By Contributor on March 09, 2011

By Clarence Lusane

The regime of 87-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe has sought to pre-empt the types of protests that have shaken autocrats in North Africa and the Middle East. Yet, a constellation of internal and external events may finally bring an end to the more than 30 years of one-man rule.

Elections are scheduled for sometime this year, and many believe that Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, are resorting to their time-honored practices of intimidation, bribery, naked assaults against the opposition and outright election thievery.

In 2008, Mugabe forced a second runoff although it appeared to all objective observers that he had lost the first round by a majority vote. He won in the subsequent round after the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), refused to participate.

The entire election cycle was marred by violence, murder and harassment. However, condemnation of the election results and near global isolation compelled Mugabe into a power-sharing agreement with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became the prime minister. There is, however, little doubt where the real authority lies.

Mugabe continues along his repressive path. Last month, 46 teachers, students, labor activists and others were arrested and charged with treason for attending a meeting to discuss how the protests in the Arab world might impact the situation in Zimbabwe. The lecture at the meeting was entitled, "Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What Lessons Can Be Learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa."

A swarm of other arrests has also occurred. Paul Siwela, the former president of ZAPU, Zimbabwe's main opposition party during the liberation struggle and a smaller political force today, has been detained and charged with treasonous activities. More than 70 other activists are in jail or out on bond. However, in today's global milieu, such actions are more likely to mobilize rather than quell resistance.

And the likely fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is not a good sign for Mugabe. No other international figure has been more politically and economically friendly to Mugabe than Gadhafi. He not only loudly supported Mugabe, but helped finance his continual stay in power. It is believed that Gadhafi owns land in Zimbabwe, which has fueled speculation that if he were forced to leave Libya, his next stop would be Zimbabwe's capital Harare. That rumor has also animated Mugabe's opposition.

Yet another issue is Mugabe's own health. He has flown out of the country a number of times to Asia for supposedly follow-up treatment for cataract surgery. Speculation runs rampant in Zimbabwe that he has a more serious illness.

The journey from revolutionary times, when Mugabe was instrumental in overthrowing a brutal white power structure, to the excesses of his kleptocracy has been a difficult one. Today, it is critical to give support to the many civil society organizations and activists that have worked tirelessly and nonviolently to remove the Mugabe regime from power. They are very much part of the global wave of mass upheavals that are daily reshaping the world.

Zimbabwe could be next.

Clarence Lusane is an associate professor in the School of International Service at American University and author of many books, including, most recently, "The Black History of the White House." He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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