Back in 1980, when Mugabe first came to power, I was in high school. The album that I listened to incessantly that year was London Calling, by the Clash. One of the many great songs on that album was one called "Clampdown," which made reference to the spate of repressive regimes that were beginning to fall for various reasons.
In these days of evil Presidentes
Working for the clampdown
But lately one or two has fully paid their due
For working for the clampdown
That was 37 years ago. Now, news comes from one of the places that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had in mind. Ha! Gitalong, gitalong:
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Residents along the streets of this capital city grappled with a new reality Wednesday after the military sidelined President Robert Mugabe, its leader for the past 37 years.
Once heralded for seizing power from British rule and the nation's white elites, the 93-year-old's tenure in recent years has been marked by human rights abuses and economic collapse in what was once one of the African continent's most promising and prosperous nations.
"Mugabe was president since I was born," said Kudakwashe Gore, 32, a mechanic. "He was spoiling his legacy by failing to pass on the baton."
Military forces detained Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, and his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, and placed them under house arrest early Wednesday after weeks of political tumult rocked the nation.
Not long before London Calling was recorded, Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia and was an apartheid state similar to South Africa. The people in this nation never have been free; once Mugabe took over, courtesy of Jimmy Carter, he took over:
Mugabe wanted the government to himself, he told everyone who would listen that he would turn the country into a single party, Marxist state. The Carter administration knew this but refused to admit it in public. In public, he said that Mugabe was just the sweetest of guys. But American pressure eventually forced [Abel] Muzorewa to call for new elections in which the despot Mugabe was elected.
Muzorewa played the Kerensky role in this particularly morality play. A familiar formula -- one man, one vote, one time. There's more:
Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule has subjected Zimbabwe to a reign of terror directed toward all of his people, both white and black. Not long after taking power in 1980, he began his reign of terror by killing about 20,000 people belonging to a minority tribe, the Ndebele. He uses rape as a political weapon against his opponents and critics. Mugabe has been killing people ever since, perhaps as a tribute to Jimmy Carter:
In 2005, Mugabe ordered a raid conducted on what the government termed “illegal shelters” in Harare, resulting in 10,000 urban poor being left homeless from “Operation Drive Out the Rubbish.” The authorities themselves had moved the poor inhabitants to the area in 1992, telling them not to build permanent homes and that their new homes were temporary, leading the inhabitants to build their own temporary shelters out of cardboard and wood. The UK’s Telegraph noted that Mugabe’s “latest palace”, in the style of a pagoda, was located a mile from the destroyed shelters. The UN released a report stating that the actions of Mugabe resulted in the loss of home or livelihood for more than 700,000 Zimbabweans and negatively affected 2.4 million more. (Source: Moore, Charles (6 March 2005).”Mugabe’s raids leave townships in tatters”.
It's not clear what will happen next, but Mugabe deserves more than being "sidelined," whatever that means.