In fact, press reports from earlier this year indicated that in the wake of the 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, Mugabe was preparing to concede his loss and step down from office. But his military sponsors told him that he would, under no circumstances, concede. So, the lying thug who has oppressed and murdered thousands of Zimbabweans while he and his henchmen robbed his countrymen and failed to provide them with basic government services, is himself marching to others' tunes--probably gladly, a content bird in a gilded cage.
But now the horrors have reached truly awful proportions. A cholera epidemic, exacerbated by the neglect and indifference of Mugabe's regime, by an estimate of the World Health Organization (WHO) released just yesterday, has exacted an enormous toll. Says WHO in a press release issued in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare:
A widespread cholera outbreak, under-resourced and under-staffed health system, and inadequate access to safe drinking water and hygiene are threatening the wellbeing of thousands of Zimbabweans. As of 9 December, 16 141 suspected cases of cholera and 775 resultant deaths (case fatality rate of 4.8%) had been recorded since August in two-thirds of the country's 62 districts.Since then, Mugabe has said that WHO, in cooperation with Zimbabwean medical people, had thwarted the cholera outbreak:
I am happy to say our doctors are being assisted by others and the WHO [World Health Organization] have now arrested cholera.Save the Children says that the epidemic has actually been underestimated by WHO. In a statement issued earlier today, STC country director Rachel Pounds says:
According to the latest figures 775 people have died so far. Save the Children knows this is an underestimate — not least because the figures do not include areas in which we work and where we know there have been many unrecorded deaths.
Also, the percentage of people who are dying having contracted cholera in the first place is way higher than normal for this disease, in some areas. With even the most basic health care on hand, you would expect to see a death rate of only one or two percent. In some areas of Zimbabwe a third of those who have contracted the infection are dying.
So, why exactly does a despot deny the existence of an epidemic repeatedly confirmed by countless credible sources?
To hold onto power, of course, although given those post-election conversations about stepping down and the military junta's veto of Mugabe's plans to do so, one wonders who is really calling the shots in the Zimbabwean government these days. But in this hypermediated age, it becomes less possible for repressive regimes to hide unpleasant realities, health crises even more than repressive actions.
Mugabe keeps playing the same old tune, claiming that the latest international calls for his resignation, this time in the face of his indifference to the cholera epidemic, mean that Britain, the US, and France are all anxious to invade and conquer Zimbabwe.
But none of those nation's governments are going to do that. It would be inappropriate for them to do so, for one thing. It would also be harmful to their national interests at this stage in international history. Besides, none of the nations he accuses of salivating over Zimbabwe has the will to undertake such an invasion nor the desire to deal directly with the nation-building that would be required after such an invasion. None of the nations' peoples would stand for an invasion.
But despots love creating foreign bogeymen to unite their countries and to secure their own illegitimate claims to power.
The question is, of course, as they watch thousands of their neighbors being felled by cholera, whether Zimbabweans actually buy the malarkey their fake president is selling. I doubt it.
Even if they do view Mugabe's claims skeptically, they're unlikely to be able to stand up to his regime without some outside help and encouragement.
The consensus is that Mugabe will only step down if a coalition of neighboring African nations calls for his resignation and announces a series of escalating steps designed to pressure him and his regime to walk away from power peacefully. Only an African solution will work.
Some African nations have called for Mugabe to resign. But the most important government in the region, which has often enabled Mugabe's reign of terror, that of South Africa, is key. If the South African nation had grown some sense of ethics, it could end the despotism of the Mugabe regime and the immediate suffering of the Zimbabwean people.
There's reason to believe now that what a sense of ethics couldn't drive the South African government to do may now be propelled by a sense of self-preservation. The cholera epidemic is spreading. Medical refugees from Zimbabwe are flooding into South Africa. In the past, South Africa may have rightly bargained that it could set astride an oppressed Zimbabwe. It may now calculate that it's no longer possible to live alongside an oppressed Zimbabwe that exports its diseases and, with them, discontent with neglectful, corrupt governments.
This is actually a golden opportunity for the government in South Africa, which would like to have the respect of the world. Brokering a deal by which Mugabe steps down peacefully would be welcomed by the people of Zimbabwe, others in the region, and the international community, which has no interest in the instability and drama he brings to the world stage.
In the meantime, I'm calling on God to intervene in causing Robert Mugabe to step down peacefully and to, at last, give the people of Zimbabwe a chance at better lives.