It looks like the worst country in the world is about to get better, or maybe worse!

Writer and commentator Stu Tarlowe, in an American Thinker article a while back and just recently on my radio program, echoed an observation that “Africa’s breadbasket has become a basket case.” Tarlowe was referring to the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, formerly the agricultural and industrial powerhouse named Rhodesia, which autocrat Robert Mugabe has both comically and catastrophically misruled since 1987.

What gives me the right to call Zimbabwe the “worst country in the world” so long as there’s North Korea? You’ve got a point, but I’m not going to concede much beyond a tie. Along with the abject absence of human rights and the dreadful presence of police mistreatment and torture, in Zimbabwe you’ve got a country where the leader openly proclaims: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man!” and “It’s the job of our party to strike fear into the hearts of all white men!”

It’s also a land where nobody stoops down to retrieve a $6 billion note from the gutter. And who can blame the non-stoopers? That $6 billion note won’t cover half the cost of a cup of coffee. Zimbabwe printed so much money that its own currency became worthless and had to be abandoned. Commerce in Zimbabwe is conducted using American dollars, euros and the currencies of South Africa and Botswana.

Cuban-born Humberto Fontova does his job as “freedom writer” on Cuban affairs well enough to be called a Cuban “freedom fighter.” In explaining what the famous and universally misunderstood American “embargo” of Cuba really is, Fontova informs us that it simply means that, after having been stiffed by the Castro regime royally and regularly, Cuba’s American suppliers demand payment in advance. And all the while we were excoriated for our brutal “embargo” on Cuba, we were never lower than the No. 2 food supplier for the Communist island.

Fontova has to note that “Communist Cuba has the worst credit record of any country in the world except Zimbabwe.” North Korea may serve as the greatest threat to peace in the world. But in terms of race-hatred and mistreatment of its own people, you’ve got to let me include Zimbabwe among the worst this planet offers.

Within the past week the Zimbabwe military confined Mugabe to house arrest and offered curious explanations to the outside world as to what was happening. “It’s not really a coup,” plaintively protested a Zimbabwe news source. It’s more like a “bloodless transition.” Other news flashes from inside Zimbabwe offered even funnier explanations, such as “transitional improvement” and similar confections.

Zimbabwe’s current “metaphysical alleviation” (or whatever it is) reminds us of the heroic but futile efforts of the white farmers to become minority citizens of the new Zimbabwe, a struggle the world ignored to assuage its guilt over anti-black realities elsewhere. Those white farmers of Zimbabwe faced the most vicious state-backed race-hatred since Nazi Germany. Husbands, wives, children and allied but overwhelmed neighbors all did their best, farming by day and fighting off state-encouraged marauders by night and day. It was pitiful. Ignorance is not usually a valuable journalistic device, but I’ll volunteer. After having known personally some of those white Rhodesian hopefuls I now have to admit I don’t know if there’s a single white-owned farm left in Zimbabwe.

I do know that the ostensible reason for Mugabe’s ouster is that he fired his second-in-command, Emmerson Mnangawa, to make room for his wife, Lady Grace Mugabe, because at the age of 93 Mugabe thought he should bring in fresh insight and new perspectives. How comfortable would you be living under the second-in-command who sat there while the commander-in-chief ruined everything?

Even though Mnangawa, nicknamed “The Crocodile,” may succeed Mugabe (he’s already replaced Mugabe as head of the ruling party), don’t look for an end to the heavy-handed tyranny that has marked Mugabe’s long rule. Mnangawa was Mugabe’s “enforcer” and head of the secret police, and is said to have presided over the killings of some 20,000 of his countrymen. We’ll have to see what develops.

I have two defenses for the way I end this column. A) It’s a good story, and B) It’s true.

A chartered bus driver in Zimbabwe was hired to deliver a busload of mentally ill patients to an insane asylum. En route he felt the need for a drink. He stopped at a roadside saloon, and when he returned to his bus he saw that his passengers had scattered to the four winds. How did he solve things?

He proceeded to the next bus stop and yelled, “All rides are free today. Hop aboard.” The happy clamor filled the air. He then pressed pedal-to-the-metal onward to the asylum, whereupon he disgorged his passengers and said to the asylum authorities, “This is a strange group. They have outlandish delusions of who they are and where they’re supposed to be. Good luck with them.”

Good old Stu Tarlowe, faithful commentator to the very end, quipped that most if not all of those purloined people might be better off in the asylum than in the craziness that is life in Zimbabwe.

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