Embattled Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is calling for the arrest of all people seizing white-owned farms. Such “acts of theft” have “stained” the country for too long, said Tsvangirai—in an apparent challenge to President Robert Mugabe, who endorsed the ongoing seizures as recently as Feb. 28 in his birthday address. It’s high time, many say. Not only is stopping the appropriations necessary to restoring law and order, but the international donor community—which has begun loosening the purse strings for Zimbabwe—“requires it,” says Zimbabwe native Michael Bratton, who teaches African politics at Michigan State University.
For Tsvangirai, the coming test will be whether the police and judiciary “do as he says,” says Bratton. Long used to repress and terrorize political opponents of the Mugabe regime, neither body has changed under Zimbabwe’s five-week-old coalition government. Indeed, an “armed political struggle over these issues lies at the heart of the so-called ‘unity government,’ ” says Bratton, adding that it is “very hard,” to be optimistic about Zimbabwe’s nascent coalition.
Meanwhile, the deterioration of the country has reached epic proportions. Zimbabwe has the highest percentage of orphans on the planet: three-quarters of its 12 million people are malnourished, and life expectancy is 36 years. And acts of “unspeakable horror” are coming to light, Bratton says. This week, the South African Broadcast Corp. is airing the documentary Hell Hole. Footage reminiscent of death camps, obtained using cellphones and hidden cameras, shows emaciated, near-dead prisoners—some political—in jails in Harare, Mudadi and Beit Bridge. Ex-inmates talk of bodies piling up by the hundreds, and of sleeping in crowded cells next to dead prisoners infested with maggots.