In an era of international justice, dictators with blood on their hands are afraid that if they relinquish power, they will end up prosecuted, like Slobodan Milosevic, or humiliated, like Augusto Pinochet. Mugabe knows that his massacres have been carefully documented by survivors and human-rights investigators, and he is right to be nervous. Tsvangirai, for his part, might be willing to accept a deal in which Mugabe was given a golden parachute to Nigeria (as Charles Taylor, of Liberia, was), but he knows that if he does so, his many Ndebele supporters may revolt. "I cannot stand up now and say, 'We will forgive Mugabe,' because I will be dead," Tsvangirai told me. "But neither can I say, 'We are going to send you to the Hague,' because he will say, 'Let me burn down the building.'"
10. Blame the imperialists
Following the lead of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the United States and Europe have imposed sanctions against Mugabe and seventy-four members of his inner circle, freezing their assets, imposing a travel ban, and forbidding arms sales. But other nations, including Malaysia, Libya, and Venezuela, have been openly supportive of the Mugabe regime. Mugabe swats away American and European criticism by citing imperial sins. "How can these countries who have stolen land from the Red Indians, the Aborigines, and the Eskimos dare to tell us what to do with our land?" he has asked. Like Castro in Cuba, Mugabe is admired in the developing world for flouting the Western powers.
The foreigner who could wield the most influence in Zimbabwe is South African President Thabo Mbeki. But Mbeki, who has insisted on a "softly, softly" approach, often seems simply to be stalling in Mugabe's behalf. In September, with Zimbabwe in its worst condition since Mugabe came to power, Mbeki said that things had normalized. Although his African National Congress once benefited from sanctions in the fight against apartheid, he has called for the termination of those against Zimbabwe. When, in 2002, Tony Blair persuaded the Commonwealth of Nations to suspend Zimbabwe, Mbeki urged that Britain be the one to exit. "Those inspired by notions of white supremacy are free to depart if they feel that membership of the association reduces them to a repugnant position imposed by inferior blacks," he said.
President Mbeki and other African heads of state are torn. On the one hand, they know that an "African renaissance" can't come about while Mugabe and people like him continue to wield power. On the other, they are power-hungry themselves, and they are terrified that their own liberation-era organizations will be left behind in such a renaissance. So they close ranks on racial and anti-imperial grounds.
But although Mugabe's neighbors in Africa may applaud the President at international conferences, they are privately taking steps to protect themselves against the Zimbabwean catastrophe. So many Zimbabwean refugees now flood South Africa that Mbeki grants entry only to those who can produce a bank statement proving financial solvency or a deposit of $Z 300,000. His government also deports several thousand illegal Zimbabwean immigrants each week. Botswana has found itself so overrun by desperate Zimbabweans that it is erecting an electric fence 300 miles long. Meanwhile, Mugabe's anti-imperialist rhetoric, though an expedient balm at home, only deepens Zimbabwe's isolation from potential lenders, investors, and tourists.