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« on: March 27, 2007, 01:50:27 PM »

Zimbabwe Targeted In Western Attacks On Countries With Independent Policies

 Neo-colonial designs are behind corporate media offensive

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

News Analysis--During the month of March 2007, a new wave of propaganda, diplomatic and media attacks against the southern African nation of Zimbabwe were launched.

These biased news reports on Zimbabwe are not new. They extend back to the period of the national liberation struggle to free the country from the settler-colonial regime of Ian Smith during the 1960s and 1970s.

The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), the two organizations that lead the movement for independence, were never viewed favorably by the mainstream media outlets in the United States and Europe.

This tradition of hostility is continuing today and is clearly reflected in a series of distorted reports that have been issued by the Cable News Network (CNN) and other media outlets that essentially parrot what is deemed as the correct perspective on political developments in Zimbabwe. These attacks against Zimbabwe are occuring simultaneously with a whole campaign against various geo-political regions throughout the international community.

It also important to keep in mind that these propaganda and diplomatic offenses against nations such as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Somalia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Zimbabwe are taking place at the same time that both the American and British administrations are suffering substantial losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, thrawting its imperial aims that starkly stand behind the so-called "war on terrorism."

During the month of March, the African continent and the Diaspora celebrated the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana in 1957 under the leadership of the Convention People's Party headed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. What was not normally discussed in the articles written on the Ghana's independence process was the fact that Nkrumah's government was consistently undermined by the United States State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

On February 24, 1966, a military and police coup was carried out while President Nkrumah was in route to China and Vietnam on a peace mission involving the American war of occupation against Vietnam. The coup against Nkrumah was one action of subversion that followed a similar pattern that had taken place in Guatamala in 1954, in Iran in 1953, in Cuba in 1961 and 1962, in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and in Indonesia that same year.

All of these coups were preceeded by massive disinformation campaigns which sought to influence public opinion both inside and outside the nation's that were targeted.

In Zimbabwe, the government led by President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF Party, has sought to re-correct the historical injustice of settler-colonialism in southern Africa.

The country was colonized by the British during the latter part of the 19th century, where the land occupied by the African people was stolen by the imperialist forces, personified by Cecil Rhodes and his collaborators, and distributed to the British.

The mineral resources and agricultural wealth of the nation was exported to Europe and the political control of all dominant institutions in the society were controlled by the British colonialists. It was only the national liberation movement, that was forced to take up arms against the settler-colonialists, that brought indepenence to Zimbabwe.

Consequently, today the western corporate media speaks of Zimbabwe as a tragedy of economic and political mismanagement that stems from the rule of the African people over this resource-rich nation.

Yet since its independence in 1980, both the United Kingdom and the United States have failed to provide the type of assistance that could have resolved the land question in Zimbabwe in a less contentious manner. The revolution in the country was fought over the need for Africans to regain control of the land and natural resources of the country.

Therefore, when the ZANU-PF government announced in 1998 that it would embark upon a serious land redistribution program, the country became a target of the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. It is the failure of the west to recognize the sovereignty of Zimbabwe that is at the root cause of the current economic and social problems that exist in the country today.

The western imperialist nations have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe since 1998. They have discouraged investment and attempted to persuade the neighboring nation of South Africa to institute an economic blockade of the country.

However, the African National Congress led government in South Africa has refused to follow the line of the US, EU and UK towards Zimbabwe, continuing to state that the problems inside the independent African nation must be resolved through dialogue among the people themselves.

It is the actions of South Africa along with the new economic orientation towards other independent African states, Asian and Latin American nations that has kept the country afloat amid this intense campaign by the imperialist nations to force right-wing political change in Zimbabwe.

Since 2000, when liberation movement war veterans moved on to farms controlled by a small minority of white settlers, the corporate controlled media in the United States and other western nations have set out to denigrate every political move made by the ruling ZANU-PF Party.

There have been several national and local elections held in Zimbabwe since 2000, all of which have been monitored and observed by teams from the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community, the European Union, the Commonwealth, the African Union, the United States and other national and international institutions.

Despite this strict scrutiny of the Zimbabwean political process, the western media outlets as well as their diplomatic missions, have continued to describe the system inside the country as far less than democratic.

