Your Friday African Round-Up

Democracy in Africa has constructed a tremendous resource for anyone interested in learning more about African political economy.  It is called “Decolonising the University: The African Politics Reading List” and contains many interesting sub-sections, including: African Political Thought, Pre-colonial Politics, Slavery and the Role of Traditional leaders,  the Politics of Ethnicity, the Politics of Religion, Agricultural Politics and Land Reform, amongst many others.

In other news, in what I would like to call “How is this Artist Still Alive?”, a Zimbabwean artist has created a statue of President Mugabe that has drawn widespread ridicule.  When I first saw the piece, I thought this artist better be on the lam.  But, no, the only person who seems to like the art (and thank goodness for that for the artist) is Mugabe himself.  Feast your eyes:




In Chicago, the dead vote. In Zimbabwe, the dead (will) govern

President Robert Mugabe, 92 years old, frequently leaves his country for health care in Singapore and Dubai.  Given his advanced age, each leave elicits questions/hopes that maybe this is finally it.  Maybe he won’t be coming back to wreck further havoc on his country.

Mugabe crushed many hopes by reappearing Saturday after a prolonged absence.  And what did he have to say? Here’s the transcript:

“It is true that I was dead,” the world’s oldest head of state said. “And I resurrected. As I always do.”

“Are we speaking to a ghost?” someone asked him.

“Once I get back to my country, I am real,” Mugabe said.

Zimbabweans shouldn’t worry so much about his health though because Mrs. Mugabe told citizens that her husband “would rule from the grave.”  How reassuring! That’s gives new meaning to the phrase “president for life.”

Phone Call for Janet Yellen!

In the department of “what could possibly go wrong?” we have the following headline: “Zimbabwe is planning to print its own ‘U.S. dollars’”

Shockingly, given the great stewardship of President Mugabe, Zimbabwe is once again facing an economic crisis.  The article reports that “the government is asking for more than $1 billion to feed millions that are in dire need of food aid.”  Things have gotten so bad that the “government is selling wildlife from its national parks to game reserves to scrounge up some cash.” [I know where they could have found at least some of that money without selling wildlife. See here and here.]

Zimbabwe has a checkered history with monetary policy.  In 2008, inflation reached 89.7 sextillion percent a year!  In response, “the country has officially used nine currencies, including the U.S. dollar, the euro, the South African rand, the Indian rupee, the British pound and the Chinese yuan.”

So what’s the plan with printing US dollars?  Perhaps not surprisingly, details are not very forthcoming.  The Central Bank governor claims they will be “bond notes” although it’s unclear why anyone would voluntarily buy a bond backed by the Zim government.  It’s also not clear if they would be identical to US dollars.  If they were, I think Zimbabwe would have an additional problem on its hands!


What Mugabe’s birthday is not like..

What is Mugabe’s birthday you ask?


Zimbabwe’s state-run (ha! what a surprise) newspaper has put out a 16-page cringe worthy paean to the country’s dictator.*  The photo above comes from an article detailing “massive” and lavish celebrations for Mugabe’s 92nd birthday.  This during a time where there is a terrible drought, forcing 3 million people to rely on food aid “mainly supplied by the United States and the European Union.”

In a post last month, we discussed the unbelievable fact that some international creditors seemed to be reconsidering their stance against debt relief for Zimbabwe.  I hope they are reconsidering their reconsideration.

*I like to imagine workers at the newspaper are as clear-eyed and cynical as any Zimbabwean and crack each other up trying to outdo themselves with these paeans. .. How much is too much?  Did we go to far?  No worries, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, there is no “too far” when it comes to boot licking?

How not to lead, Zim edition

Just like President Maduro of Venezuela, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a perfect example of how not to lead a country.  If there is a way to destroy the economy, institutions, and trust, Mugabe will find a way to do it.  The Independent reports on the homophobic Mugabe making an ass of himself at the UN yesterday:

“Deviating from his prepared remarks, the 91-year-old leader of Zimbabwe reportedly barked: ‘We are not gays!'”


