Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace cut a piece of cake during his birthday event at state house in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 22, 2016. Mugabe, who has been ruling the country since 1987, turned 92 on Feb. 21EPA/AARON UfUMELI
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace cut a piece of cake during his birthday event at state house in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 22, 2016. Mugabe, who has been ruling the country since 1987, turned 92 on Feb. 21

This past week Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe celebrated his 92nd birthday.

In the midst of a severe drought and mass starvation, Mugabe spent a little over $800,000 with students singing, and with multiple politicians attending the event.

Writing for Quartz Africa, Tanashe Mushakavanhu states that “To outside observers, it can be hard to reconcile how Mugabe still manages to occupy such a beloved position in the Zimbabwean national psyche.”

“To critics and opposition politicians, Mugabe and his party are out of touch with the daily struggles of the country’s 14 million people. But despite past attempts at political change and persistent rumors about his ailing health, he has continued to maintain his grip on the country.”

In January, the country was hit by El Nino, which caused lots of damage to crops and farmland. We are told this was one of the worst droughts ever to hit the country. The government has declared a disaster and called for assistance from the international community. The country remains a basket case while its neighbors, South Africa especially; continue to make progress and advancement.

It is estimated that about 2.8 million people are in need of food assistance.

Mugabe has been in power since 1980 when the country gained independence. He is considered the African continent’s longest serving leader and the world’s oldest head of state. He has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron hand, suppressing democratic efforts, imprisoning his opponents and often critical of the country’s colonial master, Britain and other western governments.

Over his dictatorship, the population has suffered incredibly due to his land reforms. Many believe that the farm land taken away from the white population back in 2000 was given to his political allies with little to no equipment or farming training.

While a difficult situation continues, Mugabe has stated that he will remain in power until the day The Lord calls him home. Essentially, he has no plans of quitting.

Meanwhile there has been plenty of wasteful talk in the media about Mugabe and this whole birthday saga. What has been lacking is the offer of real solutions to the problems in Zimbabwe. Don’t we have a responsibility to find answers to these problems beyond criticism or condemnation of Robert Mugabe?

For example—what are Zimbabweans going to do with Zimbabwe? Should Robert Mugabe and his administration be given a free ride while the country continues to suffer? Whose responsibility is it to bring change to Zimbabwe? The international community or the people of Zimbabwe?

I’m all for helping and providing aid for the people of Zimbabwe. But, by aiding, are we not allowing the government to get away with its poor decision-making? How long will the country continue to appeal for help from the rest of the world?

Another question is whether there should be restrictions as well as guidelines in the provision of humanitarian aid to the country?

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), currently involved with the provision of aid, has stated that it has proper measures put in place to make sure that the people who need the food are the ones receiving it. But I wonder what those monitoring mechanisms are and if people actually use them.

As much as the people need to be helped, there should be stipulations from these aid organizations demanding the Zimbabwe government to cough up the funds to help in alleviating the hunger in the southern parts of Zimbabwe.

How about other measures “to move beyond humanitarian efforts” as U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas stated.

There must be pressure from the West as well in demanding further action from the Zimbabwe government to ensure better and proper ways of solving its own problems. It is way more than time for the Zimbabwe nation to go beyond just buying food to alleviate starvation.

 

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