In light of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana, which ushered in the modern period of ostensibly autonomous African states, it is important to review some aspects of what happened to the political experiment in Ghana, and why it has important lessons for what the Americans, British and the European Union are currently doing to undermine, destabilize and isolate the Zimbabwean government.

This program of villification and condemnation of the Zimbabwe government was also carried out against the Convention People's Party in Ghana during the 1960s. It was the west and its allies who created the illusion that Ghana was in deep economic and political crisis at a time when the African country was hailed around the continent and the world as a leading force in the national liberation and non-aligned movements.

The Global Strategy of Western Imperialism

Nkrumah in his book entitled: "The Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare", published in 1968, he initially points out that it is important for the peoples of Africa to know who their enemies are and what imperialism is actively seeking to achieve.

According to Nkrumah:
"A number of external factors affect the African situation, and if our liberation struggle is to be placed in correct perspective and we are to KNOW THE ENEMY, the impact of these factors must be fully grasped. First among them is imperialism, for it is mainly against exploitation and poverty that our peoples revolt. It is therefore of paramount importance to set out the strategy of imperialism in clear terms:

"1. The means used by the enemy to ensure the continued economic exploitation of our territories.
2. The nature of the attempts made to destroy the liberation movement.

"Once the components of the enemy's strategy are determined, we will be in a position to outline the correct strategy for our own struggle in terms of our actual situation and in accordance with our objectives."

The objectives of the imperialist powers of course are to dominate the land and resources of the majority of the peoples and nations of the world. This global domination reinforces the internal capitalist exploitation of the working and poor classes in the industrial nations.

Since the collapse of the so-called welfare state, which arose during the great depression of the 1930s and 1940s and the social programs instituted in response to this crisis, coupled with the expanded base of imperialist exploitation after the conclusion of World War II, in the present period since the 1980s, the imperialist states led by the US, have moved towards the institutionalization of a national security warfare state, where the social programs instituted to ameliorate the extreme effects of capitalism can no longer be afforded.

This unquenchable hunger for ever increasing rates of profit does not leave much for the reinvestment into the health, housing, food, educational and cultural needs of the masses both within the industrialized nations and the former colonial and semi-colonial territories.

When nations seek to embark upon an independent course and consequently challenge the imperialist states, they are always subjected to destabilization campaigns which can ultimately lead to military actions to effect "regime change."

In Ghana, it was the notion that the country could not continue under the leadership of the CPP, that provided the rationale for the removal of the Nkrumah government. This propaganda, media, diplomatic and military offensive is always funded by the imperialist states.

In Ghana, it was the political forces opposed to Nkrumah's pan-africanist and socialist ideals that collaborated with the multi-national corporations and the western intelligence agencies to undermine a state which sought to pursue an genuinely independent course.

Nkrumah in his book entitled: "Dark Days in Ghana", published in 1968, he states that:
"An all-out offensive is being waged against the progressive, indpendent states. Where the more subtle methods of economic pressure and political subversion have failed to achieve the desired result, there has been resort to violence in order to promote a change of regime and prepare the way for the establishment of a puppet government.

"Fragmented into so many separate states, many of them weak and economically non-viable, coup d'etats have been relatively easy to arrange in Africa. All that has been needed was a small force of disciplined men to seize the key points of the capital city and to arrest the existing political leadership. In the planning and carrying out of these coups there have always been just sufficient numbers of dissatisfied and ambitious army officers and politicians willing to co-operate to make the whole operation possible.

"It has been one of the tasks of the C.I.A. and other similar organisations to discover these potential quislings and traitors in our midst, and to encourage them, by bribery and promise of political power, to destroy the constitutional government of their countries. In Ghana the embassies of the United States, Britain, and West Germany were all implicated in the plot to overthrow my government.

"It is alleged that the U.S. Ambassador, Franklin Williams, offered the traitors 13 million dollars to carry out a coup d'etat. Afrifa, Harlley and Kotoka (the coup leaders in Ghana) were to get a large share of this if they would assassinate me at Accra airport as I prepared to leave for Hanoi. I understand Afrifa said: 'I think I will fail', and declined the offer. So apparently did the others."

Lessons for Zimbabwe Today

What Nkrumah described in 1968 in relationship to political events in Ghana leading up to the reactionary coup of 1966, portends much for develops in Zimbabwe and other countries in the recent period. The so-called Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is the fragmented opposition to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government, has no program other than regime change inside the country.

