Though former Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe has been out of office for about nine months now, there seems to be a bit more closure today as the first post-Mugabe poll in the country--and indeed, the first vote of any substance there in generations--elected a new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Now, that isn't to say it's been a seamless process. The loser has rejected the vote, so whatever the Ndebele translation of "collusion" is will surely be circulating in the African press.
With Mark on assignment hopefully far from Zimbabwe, we thought we'd share his observations on Mugabe from last October, as his reign was coming to a close. (Mugabe's, not Mark's).
Me from many years ago:
Half a decade or so back, I wrote: "It's a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix 'em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That's the problem with the U.N."
Absolutely right, if I do say so myself. When you make the free nations and the thug states members of the same club, the danger isn't that they'll meet each other half-way but that the free world winds up going three-quarters, seven-eighths of the way.
That's how it went last Friday when the World Health Organization, ostensibly one of the least nutty operating units of the UN (compared with, say, the Human Rights Council), announced that Robert Mugabe was being appointed a WHO "Goodwill Ambassador". Mr Mugabe's idea of "goodwill" is to send his goons round to your farmhouse to announce he's stealing your land - and, if you're minded to object, kill your farm workers or wife or kid. When Zimbabwe's nonagenarian monster goes Goodwill hunting, best not to stand in his path.
Yesterday the WHO was forced to back down. But how did it ever get as far as an official announcement? Mugabe's greatest contribution to "world health" has been to raise the comparative life expectancy of every other country by dramatically reducing his own over his first quarter-century:
Life expectancy in Zimbabwe, 1980: 59.39 years
Life expectancy in Zimbabwe, 2005: 41.76 years
In fairness, this wasn't accomplished merely through killing people. He also starves his hospitals of basic drugs and materials, while jetting off to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for the world-class medical treatment that keeps him remarkably spry at the age of 93. This thug has outlived all those who delivered into his hands "the jewel of Africa", as he told Ian Smith, the defiant Prime Minister of white Rhodesia, on independence back in 1980. As I wrote in The National Post in 2002:
After two decades of Mr. Mugabe's stewardship, per capita income has fallen by half, inflation is running at over 100% and unemployment at 60%, and the government has no idea how to correct any of these lamentable developments except by forcing white farmers off their property and turning productive land to dust. The official position is that the present situation is the fault of the white minority and of Britain.
Indeed. Mr Mugabe accused Her Britannic Majesty's Government of a secret plan to impose homosexuality throughout the Commonwealth. There's a conspiracy theory we can all get behind:
Robert Mugabe subsequently warmed to his theme and called Tony Blair a "gay gangster" leading "the gay government of the gay United gay Kingdom". A Downing Street spokesgay denied the charge:
'The Prime Minister is not a gay gangster.'
Back in 1980, Robert Mugabe was a cold but courtly Afro-Marxist. He liked cricket for its "civilizing" influence, he had English hunting scenes on the place mats at Government House, and he spoke in the elegant vowels of a post-war London drawing room, not the flatted tones of the veldt settler. He was always an economic illiterate, and a vicious killer as required, but he was not, as he now appears to be, stark staring nuts. Many have speculated on the reasons for this. In Zimbabwe, it is widely believed he's been driven insane by tertiary syphilis. From my 2002 column:
Reliable sources claim Mr. Mugabe's manhood has crumbled away to nothing. Last year, George Potgieter, the manager of a Harare engineering company, wound up in court after telling his workers that (according to court records) "they had no brains because they were being led by a President who had a rubber penis made in China". The workers immediately seized Mr. Potgieter and took him to the nearest police station for breaking the Law and Order Maintenance Act, which forbids exposing the President to "hatred, contempt or ridicule".
I'm not sure what extradition arrangements we have with Harare, so let me hasten to add that neither I nor the editors of The National Post were for one minute suggesting Mr Mugabe has a rubber penis -- or, if he has, we're sure it's very impressive and top of the range, certainly not some factory-made Chinese thing. And one can quite understand why one would go to Beijing for penile reconstruction rather than trusting such a procedure to what's left of Zimbabwe's hospitals after a third of a century in Mugabe's tender hands.
I'm no shrink, but it seems to me that if one's twig and berries crumble away to nothing it could conceivably lead one to an unusually intense animus against certain forms of male sex. "We as chiefs should fight against western practices," he said. "British homosexuals are worse than dogs and pigs." And Zimbabwe's homosexuals get jailed. If you've read Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, you'll know that Mr Mugabe's longtime ally in the resistance movement and Zimbabwe's first president was eventually convicted and imprisoned for sodomy. Even the 1982 law forbidding jokes about the presidential name couldn't help him - not with headlines like "Man Raped by Banana" (The Herald), "Banana Forced Officer to Have Sex" (The Guardian), "Banana Appeals Against Sodomy Conviction" (the BBC) and, after he fled to South Africa, "Hand Over Banana, Mandela Told".
The homophobia was a surprise to his old champions in the imperial metropolis. With his country crumbling away faster than his penis, there was now something for everyone to complain about. On the British right, Mugabe's assaults on the white farmers vindicate everything they always said about him. On the British left, the rampant homophobia cost him the support of all those champagne socialists who cheered his rise to power 20 years earlier.
That's what's fascinating about the WHO appointment, and the limits of globalism. When John Kerry and Barack Obama swoon their paeans to the borderless world, they assume it will be a world in which one can "love equally" - or whatever the current catchphrase is. But the fecal ice cream principle applies: It's not just that they meet the thugs halfway and appoint someone who's antipathetic to homosexuality; they elevate someone who hates and torments homosexuals. That's a good preview of how the western liberals' "borderless world" will go.
It is outrageous that this pipsqueak goon endures in Harare. While Britain and other former colonial powers turned a blind eye to Africa, the likes of Mugabe looted their governments' treasuries, their countries' resources, their peoples' wealth and western taxpayers' bountiful "development" funds. You still hear African leaders demanding to know why the US won't set up a "Marshall plan for Africa", which conveniently overlooks the fact that since 1960 the west has sunk the cost of the Marshall plan many times over into the dark continent with nothing to show for it other than a few extra zeroes on the Swiss bank balances of the dictators-for-life. While the west snoozed complacently, the Afro-Marxist kleptocrats ransacked a continent.
But the civilized world lacks the will even to confine people like Mugabe - which is why the WHO's executive board could not even rouse itself to object to an obvious affront until after the announcement had been made. As I said, Robert Mugabe is a pipsqueak. So what do you call people who cannot stand up to the most absurd provocations of bankrupt pipsqueaks? Whether or not Mr Mugabe has no penis, the free members of the UN have no balls.
If you're not a member of the Steyn Club, you can sign up for a full year, or, lest you suspect a dubious scam by a fly-by-night Canuck scamster, merely a quarter. Also, consider joining the Mark Steyn Cruise from Montreal to Boston, with a series of stops guaranteed to be far from the Zimbabwe action.