Zimbabwe is a land blessed by nature. In 1980 the Jewel of Africa was also the breadbasket of Africa, possessing abundant human and natural resources, a beautiful climate, the best education and medical system on the continent, and a popular international leader in the freshly elected Robert Mugabe.
But now the nation is a basket case and Mr. Mugabe says it is because of global warming. The decades of Mugabe rule, which began with rejoicing, have literally turned to ashes in the mouths of the people.
Total wheat production over the past nine years was 313,000 metric tons. Compare this to the production for only a single year, in 1990, when the nation produced over 325,000 metric tons.
The food instability of the past decade has occurred with, and is affected by, the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy and health system. Epidemics of cholera, AIDS, and tuberculosis are virtually unchecked, and Zimbabwe now has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies, falling from 62 years in 1990 to below 36 years at present. As well, biodiversity is under extreme pressure with over 330,000 hectares of forest refuge lost annually.
In short, Zimbabwe is an environmental disaster zone and, for President Mugabe, the reason is increasingly coming into focus.
Mugabe is a devout Roman Catholic and, like the Pope, trained by Jesuits. The Pope, in his encyclical “Laudato Si,” wrote, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” The Pope’s melodramatic statements, of course, refer to catastrophic manmade global warming.
In 2014 Mr. Mugabe met the new Pope of Rome.
For the longest time President Mugabe blamed every woe on “imperialist interference” or the IMF, but since meeting with Francis, the ‘green’ Pope, he discovered a fresh villain—global warming. With the papal benediction, environmentalism reaches into the hearts of a billion Roman Catholics, including Robert Mugabe.
President Mugabe recently rebuked Western nations for causing global warming. “Disaster stalks our planet Earth,” he said last December at the Paris UN Climate Summit. “Not only are developed countries miserly in providing the means of implementation for the Convention, they also want to inordinately burden us with cleaning up the mess they have created.”
A government-owned Zimbabwe newspaper is claiming global warming reparations of $1.5 billion a year would go a long way to repair damage from droughts.
In 2008 Archbishop Desmond Tutu presented a more nuanced view of Zimbabwe and Mugabe. Tutu said, “He has destroyed a wonderful country”
Mugabe blames the drought for the current crisis. Yet even without drought Zimbabwe had famine conditions in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2014–2016. Drought merely exacerbates the effects of the disastrous politics of Robert Mugabe.
In 2000, Mugabe implemented the controversial Land Reform Programme (LRP), which seized and redistributed productive farms based exclusively on the owner’s ethnicity.
Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa, but by 2002 wheat production collapsed to half its normal output after unruly, violent land grabs paralyzed the commercial farming sector. Not surprisingly, production tanked, then collapsed again in 2008 when annual output dropped to 38,000 tons.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) just released a report identifying a causal chain linking Mugabe’s economic policies to Zimbabwe’s economic ruin, food insecurity and malnutrition, and the recent outbreaks of infectious disease.
Should one be surprised that government-sponsored looting of formerly productive farms leaves them lying fallow and exacerbates environmental problems? For instance, the annual loss of 330,000 hectares of forest already mentioned is directly tied to newly minted farmers with no experience of managing commercial farms using firewood to cure tobacco crops.
Failure to invest in electrical generation and maintenance means also that the general population, lacking secure and stable access to electricity, also turns remaining forests into fuel.
Mugabe has paid no heed to international concern for the unfolding Zimbabwean humanitarian disaster. He has at every turn derailed international efforts to help.
In 2005 he said, “We are not hungry…. Why foist this food upon us? We don’t want to be choked. We have enough.” He said this at a time over 1.5 million people were starving, especially in Matabeleland.
Mugabe is singlehandedly turning Zimbabwe into a desert. His efforts to blame global warming for his woes are the cynical ploy of a man who never takes responsibility for anything.
Some would call Robert Mugabe a dictator. Surely this is too crass a characterization, for it takes considerable political skill to pirouette from raging about imperialists to rent seeking via global warming. It certainly takes enormous skill to become one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. Mugabe is the world’s oldest head of state—92 as of February 21.
His birthdays are always million-dollar affairs. For while his countrymen starve, Mugabe has never spared any expense for himself. He has more important things to think about, like saving the planet from global warming.
Only a few months ago he swore: “I will never, never, never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine.” Happy birthday, Mr. President.