The party has been financed and encouraged by the United States, Britain and the European Union and has done everything in its power to not only demand stronger sanctions against their own nation, but have sought to destabilize the country.

Violent acts carried out by the MDC and its suporters are encouraged and then overlooked while every effort by the ZANU-PF government to maintain order and to work towards the economic development of Zimbabwe is denounced by both the diplomatic corps of the imperialist nations as well as the corporate media outlets.

In a recent wave of reports related to the arrests of several opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, it was never mentioned that these figures already have political representation in the parliament.

In addition, it was not noted that no leading opposition figure has remained in prison for the many crimes committed against the people of Zimbabwe and their government.

All governments are elected to protect the interests of the state and its people, yet the corporate media reports on Zimbabwe seek to portray all efforts aimed at the national security of Zimbabwe as being illegitimate.

One of the key players in this process is the Atlanta-based Cable News Network (CNN) through its reporter Jeff Koinange. Koinange, who apparently has never seen an independently-minded African government that he liked, has been sent to both Sudan and now southern Africa to provide a rationale for further western destabilization of African states that are not supported by the United States and other imperialist nations.

In regard to the Sudan, the Americans and the British have portrayed the situation in Darfur as genocide that requires military intervention at the aegis of the imperialist nations. What is not mentioned is the fact that Sudan is an oil-rich nation, whose resources are coveted by the US, the EU and the UK.

In relationship to Zimbabwe, Koinange has been reporting from South Africa, where he has taken select comments from Zimbabwean in exile and anti-Zimbabwe elements among the population, to create an image of the necessity of regime change.

Koinange's reports claim that Zimbabwe was once considered the "breadbasket" of Africa but is today the "basketcase of Africa." Yet when was Zimbabwe the breadbasket of Africa? Was this under the settler-colonial regime of Ian Smith and the other political descendants of Cecil Rhodes and the colonialists. Can the people consume tobacco, the largest cash crop in the country under the previous white farming system?

In other words, according to the CNN logic, it was under colonial and the slave conditions of institutional racism and white domination that the African nation flourished. And flourished for whom? Apparently the European imperialists and their allies who profited from the free labor and land stolen from the African working masses and farmers who produced the wealth of the country.

Perhaps the most outrageous statement made during the recent CNN propaganda campaign against Zimbabwe, was uttered by Miles O'Brien, an anchor person based in Atlanta. After making remarks regarding the fact that President Mugabe would probably win the national elections in 2008 if he is selected to run by the ruling ZANU-PF Party, O'Brien said that: "Well they (meaning the African people of Zimbabwe) don't have elections like us," implying that the elections were not free and fair.

Koinange, who was supposedly reporting on the situation in Zimbabwe from outside the country, made comments to suggest that the elections in Zimbabwe were not credible.

However, most people in the world, including the United States know that the elections that brought the current administration of George W. Bush to power were stolen. That hundreds of thousands of votes were not counted. That thousands of African-Americans and Latinos were prevented through police checkpoints from reaching the polls in Florida during November of 2000.

Others have observed that the "re-election" of Bush in November of 2004 was also marked by fraud and corruption utilizing rigged electronic voting machines in Ohio and other states. This was a process that culminated a vast right-wing propaganda campaign of deception: utilizing racism, sexism and religious bigotry.

What was not mentioned in relationship to the elections in Zimbabwe since 2000, is that they have all been monitored by various international groups and delegations. No such assertion can be made in regard to elections held in the United States.

As a result of the advent of the Bush administration, the country has been driven into a false so-called "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Somalia.

The wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan are all but loss by the United States and Britain. They have suffered tens of thousands of casualties at the hands of the resistance forces in these nations.

In Iraq there have been over 3,200 officially reported deaths of American soldiers, although many people within the anti-war movement believe these figures are much higher when considering those who perish off the battlefield during treatment in Germany and inside the United States.

It has been recognized by many establishment elements in the US and UK that over 50,000 of their soldiers have been wounded and that over 200,000 have suffered internal brain injuries.

In addition, over 200,000 will suffer the rest of their lives from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of being manipulated into fighting an unjust war against peoples who have commited no crimes against the citizens and residents of the United States.

Moreover, anywhere between 655,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the US/UK invasion and occupation of this middle-eastern nation since March 19, 2003.

