Two years ago I met a student at Berry who was a refugee from Zimbabwe. His family's land had been seized by armed robbers, and most of the people he had known had also fled or had been killed.
Unfortunately, this is not a rare story. It's estimated that one out of every 200 people in Britain right now is a refugee from Zimbabwe. For a long time, Zimbabwe's long, slow death was mostly unseen in the US and UK, but now that is starting to change.
Recently, the ruler Robert Mugabe arrested most of the leadership of the opposition party and did very bad things to them (I won't post the pictures; they're pretty horrific.) This has been playing on the news quite a bit here; not as much as, say, cricket, but a lot more than ever before. Ten years ago, Zimbabwe was a relatively prosperous nation that exported food and resources to much of southern Africa, and was steadily improving. Today, the average life expectancy is the lowest in the world, 37 years for men and 34 years for women; unemployment is at 80%; and inflation is the highest in the world, often topping 1000% per month. What happened? There was no foreign invader, no civil war, no devastating natural disaster. It was sheer mismanagement by the head of government.
All of this now seems to be converging in the international consciousness. Zimbabwe's neighbours seem to be waking up to the reality that this is a Big Problem, and they will need to do something soon before it becomes Their Problem as well. In Zimbabwe itself, people seem to be losing their fear of opposition, as they have little left to lose. Even more, many of the police seem to increasingly resist being used as tools of political violence, a job most of them did not sign up for.
It is impossible to predict what will happen in the near future with any accuracy, but the feeling is high that something will happen, whether internal revolution, external intervention, or the old bugger just finally dies (he's 83). I think it will definitely get worse before it is over, but the end of Zimbabwe's long national nightmare finally seems imminent.
The upside: an enterprising company in Canada has struck back in the only way it knows how: Mugabe Wipes!