Parade Magazine named him 2009 world’s worst dictator, jumping ahead of other notorious leaders from Sudan and North Korea. He has been blamed for the downfall of his once wealthy country, subjecting his people to cholera outbreaks, poverty, starvation, and one of the lowest life expectancy rates.

Robert Mugabe was hailed as a hero when he helped liberate the country in 1980, but since then, has veered far from his first message of democracy.

In 2000 the economy began to collapse when Mugabe began the seizure of almost 4,500 white owned commercial farms for redistribution to Zimbabwe’s black farmers.

At the time whites owned 32% of Zimbabwe’s most fertile agricultural land, compared to one million black peasant families who owned just 38%; a problem that was created in colonial times when blacks were forced off their ancestral land by the Europeans.

But Mugabe has no plans to reimburse the white farmers for the land they have lost.  Instead he states in Mail & Guardian,

“The responsibility of compensation rests on the shoulders of the British government and its allies. We pay compensation for developments and improvements. That’s our obligation and we have honored that. Above all Zimbabwe upholds the sanctity of property rights…. Sure there must be some compensation. Let’s join hands and appeal to the British.”

Other Zimbabweans, such as now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, would beg to differ.

“Some of the land stock that is in the government’s hands has ended up in city government officials or ministers and the people who need the land have been excluded.” (7:43-7:53)

And as a result, food production has plummeted, leaving millions to starve and millions of farm workers have now been unemployed.

Then, between August 2008 and July 2009 close to 100,000 cases of cholera were reported and over 4,000 people died as a result.   Inadequate drinking water and the lack of food fueled the cholera outbreak, a disease caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. 

A crisis Mugabe outright denies in the midst of the outbreak during a televised address:

“I’m happy to say that our doctor’s have been assisted by others and WHO have now arrested cholera.  So now that there is no cholera there is no cause for war.(0:13-0:29)

Mugabe again blames the West for the problem.  Accusing them of trying to use the outbreak as a means to oust him from power.

Zimbabwe’s Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe as a

“…genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British,” likening it to  “serious biological chemical weapon” used by the British…”

But now, even as the cases have slowed down, there is still fear of another round of outbreaks due to the lack of action taken by the Zimbabwe government and Mugabe. 

Inflation has further caused the Zimbabwean dollar to plummet, a soda at one point costing $300 billion.  The fall in value has forced many to use foreign currency.  Currency they have little access to.

“I don’t have that money. I’m Zimbabwean and I just want to use the Zimbabwean dollar.  Most people are saying give me US dollar. Where can I get US dollar if I am Zimbabwean?” (2:06-2:16)

A problem for the estimated 94% of the population that is unemployed.

Still, with starvation, high inflation, and deadly outbreaks there is little hope of new leadership.  Mugabe has long been accused of threatening those who oppose his policies, including the last election.

“Opposition supporters rounded up and forced to vote for Robert Mugabe while gangs roam the country hunting down those who have tried to boycott this poll.  Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who pulled out because of the violence says the results will only reflect the fears of the people.”(0:3-0:28)

Meanwhile, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young believes Mugabe is not the only one to blame for the troubles in Zimbabwe.

“Mugabe is not hurting Zimbabwe. The U.S./ British embargo is hurting Zimbabwe.” (7:00-7:10)