The subject of government rule has three broad categories namely democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian. In this essay I would like to present what defines each category and then look at the history and background of Zimbabwe before giving my findings on what I think characterises the government of Zimbabwe. According to Blackwell (Blackwell:1987, p 166, 167, 168) democracy stems from the Greek words demos which means people and kratia which means rule or authority, hence the meaning ‘ruled by the people. Giovanni Sartori (Sartori: 1987, p 8, 9) claims that democracy is a form of government in which power is held directly or indirectly by citizens under a free electoral system with two important principles; that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that all citizens enjoy recognized freedom and benefits.
Totalitarianism however, according to Schapiro (Schapiro: 1972, p 12) is a concept used to describe political systems whereby the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private life.Totalitarian government maintain themselves in political power by means of an all-embracing ideology and propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media. A single party controls the state, the economy and use mass surveillance and terror tactics. Perlmutter (Perlmutter: 1981, p 7-16) claims that authoritarism is a political system controlled by nonelected rulers who usually permit some degree of individual freedom. (Perlmutter: 1981, p15) ‘The following principles apply; rule of men, not rule of law, rigged elections, all important political decisions made by unelected officials behind closed oors, bureaucracy operated quite independently of rules, the supervision of elected officials, or concerns of the constituencies they purportedly serve; the informal and unregulated exercise of political power.
’ Zimbabwe was the last of the 15 British colonies in Africa to achieve independence. The colony was founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1893 and named Southern Rhodesia in his honour. During this time Rhodesia was transformed into an apartheid state.
Of the 65 seats in parliament, black people were only allowed a maximum of 15, schools, hospitals and houses were racially segregated and fertile land was reserved for white farmers. In 1964 Ian Smith became Prime Minister as the head of the Rhodesian Front. He was known as a ‘racist tyrant. ’ By 1972 African guerillas had launched a brutal war against Smith’s rule. Thousands died and Smith was compelled to attend the Lancaster House conference in London 1979 where an agreement emerged for black majority rule. (Blair: 2002, p10)Robert Mugabe was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s first Prime Minister on 17 April 1980 and took power over a country with a history of bitter racial conflict.
Zimbabwe was a country with the most unequal economy in the world according to Stoneman, (Stoneman: 1988, p43) as the average earnings for whites were nearly ten times those of blacks who were formally employed. Since whites only made up about 4% of the population, this painted a much skewed picture of the wealth distribution. Initially there were fears that Mugabe would seize white owned farms and subject unmentionable violence on whites.In his opening address however he stunned and tricked the country and the world into believing that his intentions were sincere, “The wrongs of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten …” (Blair: 2002, p14) It was with these words Mugabe won over even the most cynical.
It was not long after Mugabe came into power, that he made sure that his party Zanu PF would be in complete control by starting a military wing and declaring brutal onslaughts on the opposition party, the MDC.MDC Supporters and villages were pillaged and many fled the country, white owned farms were raided, looted and in some cases even burnt to the ground. The wrath of Mugabe’s iron fist could be felt across the country. “He was determined to make Zimbabwe a one-party state and liked to argue that this arrangement was uniquely suited to Africa.
The one-party state is more in keeping with African tradition, it makes for greater unity for the people. It puts all opinions under one umbrella, whether these opinions are radical or reactionary. ”(2002, P29) Zimbabwe was once among the most developed countries in Africa.Today however the situation in Zimbabwe is dire, as the economy is in crisis, the monthly inflation rate is approximately running at 13. 2 billion per cent, consumer prices on everything from gasoline to glue are doubling everyday, the currency has almost no worth or value, the country’s levels of unemployment rate is formidable, natural resources have all but been destroyed while the country is ruled and dominated by violence and fear. In my opinion whilst looking at and comparing the rule of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, I believe that Zimbabwe’s government is totalitarian.
George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four s a glimpse into the lives of a society living under totalitarian rule, through the eyes of a seemingly insignificant character ,Winston Smith the characters which are portrayed are constantly monitored, the programs and news on television is controlled and even the media and the information that they are fed is censored. So it is the case of Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe and his government not only rule the country with an iron fist but also its citizens.Every part of the citizens lives are affected, a single party has been in rule for so many years and the country rules by propaganda and terror tactics. According to Singer (Singer: 1997) a healthy society and productive society is when people are able to recognise opportunities for improvement, have ideas about possible changes, become skilled at convincing others, winning trust and help from others, and being able to organise change. The same cannot be said about Zimbabwe however where citizens ‘rights or choice’ does not exist and change seems like a far off dream.