Saturday, June 25, 2005

One Despot Down, Five To Go

The only (slightly) elected despot in yesterdays' gallery has cracked.

President Robert Mugabe has mobilised Zimbabwe's army to build new houses for those made homeless by his "clean-up" operation that flattened and burnt shanty towns across the country.

In a policy U-turn following a seven-hour meeting of his politburo, he announced that the military had been ordered to lead a task force to begin reconstruction. "Building brigades" would start work immediately to build houses, shops and markets to replace those destroyed by the police in Operation Murambatsvina (Drive out the Rubbish).

According to human rights groups, more than one million of the poorest Zimbabweans have been turned into the streets by special police units bulldozing and setting fire to townships.

Many, including the very elderly, women with babies and the disabled have been forced to spend freezing nights in the bush without shelter. At least 46,000 have been arrested.

And two little kids were bulldozed in their beds.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change described yesterday's move as "a panic reaction by Mugabe" to the international outcry over the destruction of the shanty areas.

I suspect that like most African leaders, he's more worried about the West funding his transportation. This is from the print edition of today's Spectator (Brit not American).

Mugabe has a custom Mercedes Benz S600L, armored to "B7 Dragunov standard". At 5 tons it does two kilometers per liter of fuel, and has to be followed by a petrol tanker in a country running on empty. He also has a pool of M-B S320s and E240s for his wife, vice-presidents and ministers.