In Afghanistan figures are much more difficult to come by, but it is obvious that the resistance to US/NATO occupation among the population is intensifying after over five years of aggressive action and counter-insurgency operations by these imperialist nations and their allies.

Where is the outcry from CNN and other corporate media outlets over the western-engineered mass slaughter of the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan in wars that cannot be won by the imperialist nations?

And what of the detrimental impact of the so-called "war on terrorism" on the people of the United States? In the US today there are massive attacks on the social programs that grew out of the struggles of the labor and civil rights movements of the last seven decades.

Healthcare, pensions and other social programs are being eliminated while wages are decreasing and more and more African-Americans and Latinos youth are being locked away in prisons.

Since there is no future for these youth outside of unemployment, crime, low wage dead-end employment and the criminal justice system, they are being encouraged to join the militlary as a way out of poverty and economic stagnation.

Consequently, in order to make it in today's American society youth are being recruited by the military to go and fight wars of aggression against other peoples of color who are striving for their own national liberation and sovereignty.

In such a political scenario it is not surprising that many people view the corporate media as a mere appendage to the oppressive system of racial capitalism.

By creating and sustaining the bogeyman of "international terrorism", the Americans and the British hope to deflect attention away from their own terminal crisis, where even the real estate market in the urban and suburban communities are collapsing amid the wasteful spending policies geared towards war and the varacious pursuit of profit.

Most of the public funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is chanelled to multi-national corporations such as Halliburton-Kellogg, Brown & Root, Titan, BlackWater USA and others who perform duties at inflated prices for the occupation forces and their puppets in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The argument by the Bush administration that the elimination of funding for the war by Congress, which the anti-war movement demands, would endanger the American soldiers, is false.

It is the illegal invasions and occupations which have created the precarious security situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq today the social situation is worse than it has ever been since the country was created.

Therefore, it is clear that American intervention is no solution to problems of the developing countries. These interventions only benefit the multi-national corporations and their allies.

Even the peoples of the imperialist countries are suffering from the decline in living standards, high unemployment and the current meltdown of the real estate markets.

Zimbabwe must resist the imposition of a "Somalian solution"

Since 2006, the American administration has intervened in Somalia through the western-backed regime in Ethiopia.

America's inability to achieve its objectives through their paid agents within Somalia itself has resulted in the Bush administration's encouragement and coordination of an invasion by Ethiopia in December of 2006.

This intervention has also been supported by the British Special Air Services Regiment, who along with the United States Special Forces, have overturned the growing influence of the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia.

As a result of this intervention at the aegis of the United States, the social situation in Somalia has been destabilized.

Not satisfied with the role of the Ethiopian military, the Americans have launched their own bombing operations against the Somali people resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the displacement of thousands of others.

Unfortunately, the current leadership of the African Union has agreed to send in so-called peacekeeping troops without any discussion with all relevant stakeholders in Somalia. The Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, which is backed-up militarily by the Ethiopian army and the American Special Forces, has very little legitimacy inside the country.

Consequently, the presence of these foreign and US-backed elements have sparked growing resistance among the Somali masses. In recent weeks, these foreign elements and their AU allies have come under fire by guerrillas forces opposed to the occupation of the country.

The current leadership of the African Union is held by the western-backed government of President John Kuffour of Ghana. For the last two years, the designated leadership of the AU was supposed to be taken over by President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

However, since the Sudanese government has been targeted by the US, Britain and the EU for destabilization, they have not been allowed to take control of the AU. This illustrates clearly that the AU is facing the same problems as the former Organization of African Unity (OAU) as it relates to western influence over the internal and continental affairs of African peoples.

It is instructive that in light of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana that a western-backed post-Nkrumaist government is following the political imperatives of the United States and Britain.

For it was Kwame Nkrumah who refused to accept the western nations acquiescence to settler-colonialism in Rhodesia and paid the ultimate price for doing so, whose legacy today is being distorted by those who come out of a political tradition that represents the antithesis of everything that Nkrumah stood for and advocated during his lifetime.

The current President of Ghana John Kuffour, who is the chair of the AU, has been quoted as describing the current situation in Zimbabwe as "embarrassing."

Nonetheless, it is not only embarassing but is moreso tragic, that the AU in 2007 could allow itself to be manipulated into entering Somalia by the United States and Britain without any serious consultation with all political tendencies within country, particularly those that are the strongest on the ground.

