Last week, the boldest and most outspoken advocate for liberty in Zimbabwe—Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city—resigned his position because of a sex scandal. This summer, after speaking out against the Mugabe regime, Ncube incurred the dictator’s wrath; state newspaper and television stations propagated photos of Ncube with a married woman, whose husband has since filed an adultery charge against the Archbishop. As Ncube made the painful decision to step down, he nonetheless denounced the “crude machinations of a wicked regime.”
But earlier this week, seemingly hopeful news emerged from Zimbabwe, in the form of a tentative political agreement between Mugabe’s long-ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The details are sketchy at this point, but they indicate an agreement on the preconditions for free and fair elections to be held next year. Predictably, the government of South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had been tasked by the Southern African Development Community, a regional group, with bringing the parties together, applauded the breakthrough as progress toward “a lasting settlement.”
While it is always tempting to welcome positive news like this in Zimbabwe, good tidings usually prove elusive. The bare fact is that Robert Mugabe will never cede power. He is a totalitarian through and through, and will kill as many people—through slow starvation (as he has been doing for the past several years) or outright murder—as necessary to stay in charge. If, as in 2000, 2002, and 2005, it appears that ZANU-PF will lose at the polls, Mugabe will simply rig the vote, expel poll watchers, imprison and torture domestic opponents, and curse the West. He has done this every time even the slightest threat to his power emerged, and the world community has allowed him to get away with it for the past 27 years. While these recent negotiations may seem fruitful, the only way Zimbabwe will ever see freedom is through regime change and a subsequent, thorough de-Mugabification process.
With America’s attentions focused on the situation in Iraq, it is all too easy to forget that friends of freedom struggle in many other places across the globe, particularly in Zimbabwe. Even in the midst of this “scandal,” Pius Ncube—one of the more remarkable figures of our time—stands as testament that even in the most dire of conditions courage perseveres.