Analysis: Mugabe blows chance to drag himself from the hole

HARARE - Thur 7 July 2005 : President Robert Mugabe's government has blown any chances of emerging from international isolation after forging ahead with a condemned urban clean-up operation that has left thousands of poor people homeless, without food and some dead, analysts said.
Police, armed with guns, pickaxes and supported by bulldozers pressed on this week with the demolition of shanty towns and backyard cottages in cities despite a public declaration a week ago, at the arrival of United Nations (UN) envoy Anna Tibaijuka that the controversial programme had ended. Tibaijuka is in the country to probe the mass evictions.

Zimbabwe has in the past five years earned a bad-boy tag over controversial policies, from violent seizures of white-owned farms, company invasions by mobs from Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, alleged rigging of elections and a despicable human rights record.

"After this, there is no chance that Mugabe's government will break out of international isolation especially by the West," National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku told ZimOnline.

Madhuku, whose group campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe, spoke as a United States (US) Congress team in the country to assess whether Washington could revisit its policy on Harare said they were "astounded" by the impact of the clean-up operation.

The US delegation virtually ruled out the possibility of the world's super power lifting sanctions against Mugabe's government saying it was highly unlikely Washington would review its Zimbabwe policy after the mass evictions of poor people from urban areas.

The US, European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland banned Mugabe and his top officials from visiting their territories and embargoed military sales to Harare.

Multilateral financial and development institutions have also suspended relations with Harare while the International Monetary Fund is expected to expel Zimbabwe later this month.

But the badge of isolation was yesterday pinned on Mugabe by Russian President Vladmir Putin whose country was seen as a staunch ally of Mugabe from as far back as the Cold War days when Moscow backed African liberation movements.

Joining a growing list of world leaders disenchanted with Mugabe, Putin, labelled the 81-year-old Zimbabwean leader a dictator, in what analysts said was the final confirmation of Zimbabwe's status as a pariah nation.

"Why is it that a person who has been an ally of Zimbabwe calls Mugabe a dictator? This is reflective of the underlying fundamental issues that ZANU PF needs to resolve," said University of Zimbabwe lecturer Heneri Dzinotyiwei, echoing the views of most analysts.

The analysts said Zimbabwe was now an albatross around the neck of the continent as Africa sought debt relief and more aid to fight grinding poverty from rich nations holding a G8 summit in Scotland.

African countries have largely refrained from openly criticising Mugabe but they are increasingly getting exasperated as the subject of Zimbabwe keeps popping up at most international fora.

But analysts said the treatment of African Union (AU) envoy Bahare Tom Nyanduga, who since his arrival last Thursday has been denied access to people affected by the operation, was surely to enrage even some Mugabe backers.

The Zimbabwe government has virtually stalled Nyanduga's mission by refusing to see him and have now asked the AU to withdraw him from the country saying the continental body failed to follow proper procedures.

"That I believe will not go down well with some leaders who have continued to back Mugabe, some will surely be angered," Dzinotyiwei said.

Mugabe has fingered Britain of leading a racist campaign to punish his government for the land seizures that saw the white farming population plunge from 4 500 in 2000 to around 600 today.

The former socialist guerrilla leader denies his urban clean-up drive has made families homeless and defends the operation as necessary to rid urban shantytowns of crime and illegal trade in foreign currency and other scarce basic commodities.

Analysts said although pressure was mounting on the ZANU PF government, Mugabe, a deft and cunning old political fox who is forging closer ties with Asian and Muslim nations, was unlikely to be moved without popular internal pressure.

"This regime is instinctively opposed to democracy there is no chance of Mugabe reforming. We need to put pressure by building a very strong based popular movement to achieve the desired change," Madhuku said.

About four million Zimbabweans or a quarter of the country's total population face starvation unless international donors provide 1.2 millions tonnes of food aid.

The southern African country's 144.4 percent inflation rate is one of the highest such rates in the world. Joblessness stands at about 80 percent while severe shortages of fuel, electricity, food, essential medical drugs are routine because there is no hard cash to pay foreign suppliers. - ZimOnline