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The very first news item that ever attracted my attention appeared all the way back in 2000, when I was seven years old. It was a Saturday morning, and I had painstakingly poured myself a bowl of cereal and carried it to my kitchen table, careful not to spill even one drop of milk. The only clear part of the table — for, as long as I can remember, there has only ever been one clear part of the table — was directly in front of a large page, clearly taken out of the newspaper, and on this page was an A3-sized black-and-white photograph. It depicted a woman sobbing as she knelt over and cuddled her child in a grassy field. Behind her stood a wire fence, and behind that stood a mob, carrying weapons and fires on sticks. It did not occur to me, when I first saw the photo, that she and her child were both white, nor that every member of the mob was black. At the age of seven, I was blissfully unaware of such concepts as “colonialism”; no, it would be another year before I heard that word. I had never heard of this far-off land, this “Zimbabwe”, nor of the land which had apparently existed before it, “Rhodesia”. I couldn’t understand how this land’s leader, a certain Robert Mugabe, could justify what he was doing. I understood only what this article told me. The woman and her child had fled to the UK; the father had remained in Zimbabwe, saying that he had never seen Europe in his life and had no intention to see it now. A mob had stormed the farm and hacked him to death. After all, what right did he have to remain in Zimbabwe when he was white?

Now that I am older and wiser, I do understand the historical context of the image I saw. It appeared during the era of land reform, when white farmers were being expelled so native Zimbabweans1 could take their place. Eight years on, we can see the devastation the policy caused. The expulsion of the nation’s farmers resulted in widespread hunger and economic collapse; ordinary Zimbabweans’ lives did not improve as a result of the redistribution of land, they worsened. Naturally, Zimbabweans sought political change, and this year’s election was to be a way to achieve that change. In the first round, no presidential candidate achieved 50% of the vote, and Mugabe was determined to make it over the line this time. To achieve this, the leader who horrified me eight years ago has been horrifying me again. Opposition voters’ hands have been cut off, to ensure that they can’t vote again. Opposition supporters have been beaten, to punish them for their incorrect political views, and their food has been withheld. Many have been beaten to death. The Internet is littered with photos of victims if you look for them2. And, finally, Mugabe has succeeded. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has given up, deciding that innocent Zimbabweans’ lives are more important than the presidency.

However, I doubt that Mugabe will halt his reign of terror just because he’s secured the presidency. I can’t help but to keep in mind the article I read when I was seven, and look back to the reason why that man died. What if Mugabe and his supporters think, “After all, what right do these people have to remain in Zimbabwe when they don’t like the place?”

  1. …but mostly Mugabe’s cronies
  2. I didn’t have to — Reuters forces these pictures upon me whenever I read their articles. Admittedly, though, they’re a lot worse about people burning to death in South Africa than those hacked to death in Zimbabwe.

One Comment

  1. haha yes robert mugabe lol. And he was the only candidate up for election.

    hahahaha that is so funny

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