This is why the Republic of South Africa and other nations have refused to participate in the US-backed plans for the continuing occupation of Somalia.

This American engineered occupation is resulting in a situation where the current AU leadership will be perceived by the Somali masses, and the majority of people in the Horn of Africa as well, as being puppets of US and British imperialism and therefore open game for attack by the resistance forces inside the region.

Like Iraq and Afghanistan, the invovlement of the US and its allies can only worsen the social and political situations inside their territories.

Therefore, Zimbabwe is rightly refusing to allow the Americans, the British and the EU and their surrogates within the MDC and other allied groups, to dictate the terms of political dialogue inside the country.

The institutions of Africa such as the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament must develop and maintain an independent foreign policy that rejects American manipulation and influence.

The intervention of the United States in the internal affairs of Africa and other nations throughout the world in Asia and Latin America has never produced positive results for the majority of the populations so affected.

When the western-backed African states follow the political imperatives of the United States they must also realize that a growing peace movement in America is rejecting the whole premise of imperialist intervention and domination as the central focus of the nation's foreign policy.

In the 21st Century it is not possible to repeat the same colonialist and imperialist policies of the 15th to the 19th Centuries. The lessons of the national liberation movements in Africa during the 20th Century are reflective of what Nkrumah stated in his radio broadcasts from Guinea-Conakry after the CIA-backed coup of 1966, that "Ghana is out of the gambling house of colonialism forever."

It is these "games of change" that have destroyed Africa's potential to embark upon a genuinely independent course.

Consequently, the the western media campaign against Zimbabwe and other nations around the world such as Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, the DPRK, etc., must be seen for what they really are: the ideological supplements of an imperialist policy that is both outdated and therefore doomed to abysmal failure.

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has published hundreds of articles and research reports in various publications, journals and web sites throughout the international community.

Posts: 1

« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2007, 07:16:07 AM »

Face to face with Zimbabwe's misery


Jailed for reporting, TIME reporter Alex Perry sees that for most of its citizens, Robert Mugabe's nation is itself a prison:


By Alex Perry
Last updated: 04/16/2007 12:30:02
A BAD jail wastes a body quickly. When I entered Cell 6 at Gwanda police station, I was fit. After five days in a concrete and iron-bar tank, with no food and only a few sips of water, my skin was flaking and my clothes were slipping off. A prison blanket had given me lice. The water I had palmed from a rusty tap in the shower had given me diarrhea. Under a 24-hour strip light, I hadn't slept more than a few minutes at a time. And I stank. So many men had passed through Cell 6 that they had left their smell on the walls, and while I was making my own stink, the walls were also passing theirs onto me.

It took 22 hours to get arrested in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. On March 28, I flew into Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, with the intention of reporting on the ruinous policies that have turned Zimbabwe into one of the poorest and most repressive countries in the world. Foreign journalists are routinely refused permission to travel to Zimbabwe, so I entered the country as a tourist and drove south from Bulawayo to the goldfields of the Great Dyke. I was following tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who, as the economy collapsed, headed to the gold-mining region of Matabeleland, hoping the red hills might give up something to live on. My goal was to get a firsthand look at the misery facing ordinary people in Zimbabwe today. But I had little notion of just how close I would get.

TO MAINTAIN MY PRETENSE AS A TOURIST, I would have been safer staying north, near the game parks and Victoria Falls. But Matabeleland is a microcosm of Zimbabwe's implosion. Thousands in the region are dying of malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands survive by trapping wild animals or bare-handed mining. When I arrived in the gold-rush town of West Nicholson, I met with a local miner in his bungalow. Several times during our 10-minute chat, he would step out for a few moments. It soon became clear why. When I emerged from his house, two plainclothes officers were waiting to detain me.

In the 1980s, Zimbabwe was the second largest economy in southern Africa. Millions of tourists visited each year to see hippos, lions and the awesome drama of Victoria Falls. And Zimbabwe--a nation of 11 million to 13 million people (nobody knows the precise number, partly because so many have fled) gave black Africans the best education and health care on the continent. But over the past two decades, Mugabe's single-minded protection of his power has devastated the economy and turned the country into a police state. Unemployment is at 80%, living standards are back to their 1953 levels, and the World Health Organization says life expectancy is 34 for women and 37 for men--the lowest in the world. Inflation hit 1,792.9% in February and is predicted to reach 3,700% by year's end. (A currency free fall of that magnitude means, for instance, that in nominal terms, a single brick today costs more than a three-bedroom house with a swimming pool did in 1990.)

