Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mugabe is cutting the branch he sits on

Six years after instituting a policy of nationalizing white-owned farms and evicting their owners, Zimbabwe's government has begun to seize white-owned land in urban Harare...Police arrived before Christmas and said they were going to build houses for themselves on Gletwyn. Ian Ross, 68, said the police started harassing and evicting hundreds of workers from their homes. "They arrived to evict the workers, which they did piece by piece, village by village, compound by compound. They were loaded onto police trucks in the rain, which most of the time arrived without fuel," he said. "They forced workers to buy fuel for them. They took them to various parts of the country. They were basically dumped, they lost all their furniture, saturated in the rain, but within days they all started to come back with a reed mat, a couple of blankets, a pot. They came back to work, but were hounded day and night. They moved into sheds, where they could sleep. The guys moved in to chicken runs; they were living like rabbits, like little rats in a hole."

Mugabe knows - he has admitted as much - that the army and police are the only things that keep him alive. He has therefore to try and keep them happy as he can; since he can't pay them enough, he looks the other way when they abuse their power, allowing them to loot at leisure. The same thing happens with his henchmen in Zanu PF: there is very little he can do to rein them in, even if he really wanted to.

To avoid this mess to be widely published and the horrors of starvation and suffering to become public, he has to tighten media laws:

Zimbabwe's national security minister Didymus Mutasa has warned that "the net will soon close in" on journalists he claims are threatening national security, a state-controlled newspaper reported on Friday.

Why not ask China's technical advice on how to censure the web?

One thing we should be grateful for is that dictators never learn their lessons. Mugabe has used Hitler's veterans in the past to do his bidding and it cost him dearly. He is using the army and police this time, but the game is much, much more dangerous.


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