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Zimbabwe at War

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By Stephen Gowans

This is a war between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries; between nationalists and quislings; between Zimbabwean patriots and the US and Britain.

Should an election be carried out when a country is under sanctions and it is has been made clear to the electorate that the sanctions will be lifted only if the opposition party is elected? Should a political party which is the creation of, and is funded by, hostile foreign forces, and whose program is to unlatch the door from within to provide free entry to foreign powers to establish a neo-colonial rule, be allowed to freely operate? Should the leaders of an opposition movement that takes money from hostile foreign powers and who have made plain their intention to unseat the government by any means available, be charged with treason? These are the questions that now face (have long faced) the embattled government of Zimbabwe, and which it has answered in its own way, and which other governments, at other times, and have answered in theirs.

The American revolutionaries, Thomas Jefferson among them, answered similar questions through harsh repression of the monarchists who threatened to reverse the gains of the American Revolution. There were 600,000 to 700,000 Tories, loyal to the king and hostile to the revolutionaries, who stood as a threat to the revolution. To neutralize the threat, the new government denied the Tories any platform from which to organize a counter-revolution. They were forbidden to own a press, to teach, to mount a pulpit. The professions were closed to them. They were denied the right to vote and hold political office. The property of wealthy Tories was confiscated. Many loyalists were beaten, others jailed without trial. Some were summarily executed. And 100,000 were driven into exile. Hundreds of thousands of people were denied advocacy rights, rights to property, and suffrage rights, in order to enlarge the liberties of a larger number of people who had been oppressed. [1]

Zimbabwe, too, is a revolutionary society. Through armed struggle, Zimbabweans, like Americans before them, had thrown off the yoke of British colonialism. Rhodesian apartheid was smashed. Patterns of land ownership were democratized. Over 300,000 previously landless families were given land once owned by a mere 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, mostly descendents of settlers who had taken the land by force. In other African countries, land reform has been promised, but little has been achieved. In Namibia, the government began expropriating a handful of white owned farms in 2004 under pressure from landless peasants, but progress has been glacially slow. In South Africa, blacks own just four percent of the farmland. The ANC government promised that almost one-third of arable land would be redistributed by 2000, but the target has been pushed back to 2015, and no one believes it will be reached. The problem is, African countries, impoverished by colonialism, and held down by neo-colonialism, haven’t the money to buy the land needed for redistribution. And the European countries that once colonized Africa, are unwilling to help out, except on terms that will see democratization of land ownership pushed off into a misty future, and only on terms that will guarantee the continued domination of Africa by the West. Britain promised to fund Zimbabwe’s land redistribution program, if liberation fighters laid down their arms and accepted a political settlement. Britain, under Tony Blair, reneged, finding excuses to wriggle out of commitments made by the Thatcher government. And so Zimbabwe’s government acted to reverse the legacy of colonialism, expropriating land without compensation (but for improvements made by the former owner.) Compensation, Zimbabwe’s government declared with unassailable justification, would have to be paid by Britain.

In recent years, the government has taken steps to democratize the country further. Legislation has been formulated to mandate that majority ownership of the country’s mines and enterprises be placed in the hands of the indigenous black majority. The goal is to have Zimbabweans achieve real independence, not simply the independence of having their own flag, but of owning their land and resources. As a Canadian prime minister once said of his own country, once you lose control of the economic levers, you lose sovereignty. Zimbabwe isn’t trying to hang onto control of its economic levers, but to gain control of them for the first time. Jabulani Sibanda, the leader of the association of former guerrillas who fought for the country’s liberation, explains:

“Our country was taken away in 1890. We fought a protracted struggle to recover it and the process is still on. We gained political independence in 1980, got our land after 2000, but we have not yet reclaimed our minerals and natural resources. The fight for freedom is still on until everything is recovered for the people.” [2]

