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Zimbabwe's Continuing Tragedy

Newspaper reports from Zimbabwe generally do not have the power to shock us anymore, but read this from today's New York Times:

Zimbabwean authorities confiscated a truck loaded with 20 tons of American food aid for poor schoolchildren and ordered that the wheat and pinto beans aboard be handed out to supporters of President Robert Mugabe at a political rally instead.

It's an excellent piece, particularly this surreal back-and-forth, which apears to be almost directly lifted from Evelyn Waugh's Scoop:

The food aid that was confiscated was on a truck that began its rounds last Thursday, but that had a mechanical breakdown and wound up seeking a safe haven by parking overnight at the Bambazonke police station, American officials said.

At one of the schools on those rounds, the truck’s driver, a Zimbabwean, was approached by police officers and war veterans led by an army colonel. They informed him that they had been sent by the governor of Manicaland Province, Tinaye Chigudu, and accused the driver of trying to bribe people with food, Mr. McGee said.

“The group threatened the driver and forced him to return to the Bambazonke police station,” Mr. McGee said, calling it a hijacking.

Mr. McGee said officials with the nongovernmental organization, which he declined to name publicly for fear it would be harassed, arrived within hours. They were not allowed into the station until the rally was over. They were not allowed to file a report either, but were instead referred to the Mutare rural district police headquarters.

At that station, the officials told the police what had happened, but were given no copy of any report to document their complaint.

Wayne Bvudzijena, spokesman for Zimbabwe’s national police, did not respond to the substance of Mr. McGee’s charge when contacted on his cellphone on Wednesday, but instead contended that there was no place named Bambazonke in Zimbabwe.

“If you can go back to the honorable ambassador and verify your facts, madam,” Mr. Bvudzijena said, then hung up.

In an interview, Mr. Kagurabadza, the former mayor of nearby Mutare, confirmed that Bambazonke did exist. It also appears on a recent report of parliamentary constituencies by election monitors. But when the American ambassador, Mr. McGee, and Karen Freeman, the Usaid mission director in Zimbabwe, met Tuesday with a senior official at the Foreign Ministry, they were presented with a similar denial.

Mr. McGee said the official told them, “I’ve never head of this place Bambazonke." [Italics Mine]

Over to you, Alex Massie.

--Isaac Chotiner