Zimbabwe, the sick man of Africa

Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker:

070409_talkcmntillo_p233The shamelessness of Mugabe’s brutality—and his gloating pride in it—aroused the attention of the international press and diplomatic corps. But the story of Zimbabwe’s violent misrule and national degradation is not a new one. Mugabe, who is eighty-three, came to power in 1980 as a leader of the long and bloody liberation struggle against the white-supremacist regime of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, and he has always used his hero’s mantle as cover for terrorizing his opponents, real and perceived. He has murdered thousands of his people and deprived the rest of meaningful freedom. In the process, he has transformed one of Africa’s most prosperous and promising countries into one of the poorest and weakest on earth.

Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is already more than seventeen hundred per cent, the highest in the world, and the International Monetary Fund warns that it could exceed five thousand per cent by year’s end. Unemployment is around eighty per cent, and the average income is less than a dollar a day. With chronic food shortages and no medical system left to speak of, life expectancy has plunged from sixty years, in 1990, to less than thirty-seven years (the shortest anywhere), while the infant-mortality rate has increased by more than fifty per cent. Not surprisingly, as many as three million Zimbabweans—a quarter of the population—have fled the country. Yet last week Mugabe’s information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, declared, “There is no crisis whatsoever in Zimbabwe.”

More here.