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A Cry From Zimbabwe By: Steven Tennett
Ayn Rand Institute | Thursday, July 10, 2003


This week President Bush came to Africa. Though he rightly did not visit President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, I wish he could hear from ordinary Zimbabweans about the terrible violations of our rights. I wish he could hear how Zimbabwe was recently paralyzed by a week-long mass stayaway that saw the closure throughout the country of some 98 percent of businesses--in spite of violence and intimidation by Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party, which attempted to force businesses to reopen under threat of losing their trading licenses.

On the last day of the stayaway, I was at Unity Square (the capital Harare's main meeting place) to take part in the biggest march ever organized by the opposition party. But around the fountain of the square were arrayed--not peaceful demonstrators--but a gang of ruling party thugs wearing white T-shirts with the message "No to Mass Action." These were Mugabe's hired goons, disparagingly dubbed "Green Bombers" by civilians; terrorists who beat, torture and murder civilians when instructed to do so by their pay masters. The march was predictably a non-event, with the army and police also blocking all major entrances to the city in an act of countrywide mass repression that cost the government an estimated two billion Zimbabwe tax dollars. This is just the latest example of the massive violation of rights in this dying country. I have witnessed
thousands of others.

This week, sadly, the computer technician in my transport company had to take leave from work to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law--murdered by Zanu PF thugs. Even with his face smashed and his teeth broken, this innocent twenty-six-year-old man might have lived, if only Harare Central Hospital had the required expertise, drugs, medicines and equipment to help him. But the ruling party's corruption and socialist policies had already destroyed the country's health delivery system, and all this critically injured man received was a drip.

His is not a lone case. Since the 1980s thousands of individuals have been displaced from their homes, beaten, tortured, raped or murdered. Recently, even Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the country's largest opposition party, was languishing in jail on charges of treason against the Zanu PF party, who are obliterating their opposition with twists of the law to validate beatings and arrests.

A commercial farmer in Zimbabwe could once make a fortune exporting coffee. But now the case of Roy Bennet, a coffee farmer from Melsetter/Chimanimani, is representative. He lost his farm to another group of Mugabe's thugs called "war veterans," who evicted him under threat of death and took his farm over, using the ruling party's "fast-track resettlement program." As I write, Mr. Bennet's other leased farm in Ruwa is under invasion by a group of 200 war veterans. To date, more than 3,000 commercial farmers have been evicted from their farms, and at least seven have actually been murdered. Only 453 commercial farmers still operate fully in Zimbabwe--out of a total of 4,137 in 2000.

As a result, the country's maize production has fallen from 810,000 tons in 2000 to an estimated 80,000 tons today, while soybean production has fallen from 162,000 tons to 30,000 tons. Close to 8 million Zimbabweans are now facing starvation.

On behalf of the Zimbabweans who desire to live as human beings, free from the shackles of Mugabe's tyranny, I have a favor to ask of you, America.

No, it is not a request for a check or some other handout. Nor is it a request to send over your 4th Infantry division to liberate us. Our suffering does not give us a right to your wealth or to the lives of your brave soldiers.

No, the favor I have to ask is very different--and far simpler. America, stop apologizing for your greatness.

Stand up and proudly champion the principles that have enabled you to earn your wealth and power: capitalism and the individual's inalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Condemn every form of tyranny and tell the world that the political system created by your founders is the only noble system the world has ever seen. Tell every individual across the globe that no matter if he is black, white or Arab, the *only* path to freedom and prosperity is through the ideas contained in your Constitution and Bill of Rights. To modify a saying from one of your great founders, George Washington: Proclaim a standard to which the wise and the just can repair.

To do so costs you nothing--and will achieve much.

You will give hope and inspiration to any individual in Zimbabwe, Iran, Hong Kong or elsewhere who is actually fighting for his liberty. You will earn the respect of freedom-loving people the world over--the only "world opinion" it could ever make sense to win. And by your moral certainty you will strike fear in the hearts of your enemies--and any tyrant who dares to violate the rights of the individual.

America, when you refuse to speak out against evil--and worse, when you apologize for your virtues--you discourage those who love liberty and give hope to the Mugabes of the world. But when you proudly and guiltlessly stand up for the good, you help move the world toward your ideals.

America, your moral voice is at once your least costly and your most powerful weapon. A lonely individual from Zimbabwe asks of you only this: Won't you please use that voice?

Steven Tennett, a computer manager in Harare, Zimbabwe, is a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute (
www.aynrand.org/medialink) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Write to Mr. Tennett at reaction@aynrand.org.




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