Arriving in the country is like touching down the day after a cataclysm--a place where the clocks have stopped. There are roads but few cars, and roadside railings are torn up at the stumps. The shops feature bare shelves and price boards for imaginary products that are changed three times a day. Telephones don't work, the power is out, and blackened factory stacks spew no smoke. People loll in the streets with nothing to do and nowhere to go, even if there were a way to get there. "What do people eat?" I asked a lawyer I met. "Good question," he replied.

The one thing Zimbabwe is in no danger of running out of is pictures of "Comrade" Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He looks down from framed photographs in every store, gas station and government office, a small man in gold glasses. When I landed in Zimbabwe, he was front-page news in every newspaper, railing against the West, which could "go hang" for plotting "monkey business" against his country, and members of the opposition, who "will get bashed." A few weeks earlier, I caught a television interview on his 83rd birthday. "Some people say I am a dictator," he said at his 25-bedroom villa in the capital, Harare, complete with Italian-marble bathrooms and roof tiles from Shanghai. "My own people say I am handsome."

MY 10-MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH THE miner in West Nicholson turned out to be my last interview. The plainclothes officers brought me to the West Nicholson police station, where I spent the night. The next day I was driven north to the provincial police headquarters at Gwanda. My escorts accused me of planning to write "negative" stories about Zimbabwe--as if arresting me would dispose me to more positive stories--and carried with them a report from West Nicholson's police chief describing me as a "dedicated journalist on a clandestine mission."

At Gwanda, I was interrogated by a series of detectives and was denied a lawyer and a phone call. Officers crowded in to see me. They were excited. One said he wanted to "manhandle" me. Two others grinned and bounced before me, trying to make me flinch. The detective in charge of my case introduced himself as "Moyo" and disclosed that he approved of a beating if the crime warranted it. I was driven to the prosecutors' office and charged with breaching sections 79 and 80, Chapter 10: 27, of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, "working as a journalist without accreditation." The maximum sentence was two years.

"Do you think I can just come to your country, start asking questions and write anything I want?" demanded an officer. Nobody knew I was here, I replied. Nobody knew what was happening to me. I didn't know what was happening to me. Could I call someone? Moyo ignored me. His officers expressed outrage at my nerve.

The only feature in my cell aside from walls and bars was an iron shackling ring in the floor. Prisoners at Gwanda are paraded every morning before the station's officers and, one by one, interrogated and slapped, humiliated. Some of my fellow prisoners had been arrested for trapping porcupines in the forest, selling gasoline, stealing--petty offenses committed in desperate efforts to feed their families. A piece of graffiti on the wall read, P. MOYO WAS HERE FOR STANDING.

The prisoners weren't the only ones living in fear. Junior officers barely opened their mouths. Ranking officers like Moyo would not grant me permission to visit the toilet or brush my teeth without approval from their superiors. "I am just a worker," I heard the police-station chief say. "There are people above me." The jailers' anxiety about their bosses made them even more determined to demand respect from their prisoners. Moyo considered my demand for a lawyer insulting. "I am educated," he said. "And you do not cooperate." The walls of his office made clear that the regime saw the opposition less as a threat than an affront. The top crime on a list hanging above Moyo's desk was "insulting or undermining the authority of the President."

In truth, Zimbabwe's opposition remains weak. The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.), peaked in 2002, when leader Morgan Tsvangirai polled 42% to Mugabe's 56% in presidential elections. Since then the anti-Mugabe movement has foundered because of infighting and intimidation. Mugabe has unleashed a campaign of beatings, mass arrests and shootings of his political opponents. On March 11, state police attacked a joint M.D.C.-Christian march. Tsvangirai was taken into custody and beaten savagely. Since 2000, Mugabe has also encouraged mobs to invade farms owned by the country's remaining white residents, who number in the tens of thousands and mainly back the opposition. The M.D.C.'s principal base is in the urban slums, so Mugabe destroyed many of them, forcing millions of shanty dwellers into the streets or exile. The opposition called a general strike on April 2, but it's hard for a strike to have much impact when many of its potential supporters are outside the country.

