Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zimbabwe is starving. Thank Robert Mugabe

Very few people really pay all that much attention to Zimbabwe. It's been a nation in steady decline under the iron fist of a dictator. Captain Ed tips us off to a story from the Times Online about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe's highways are littered with police checkpoints, which is discomforting for foreign journalists working there illegally. But they are simply a pretext for extracting food or money from drivers.

“What are we having for Christmas?”, one policeman asked The Times. “I'm hungry,” another said bluntly. A third threatened to issue me with a ticket for stopping a yard past the point where he was standing. He then said that my companions - hitch hikers - were “unlawful passengers”. Eventually he backed down, but a black driver would have had to pay.

More alarming was when I was flagged down by two police officers near Bulawayo, prompting visions of Christmas in a lice-infested Zimbabwean prison. But they just wanted a lift.

In the car they raged against President Mugabe's regime. The senior one, a sergeant of five years' standing, claimed that his monthly salary did not buy even a litre of cooking oil. His work was merely “community service”. He said that he felt sympathy for the suffering of ordinary people, and that if they rebelled he would not fire on them.

Another passenger was a warden at Bulawayo's infamous Khami prison. The previous month he had earned 200 million Zimbabwean dollars - less than US$1 at today's rate. Of that sum he could withdraw only a fraction after queueing for four hours at the bank each morning. Every day and a bit, its value halved.

He said that he had five children to support and had not eaten bread for a year. He survived by stealing the prisoners' sadza - a porridge that is now a luxury for most - or by trading favours for food brought in by families. “There's no discipline ... We depend on the prisoners to stay alive.”

Four inmates shared cells designed for one; 400 shared a single tap. There were no working lavatories and it was overrun with rodents. Some prisoners suffered from pellagra, an illness caused by vitamin deficiency, and several died each day. Their bodies were seldom claimed because of the funeral costs. Most were kept in a stinking mortuary for the statutory 12 days, then put in sacks and given paupers' burials in the prison grounds.

Many prisoners were not criminals at all, the warden said. “They stole food to keep themselves alive.”

Zimbabwe's collapse is evident everywhere, with broken picnic tables in lay-bys serving as poignant reminders of happier times. The roads are crumbling and potholed. Few traffic lights or streetlights work. Many vehicles are ancient jalopies that frequently break down.

Everywhere, even in the country, people walk along the roadside for lack of transport. From the verges they hawk firewood, vegetables or a sour fruit called mazanje foraged in the bush. Some hold out live chickens to passing vehicles in desperation.

Outside the town of Victoria Falls two young brothers named Freedom and Promise were selling clumps of tiny fish on strings that they caught at great personal risk each day by wading into the middle of the crocodile-infested Zambesi. “We have no choice,” Freedom said.

Let me be clear on this: The solution to this is NOT to give Zimbabwe one cent. The people must rise up against Mugabe. His police force is clearly not happy with him, and it seems that they would not back the dictator to protect him from the people. Will the military? If they're in the same sad state the police are, they may not. The people may have hope in the police and military launching a coup.

Zimbabwe was once covered in lush, rich farmland but since Mugabe's rise to power the land has been left untouched. In 2000 amendments were passed that limited the president to two terms (not retroactive, so Mugabe could again run for two more terms), and allowed the government to confiscate the land from white farmers. Those farms were given to blacks to tend, and without the knowledge on how to run a farm, the farms have fallen into disarray.

The people must act if they're to survive. With famine comes war. We've seen this in other African nations such as Ethiopia and Sudan. The only way to survive is to get rid of the thugs in charge. The people of Zimbabwe need to confer with police and military people they trust to get rid of Mugabe.

Publius II


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