Monday, July 21, 2008

The writing on the Zimbabwe wall is clear

July 21, 2008

The writing on the wall is clear

THE REPORTED decision by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government to seize and transfer ownership of all foreign-owned firms that support Western sanctions against Zimbabwe worsens the long-running conflict between the Mugabe regime and Western governments.
According to the state-run Sunday Mail of Harare, the Mugabe government will transfer the ownership of all such companies to locals and investors from "friendly" countries. The decision seems to be already being implemented, according to the report, with the Harare government having begun auditing the ownership of Western firms in the country as part of a black empowerment drive "and to counter the possible withdrawal of investment under sanctions imposed and proposed by Britain and the US."
According to the report, the audit of foreign investments showed that 499 companies enjoyed British investments. Of these, 309 had majority shareholders in Britain and 97 were wholly owned by Britons.
The audit also found 353 firms with shareholders from other European countries.
The move follows another controversial law seeking to transfer majority ownership of foreign-owned firms to locals.
It is an understatement that Zimbabweans are living through a major economic crisis which owes its origins to the regime's policies. The inflation rate is seen at over 2.2 million per cent and the people of the country are facing chronic shortages of food and other basic needs.
The once-thriving commercial agricultural sector of the country is in ruins, about one-fourth of its 12 million people have fled and those who remain are largely dependent on foreign food aid.
Indeed, Harare blames the crisis on sabotage by enemies angry over the regime's seizures of white-owned farms for blacks but it overlooks that it was the land grab that created the problem.
On the political front, the regime is equally ruthless, with a policy of eliminating opponents. There was little legitimacy to the results of the recent presidential election from which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew citing violence against his supporters.
Mugabe, 84, has led Zimbabwe in various capacitis since its independence in 1980 before becoming its president in 1988. He was initially hailed as a hero of African liberation, but over a period time his regime became corrupt, brutal and intolerant. And the situation has been growing worse with no sign of an end to the woes of the people of Zimbabwe.
Pressure and sanctions have not worked, mainly because of opposition to such moves by other African countries, some of whose leaders are as ruthless as Mugabe himself against political dissent. Obviously, they fear that they would also be targeted for ouster if they allowed Mugabe to be forced out by foreign powers. What they fail to see is the probability of the people of Zimbabwe rising up en masse against the regime and setting an example for their own people.
In any event, the onus is on Zimbabwe's neighbours and other African countries to persuade Mugabe to accept that it is time for him to leave the office which he occupies without legitimacy and that if he doesn't then they would not prevent others from forcing him to go.