Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said in a press conference this week that the country is “turning a new chapter and that chapter is providing opportunities for Zimbabweans who are probably now living in worse conditions abroad (than they would at home).”


When President Robert Mugabe first rose to power United State’s President Jimmy Carter told the London Times Mugabe was a “very gentle man” whom he “can’t imagine … ever pulling the trigger on a gun to kill anyone.”

Fast-forward three decades, and the United States position on the Mugabe has evolved quite a bit.

In our final segment on Zimbabwe Newsy will be taking a look at the role and influence of the West in Zimbabwe and their aims to help a failing country under a fanatic leader.

President Robert Mugabe initially received praise for his strong leadership when he first took office in the early 80s.  Now, the West is doing what they can to see Mugabe share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the newly enacted coalition government.

In a speech given to the U.N. General Assembly this week, President Robert Mugabe said,

“We wonder what their motives are? And we ask what they would want to see us do.

Working strenuously to divide the parties in the inclusive government.  If they will not assist in rehabilitating our economy, could they please stop their filthy clandestine divisive antics.”

Mugabe goes on to state,

“…Where stand their humanitarian principles, we ask, when their illegal sanctions are ruining the lives of our children?”

And then asks for the sanctions on Cuba to be lifted as well.

In 2003 President George W. Bush put sanctions on Zimbabwe that included travel bans, freezing assets, and a ban on more than 250 Zimbabwean individuals and companies from doing business with the United States. The European Union has similar sanctions against the country

In an interview with CNN’s Chrisitane Amanpour last month, Robert Mugabe was asked how he was planning on correcting the current economic crisis, he replied:

“The sanctions … sanctions must be lifted.  And we should have no interference from outside.  The continued imperialistic interference in our affairs is affecting the country, obviously.”

Daily Nation

Other South African leaders are also asking for the sanctions to be lifted. Deputy President of South Africa defended the South Africa’s position, stating in Mail & Guardian,

“This call for the lifting of sanctions is not aimed at protecting and defending President Robert Mugabe as an individual.  It is meant to attract necessary investments into Zimbabwe so that their economic recovery plan can take effect.”

Mail & Guardian

In the meantime, Zimbabwe has found another country to help them out- China.  In July Tsvangirai stated Zimbabwe was able to secure lines of credit worth $950 million from country. Zimbabwe needs an estimated $8 billion to rebuild the country’s devastated economy. 

But recently President Robert Mugabe has been attempting to re-establish friendly relations with Western nations,

“Our country remains in a positive stance to enter into fresh, friendly and cooperate relations with all those countries that have been hostile to us in the past.”


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)


President Robert Mugabe first rose to power  in the newly formed country of Zimbabwe in 1980 after helping the country gain independence from Britain.  Seven years later, he became president, a title he has since held.

Mugabe was frequently revered as a great leader when he first took office by the international community, a leader with a clear view of what he wanted for Zimbabwe.  In a 1974 interview a journalist questions the president on his hopes for Zimbabe.  He asked Mugabe if he ever saw free elections for the country, Mugabe replied,

“Yes, of course. Why not? We are fighting for democracy.  We would like to see a democratic state established in Zimbabwe. And this means a state based on the majority of the people.”

Fast forward more than 30 years to the 2008 presidential elections and the news reports tell a different story.

“ Overnight, they had been dragged from their homes and beaten by Mugabe supporters….

President Mugabe went on to lose the 2008 March presidential election to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change Party.  And a few months later, he ordered a run-off after refusing to step down from power.  Mugabe won, but amid accusations of election tampering.

Claims he denies in an interview with Al Jazeera English.

“No. If rigging the elections means winning the elections through majority voting, then, then let it be. That’s precisely, we will be winning, we will be winning all the time.”

Mugabe has since agreed to a unity government, appointing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai Prime Minister. The Zimbabwe government is now a joint coalition with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Party.  A relationship that seems anything but agreeable.

In a radio interview with UK’s The Guardian last August, Tsvangirai stated he and Mugabe were working together affaby.

“Journalist: You, you believe he does have capacity to change? Or has changed already?

MT: I don’t see any attitude of perpetuating hate or division, polarization of the country

Journalist: It must be hard for you sometimes, you must admit, to swallow what’s been going on in the past and sit down with someone being held responsible for a lot of violence against you personally and your supporters?

MT: what is reconciliation without that? Reconciliation is a major for tolerance across this very serious political divide that exists in this country and how we can stand up as leaders and call nationally unity when between us we don’t like each other?”

But, less than a month after the interview was published, Tsvangirai shared a rather different message at a rally for the MDC party as Africa Times News reported, stating Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party:

“…Continues to violate the law, persecute our members of parliament, spread the language of hate, invades our productive farms…ignores our international treaties.”

Africa Times News

Most recently, Tsvangirai has ordered all MDC ministers to stop working from government offices, an order  he too is following until all the political issues are resolved.

Other world leaders seem to agree with Tsvangirai’s hesitation to work with the president.

In 2002 sanctions were applied against President Mugabe when suspicion of election tampering surfaced along with human rights violations.

Those sanctions are still in place in 2009 and European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid says they will most likely stay.

“…the EU would not resume development aid until more was done to implement the nation’s power-sharing agreement and to restore human rights.”

Alternatively, socio-economic analyst Udo Froese told The Zimbabwe Times:

“[The international West] wanted from the onset a government of regime change not a government of national unity… Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US Secretary of State came to visit Africa on her Africa safari, she also visited South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma… and seemed to be leaning on him that he must lean on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to finalize the regime change otherwise sanctions would not be lifted….”

The Zimbabwe Times