The revolutionary government’s program has met with fierce opposition – from the tiny elite of land owners who had monopolized the country’s best land; from former colonial oppressor Britain, whose capitalists largely controlled the economy; from the United States, whose demand that it be granted an open door everywhere has been defied by Zimbabwe’s tariff restrictions, investment performance requirements, government ownership of business enterprises and economic indigenization policies; and from countries that don’t want Zimbabwe’s land democratization serving as an inspiration to oppressed indigenous peoples under their control. The tiny former land-owning elite wants its former privileges restored; British capital wants its investments in Zimbabwe protected; US capital wants Zimbabwe’s doors flung open to investment and exports; and Germany seeks to torpedo Zimbabwe’s land reforms to guard against inspiring “other states in Southern Africa, including Namibia, where the heirs of German colonialists would be affected.” [3]

The Mugabe government’s rejecting the IMF’s program of neo-liberal restructuring in the late 1990s, after complying initially and discovering the economy was being ruined; its dispatch of troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help the young government of Laurent Kabila defend itself against a US and British-backed invasion by Uganda and Rwanda; and its refusal to safeguard property rights in its pursuit of land democratization and economic independence, have made it anathema to the former Rhodesian agrarian elite, and in the West, to the corporate lawyers, investment bankers and hereditary capitalist families who dominate the foreign policies of the US, Britain and their allies. Mugabe’s status as persona non grata in the West (and anti-imperialist hero in Africa) can be understood in an anecdote. When Mugabe became prime minister in 1980, former leader of the Rhodesian state, Ian Smith, offered to help the tyro leader. “Mugabe was delighted to accept his help and the two men worked happily together for some time, until one day Mugabe announced plans for sweeping nationalization.” From that point forward, Smith never talked to Mugabe. [4]

Overthrowing the Revolution

The British, the US and the former Rhodesians have used two instruments to try to overthrow Zimbabwe’s revolution: The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, and civil society. The MDC was founded in September 1999 in response to Harare announcing it would expropriate Rhodesian farms for redistribution to landless black families. The party was initially bankrolled by the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other European governments, including Germany, through the Social Democratic Party’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Ebert having been the party leader who conspired with German police officials to have Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht murdered, to smother an emerging socialist revolution in Germany in 1918.) Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been elevated from his position as secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to champion the West’s counter-revolutionary agenda within Zimbabwe, acknowledged in February 2002 that the MDC was financed by European governments and corporations, which funneled money through British political consultants, BSMG. [5] Today, the government of Zimbabwe charges NGOs with acting as conduits through which Western governments pass money to the opposition party.

The MDC’s orientation is decidedly toward people and forces of European origin. South African-based journalist Peta Thornycroft, hardly a Mugabe supporter, lamented in an interview on Western government-sponsored short wave radio SW Africa that:

‘When the MDC started in 2000, what a pity that they were addressing people in Sandton, mostly white people in Sandton north of Johannesburg instead of being in Dar es Salaam or Ghana or Abuja. They failed to make contact with Africa for so long. They were in London, we’ve just seen it again, Morgan Tsvangirai’s just been in America. Why isn’t he in Cairo? Maybe he needs financial support and he can’t get it outside of America or the UK and the same would go for (leader of an alternative MDC faction, Arthur) Mutambara. They have not done enough in Africa. [6]

A look at the MDC’s program quickly reveals why the party’s leaders spend most of their time traipsing to Western capitals calling for sanctions and gathering advice on how to overthrow the Mugabe government. First, the MDC is opposed to Zimbabwe’s land democratization program. Defeating the government’s plans to expropriate the land of the former Rhodesian elite was one of the main impetuses for the party’s formation. Right through to the 2002 election campaign the party insisted on returning farms to the expropriated Rhodesian settlers. [7]

The MDC and Land Reform

These days Tsvangirai equivocates on land reform, recognizing that speaking too openly about reversing the land democratization program, or taxing black Zimbabweans to compensate expropriated Rhodesian settlers for land the Rhodesians and other British settlers took by force, is detrimental to his party’s success. But there’s no mistaking that the land redistribution program’s life would be cut short by a MDC victory. “The government of Zimbabwe,” wrote Tsvangirai, in a March 23, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial, “must be committed to protecting persons and property rights.” This means “compensation for those who lost their possessions in an unjust way,” i.e., compensation for the expropriated Rhodesians. Zimbabwe’s program of expropriating land without compensation, he concluded, is just not on: it “scares away investors, domestic and international.” [8] This is the same reasoning the main backer of Tsvangirai’s party, the British government, used to justify backing out of its commitment to fund land redistribution. The British government was reneging on its earlier promise, said then secretary of state for international development Claire Short in a letter to Zimbabwe’s minister of agriculture and lands, Kumbirai Kangai, because of the damage Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform proposals would do to investor confidence. Lurking none too deftly behind Tsvangirai’s and London’s solicitude over impaired investor confidence are the interests of foreign investors themselves. The Mugabe government’s program is to wrest control of the country’s land, resources and economy from the hands of foreign investors and Rhodesian settlers; the program of the MDC and its backers is to put it back. That’s no surprise, considering the MDC was founded by Europe, backed by the Rhodesians, and bankrolled by capitalist governments and enterprises that have an interest in protecting their existing investments in the country and opening up opportunities for new ones.

