PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, 84, lost the country s March 29 first round of elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangerai. Mr. Mugabe didn t accept that Mr. Tsvangerai had won, claiming improbably that he had not achieved the 50-percent-plus-one of the vote needed for victory, even though Mr. Tsvangerai s party won the parliamentary elections. A peel-off candidate from Mr. Mugabe s own ZANU-PF party, Simba Makone, had run also to draw votes from Mr. Tsvangerai and make it easier for Mr. Mugabe to fudge the results.
Now, as the runoff between the top two draws near, Mr. Mugabe has turned up the heat substantially on the suffering Zimbabwean people to obtain the results he wants, to prolong his already 28-year rule of the former Rhodesia. He has instructed the country s army to work for his victory. His supporters and the security forces are interfering with Mr. Tsvangerai s campaign, and Mr. Mugabe has said he won t let his opponent take power if he were to win, labelling him an agent of British and other colonialists.
In the meantime, the disaster that Mr. Mugabe s rule has wreaked on the Zimbabwean economy not only has put an estimated one-fourth of the population at risk of starvation, it also has propelled floods of citizens to flee the country into neighboring South Africa.
Their quest for food, shelter, and jobs, in competition with poor South Africans and immigrants from other African countries, has led to disorder, rioting, and killing that South African authorities have found difficult to control.
Meanwhile, African leaders, including South Africa s, have stood by mute and impotent. Some have tried to put responsibility on South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has declined to act. South Africa could start by closing its border with Zimbabwe, although it is questionable that Mr. Mugabe would take notice.
Other leaders such as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown want to send a U.N. human rights representative and election observers to Zimbabwe truly pointless gestures.
Given that Mr. Mugabe has stated that he won t accept the election results unless he wins, and that the situation in Zimbabwe has become increasingly catastrophic in its impact on the southern African region, drastic measures are needed.
Just as Tanzania used its military in 1979 to get rid of Ugandan despot Idi Amin, the countries of southern Africa would be justified in taking decisive military action to get rid of Mr. Mugabe. It is hard to imagine that Zimbabweans would resist them, particularly if they moved in fast, quickly held free and internationally supervised elections, and then got out.