Tsvangirai detained

MDC Leader Morgan Tsvangirai
Photo from the Sokwanele Flickr Photostream

In an entirely predictable move, Mugabe arrests Tsvangirai ahead of the presidential run-off vote in Zimbabwe (via F/P).

This is what happens when the state has too much power. The reason why we have a much healthier democracy than Zimbabwe is precisely because we go all “awkward squad” the moment any politician moves anywhere near this kind of power. For all the convenience that 42 days detention might bring, it is unquestionably a transfer of power from citizen to state. And, reading about the fate of Morgan Tsvangirai, you will forgive me if the prospect of such a transfer makes me squeamish. Now is not the time for 42 days.

Fear and Loathing in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans have voted in presidential elections. Good luck to them.

Ten years ago, I was living in Zimbabwe, working for the charity SOS. I lived in Chiwaridzo, a township attached to the town of Bindura, a mining town and capital of the Mashonaland Central province. Its one of the northern provinces currently being described as ‘Mugabe’ country, and he has been holding rallies in the area in the run up to today’s vote. About an hour from Harare, Bindura sits at the top of the Mazowe Valley, one of the most fertile parts of the country.

The period 1997/98 was a very interesting time to be in Zimbabwe. In retrospect, it was the turning point in the country’s fortunes and its international reputation. At the start of my time there, the economy was in rude health, with the exchange rate sitting at about seventeen Zim dollars to the pound.

The new British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, met Robert Mugabe. A photo of the two men appeared on the front page of the Herald, Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper. (I remember it well, because the obnoxious white farmer who showed me the photo pointed out how both men were sitting with their legs crossed. “What a couple of poofters,” he said, and I was too young and nervous to challenge this casual prejudice). So when people say that Mugabe has spent the last 28 years ruining his country, remember that only a decade ago he was a leader of good international standing. He was not an international pariah in 1998, nor was he in the business of demonizing the British in the manner he does today. Continue reading “Fear and Loathing in Zimbabwe”