Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review August 4, 2005/ 28 Tammuz, 5765

Nat Hentoff

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The shame of the African Union | Our world has no shortage of brutal dictators (a phrase that itself seems redundant). Among the most increasingly ruthless tyrants is Robert Mugabe — once the liberator of Zimbabwe from white colonialism, now the scourge of its black citizens. Reporting from Harare on July 22, the Daily Telegraph of London wrote: "Armed riot police and youth militia of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF Party are rounding up homeless people who have sought refuge in church compounds." The homeless are mostly children, who are herded in the freezing cold night to rural locations and out of the reach of hope.

They are among the more than 700,000 victims of Robert Mugabe's "Operation Restore Order" that — as the July 24 International Herald Tribune reports — has bulldozed "shacks, workshops and market stalls across Zimbabwe's urban center." (Many of the now-homeless adults in such neighborhoods voted against Mugabe in the last government-rigged election.)

Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on adequate housing at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, told the June 11 New York Times that suicides are rising as the desperate displaced people "just have nowhere to go."

A stinging 200-page U.N. report by Kajumulo Tibaijuka, an expert in rural economics from Tanzania, emphasizes that the Mugabe government's "indifference to human suffering" has been caused by "a disastrous venture based on a set of colonial-era laws and policies that were (under white rule) used as a tool of segregation and social exclusion." (But strangely, she does not target Mugabe directly as the cause of this suffering.)

Recently, on a liberal New York radio station, WBAI, I was describing how Mugabe has caused an unemployment rate of 70 percent, ruinous inflation, the pervasive decline of Zimbabwe's once bountiful harvests and the savage punishment of dissenters, inflicted by his merciless youth militia. A caller to the radio station identified himself as an American black pastor and a human rights activist around the world.

He admonished me for not giving Mugabe credit for rescuing Zimbabwe from having been "a white-ruled plantation." I told him the country still is a plantation — ruled by a black master.

Also scandalous in these crimes against the people of Zimbabwe is the silence of the African Union, formed five years ago to prove that the continent can take care of its own problems — and protect economic, political and human rights.

A July 7 front-page story in the Financial Times began: "Kofi Annan yesterday urged African leaders to break their silence over actions by governments, such as Zimbabwe's, that were undermining the continent's credibility in the eyes of the world." The U.N. secretary-general emphasized: "What is lacking on the continent is (a willingness) to comment on wrong policies in a neighboring country."

But in the same article, Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria and presently the chairman of the African Union, defiantly said he would "not be a part" of any public condemnation of Mugabe.

Moreover, as The New York Times reported on July 6: "Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia are among those (African nations) that have praised Mr. Mugabe's economic policies in recent months," or even more appallingly, "have stopped protesters from criticizing them."

Also insistently silent on the rampant ferocity of the Mugabe regime is Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, who has long claimed he is pursuing "quiet diplomacy" in his dealings with Mugabe. His "diplomacy" is so quiet that its alleged results have not reached these black citizens in Harare — described in the June 11 issue of The Economist, after the government obliterated their neighborhood: "A barefoot widow and her two children stand in the ruins of their shack, their meager belongings gathered under plastic sheets ... they now sleep in the open with nothing to protect them from Harare's bitter cold. With tears in her eyes and a broken voice, she shows a lease and receipts for rents she has paid. "I have nowhere to go," she laments." (Mugabe says the demolitions have ended, but the government has said that before. In any case, he is again responsible for ruthless crimes against his own people.)

They have also been abandoned by the justly venerated Nelson Mandela, who has marred his autumnal years by refusing to say a word in criticism of Mugabe. I asked an African, a longtime human-rights worker concerning the continent, why Mandela will not speak, when his condemnation of this horrifying injustice would, should he offer it, reverberate around the world.

Donate to JWR

The human-rights worker replied that Mandela still sees Mugabe "as a liberator of his nation in the long, bitter struggle on the continent in which so many, including Mandela, suffered so much. He will not condemn this man."

Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme of Cameroon, a consultant on international law, wrote in the July 15 New York Times: "What is at issue is an Africa where dictators kill, steal and usurp power — yet are treated like heroes at meetings of the African Union."

What will debt relief for ((some of)) these rulers do for the widow and her two children in Harare who have no place to go? Their condition cannot be reported in Zimbabwe's two largest, independent and best-selling newspapers — the Daily News and the Sunday Daily News. Now silent, their licenses to publish remain denied by Robert Mugabe.

Once again, the African Union — like the United Nations — has been useless.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.

Nat Hentoff Archives


© 2004, NEA