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Zimbabwe’s Chidzero: UN Job Would Satisfy Yearning For Diplomat’s Life With AM-United Nations

November 21, 1991

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Bernard Chidzero, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, spoke privately for years about his dream of escaping the rough-and-tumble of African politics and returning to the world of diplomacy.

But President Robert Mugabe constantly urged Chidzero to stay and manage the economy. No attractive diplomatic opportunity surfaced until Chidzero made his bid for the top U.N. post - at the urging of Mugabe and other African leaders who believed he could become the first U.N. secretary-general from Africa.

The United Nations is familiar territory for Chidzero, 62, the son of a migrant farmworker from Malawi.

After earning a doctorate in political science from Canada’s McGill University in 1958, Chidzero worked for U.N. agencies from 1960 until Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980.

He was serving as deputy secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development when Mugabe invited him home to serve in Zimbabwe’s government.

Chidzero’s wry wit, patience and love of debate helped him survive the political infighting of Zimbabwe’s first years of independence.

A Roman Catholic, Chidzero was raised in a simple hut on a farm belonging to a white man. His rise from extreme poverty to power and wealth has given him an understanding of the gap between the developed and developing worlds.

An economic conservative, Chidzero repeatedly advised against adopting the socialist economic policies that were later to fail in eastern Europe. He faced constant pressure from leftists, including Mugabe, to impose central controls on the economy.

After the collapse of communism raised doubts about socialist policies, Chidzero steered Zimbabwe into the free market and to enlist aid from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

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