National Geographic : 2013 May
84 national geographic • May 2013 withdrew from the race, and Mugabe declared himself the winner. Thabo Mbeki, then presi- dent of South Africa and a bafflingly uncritical Mugabe supporter, persuaded the two men to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. Mugabe retained control of the mines, the army, and the police and intelligence services—in other words, everything that ensured his continued dominance. Tsvangirai inherited the ministries of finance, education, health, environment—in other words, everything that ensured he couldn’t run away with power. A tenuous purgatory of waiting ensued—wait- ing for Mugabe’s grip on power to ease, waiting for Mugabe to die (he was born in 1924). But in spite of rumored puffy ankles—cancer was one of the whispered speculations—Mugabe appeared as robust as ever. In 2010 Foreign Policy magazine named Mugabe the second worst dictator in the world, after North Korea’s late leader Kim Jong Il. In 2012 the Washington, D.C.-based non- profit organization the Fund for Peace ranked Zimbabwe fifth in its annual Failed States Index. Still, when I arrived in the country in mid- October 2012, things in the capital, Harare, seemed to be business as usual. An influx of diamond money—the 2006 discovery of dia- monds in the east of the country has been called the biggest find of its kind—had lent a Botoxed sheen to the place: adoption of the U.S. dollar had simplified trade, new cars were on the roads, shops were full of South African imports, man- sions mushroomed behind massive walls in the suburbs beyond State House. But beneath the impression of regularity, dis- quiet remained. Ahead of tentatively scheduled elections in July 2013, ZANU-PF youth gangs were stirring in densely populated market cen- ters; on international television ZANU-PF officials were blatantly threatening that they would not support a Tsvangirai win. At the same time head- lines reported Tsvangirai’s domestic intrigues, culminating in his recent marriage to Elizabeth Macheka, daughter of a ZANU-PF central com- mittee guru. His position as a robust alternative to Mugabe seemed in question. Meanwhile personnel from the Central In- telligence Organisation (CIO) were reportedly monitoring citizens’ activities everywhere. “Yes, there are people who say I should watch out,” Tafadzwa Muzondo, a 33-year-old Zimbabwean playwright told me. “But I have to do my duty. I am a citizen first. I am an artist second. And isn’t it better to say at the end of your life that you tried to make a difference?” Muzondo had suggested we meet behind the National Gallery in the Harare Gardens. It was a steamy morn- ing, and thunderstorms threatened, but we stayed out in the open, the better to spot any government-sponsored eavesdroppers, although I didn’t see how a dried-up patch of lawn was going to do much to protect us against the CIO. But Muzondo had written a play that had pro- voked the government, and he was talking to a Morgan Tsvangirai, opposition leader and the current prime minister, has been arrested numerous times and once nearly beaten to death by Mugabe’s henchmen. Monthly inflation reached 79.6 billion percent in November 2008, before foreign currencies were adopted, stabilizing retail prices.