No bottle popping for Robert Mugabe!

Although one is to celebrate their golden years with grace, humility and a positive outlook on life for being able to live to such an age, Robert Mugabe seems to be the exception to this understanding.

Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai

A year after a historic coalition government was formed, most Zimbabweans are in no mood to celebrate today’s anniversary. Civil servants are on strike, reforms are stalled, farmers are under attack, and the autocratic Robert Mugabe still controls most of the levers of power.

The coalition, which allowed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to become the Prime Minister, has staggered through a rough year. The economy has improved, but the government is paralyzed by internal feuding and fierce resistance from Mr. Mugabe’s allies. And it faces the risk of collapse if the squabbling persists and foreign donors remain unwilling to help.

Mr. Mugabe, still President at the age of 85, is showing no signs of surrendering power. He has stubbornly blocked the political reforms that were supposed to flow from a breakthrough 2008 agreement between the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party.

That agreement, which led to the coalition government that was sworn in a year ago, is now “becoming a joke,” according to Eddie Cross, a senior member of Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

Only 12 per cent of the agreement has been put into effect, Mr. Cross estimates. A top MDC leader, Roy Bennett, is still being prosecuted on charges widely believed to be trumped up. Many other MDC members have been arrested or harassed. Deadlines for reform have been repeatedly ignored, and commercial farmers are still losing their farms to invading thugs.

Mr. Mugabe and his supporters are increasingly hardline, refusing any concessions unless Mr. Tsvangirai persuades foreign governments to lift targeted sanctions that prevent Mr. Mugabe and his cronies from travelling to Europe or North America. Meanwhile, all negotiations are deadlocked.

Mr. Mugabe has “made a complete fool” of the regional leaders who brokered the coalition deal, Mr. Cross said on his website. “While they fiddle – Zimbabwe burns. No progress with health and education or economic recovery and investment. No reduction in political violence and human rights violations. No change in the media and the daily outpouring of propaganda.

Mugabe is living off his past legacy as a foot soldier and leader of Zimbabwean independence. The problem is that he never left or put aside his rebel insurgent mindset and adapted a governing mentality for the country. Mugabe is like

a wounded bull, still dangerous to its pursuers. The MDC is willing to finish the fight, but this might leave it fatally wounded, too….The region will have to decide whether to leave the old bull to die on its own and simply let Zimbabwe slide back into chaos.

Mugabe has repeatedly complained about Western interference and used colonialism as a threat to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. The only logical and substantive outcome would be more international involvement with a tougher stance. The friendly approach has run its course, especially with South African input. This should be led by the U.S. since it has less or no historical “slave-occupation”, unlike some European countries. This would be one area of the world where President Obama can quickly and decisively have a lasting and positive impact-legacy.

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