The Day after Mugabe: Prospects for Change in Zimbabwe

By Pinfold, John | African Research & Documentation, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Day after Mugabe: Prospects for Change in Zimbabwe


Pinfold, John, African Research & Documentation


The Day after Mugabe: prospects for change in Zimbabwe; edited by Gugulethu Moyo and Mark Ashurst. London: Africa Research Institute, 2007. 214 pp. ISBN 978-1-906329-006. Original price not known.

At a time when the news from Zimbabwe seems to become worse with every passing day, this book makes salutary reading. Its stated objective is to assess the prospects for lasting change, and to identify the policy priorities on which such change might be founded. To do this effectively there needs first to be a thorough analysis of what has gone wrong in the last twenty years, and much of the book is devoted to this.

It should be noted at the outset that, apart from the thoughtful and insightful introduction, most of the contributions have been published before, the majority of them in the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa. Written by a wide range of politicians, policy experts, journalists and academic commentators, more than half of them Zimbabwean, collectively they tackle the key questions of Zimbabwe's political stagnation and economic decline, together with the effects these have had on Zimbabwe's neighbours and on the new African institutions which were created to bolster democracy and good governance, with perspectives from London, Washington and Beijing, as well as from Harare and Pretoria.

The editors claim in their introduction that this is not a partisan book, and they have made attempts to present more than one point of view, even inviting President Mugabe himself to contribute to it (unsurprisingly, he seems to have ignored the request, although they do include his address to the nation on the eve of independence, presumably to show how far he has failed to live up to the pledges he made then). Although there are some pieces which are supportive of Mugabe - most notably an interview with Gideon Gono in which he claims "We are printing money to build roads and dams", and that the government's economic policies are based on "conviction and not convention ... in an era where the man spearheading [the] revolution is called Robert Gabriel Mugabe" - the overwhelming majority of the contributions are resolutely anti-Mugabe. Taken as a whole they provide a devastating indictment of his regime, which comes across not just as a ruthless autocracy, but as what I have seen described elsewhere as a 'lootocracy' - a regime where the governing elite have amassed vast wealth, whilst the majority of the people are virtually destitute, and a country formerly known as 'the bread basket of Africa' has been reduced to dependence on food aid, which is then only distributed to those who voted the 'right way'.

Few of the key players in the recent history of Zimbabwe come out well from this book. The British appear to have washed their hands of the country after independence and done little to put into effect the promises that were made, albeit in vague terms, at the time of the Lancaster House agreement to finance the land reforms which were seen on the nationalist side as an essential element of the settlement; the commercial farmers, most of whom have now been evicted from their land, failed to recognise the deep sense of land hunger amongst ordinary Zimbabweans, which enabled Mugabe to cast them as villains once they had transferred their political allegiance to the opposition; President Mbeki has been made to look weak and ineffectual in his mediation efforts as he taken Mugabe at his word, and protected him from the worst strictures of the outside world; and the international community has been divided in its response to the crisis, with many African leaders seduced by Mugabe's anti-colonialist rhetoric and the Chinese unwilling to criticise the Zimbabwean regime so long as their access to the country's raw materials, which they need to fuel their own development, remains unhindered. …

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