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Zimbabwe's view of Middle East unrest

Zimbabweans cheer the downfalls of old leaders. Why don't they topple Mugabe?

In Egypt the former ruling NDP party’s headquarters was the first target of the crowd. In Zimbabwe Mugabe’s Zanu-PF building stands safely above the fray unmolested by any unruly mob.

What is significant in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions is the absence of anti-imperialist rhetoric. The emphasis has been on freedom and democracy, not — perhaps with the exception of Yemen — anti-American fist-waving of the Iranian variety.

Muammar Gaddafi represented the divergence when he chastised the Tunisians for chasing away their president.

“Tunisia now lives in fear,” he said in a broadcast. “Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms. And the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or American revolutions.”

The Libyan leader evidently knows little about the events of 1776 or 1917 but that didn’t stop his stream of consciousness. “And what is this for?” Gaddafi continued. "To change Zine al Abidine? Hasn’t he told you he would step down after three years? Be patient for three years and your son stays alive.” It sounded a bit like a threat.

Zimbabweans continued to share notes with their North African counterparts. Tunisian newspapers reported the first lady piling gold bars aboard the presidential jet lifted from Tunisia’s reserve bank. Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, has a similar reputation for acquisitiveness but prefers the allure of diamonds.

Zimbabwe’s first family, like the Bourbons of old, appear to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing from the events of the past month. At the very moment that Mubarak announced his departure for Sharm-el-Sheik, Mugabe’s noisy motorcade swept through downtown Harare in a demonstration of pomp and power. Motorcyclist outriders waved motorists out of the way and assaulted those slow to do so.

“He’s clearly not watching the news,” one observer remarked. And it is true that Zimbabwe’s ruler lives in a world of his own. His glazed vehicle windows protect him from the unappealing realities of the world outside. How much longer will be be an onlooker?

Questions were asked in Zimbabwe's parliament this week as to whether Zimbabwean soldiers were among the mercenaries hired by Gaddafi to suppress the popular revolt in Libya. The Minister of Defence referred the matter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Zimbabwe already plays host to one ex-dictator, Ethiopian tyrant Mengistu Haile Mariam, now Zimbabweans are wondering if they will have to put up with another one. For Zimbabwe’s arrogant post-liberation aristocracy, radicals in Harare have a new word of warning: Libya!