Civil Society

There is a countless number of Western NGOs that either operate in Zimbabwe or operate outside the country with a focus on Zimbabwe. While the Western media invariably refer to them as independent, they are anything but. Almost all are funded by Western governments, wealthy individuals, and corporations. Some NGOs say that while they take money from Western sources, they’re not influenced by them. This is probably true, to a point. Funders don’t dangle funding as a bribe, so much as select organizations that can be counted on to behave in useful ways of their own volition. Of course, it may be true that some organizations recognize that handsome grants are available for organizations with certain orientations, and adapt accordingly. But for the most part, civil society groups that advance the overseas agendas of Western governments and corporations, whether they know it or not, and not necessarily in a direct fashion, find that funding finds them.

Western governments fund dozens of NGOs to discredit the government in Harare, alienate it of popular support, and mobilize mass resistance under the guise of promoting democracy and human rights. Their real purpose is to bring down the government and its nationalist policies. The idea that Britain, which, as colonial oppressor, denied blacks suffrage and dispossessed them of their land, is promoting rights and democracy in Zimbabwe is laughable. The same can be said of Canada. The Canadian government doles out grants to NGOs through an organization called Rights and Democracy. Rights and Democracy is currently funding the anti-Zanu-PF Media Institute of Southern Africa, along with the US government and a CIA-linked right wing US think tank. While sanctimoniously parading about on the world stage as a champion of rights and democracy, Canada denied its own aboriginal people suffrage up to 1960. For a century, it enforced an assimilation policy that tore 150,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placed them in residential schools where their language and culture were banned. Canadian citizens like to think their own country is a model of moral rectitude, but are blind to the country’s deplorable record in the treatment of its own aboriginal people; it’s denial of the liberty and property rights of Canadian citizens of Japanese heritage during WWII; and in recent years, its complicity in overthrowing the Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and participation in the occupation of Afghanistan. As for the United States, its violations of the rights of people throughout the world have become so frequent and far-reaching that only the deaf, dumb or insane would believe the US government has the slightest interest in promoting democracy and human rights anywhere.

Consider, then, the record of the West’s self-proclaimed promoters of democracy and human rights against this: the reason there’s universal suffrage in Zimbabwe and equality rights for blacks, is because the same forces that are being routinely decried by Western governments and their NGO extensions fought for, bled for, and died for the principle of universal suffrage. “We taught them the principle of one man, one vote which did not exist” under the British, Zimbabwe’s president points out. “Democracy,” he adds, “also means self-rule, not rule by outsiders.” [9]

Regime Change Agenda

The charge that the West is supporting civil society groups in Zimbabwe to bring down the government isn’t paranoid speculation or the demagogic raving of a government trying to cling to power by mobilizing anti-imperialist sentiment. It’s a matter of public record. The US government has admitted that “it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition…trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations…to bring about a change of administration.” [10] Additionally, in an April 5, 2007 report, the US Department of State revealed that it had:

• “Sponsored public events that presented economic and social analyses discrediting the government’s excuse for its failed policies” (i.e, absolving US and EU sanctions for undermining the country’s economy);

• “Sponsored…and supported…several township newspapers” and worked to expand the listener base of Voice of America’s Studio 7 radio station. (The State Department had been distributing short-wave radios to Zimbabweans to facilitate the project of Zimbabwean public opinion being shaped from abroad by Washington’s propagandists).

