Let Them Eat Cakeby Doug Mataconis
Robert Mugage, Zimbabwe’s dictator for the past twenty-seven years, will turn 83 this week complete with a big birthday party, while his countymen starve for lack of bread:
JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 21 â€” President Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe turned 83 on Wednesday to the strains of the song â€œGod Bless President Mugabeâ€ on state-controlled radio, along with an interview on state television, a 16-page paean to his rule in Harareâ€™s daily newspaper and the prospect of a grand birthday party â€” costly enough to feed thousands of people for months, his critics argued â€” on Saturday.
Zimbabweâ€™s economy is so dire that bread vanished from store shelves across the country on Wednesday after bakeries shut down, saying government price controls were requiring them to sell loaves at a loss. The price controls are supposed to shield consumers from the nationâ€™s rampant inflation, which now averages nearly 1,600 percent annually.
Mugabe is not only unconcerned about his countrymen’s plight, but is already seeking to expand his power:
In his hourlong television interview, broadcast Tuesday evening, Mr. Mugabe showed no sign of concern that he was unpopular. Rather, he expressed confidence that voters would add another six-year term to the 27 years he has spent in power should he run for re-election.
He has proposed postponing the next presidential election, now scheduled for 2008, until 2010, and he mocked the ambitions of underlings who, he said, hoped to push him from office before he was ready to retire.
â€œCan you see any vacancies?â€ he asked. â€œThe door is closed.â€
On Wednesday, The Herald, the state-managed newspaper, included in 16 pages of tributes to Mr. Mugabe an editorial calling him â€œan unparalleled visionaryâ€ and â€œan international hero among the oppressed and poor.â€
And, of course, those hungry people are just a bunch of unpatriotic traitors.
As for much of Africa, the prospects for Zimbabwe seem grim at the moment, but I particularly liked this quote from one Mugabe opponent:
Tawanda Mujuru, who runs a vegetable stall on Samora Machel Avenue in downtown Harare, said that she would be working in a factory if not for the failure of Mr. Mugabeâ€™s economic policies.
â€œHe has the guts to eat and drink when we are suffering like this,â€ she said. â€œLet him enjoy. Every dog has his day. We shall have our day.â€
Mr. Mugabe, you may want to do a Wikipedia search on Nicolae Ceacescu