Up to 6 million Zimbabweans, most of them black, face starvation, but it's not because Mother Nature is playing yet another cruel joke on the Third World, or because people have squandered their food money on luxuries. Simply surviving day-to-day is a luxury in many parts of Africa. The starvation in the southern African nation is the result of President Robert Mugabe's racist policy of forcing white farmers to give up their holdings to Africans who know virtually nothing about managing such large-scale farming operations.
Mugabe, who has ruled with an iron fist for more than two decades, recently won a so-called election in a deeply flawed process that had the effect of disenfranchising thousands of voters. But the president has portrayed his victory as a vote of confidence and an endorsement of his land-grab campaign. That couldn't be further from the truth because only Mugabe's cronies and henchmen are benefiting from the whites' being kicked off their farms, many of which have been in their families for generations.
But it is the specter of mass starvation brought on by a collapsing economy -- there was a time when Zimbabwe was considered one of the wealthiest nations in Africa -- that makes the situation impossible to ignore.
Before Zimbabwe becomes another Rwanda, Congo or Angola, where millions of Africans have died as a result of civil wars and the attendant economic deterioration, the Organization of African Unity, formed almost 40 years ago by African heads of state, must step in and persuade Mugabe to reverse his fiscally irresponsible farm policy.
If the leaders of the OAU do not have the will or the courage to take on one of their own, they should at least urge the United Nations Security Council to become involved.
Prompt action is demanded if human suffering on a massive scale is to be prevented. Mugabe is blaming the drought for the lack of food, but as the British Broadcasting Corp.'s world news service reported recently:
"Driving across the country, we found fields in which crops withered or which lay untilled because of Mr. Mugabe's onslaught against white farms. Farmers are selling off their herds of cattle believing that they risk losing them to Mr. Mugabe's supporters."
But it isn't just the disruption of food production that has put Zimbabwe on the brink of total collapse. Human rights workers have told the BBC that there is escalating oppression by the government and a situation where the rule of law is disappearing.
Why should the world community care? Because it is inhumane not to, and because it will be much more expensive to rebuild the nation after Mugabe has destroyed it.