Almost three decades ago, Robert G. Mugabe – now 84 years old – assumed political office in Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia. Zimbabwe is located in the southern part of Africa surrounded on the south and southwest by South Africa and Botswana; on the northwest by Zambia; and, the northeast and east by Mozambique.
Photo credit: CIA Factbook
During the 1960s and 1970s, Mugabe was a political prisoner in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He left Rhodesia in 1976 to join the Liberation Struggle – Rhodesian Bush War – in Mozambique. At the end of the war, Mugabe was hailed by Africans as a hero, and he won in the general elections of 1980: the first elections in which the majority black Africans participated.
Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of black-ruled Zimbabwe in 1980 after calling for reconciliation between formerly warring parties, including whites as well as rival parties. But today he is seen as a power hungry ruler in control of a country where inflation is running rampant. A 2-ply sheet of toilet paper costs $417 – the entire roll costs $145,750 or $.69 in American coinage.
In March of this year a presidential election as well as a parliamentary election were held with no clear results. One of the two challengers, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) garnered a greater percentage than Mugabe but not enough to seal his role as president of Zimbabwe. With the lack of a clear winner, a second election – a run-off – was necessary to establish the election of the president.
But Mugabe and his forces have other ideas as to how to corner the vote and remain entrenched in power. By intimidating and killing supporters of Tsvangirai, Mugabe has forced Tsvangirai to withdraw rather than see continuing slaughter of his supporters. While reaction from non-African nations has been swift and negative, few African leaders have voiced an opinion on Mugabe’s thug tactics.
As the old saying goes, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” After years of leading Zimbabwe and overseeing change and growth, Mugabe has now succumbed to the lure of power over the welfare of his people and his country.