Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Very Bad Things

I think I've been avoiding making a new post because this was the topic I set out and it's so depressing.

In a world in which we hear of so many problem situations in Africa (Darfur, the kidnapping of the Invisible Children, AIDs, etc.) the situation in Zimbawe almost gets overlooked. A recent report by Tren, Ncube, Urbach, and Bate from Africa Fighting Malaria is stunning. (BTW, Ncube is the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The following are their opening sentences:

Zimbabwe's healthcare system has collapsed. Life expectancy is the lowest in the world. Dead bodies accumulate in hospital mortuaries or are buried hastily and surreptitiously in rural areas by poverty stricken families. The most recent estimates suggest that between 3,000 and 3,500 die every week from HIV-related diseases, although some believe the numbers are significantly higher.

I could quote more, but I don't know where to begin: are you more shocked that real per-capita GDP was lower in 2004 than it was in 1980, or that unemployment may be something like 80 percent, or that in a politically motivated campaign targeting the houses of the urban poor and even orphanages, bulldozing has left an estimated 700,000 people homeless? This article makes only passing reference to the well known violent land redistribution policies that tanked Zimbabwe's food productivity.

The point is we know what is causing all of this. It is a wretched government that has shredded the concept of private property and government support for stable markets. In my principles of economics class I read from a well known "conservative" economist and a well known "liberal" economist on the keys to economic development. I point out that the lists are relatively the same, we just see different levels of emphasis. Either list would see that the situation in Zimbabwe is a field experiment in how to destroy a nation's economy.

The question is, beyond prayer for the people of Zimbabwe, what can we do? The authors suggest ratcheting up international sanctions against the leadership. They also believe that the key to change in Zimbabwe lies in in South Africa, whose leadership on this issue has been disappointing to say the least. The authors suggest that South Africa be pressured to engage the problem of Mugabe, going so far as to suggest that the World Cup be removed from South Africa in 2010 if they don't. I think that using sports events to pressure for political change can be carried too far, but I agree that millions of Christians around the world worked for and celebrated the regime changes in South Africa. It's time for the current South African leaders to show similar courage and leadership for their own neighbors.

No comments: