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Zimbabwe: a nation weeps at the hands of a dictator

March 20, 2008
In 1985 the former Zimbabwean director of National Museums and Monuments wrote a letter to a Zimbabwean newspaper, the Sunday Mail, explaining the circumstances of his resignation a few months prior. The letter criticized unreasonable behavior on behalf of Zimbabwean government officials, to be more specific he referred to one official as a "barbarian." The publication of the letter resulted in the paper's editor being fired and led to the former director's decision to leave Zimbabwe to ensure his own safety.
Dr. Kenneth Nyamayaro Mufuka, Lander University professor of history, was the author of that letter. And, from the United States he has continued to send letters maintaining the opposition to the current leadership in Zimbabwe. Those letters continue to be published in Zimbabwean newspapers.
Mufuka's actions in 1985, marked his first reflections on what he saw as the lawless and oft amoral approach taken by President Robert Mugabe in his leadership of Zimbabwe - a nation that was only five years old at that point.
During a recent lecture on the Lander campus, Mufuka shared details of the tyrannical leadership of Mugabe.
Mufuka first explained that Zimbabwe was a wealthy nation when Mugabe came to power in 1980. The land is rich with platinum, gold, copper and diamonds, and the nation generated revenue by exporting these resources. Prior to Mugabe's rule, Zimbabwe also thrived in its exportation of agricultural goods. The exchange rate between the Zimbabwean dollar and the U.S. dollar was 1-1.
The exchange rate is now 30,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars to one U.S. dollar.
The Zimbabwe of today, home to 12 million, has an unemployment rate of 80 percent. One in five people has contracted HIV or AIDS. Mufuka, himself, has lost family to the disease.
"A teacher's salary is 300,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars, or roughly 10 U.S. dollars per year," said Mufuka.
The minerals such as gold and platinum are still being mined, according to Mufuka, but Mugabe and his officers are selling them and depositing the money into their personal international accounts, instead of putting the money back into the Zimbabwean economy.
While these statistics and misappropriations are an example of how 28 years under Mugabe have nearly destroyed the nation of Zimbabwe, Mufuka explained that Mugabe began committing great atrocities at the very beginning of his presidency. The first of these was the unwarranted killing of members of a Zulu tribe, known as the Ndebele people, who lived in Metabeleland, an area in the western region of Zimbabwe.
"I once took a bus into Matabeleland," Mufuka recalled. "We were stopped and the people with Ndebele names were asked by Mugabe's soldiers to leave the bus. The rest were told to remain, and the bus moved on. I shudder to this day when I think of what happened to those people."
What might have happened to the people who left the bus could be found in Mufuka's descriptions of what Mugabe's soldiers did to other people in Matabeleland.
Citing reports from Catholic missionaries that were in Matabeleland at the time, Mufuka explained that many Ndebele people were shot in public executions. Often the executed were required to dig their own graves and were often shot standing in front of the grave so that their lifeless bodies fell in. Other reports explained that the soldiers would drive large groups into huts and burn them alive.
Though many knew of Mugabe's actions toward the Ndebele people, reports were not broadcast publicly.
In fact, according to Mufuka, while these events unfolded Mugabe was presented with awards throughout the world. He received honorary doctorates from various universities, he was honored by the United Nations for fighting hunger and he received an honorary knighthood from the British queen.
So why was the world unaware of the brutalities committed under Mugabe's regime?
The white missionary leadership, which had a front row seat for the events in Matabeleland according to Mufuka, did not want to interfere in the development of the black government in Zimbabwe. He went on to explain that officials in the nation's hierarchy were seen to be like father figures. They would have been going against Zimbabwean culture, by questioning the actions of Mugabe. So, not wanting to interfere with the culture and freedom of the new nation, the missionaries decided not to take their reports public.
Recent events, however, created a shift in policy on this matter.
"In 2000," said Mufuka, "Mugabe realized that the white minority in Zimbabwe had more influence over the economy than any other group. There were about 100,000 whites in the nation at the time. They owned about 70 percent of the farmable land and controlled 30 percent of the economy."
Mugabe's response was to take over the land owned by white farmers in Zimbabwe, most of which was located in Matabeleland. He invaded their farms and in the process killed nearly 11 families. After this, according to Mufuka, many of the whites in Zimbabwe took refuge in Britain.
This event could not be hidden from the rest of the world and the veil over Mugabe's leadership of Zimbabwe was lifted.
According to Mufuka, Matabeleland was also a hub for tourists and with such volatile events unfolding in this area, tourism in this area was stamped out. This was a loss that further crippled the economy in Zimbabwe.
Mufuka pointed out that what the world observed after Mugabe ousted the white farmers was still small in comparison to what had been done to black Zimbabweans the 20 years prior.
The current situation in Zimbabwe is growing worse by the day. With inflation at more than 100,000 percent per year, the average Zimbabwean cannot afford to buy the basic necessities.
 "With national elections in Zimbabwe approaching on March 29," said Mufuka, "the nation is in dire need of change. Currently all of the schools in Zimbabwe are closed because the teachers are on strike. They can't even afford, in some cases, the cost of transportation to and from school. Also, many hospitals are closed because the doctors are on strike. They are striking because there is no medicine to treat the patients." 
Mufuka's lecture was part of Lander University's 2007-2008 Distinguished Speaker Series sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities. For more information on this series, please contact the College of Arts and Humanities at 864-388-8323. Information on future lectures in the series can be found at