With the worsening political crisis in Zimbabwe, International criticism of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been loud and clear. Condemnation of the government’s crackdown on opposition leaders and their rallies has come from the United States, European Union and the UN Secretary-General.
Among those following developments in Zimbabwe is Herman Hanekom of the Africa Institute of South Africa. From Cape Town, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about whether the latest government crackdown represents a tipping point in that country’s political crisis.
“This has been the worst case of victimization since the year 2000’s presidential elections. I would, however, add that I don’t think this is the final straw on the camel’s back. But it’s definitely leading up to it. We have April scheduled by the labor unions to embark on a series of national strikes. And then I think it will be the closest to date that the situation has come to what we will call the balloon bursting,” he says.
With an inflation rate of well over 1,000 percent, what more damage can strikes due to Zimbabwe’s terrible economy? Hanekom says, “Well, I think if the inflation remains where it is now at…1700 percent at month’s end, if the strike materializes in April I’m quite sure it will push the inflation above the 2000 percent mark. And then we can say as far as economic terms are concerned that Zimbabwe will be well on the same road that the then-Zaire under Mobutu (Sese-Seko) took a number of years ago.”
Despite the harsh international criticism, Hanekom doubts it will sway Mugabe. “This is the strongest condemnation to date, but I personally doubt whether Mugabe will take any note of it. What will ruffle Mugabe’s feathers is if the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) suddenly stand up and start criticizing him. But I’m afraid I must admit that I don’t think it is possible because of that psychosis of solidarity between the ruling elite on the African continent regardless of the suffering of the people,” he says.
Asked whether Mugabe will remain in office until his death, the South African analyst says, “That’s what I said a few years ago and I still stick to my point there. I think he wants to die in office. He will be safe. There’ll be no possibility to prosecute him for violations of human rights, etc.”