Last year, the US State Department set aside US$30 million for these activities. [11] Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the UK had increased its funding for civil society organizations operating in Zimbabwe from US$5 million to US$6.5 million. [12] Dozens of other governments, corporations and capitalist foundations shower civil society groups with money, training and support to set up and run “independent” media to attack the government, “independent” election monitoring groups to discredit the outcome of elections Zanu-PF wins, and underground groups which seek to make the country ungovernable through civil disobedience campaigns. One such group is Zvakwana, “an underground movement that aims to resist – and eventually undermine” the Zanu-PF government. “With a second, closely related group called Sokwanele, Zvakwana’s members specialize in anonymous acts of civil disobedience.” [13] Both groups, along with Zubr in Belarus and Ukraine’s Pora, whose names, in English, mean ‘enough’, “take their inspiration from Otpor, the movement that played a major role in ousting Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia.” [14] One Sokwanele member is “a white conservative businessman expressing a passion for freedom, tradition, polite manners and the British royals,” [15] hardly a black-clad anarchist motivated by a philosophical opposition to “authoritarian rule,” but revealing of what lies beneath the thin veneer of radicalism that characterizes so many civil society opposition groups in Zimbabwe. In the aforementioned April 5, 2007 US State Department report, Washington revealed that it had “supported workshops to develop youth leadership skills necessary to confront social injustice through non-violent strategies,” the kinds of skills members of Zvakwana and Sokwanele are equipped with to destabilize Zimbabwe.

In addition to funding received from the US and Britain, Zimbabwe’s civil society groups also receive money from the German, Australian and Canadian governments, the Ford Foundation, Freedom House, the Albert Einstein Institution, the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, Liberal International, the Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers, South African Breweries, and billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute. All of these funding sources, including the governments, are dominated by Western capitalist ruling classes. It would be truly naïve to believe, for example, that the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict and Freedom House, both headed by Peter Ackerman, member of the US ruling class Council on Foreign Relations, a New York investment banker and former right hand man to Michael Milken of junk bond fame, is lavishing money and training on civil society groups in Zimbabwe out of humanitarian concern. According to Noam Chomksy and Edward Herman, Freedom House has ties to the CIA, “and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing.” [16]

Political lucre doesn’t come from Western sources alone. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation awards a prize yearly for “achievement in African leadership” to a sub-Saharan African leader who has left office in the previous three years. The prize is worth $500,000 per year for the first 10 years and $200,000 per year thereafter – in other words, cash for life. Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire who founded Celtel International, a cellphone service that operates in 15 African countries, established the award to “encourage African leaders to govern well,” something, apparently, Ibrahim believes African leaders don’t do now and need to be encouraged to do. What Ibrahim means by govern well is clear in who was selected as the first (and so far only) winner: Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano. He received the prize for overseeing Mozambique’s “transition from Marxism to a free market economy.” [17] While there may seem to be nothing particularly amiss in this, imagine billionaire speculator George Soros establishing a foundation to bribe US and British politicians with cash for life to “govern well.” It wouldn’t elude many of us that Soros’ definition of “govern well” would almost certainly align to a tee with his own interests, and that any politician eager to live a comfortable life after politics would be keen to keep Soros’ interests in mind. Under these conditions there would be no question of democracy prevailing; we would be living in a plutocracy, in which those with great wealth could dangle the carrot of a cash award for life to get their way. As it happens, this kind of thing is happening now in Western democracies (that is, plutocracies.) Handsomely paid positions as corporate lobbyists, corporate executives and members of corporate boards await Western politicians who play their cards right. There are Mo Ibrahims all over, who go by the names Ford, GM, Exxon, General Electric, Lockheed-Martin, Microsoft, IBM and so on.

Threat to US Foreign policy

Why does the government of the US consider Zimbabwe to pose “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States”? The answer says as much about the foreign policy of the United States as it does about Zimbabwe. The goal of US foreign policy is to provide profit-making opportunities to US investors and corporations. This is accomplished by pressuring, cajoling, bribing, blackmailing, threatening, subverting, destabilizing and where possible, using violence, to get foreign countries to lower or remove tariff barriers, lift restrictions on foreign investment, deny preferential treatment to domestic investors, allow repatriation of profits, and provide the US military access to the country. The right of the US military to operate on foreign soil is necessary to provide Washington with local muscle to protect US investments, ensure unimpeded access to strategic raw materials (oil, importantly), and to keep doors open to continued US economic penetration. It is also necessary to have forward operating bases from which to threaten countries whose governments aren’t open to US exports and investments.