Mugabe has also targeted some longstanding foreign adversaries. The West, particularly Britain and the U.S., is plotting to recolonize Zimbabwe, he says. That paranoia courses through every level of the country's security apparatus. A large map in Inspector Moyo's office highlighted in red "areas of political activity"--which turned out to be every town or large village. A directive on the wall reminded him his job was to "investigate all cases of a political nature, suppress all civil commotion and gather political intelligence." There was even a detailed procedure in case the station ever came under attack. Fear and vigilance combined in an obsession with paperwork. Every remark I made was typed in triplicate. I was fingerprinted five times.

Moyo seemed to realize he was working for the bad guys. "The country is ruined," he said one day. Shame fueled his need for respect. He was haunted by the prospect of someday being called to account for the abuses he has overseen. "You cannot say anything against me," he would say. Mugabe's greatest trick is to make sure people fear him more than they hate him, and hate themselves most of all.

For all of Zimbabwe's privations, Mugabe's hold on power seems unlikely to slip anytime soon. On my first day in jail, a heads-of-government Southern African Development Community summit met in Tanzania. In its ranks were other veterans of the fight against colonialism, like South African President Thabo Mbeki, many of whose supporters sympathize with Mugabe's demonization of the West as racist. Despite worldwide calls for censure, the conference refused to condemn Mugabe's leadership and affirmed Zimbabwe's right to noninterference. Mbeki was asked to act as mediator between the government and the opposition, but Mbeki told the Financial Times, "Whether we succeed or not is up to the Zimbabwean leadership. None of us in the region has any power to force the Zimbabweans to agree." The next day Zimbabwe's ruling party, the Zanu-PF, endorsed Mugabe as its candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

I studied the maps on Moyo's walls for escape routes into South Africa or Botswana. What encouraged me was that I would hardly be the first to flee Zimbabwe. There are no reliable estimates of how much of the original population has left. Some estimates range from 2 million to 4 million; South Africans reckon they host 1 million to 2 million refugees. Shantytowns with names like Little Harare and Zimtown have sprung up outside cities across Africa. The stories their inhabitants tell--of risking crocodiles in the Limpopo River and lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park in their bid to escape--speak of desperation. They also illuminate why any recovery in Zimbabwe will be a long time coming. "It's a brain drain," says Archbishop Pius Ncube, a prominent government critic based in Bulawayo. "All the intelligent people--the doctors, the lawyers, the teachers--have left." Through the bars of my cell, wardens would quietly ask if I could help them find jobs in London.

I began to see my captors as victims as much as persecutors. Many had not been paid. A drive to Bulawayo, ostensibly to search my hotel room, became a shopping trip as five officers crammed the car and spent the day hunting roadside stalls for cheap tomatoes, queuing at gas stations and ATMs, seeking out a country butcher with a reputation for value. "I cannot lie to you. The situation is very bad," said Moyo. "You can see for yourself."

On my fifth day in detention, I was taken to court. En route, Moyo took me to a café for my first meal since my arrest. I was amazed to see an English breakfast on offer: sausages, eggs, toast, coffee. I hungrily ordered and sat down--only to see Moyo sit at an adjacent table. I beckoned to him, but, head down, he demurred. A man asked to share my table and introduced himself as a manager for the Christian relief organization World Vision. I asked him about this year's harvest. "There's zero," he said. "No crop. Millions of hungry people, and just our maize sacks to feed them."

Court took 10 minutes. I pleaded guilty and was fined 100 Zimbabwean dollars--at present values, half a U.S. cent. Outside, two men in suits and sunglasses, possibly secret-service agents, watched as I left court. Though the local authorities had let me go, there was no guarantee I would avoid being interrogated again by Mugabe's secret police. I jumped in my rental car and, calculating that the authorities would expect me to head south to South Africa or west to Botswana, drove 373 miles north to Zambia. An hour after nightfall, the road became muddy. It seemed to be raining. A rumbling filled the air. I looked left, and there, silver in the moonlight, framed between two cliffs, was Victoria Falls. I was out.

My last night in jail was a Sunday. I was falling asleep on the floor when I felt a low harmony echoing up through the concrete of the cell next door. There was bass, tenor and rhythm. For two hours, prisoners filled the jail with music. These were songs of suffering and acceptance, of beauty and soul undiminished
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