Zimbabwe: Lessons of Zimbabwe

It is hard to think of a figure more reviled in the West than Robert Mugabe. Liberal and conservative commentators alike portray him as a brutal dictator, and blame him for Zimbabwe's descent into hyperinflation and poverty. The seizure of white-owned farms by his black supporters has been depicted as a form of thuggery, and as a cause of the country's declining production, as if these lands were doomed by black ownership. Sanctions have been imposed, and opposition groups

There is no denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to
tolerate and even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters.
His policies have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though
sanctions have played no small part, while his refusal to share power
with the country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the
trade unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s
crisis can be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial
Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman, but it gives us little
sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only
by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however
harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but
throughout southern Africa. In any case, the preoccupation with his
character does little to illuminate the socio-historical issues

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