The Zanu-PF government’s policies have run afoul of US foreign policy goals in a number of ways. In 1998, “Zimbabwe – along with Angola and Namibia – was mandated by the (Southern African Development Community, a regional grouping of countries) to intervene in Congo to save a fellow SADC member country from an invasion by Uganda and Rwanda,” which were acting as proxies of the United States and Britain. [18] Both countries wanted to bring down the young government of Laurent Kabila, fearing Kabila was turning into another Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist Congolese leader whose assassination the CIA had arranged in the 1960s. Zimbabwe’s intervention, as part of the SADC contingent, foiled the Anglo-American’s plans, and earned Mugabe the enmity of ruling circles in the West.

The Zanu-PF government’s record with the IMF also threatened US foreign policy goals. From 1991 to 1995, Mugabe’s government implemented a program of structural adjustment prescribed by the IMF as a condition of receiving balance of payment support and the restructuring of its international loans. The program required the government to cut its spending deeply, fire tens of thousands of civil servants, and slash social programs. Zimbabwe’s efforts to nurture infant industries were to be abandoned. Instead, the country’s doors were to be opened to foreign investment. Harare would radically reduce taxes and forbear from any measure designed to give domestic investors a leg up on foreign competitors. The US, Germany, Japan and South Korea had become capitalist powerhouses by adopting the protectionist and import substitution policies the IMF was forbidding. The effect of the IMF program was devastating. Manufacturing employment tumbled nine percent between 1991 and 1996, while wages dropped 26 percent. Public sector employment plunged 23 percent and public sector wages plummeted 40 percent. [19] In contrast to the frequent news stories today on Zimbabwe’s fragile economy, attributed disingenuously to “Mugabe’s disastrous land policies”, the Western press barely noticed the devastation the IMF’s disastrous economic policies brought to Zimbabwe in the 1990s. By 1996, the Mugabe government was starting to back away from the IMF prescriptions. By 1998, it was in open revolt, imposing new tariffs to protect infant industries and providing incentives to black Zimbabwean investors as part of an affirmative action program to encourage African ownership of the economy. These policies were diametrically opposed, not only to the IMF’s program of structural adjustment, but to the goals of US foreign policy. By 1999, the break was complete. The IMF refused to extend loans to Zimbabwe. By February, 2001, Zimbabwe was in arrears to the Bretton Woods institution. Ten months later, the US introduced the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery, a dagger through the heart of Zimbabwe’s economy. “Zimbabwe,” says Mugabe, “is not a friend of the IMF and is unlikely to be its friend in the future.” [20]

Zanu-PF’s willingness to ignore the hallowed status of private property by expropriating the land of the former Rhodesians to democratize the country’s pattern of land ownership also ran afoul of US foreign policy goals. Because US foreign policy seeks to protect US ownership abroad, any program that promotes expropriation as a means of advancing democratic goals must be considered hostile. Kenyan author Mukoma Wa Nguyi invites us to think of Zimbabwe “as Africa’s Cuba. Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is not a… military threat to the US and Britain. Like Cuba, in Latin America, Zimbabwe’s crime is leading by example to show that land can be redistributed – an independence with content. If Zimbabwe succeeds, it becomes an example to African people that indeed freedom and independence can have the content of national liberation. Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is to be isolated, and if possible, a new government that is friendly to the agenda of the West is to be installed.” [21]

The Comprador Party

If Zanu-PF is willing to offend Western corporate and Rhodesian settler interests to advance the welfare of the majority of Zimbabweans, the MDC is its perfect foil. Rather than offending Western interests, the MDC seeks to accommodate them, treating the interests of foreign investors and imperialist governments as synonymous with those of the Zimbabwean majority. A MDC government would never tolerate the pursuit in Zimbabwe of the protectionist and nationalist economic programs the US used to build its own industry. The MDC’s goals, in the words of its leader, are to “encourage foreign investment” and “bring (Zimbabwe’s) abundant farmland back into health.” [22] “It is up to each of us,” Tsvangirai told a gathering of newly elected MDC parliamentarians, “to say Zimbabwe is open for business.” [23]

