I'd Be Angry about Your Empty Gesture on Zimbabwe, Mr Brown -- If I Wasn't Too Busy Trying to Find Some Bread

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GORDON BROWN has threatened to boycott December's Europe-Africa summitin Portugal if Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is given a place at the table.In Europe he has been congratulated for challenging the tyranny of Mugabe'sZanu PF party but here one of the few surviving members of Harare's whitemiddle class accuses the British PM of an act of cynical global grandstanding.

SO, Gordon Brown is saying he won't break bread with Mugabe, that he willencourage other European nations to do the same and ask the UN Security Councilto send a special envoy to Zimbabwe You might think he wants to help.

You'd be wrong. Because the time for help is long gone and he knows it. This isgesture politics, designed not to damage the rule of Mugabe but to promote therule of Brown.

We who endure the daily tragedy of Zimbabwe live amid a quiet genocide. Itcould have been stopped if the British Government had come to our aid beforethe 2000 elections when our emergent black middle class fought for economicprosperity, political democracy and racial harmony.

But the man who today advertises himself as Africa's saviour sat on his handsback then and let Mugabe crush democratic change. Now he's trying to diminishour President's power.

Yet that is the only thing holding the tattered remnants of this countrytogether. When Mugabe goes, we will become the next Rwanda, such is the hungerand fear and desperation of the people abandoned by Britain seven years ago whonow face near 100 per cent unemployment and a life expectancy of 40 or less.

The British High Commission in Harare is currently updating its register ofBritish citizens in Zimbabwe.

My guess is it's because they know they might have to orchestrate a massevacuation of UK nationals.

I won't be going with them. I am a fourth generation white African. I belong toZimbabwe, it's my home and I'm still in love with what it once was. It wasalways a special place, a backwater, a mixture of England in the Fifties andtropical Africa.

But let me tell you about it now, about the country it has become, littlepockets of paradise and hell in between.

These days I hate getting into lifts or standing too close to someone in a foodqueue. You can smell their foul breath and see their mouth ulcers and you knowthey are the one in four who has Aids. It's like walking among the living dead.

THE cemeteries stretch for miles. There are no official statistics but Aidstakes a lot and malnutrition takes the rest. Government-run hospitals don'thave so much as an aspirin. If you have an accident they ask you to bring yourown bandages and whatever drugs you have at home.

My house gets water once a week and my routine is interrupted by around threepower cuts a day. I went to my supermarket on Friday morning and all it had wasgrapefruit segments, American hot dogs and boiled sweets.

There was no bread or milk, no meat, no cooking oil, salt or sugar. Nothing youactually need to live.

I spend most of my day phoning around friends to see what's available on theblack market. You risk arrest or you go without because the shelves are empty.Once storekeepers would stretch packets of loo rolls or something equallyincongruous around the shop but now they've stopped pretending S T there'sanything to sell. A child was killed last month in a stampede for cooking oil.

I am still working so I try to help where I can. There was an elderly whitelady last week buying one tomato, one potato and one onion and hesitating as towhether she could afford them. Her clothes were at least 30 years old. It's acommon sight. You just pass the money to the shop assistant and hope the oldlady's hunger overcomes her pride.

The professional generation before me, the doctors and lawyers and theengineers who built Zimbabwe, are all starving to death on their pensions.

And yet there is money for those in power. …