There’s a famous story about a impoverished man who grew up in a small town in Rhodeshia who went on to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for African independence from European colonists and then get elected as the head of government for Zimbabwe. This man was invited to speak at the United Nations as the leader of an African nation which was seen as a beacon of success for peace, economic growth, job development, personal safety and commerce. Not 25 years after the UN speech, which was met with universal fanfare and hope, Robert Mugabe has transformed his homeland into an example of heartbreak.
The New York Times ran a news piece on Mugabe’s arrest of opposition party leaders being arrested for treason. If you didn’t already follow this story, Mugabe has strong armed voters, rigged election results and harmed thousands in his quest to iron fist his role as leader of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years. Recently he actually lost a reelection to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, getting 43% to his 47.9%. I can’t imagine how many more people actually voted for Tsvangirai to overcome the fixed election, but Mugabe has been fighting the results and recounting votes in select areas of the country for weeks now. Mugabe who once offered hope and peace instead invented hyperinflation, expelled tens of thousands of people from their homes and built a government of corruption and brutal repression.
I share story because my wife studied urban and rural planning in Zimbabwe a number of years ago and speaks fondly of happy people, trusting people and a people looking for hope and reform. I’m not entirely oblivious; I know governments and people can be corrupt, I’m just sadden that one man can temporarily destroy a country and its sprit.
I look forward to seeing how this story and election plays out in Zimbabwe, I’m optimistic but the results to come are slightly predictable and sad.