Encouraging foreign investment means going along with Western demands for neo-liberal restructuring. “The key to turning around Zimbabwe’s economy…is the political will needed to implement the market reforms, the IMF and others, including the United States, have been recommending for the past few years,” lectured the former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell. This means “a free-market economy and security of property to investment and economic growth.” [24]

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has developed an economic program for Zimbabwe to be rolled out if Western regime change efforts succeed. Brown says his recovery package will include measures to:

(1) help Zimbabwe restart and stabilize its economy;
(2) restructure and reduce its debt;
(3) support fair land reform. [25]

What Brown is really saying is that:

(1) Sanctions will be lifted, and the resultant economic recovery will be attributed to the MDC’s neo-liberal policies.
(2) Zimbabwe will resume the structural adjustment program Mugabe’s government rejected in the late 90s.
(3) Either land reform will be reversed or black Zimbabweans will be forced to compensate white farmers whose land was expropriated.

The reality that Brown has developed an economic program for Zimbabwe speaks volumes about who will be in charge if the MDC comes to power — not Zimbabweans, not the MDC, and not Tsvangirai, but London and Washington.

Not surprisingly, MDC economic policy is perfectly simpatico with the prescriptions of its masters. Eddie Cross, formerly vice-chairman of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, who became a MDC spokesman, explained the party’s economic plans for Zimbabwe, in advance of 2000 elections.

“We are going to fast track privatization. All 50 government parastatals will be privatized within a two-year time-frame, but we are going to go beyond that. We are going to privatize many of the functions of government. We are going to privatize the central statistical office. We are going to privatize virtually the entire school delivery system. And you know, we have looked at the numbers and we think we can get government employment down from about 300,000 at the present time to about 75,000 in five years.” [26]

Of course, the intended beneficiaries of such a program aren’t Zimbabweans, but foreign investors.

The MDC’s role as agent of Western influence in Zimbabwe doesn’t stop at promoting economic policies that cater to foreign investors. The MDC has also been active in turning the screws on Zimbabwe to undermine the economy and create disaffection and misery in order to alienate Zanu-PF of its popular support. Arguing that foreign firms are propping up the government, the MDC has actively discouraged investment. For example, Tsvangirai tried to discourage a deal between Chinese investors and the South African company Implats, that would see a US$100 million platinum refinery set up in Zimbabwe, warning that a MDC government might not honor the deal. [27] The MDC leader, true to form, was following in the footsteps of his political masters in Washington. The United States has pressed China and other countries to refrain from investing in Zimbabwe “at a time when the international community (is) trying to isolate the African state.” [28] Washington complains that “China’s growing political and commercial influence in resource-rich African nations” [29] is sabotaging its efforts to ruin Zimbabwe’s economy. More damning is the MDC’s participation in the drafting of the principal piece of US legislation aimed at torpedoing the Zimbabwean economy: The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. Passed in 2001, the act instructs “the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against–

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or

(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.” [30]

The effect of the act is to cut off all development assistance to Zimbabwe, disable lines of credit, and prevent the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from providing development assistance and balance of payment support. [31] Any African country subjected to this punishment would very soon find itself in straitened circumstances. When the legislation was ratified, US president George W. Bush said, “I hope the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law.” [32] Since effecting peaceful democratic change means, in Washington’s parlance, ousting the Zanu-PF government, and since restoring the rule of law equates, in Washingtonian terms, to forbidding the expropriation of white farm land without compensation, what Bush was really saying was that he hoped the legislation would help overthrow the government and put an end to fast-track land reform. The legislation “was co-drafted by one of the opposition MDC’s white parliamentarians in Zimbabwe, which was then introduced as a Bill in the US Congress on 8 March 2001 by the Republican senator, William Frist. The Bill was co-sponsored by the Republican rightwing senator, Jesse Helms, and the Democratic senators Hilary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Russell Feingold.” Helms, a notorious racist, had a penchant for legislation aimed at undermining countries seeking to achieve substantive democracy. “He co-authored the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the blockade on Cuba.” [33]