I wonder why they think this wasn’t part of his prepared remarks.  Bashing the homosexual community (which according to him doesn’t exist in Africa) is one of his favorite pastimes.  That reminds me of this famous exchange a few years ago:

Robert Mugabe subsequently warmed to his theme and called Tony Blair a “gay gangster” leading “the gay government of the gay United gay Kingdom”.

That is quite a rant. (n.b. In one of the funniest responses ever by a government, Downing Street clarified that “The Prime Minister is not a gay gangster.”)

A couple of funny tweeters responded to Mugabe’s anti-gay rant at the UN last night:

“Not up there with Churchill, I have to say.” (@Zimbird)

“We shall fight them on the Pride Marches, we shall fight them in the gay bars…” (‏@PeterTerry3)

Apart from the buffoonery of Mugabe, LGBT activism seems to be making some progress in Africa.  Here’s a report from the excellent website: Africa is a Country.  

Add “Bad Winner” to Mugabe’s many, many faults


If I were to list Robert Mugabe’s faults, it would be hard to know where to start.  From this Africa Review article though, I apparently have to add “bad dresser” and “bad winner” to the list.  I can’t say about his outfits (and Kevin disagrees with me, proclaiming them “awesome”), but perhaps the bad winner part of his personality is coming to the fore because he knows he didn’t actually win.

First there was the pre-election reaction to comments made by the US:

“President Robert Mugabe on Thursday rebuked the “insane” US for criticising his push for elections without key reforms and told it to keep its “pink nose” out of Zimbabwe’s affairs. “America must be mad, absolutely insane,” President Mugabe, who is seeking to extend his 33-year rule.”

After the election, he had this to say about whether the election was fair and free:

“We are delivering democracy on a platter,” he said. “We say take it or leave it, but the people have delivered democracy.”

And in case the opposition didn’t get the message, he made it even more clear:

“The 89-year-old ruler, making his first public speech since he defeated long time foe, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, said his win was a victory against the West and their puppets. “Those who were hurt by defeat can go hang if they so wish,” said President Mugabe in a speech delivered during commemorations to honour the country’s liberation war heroes. “Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh,” he added. “Never will we go back on our victory.” [Note: this may be a translation error, but what is up with the word “even” here? does he think the opposition is immortal?]

Wow, very presidential.  Given the fact that he ran on indigenising more than 1,000 companies and re-introducing the Zim dollar, I’m not optimistic about the future of the Zimbabwean economy.


Zimbabwe round-up, part 1

Two stories about Zimbabwe recently caught my attention.  The first is the news that Robert Mugabe and his family starred in a 2 1/2 hour reality television program. I’ll discuss it this morning and the second awesome piece of Zimbabwe news later this afternoon.

Here are some nuggets from the reality show:

1. Apparently, the Mugabe family all love each other very much (good to know, they could be the only ones).  They also hold Margaret Thatcher in great esteem (somehow I doubt it was mutual), but regards Tony Blair as fundamnetally dishonest.  They apparently call him Tony Bliar around the house (I’m sure Blair is very broken up about this. Mugabe, a well-known homophobe, once referred to Blair’s government as “the gay government of the gay United Kingdom“).

2. The sycophantic director asked Mugabe about his current wife Grace, who he started seeing while his first wife Sally was terminally ill.  The answer is truly unbelievable, even for Bobby:

“Mugabe blinks, as if holding back tears, and says: ‘Although it might have appeared cruel, I said to myself well, it’s not just myself needing children . . . my mother has all the time said “Am I going to die without seeing grandchildren?”

‘So I decided to make love to her. She happened to be one of the nearest and she was a divorcee herself. And so it was.’
Asked what Sally thought of his infidelity, Mugabe replies: ‘I did tell her and she just kept quiet and said “fine”.’

I’m sure the Zimbabwean public love him even more after hearing that touching story.