American and British Diplomats Attacked in Zimbabwe

“U.S. and British diplomats were attacked Thursday as they tried to investigate political violence in Zimbabwe and a U.S. Embassy staffer was beaten,” reports the Associated Press.  The U.S. Ambassador attributed the violence to “Zimbabwean police and military officers and so-called war veterans, a group of often violent supporters of President Robert Mugabe.”  “The war veterans threatened to burn the vehicles with my people inside unless they got out of the vehicles and accompanied the police to a station nearby,” the Ambassador said.

“So-called” is the right word to describe the self-described “war veterans,” who actually consist mostly of young hoodlums with a history of attacking only unarmed civilians, not soldiers.   The so-called “veterans” have been the beneficiaries (along with government officials) of the Zimbabwe government’s seizure (and destruction) of the white-run farms that were once the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy.  The seizures caused the collapse of a “once prosperous agricultural sector.”

These hoodlums call themselves “veterans” to falsely suggest that they fought to unseat Zimbabwe’s white minority government, which fell from power in 1980.  But many of the self-described veterans were not even alive in 1980.  Many of the real veterans in that struggle have either died from old age, disease, or malnutrition (Zimbabweans live on average only about 35 years), or were members of the Ndebele tribe.  That group was subsequent brutalized by Zimbabwe’s current government, which is controlled by the majority Shona tribe.  A North Korean-trained Zimbabwean army brigade used terror and torture against the Ndebeles in the 1980s, killing thousands of them.  The international media was mostly silent about that, having earlier lionized Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe for his role in unseating the white minority government.   Zimbabwe’s government has “with considerable international support, behaved with utter impunity for some two decades.”  While European and American diplomats finally spoke out against Zimbabwe’s government after it began attacking white farmers, neighboring regimes in Africa continue to defend Zimbabwe’s government out of a misplaced sense of racial solidarity.

As a Zimbabwean lawyer observes, “Mugabe and his cronies are chiefly responsible for an economic meltdown that has turned one of Africa’s most prosperous countries into a country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Since 1994, the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen from 57 years to 34 years for women and from 54 years to 37 years for men. Some 3,500 Zimbabweans die every week from the combined effects of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and malnutrition. Half a million Zimbabweans may have died already. There is no freedom of speech or assembly in Zimbabwe, and the state has used violence to intimidate and murder its opponents.”

Zimbabwe’s government is now deliberately starving its own people, telling the international aid agencies that feed hundreds of thousands of starving Zimbabweans to halt all aid work and leave the country.  “The United Nations Children’s Fund said that 10,000 children have been displaced by the violence, many have been beaten, and some schools have been taken over by pro-government forces and turned into centers of torture.”