Mugabe may have been motivated by desire to outlast every U.K. prime minister since 1980
As Zimbabweans and the rest of the world await the official results of the Zimbabwe elections there’s unofficial talk that President Robert Mugabe, 89, has won a seventh term in office.
The election’s conduct has been remarkably peaceful compared to previous votes in the resource-rich Southern African country.
The African Union (AU) observer mission’s leader Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president, has said the vote was fair and free.
Predictably Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC opposition party has claimed the election was rigged.
Judging by the scant coverage given to his claims in the U.K. and U.S. media, there seems to be little appetite in the West to revert to the bad old days of political paralysis in Zimbabwe, where no one gained and the country suffered.
What’s more, the U.K. and U.S., Tsvangirai’s biggest patrons, seem to have given up on the opposition challenger, especially since he adopted a life-of–extreme luxury in the last few years. He’s no longer seen as a candidate motivated by selfless conviction. Why would he want to revert to austere living should he become president?
The New York Times documented Tsvangirai’s decadent life-style in a major article “Tasting Good Life, Opposition in Zimbabwe Slips Off Pedestal” in April this year. Western countries seem to no longer trust Tsvangirai to captain the plane and question his commitment. The Times would never have published such an article in the past if Washington and London still saw Tsvangirai as the “man.” As Western governments’ sentiments sway, so goes the “paper of record.”
A decision has been made that Tsvangirai’s best opportunities to unseat Mugabe have passed. Of course he won’t be abandoned overnight and Washington and London will grumble, mildly, about the election’s conduct.
The punitive and vindictive sanctions by the Western countries hurt Zimbabweans yet failed to depose Mugabe. Ironically, the same Western countries were never willing to inflict such damaging sanctions during Ian Smith’s apartheid regime there.
It’s time to lift the sanctions totally.
The economy has rebounded and the worst of the bad days are behind Zimbabwe. Business executives from China, Brazil, India and elsewhere have been streaming to Harare over the past few years and signing up deals.
The U.K. and U.S. are already behind and they are not about to allow Tsvangirai to deny Western companies opportunities, especially when they’ve concluded that he’s no longer the dedicated opposition leader he once was.
And Zimbabweans will open their arms to Americans, as former U.S. ambassador Charles A. Ray said in an interview last year. “American businesses already have an environment here where they would be welcomed,” he said, noting that Coca Cola, there since the 1920s, controlled 95% of the softdrink market.
Microsoft and Cargill were also big players.
Ambassador Ray offered the most honest assessment from a Western diplomat and didn’t read from the hateful colonial script that’s normally written from London and passed on to Washington; he spoke freely and said of Zimbabwe: “You have to look at it on the ground. Understand the reality. Sometimes I think there is a gap between the perceived risk here and the real risk here. The real risk in most cases is far far less than the perceived risk caused by the image the country has.”
He even confided that ZANU-PF ruling party politicians were actually friendly to U.S. officials in private even while publicly condemning Washington.
It’s time for the Obama Administration to abandon the U.K.’s Zimbabwe script and to normalize trade and business relations. Follow former ambassador Ray’s suggestion and “look at it on the ground.”
There are bigger things in the world than Morgan Tsvangirai and British neo-colonial yearnings.