he can offer by explanation is that it's due to a Western plot.