Sunday, May 20, 2007

The colonial card

Rian Malan in The Spectator.

I first saw Robert Mugabe in the flesh at a UN Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002. His arrival on the podium was preceded by US defence secretary Colin Powell, who was booed and jeered, and by Tony Blair, who met with similar indignities. Mugabe, on the other hand, was greeted by a tumultuous standing ovation.

By 2004, Zimbabwe’s economy was in freefall and his subjects were growing hungry, but Mugabe was more popular than ever. No, not in Zimbabwe. His fans were black people elsewhere. He received standing ovations in many African capitals, and at President Mbeki’s 2004 swearing-in ceremony... Mugabe was giving the whites hell. Mugabe was therefore a hero. ‘Mugabe is speaking for black people worldwide,’ wrote the Johannesburg commentator Harry Mashabela.

Last year, the cocky little psychopath informed an audience of African-American New Yorkers that his rule had created ‘an unprecedented era of peace and tranquillity’ back home. They gave him a standing ovation.

By the beginning of this year... eight out of ten Zimbabweans were jobless, and those who had work were screwed anyway, because inflation was 2,200 per cent and they couldn’t afford anything. Hospitals and schools were collapsing, factories closing. Millions were facing starvation. In a report for the Sunday Times four months ago R.W. Johnson interviewed a game ranger who said Zimbabwe’s hyenas were developing a taste for human flesh, the result of scavenging on corpses ‘cast into collective pits like cattle’. He concluded that Mugabe’s misrule had resulted in as many as two million deaths — twice as many as perished in the Rwandan genocide — and that ‘the number is now heading into regions previously explored only by Stalin, Mao and Adolf Eichmann.’

It seems to me that last week’s events in New York render a terrible verdict on well-intentioned do-gooders and the climate of impunity they create for African dictators. These thugs and kleptocrats know there is no downside; blacks — some blacks — don’t care what horrors they inflict on black people, so long as they can make anti-imperialist noises. As for whites, they will take any insults you dish out and come to feed your people anyway, thereby sparing you from the consequences of your incompetence and criminality.

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