Monday, December 31, 2007


One of the things I was particularly struck by while traveling in South Africa a few weeks ago was the contrast between it and its neighbor Zimbabwe. OK, I admit that it's hard not to see the contrast. And I admit that observing that Zimbabwe is an unmitigated tragedy (or that it didn't have to be) makes "stating the obvious" a rather startling demonstration of understatement. And I think the blame for all of Zimbabwe's many problems rests squarely upon Mugabe.

It's interesting that even in South Africa people I met shake their heads when speaking of Zimbabwe and Mugabe. I think they see what could have happened in their country. I think that Rhodesia (I'm using that name deliberately) and South Africa represent a rarity in political systems: a controlled experiment. Here were two countries with very similar initial conditions - white rule, strong self-reliant/self-sustaining economies (at least by African standards), and the potential for great wealth. Yet they had dramatically different outcomes for what can only be attributed to political strategies. South Africa sought reconciliation; Zimbabwe, retribution.

I can understand the desire for wealth redistribution, and how that can lead to a desire for land transfer. (I don't believe that forced redistribution is in fact morally justifiable; I am just saying that I can see why people might believe it to be so.) But sadly, people often confuse what is morally justifiable with what actually will achieve the desired ends. In the case of Zimbabwe, while chasing the goal of wealth redistribution (putting aside the fact that it was far more about cronyism than righting past wrongs), they ended up merely performing wealth destruction. Giving a productive farm to people who have no experience farming simply results in an un-productive farm; the moral arguments behind the action simply are not relevant.

If only Mugabe's motives were pure then perhaps he could be forgiven for the tactical missteps, but he has only compounded the tragedy because he has not demonstrated that he has the people's interests at heart.

He is quite simply and evil man, and he has singlehandedly destroyed a jewel of a country.

No comments: