Monday, May 09, 2005 Zimbabwe Slaughter
A tsunami of blood ... who cares? by Barbara Simpson.
Massive slaughter is old hat for Africa. Living beings mowed down for no good reason with automatic weapons or slashed with machetes. Rivers of blood and bloated bodies.
This time, it's not dead people. This time, it's animals, beginning with big game.
Since the usual reaction of the rest of the world to African bloodbaths is to ignore it or to '"tsk tsk" that nothing was done soon enough, it's not surprising that the current slaughter in Zimbabwe is virtually ignored in the media and the West.
For lovers of African wildlife - giraffes, lions, elephants, hippos, antelopes, cheetahs and more - it's a disaster of unparalleled proportions, being done on government orders.
There is no safe place for wildlife left in Zimbabwe, the era of protection is over.
Robert Mugabe, the just re-elected (in a highly disputed election) communist president of that country has ordered - yes, ordered - the country's national parks and rangers, rural district councils and, in some cases, military, to conduct a wholesale slaughter of all big game.
Reports are that the first week, National Park rangers killed 10 elephants. According to the New Zealand Herald, four of the animals were shot in full view of tourists near Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in Africa and a major wildlife haven.
The meat was used for an election celebration barbecue! A giraffe was killed, supposedly for food for hungry peasants, but the meat disappeared, believed appropriated for the police and their buddies.
Robert Mugabe says he ordered the killing to feed his starving people. Yes, the people are starving, but it's because Mugabe's incompetent government, henchmen and corrupt cronies have driven the entire country beyond collapse. He caused the famine and now is decimating the wildlife supposedly to end it. The only thing he'll end is irreplaceable natural treasure.
Consider that barely five years ago the country produced enough food to feed its own and export. Today, it begs food from the world.
Consider that Mugabe prohibits international donors from distributing free food, doing it himself, but denying it to his political opposition - no vote, no food.
Consider that in 2002, it was recorded that 89 percent of E.U. aid money was embezzled by the government.
Consider that under government price-fixing policies, producers were ordered to sell food and goods for less than they cost to make.
Consider that the Zimbabwe dollar was once worth more than the U.S. dollar - now, it takes more than 20,000 to buy one greenback.
Consider that the government takes more than half of wages in taxes and out-of-control inflation makes the rest worthless. Bus fare costs more than the monthly wages of workers.
Consider that life expectancy is 34 years for men, 33 for women. HIV is rampant, leaving some 700,000 AIDS orphans.
Consider that North Korea trained Mugabe's military, Libya had training bases in the interior and there was money to send his army to the Congo to support that Marxist dictator.
Consider that his political opponents were threatened, beaten, tortured or killed and the media controlled or shut down.
Consider that tourism and a network of safari camps were the most vital economic assets of the country. Now, tourism is dead and soon all the animals will be as well.
If you dreamed of visiting Zimbabwe - called Rhodesia, under the British - you know it was a gem. Blessed with temperate climate, spectacular scenery including Victoria Falls, well-stocked game reserves and ancient ruins.
Add to that, the country had fertile soil, one of the most productive agricultural economies on the continent and huge reserves of gold, platinum and other natural resources.
The country operated with an efficient road and rail network, to say nothing of business, manufacturing, banking and media operations. The school system was excellent and the population one of the best educated in Africa.
Then came independence and Robert Mugabe. It's been disaster since. The country is in virtual economic collapse.
Five years ago, under the euphemism of "land reform," Mugabe ordered the seizure of nearly 7,000 private, white-owned farms, operations which grew the food that fed the people and supported the export economy.
His organized mobs looted the properties, beat and killed the white owners - and did the same to blacks who worked on the farms - killed livestock herds and wildlife, and burned homes and crops. The land was left fallow and millions are starving.
Most of those stolen farms were given as perks to government officials and political cronies. The estate of Vice President Joshua Nkomo included 16 farms.
During all of this, government-sanctioned poachers deliberately decimated animals on commercial game farms. Thousands of snares killed everything from sable antelope, wild dogs, cats and zebra to anything else that fell victim.
Estimates are that in three years, 80 percent of all animals on the game farms were killed.
Now big game is the target - they don't stand a chance. Particularly at risk is the trans-frontier park. That's where wildlife from Mozambique and South Africa (Kruger National Park) moves freely into Zimbabwe across borders. Conservationists there are desperate, knowing the wildlife heritage is being irredeemably destroyed.
Where's our anger? Where's our outrage? Where are the animal rights, animal protection and nature-Earth protection organizations? Why don't we hear their furious screams at this murderous rape of nature, just as they do when a fairy shrimp or red-legged frog is perceived in danger?
Is it really all politics?
Consider that just last Wednesday, Zimbabwe was re-elected to the U.N. Human Rights Commission! Only three countries protested: Australia, Canada and the United States. Our statement said that the United States is "perplexed and dismayed by the decision."
Perplexed and dismayed?! Why not infuriated? Outraged? Insulted?
What about the animal slaughter? There hasn't been any U.S. statement about that, or one from any other country, for that matter.
Those animals are a world heritage. It's obscene this should take place below media radar.
Put on the pressure! Stop the money. Perhaps if all donations to every animal-environmental-zoo group stopped, they might get the message that we want to hear their international shrieks of outrage over this government ordered, senseless wildlife slaughter.
It's wanton killing to cover up the failure of a communist dictatorship whose leader is still accepted on the international scene.
That's a travesty too, but come to think of it, that's probably why it's being ignored.
See? It is politics. And like most politics, it's bathed in the blood of innocents. It's disgusting.
Barbara Simpson, "The Babe in the Bunker" as she's known to her KSFO 560 radio talk-show audience in San Francisco, has a 20-year radio, television and newspaper career in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.