Zimbabwe’s total eclipse

What keeps Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe in power? How can this infamous octogenarian linger on leading a failed state? Isn't Zimbabwe supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, and if so why don't Zimbabweans simply vote him out of office?
As a Zimbabwean exiled

in the United Kingdom I am often asked these questions by Zimbabwe watchers who are obviously not familiar with what is actually happening on the ground in that misruled and impoverished country.
The Zimbabwe problem most certainly isn’t given the amount of global attention it deserves: and that is an insult and tragedy for the majority of poor, frustrated souls trapped within its borders, who are desperately trying to avoid starvation and malnutrition in what used to be the breadbasket of Africa.
Tragically just as Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence celebrations welcomed the advent of a glorious African sunrise, the new millennium 20 years later heralded Zimbabwe’s devastating total eclipse.
In the early days of Mugabe’s stewardship, prior to him orchestrating promotion to an all-powerful presidency, he regularly attended Parliament for Prime Minister’s Questions. At that time he was very much in tune with domestic issues, and quick-witted with a sharp repartee.
Mugabe then was undoubtedly the people’s choice and undoubtedly accountable to the electorate. He was yet to be uncovered as one of Africa’s leading despots
Mugabe’s Achilles heel is his inability to surrender authority gracefully.
In the fullness of time, after the euphoria of independence had subsided, it would become patently and embarrassingly obvious to Zimbabweans that their President had metamorphosed into an immovable object set in stone.
The awful revelation that Mugabe actually believes he’s infallible crept up on Zimbabweans surreptitiously like a malevolent spectre, creating as much dread as would the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The cause and effect of Mugabe’s obduracy has manifested itself in the killing, maiming and torture that is now tragically Zimbabwe’s trademark and its President’s stock in trade. It is common knowledge that leaders of the opposition, trade union dignitaries, influential members of civic groups and independent journalists who dare stand up to the notorious Mugabe regime suffer severe beatings and torture, or are simply eliminated altogether.
Mugabe over the years has created a mafia style elitist hierarchy that condones volumes of violence and rules by instilling abject fear. He is somewhat of a recluse and has few real friends. He buys enduring loyalty and support by surrounding himself with slavish sycophants, and by dishing out obscene amounts of largesse in the form of confiscated large-scale commercial farms and lucrative political appointments. To fund such corrupt practices more money has to be printed, fuelling Zimbabwe’s ever rising inflation that is already the highest on the planet at over 4 000 percent.
America and the European Union apply targeted sanctions against an indifferent Mugabe and his henchmen. The United Nations and the African Union issue bland statements and admonishments that are ignored. As for Zimbabwe’s immediate neighbours, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference countries, the less said about them the better. After lots of loud trumpeting the SADCC simply left Zimbabwe to South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki; whose quiet diplomacy comprises a consistent deafening silence.
However Zimbabweans recently received a much needed lifeline and a tremendous morale booster when Australia’s Premier John Howard fired a warning shot across Mugabe’s bows.
In a blunt outspoken no nonsense statement Howard described Mugabe as a grubby dictator, and his behaviour akin to Nazi Germany’s Gestapo; and more to the point he backed up his words with action by cancelling Australia’s forthcoming Zimbabwe cricket tour.
Meanwhile, to their everlasting shame, fellow African governments who could initiate positive change carry on fiddling while Zimbabwe burns.

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