In little more than the span of a single generation, Robert Mugabe and his government transformed Zimbabwe from one of Africa's most prosperous countries into one of its most abysmal failures. And as he's done throughout his 28 year presidency, he's refused to take responsibility for the failure of his policies, instead blaming every setback on political opponents, malevolent outside governments, or possibly the weather.
When Robert Mugabe was elected President of Zimbabwe in 1980, he inherited a stable economy, a solid infrastructure and an agriculturally rich nation. Nearly three decades of mismanagement later, Zimbabwe's official inflation rate is 231 million percent, although the real rate is much higher. The unemployment rate is at 90 percent. The infrastructure is falling apart.
The collapse of the health care system, once southern Africa’s finest, has led to a deadly cholera epidemic that has thus far caused some 600 deaths and sickened 20 times that many in Zimbabwe and is now spreading to neighboring countries. Hospitals were forced to close due to lack of just about everything, including food and medication. According to donor organizations, half of Zimbabwe's population, or about 5 million people, will need food aid in the coming months. And the government, locked in a power-sharing impasse with the opposition, is impotent or unwilling to help.
Zimbabweans are suffering, and an increasing number of world leaders have stated that the country cannot heal as long as Robert Mugabe stands at its helm. "The deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe is a further illustration of the mis-rule of Zimbabwe's rogue government," said British Foreign Secretary David Milliband. Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for African governments to oust Zimbabwe's President, and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that Mugabe had turned a "bread basket into a basket case."
President George Bush also is speaking out on the tragedy, saying it is time for Mr. Mugabe to go. As the architect of this disaster, Zimbabwe cannot, and will not, begin to recover until he steps down.