PRESIDENT Robert Mugabeâ€™s recent public characterisation of Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson as â€œan idiotâ€ is a serious affront to African-Americans, and indeed to all people of African descent.Â Â
The presidentâ€™s earlier characterisation of Jendayi Frazier, Ambassador Carsonâ€™s predecessor, as â€œthat little girl trotting around the globe like a prostituteâ€ was equally offensive,Â and the African American Unity Caucus (AAUC) believes much beneath the dignity of a sitting head of state.
One must wonder why President Mugabe seems to reserve these demeaning, off-colour and totally unnecessary barbs for distinguished representatives of the African Diaspora community.Â The AAUC is confounded by President Mugabeâ€™s apparent callous disregard for the sensitivities of this community, which supported him in his liberation struggle and has largely defended him against harsh criticism during his long administration.Â Â When Mugabe has needed the African diaspora, he has never hesitated to ask for its support, but he doesnâ€™t offer respect to those who now happen to disagree with him in any way on the harsh realities of Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe has missed an early opportunity to refocus Zimbabweâ€™s relationship with the United States.Â That relationship has been marred by rancour and name-calling due largely to his unshakable resentment of Great Britain as the former colonial power and his perception of theÂ US as a country that did not support his liberation struggle.Â However, Mugabeâ€™s intransigence and lingering resentments do nothing to relieve the sufferings of the Zimbabwean people, sufferings which, in no small measure, are the results of Mugabeâ€™s own hubristic and callous policies.Â
While the AAUC was not privy to the dialogue between Assistant Secretary Carson and President Mugabe, it is clear that Ambassador Carson, who served as Americaâ€™s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, was putting forth ideas to help raise Zimbabwe from the chasm into which it has fallen.Â Make no mistake, a nation whose inflation rate only recently was incalculable needs all the help it can get.
Through a series of poor governing decisions, the Mugabe administration has ruined his countryâ€™s economy sector by sector â€” from commercial farming to manufacturing to small and medium enterprises to the vendor on the street.Â His governmentâ€™s determination to win elections at all costs has been at the sacrifice of the freedoms of speech andÂ assembly,Â and he has presided over the disintegration of institutions such as the judiciary by forcing out judges whose loyalty was to the rule of law rather than to the ruling party. President Mugabe seems to have thrown any semblance of good governance and respect for human rights to the wind.
In his Africa policy speech in Ghana, President Obama said that the West was not responsible for the destruction of Zimbabweâ€™s political and economic systems.Â He said that what Africa needs are not strong men, but strong institutions, which is the opposite of what Mugabe has wrought in his country.Â If Zimbabwe is to be restored to the successful and productive nation it was even recently, there must be dispassionate and serious engagement by the Mugabe government with the rest of the world.Â Playing the blame game will not accomplish this.
Our government appears ready to engage.Â Efforts have been made in recent years to begin discussions on how the US can help Zimbabwe, but Mugabe and his loyal lieutenants only want to dredge up the past to criticise those who refuse to offer uncritical support.Â If a workable relationship is to be established, one must ask, can President Mugabe put the colonial past behind him and move forward?Â Can he govern justly and wisely for the benefit of his people and the future of Zimbabwe?
=The African American Unity Caucus (AAUC), established in 2002, is a non-partisan alliance of committed leaders and organisations of African ancestry focused on issues affecting Africa and the African diaspora.Â