CBS’s Couric: Zimbabwe Dictator Departed From Marxist ‘Hope and Promise’

Katie Couric, CBS On Tuesday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric reported on Zimbabwe’s opposition leader dropping out of an election against the nation’s socialist dictator, Robert Mugabe, and lamented how: "The fear and danger that now pervades the streets of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe is a tragic departure from the hope and promise that began with his landslide victory nearly 30 years ago." File footage of an unidentified reporter covering Mugabe’s 1980 election followed: "A self-described Marxist has won the right to form the first government of the new state of Zimbabwe."

Couric continued to describe Mugabe’s promising rise to power:

When Robert Mugabe was first elected in 1980, he was a hero. He was seen as one of Africa's most promising black leaders...The son of a carpenter, the revolutionary and former school teacher said he had, quote, "inherited the jewel of Africa." A country rich in resources, Zimbabwe claimed independence from Britain in 1965 when it was known as Rhodesia. During the '80s, Zimbabwe's government received international support...at a time its neighbor, South Africa, practiced apartheid. The country's economic condition and public health improved. But in the '90s, Mugabe became more authoritarian. This one-time revolutionary squashed all opposition and faced charges of cronyism and corruption.

Despite seeming to be surprised that Mugabe’s Marxist policies didn’t work out, Couric did highlight the regime’s brutality: "The country has been in economic free fall since 2000. Six years ago Mugabe ordered all white commercial farmers to abandon their farms with no compensation. Once Africa's bread basket, the country now relies on outside food programs, and half the population is undernourished..."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

6:41PM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: We want to take a special look tonight at Zimbabwe, a country in turmoil. The State Department said today that if Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe goes ahead with Friday's runoff election, the world will reject his rule. In the last three months soldiers and armed gangs have killed dozens of Mugabe's opponents. And this week, fearing for his life and others, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the election, leaving 12 million people without a choice. Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare. Earlier I spoke with him by phone and asked about Mugabe's statement today that he is not in danger.

MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: I have been arrested, I've been stopped at roadblocks. I have been treated like a common criminal -- a common criminal and not as a leading contender in this campaign. So I don't believe him. He may be saying one thing for public consumption, but certainly may act in another manner.

COURIC: In fact, Mr. Tsvangirai, what kind of violence have you heard about or witnessed against those individuals opposing Mugabe?

TSVANGIRAI: Just after the March 29 election, Mr. Mugabe embarked on a military rollout plan to target MDC supporters using the military militias in order to kill, maim and beat everyone into submission. This has been the incidences of violence, raping, murder and beatings which has resulted in thousands needing hospitalization. But I think over 85 deaths have been reported. So -- and over 200 people -- 200,000 people internally displaced. This is the extent of the callous disregard by Mugabe of the people of Zimbabwe.

COURIC: The fear and danger that now pervades the streets of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe is a tragic departure from the hope and promise that began with his landslide victory nearly 30 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A self-described Marxist has won the right to form the first government of the new state of Zimbabwe.

COURIC: When Robert Mugabe was first elected in 1980, he was a hero. He was seen as one of Africa's most promising black leaders.

ROBERT MUGABE: We must now all of us work for unity, whether we have won the elections or lost them.

COURIC: The son of a carpenter, the revolutionary and former school teacher said he had, quote, "inherited the jewel of Africa." A country rich in resources, Zimbabwe claimed independence from Britain in 1965 when it was known as Rhodesia. During the '80s, Zimbabwe's government received international support-

MUGABE: Thanks.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Very glad to have you here.

COURIC: -at a time its neighbor, South Africa, practiced apartheid. The country's economic condition and public health improved. But in the '90s, Mugabe became more authoritarian. This one-time revolutionary squashed all opposition and faced charges of cronyism and corruption. The country has been in economic free fall since 2000. Six years ago Mugabe ordered all white commercial farmers to abandon their farms with no compensation. Once Africa's bread basket, the country now relies on outside food programs, and half the population is undernourished. Four out of five Zimbabweans are unemployed, and inflation here is the world's worst, an astounding 355,000 percent.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: A woman has a one in 16 chance of dying in childbirth in Zimbabwe. Half of children are malnourished. The life expectancy has dropped from 63 to 36.

COURIC: Last March, Zimbabweans took their despair to the voting booth when they elected opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The 84-year-old Mugabe came in a close second and stepped up his brutal campaign to keep himself in power. A runoff election is to be held on Friday, but Mugabe will be unopposed. Tsvangirai pulled out of the race. What would you say to your supporters, those who see you, or had seen you as a real possibility for change?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, my message is very, very simple, that we went to an election in March, a relatively peaceful election, and the people spoke. They -- we won the parliamentary election. We won the presidential election. And we want to thank our supporters for that support. What is happening at this runoff election is not an election. Mugabe declared war, and we have said that we don't want to be part of that war. If he wants to go and rule by decree, let him. But I cannot go to the state house over dead bodies and women's limbs having been chopped by axes and hacksaws. That is not the kind of political future we would like to create in a new Zimbabwe.

COURIC: And late tonight, Mugabe said the world can, quote, "shout as loud as it likes," but he will not cancel the runoff election.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC