Zimbabwe on the brink of collapse
December 25, 2008, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , ,

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Zimbabwe, the country’s embattled and defiant leader, Robert Mugabe insists that he will stay in power amid a chorus of calls by the international community asking him to step down. As a rally earlier in the week, Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled the country virtually unchallenged since independence, said that he has no plans to step down. Mugabe told the crowd “I will never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine.”

Yesterday, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu in an interview with the BBC, urged the international community to take action to oust Mr. Mugabe from power.

“We have betrayed our legacy, how much more suffering is going to make us say, ‘No, we have given Mr. Mugabe enough time”.

Some 5.5 million Zimbabweans now need food assistance, a striking figure for a country of 13.3 million people. In recent months, a cholera epidemic has broken out in parts of the country as more than 1,100 people have died and 24,000 others have been sickened since August.  The government has been blamed for its mismanagement of the crisis.  The cholera epidemic comes amid a economy on the brink of collapse in a society plagued by one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki spent most of his last few months in office trying to bring the impasse to an end and was able to get concessions from both sides.  The plan he and Zimbabwean leaders crafted, chiefly, that Mr. Mugabe would stay on as president while opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would become Prime Minister, has now fallen apart.  Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has threatened to withdraw from a possible unity government unless 42 abducted members of the party are freed in the coming weeks.

The proposal was originally supported by the United States, but recent events in Zimbabwe have further soured relations between Zimbabwe and the international community.  Jendayi Frazier, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said that Mr. Mugabe’s time is over. “The power-sharing agreement should be implemented, and it needs to be implemented with someone other than Robert Mugabe as the president,” Frazier was quoted as saying in an article in Voice of America.

In a Tell Me More segment, NPR’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports on the turmoil and the near collapse of the state.

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