Friday, December 16, 2005

Zimbabwe's Nightmare Gets Worse

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe can no longer hide the fact that his confiscation of white-owned farms has been a disaster. Zimbabweans are now starving, and dependent on international food aide as a result. But being unable to hide the disaster of one’s mistake doesn’t mean one takes responsibility for it, nor does it mean one doesn’t go right ahead and make an even bigger, more disastrous mistake.

In an attempt to rescue his failing programme of land redistribution, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is trying to involve the army in a "command agriculture" programme.

"Instructions have already been passed onto battalion commanders," a Zimbabwean army major told the BBC.

Five years after Mr Mugabe ordered the seizure of the white-owned commercial farms, agricultural production has halved.

Mr Mugabe has admitted that the people to whom he gave some 4,000 farms have some responsibility for the country's current problems.

"Mugabe is now saying that the people who are on the farms are opposition supporters and that they are sabotaging the country. He says the army must take over," the major said.

"This is an idea which Mugabe got from China, where the army is used in agriculture and industry".

Well, the Chinese do have a great deal of experience with this. That experience is called famine. Mao’s collectivization of agriculture worked about as well as the Soviet effort, which produced – surprise, surprise – a famine. Now, Mugabe will send soldiers to tend Zimbabwean farms. Guess what’s coming to Zimbabwe next? Hint: it begins with "F."

Mugabe’s latest debacle is so inane that even members of the military are aware of the likely outcome.

The major risked his job and his life in talking to us. We met on a street in the capital, Harare, late at night and interviewed him in the safety of a car, away from the eyes and ears of Zimbabwe's network of informers.

I asked the major whether he believed the idea would work.

"I don't think it will because soldiers are not trained for farm work," he says.

"They're trained to fight. They don't have the skills. It's out of desperation that he's doing this. It will not work."

Others I spoke to in Zimbabwe agree. John Robertson, the country's foremost economist, pointed out that "the idea has been tried out in China, North Korea and Stalin's Russia and look where it got them."

Indeed. But then, leftists never learn, no matter how many people die.


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