Friday, December 12, 2008

Watch it Rise.



A day after Mugabe declared a rampant cholera epidemic over, the NY Times quotes a World Health Organization estimate of those in Zimbabwe afflicted with the disease at between 60 and 80,000.

For years, the ANC has sat on its hands as Mugabe runs his once exempary country into the ground. Human suffering can be measured by the number of zeros in the inflationary rate. Little have African leaders done as Mugabe rigged his election, printed money like paper, watched the salaries of doctors and teachers plummet, taken control of municipal services, and emptied hospitals of vital medicines and resources. Sewage runs in the streets. Entire families are being wiped out.

The only thing holding up Zimbabwe now is aid relief - Mugabe has no reason to lift a finger as long as international services continue to hand him money in exchange for covering his responsibilities.

As urban Zimbabweans head home for the holidays to their rural villages, the cholera epidemic is expected to spread. Watch the death toll rise, African and world leaders, and remember the international cries for intervention that came years ago and that you have ignored.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Erin Koch said...

This is a totally horrifying situation, in which the cultural politics of infectious disease are palpable. As you point out, outbreaks and epidemics such as the one currently ravaging Zimbabwe don't just happen overnight.

Not only will rates of infection and death continue to rise and cross borders, but also denial; denial of the deeply entrenched cultural and economic factors that give rise to and perpetuate infection and affliction. These include not only the terror wrought by Mugabe, but lasting effects of British colonialism.

Just yesterday--on the heels of Mugabe's accusation that Britain was using the cholera outbreak as an excuse for military intervention-- Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu stated that the outbreak is akin to an act of biological terrorism. These extreme statements divert attention from the role of Mugabe's government in this situation. But interestingly, they also speak to another issue you raised: the ongoing failure of the international community to intervene. It is not enough to suggest that Zimbabwe is a failed state. Zimbabwe is also a country that has been failed by its former colonial power, Britain and other world leaders.

December 13, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

Erin, it's so nice to hear from you.

One of the most fascinating - and horrifying - aspect of the tragedy in Zimbabwe is the unfolding of predictable stages of decline. First a fettered media, a rule of law that opresses dissent, a stricken economy, hyper-inflation, take-over of municipal services, inability of professionals to keep at their jobs, and now, rampant disease. Through these stages, as you point out, and in the blind face of the world community, the former colonizer, and a regional community that should know better, there have been varying reactions. This process of decline strikes me as predictable because we have seen it all over Africa, with variations: war and systematic rape in the Congo; ebb and flow of the Islamic government in Somalia; the 30 year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia; the foundering of development in Mozambique; government corruption in Kenya and Tanzania; and of course the genocide in Rwanda. A false labeling or mythology seems to allow cover to the disintegration of these nations: the Congo is Africa's unruly dark heart, Ethiopia is the west's darling, thanks to the charisma of Haile Selassie (and a famine under Mengistu); Eritrea, in cahoots with Somalia's Islamic warlords, is part of the axis of evil; Mozambique is the beautiful playground of cultured South Africans; Kenya and Tanzania are stable models of development on the continent; Rwanda's genocide was a terrifying example of Africa's tribal hatreds. All, for the most part, rubbish.

Mugabe's ancient god-like reputation as the last independence lion has prevented anyone in Africa from calling him on the destructive path he has set for the country. Now that cholera is afoot, the world press starts wringing hands.

December 13, 2008 at 2:41 PM  

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