The Distorting Lens of the Western Media

Western reporting on Zimbabwe occurs within a framework of implicit assumptions. The assumptions act as a lens through which facts are organized, understood and distorted. Columnist and associate editor for the British newspaper The Guardian, Seamus Milne, points out that British journalists see Zimbabwe through a lens that casts the president as a barbarous despot. “The British media,” he writes, “have long since largely abandoned any attempt at impartiality in its reporting of Zimbabwe, the common assumption being that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime.” [34] If you began with these assumptions, ordinary events are interpreted within the framework the assumptions define. An egregious example is offered in how a perfectly legitimate exercise was construed and presented by Western reporters as a diabolical exercise. Zanu-PF held campaign workshops to explain what the government had achieved since independence and what it was doing to address the country’s economic crisis. The intention, according to Zimbabwe’s Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was to “educate the people on the illegal sanctions as some of them were duped to vote for the MDC in the March elections.” [35] But that’s not how the British newspaper, The Independent, saw it. “The Zimbabwean army and police,” its reporter wrote, “have been accused of setting up torture camps and organizing ‘re-education meetings’ involving unspeakable cruelty where voters are beaten and mutilated in the hope of achieving victory for President Robert Mugabe in the second round of the presidential election.” [36] Begin with the assumption that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime and campaign workshops become re-education meetings and torture camps. Note that The Independent’s reporter relied on an accusation, not on corroborated facts, and that the identity of the accuser was never revealed. The story has absolute no evidentiary value, but considerable propaganda value. The chances of many people reading the story with a skeptical eye and picking out its weaknesses are slim. What’s more likely to happen is that readers will regard the accusation as plausible because it fits with the preconceived model of Mugabe as a murderous dictator and his government as uniquely wicked. How do we know the accuser wasn’t a fellow journalist repeating gossip overheard on the street, or at MDC headquarters? How do we know the accusation wasn’t made by the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, or any one of scores of representatives of Western-funded NGOs, whose role is to discredit the Zimbabwe government? McGee is a veritable treasure trove of half-truths, innuendo, and misinformation. And yet the Western media, particularly those based in the US, have a habit of treating McGee as an impeccable source, seemingly blind to the reality that the US government is hostile to Zimbabwe’s land democratization and economic indigenization programs, that it has an interest in spinning news to discredit Harare, and that its officials have an extensive track record in lying to justify the plunder of other people’s countries. To paraphrase Caesar Zvayi, if George Bush can lie hundreds of times about Iraq, what’s to stop him (or McGee or the NGOs on the US payroll) from lying about Zimbabwe? That the Western media pass on accusations made by interested parties without so much as revealing the interest can either be regarded as shocking naiveté or a sign of the propaganda role Western media play on behalf of the corporate class that owns them. If the US and British governments and Western media are against the democratization and economic indigenization programs of Zanu-PF, it’s because they’re dominated by a capitalist ruling class whose interests are against those of the Zimbabwean majority.

It is typical of Western reporting to attribute the actions of the Zanu-PF government to the personal characteristics of its leader: his alleged hunger for power for power’s-sake; demagogy; incompetence in matters related to economic management; and brutality. The government’s actions, by contrast, are never attributed to the circumstances, the conditions in which the government is forced to maneuver, or to the demands of survival in the face of the West’s predatory pressures. This isn’t unique to Zimbabwe; every leader the West wants to overthrow is vilified as a “strongman,” “dictator,” “thug,” “war criminal,” “murderer,” or “warlord” and sometimes all of these things. All of the leader’s actions are to be understood as originating in the leader’s deeply flawed character. If Iran is building a uranium enrichment capability, it’s not because it seeks an independent source of fuel for a budding civilian nuclear energy program, but because the country’s president is to be understood as a raving anti-Semite who seeks to acquire nuclear weapons to carry out Hitler’s final solution by wiping Israel off the face of the map. The same reduction of international affairs to a moral struggle between the West and what always turns out to be a nationalist, socialist or communist country headed by a leader whose actions are invariably traced by Western reporters to the leader’s evil psychology applies equally to Zimbabwe. If the Mugabe government has banned political rallies, it is not because the rallies have been used by the opposition as an occasion to firebomb police stations, but because the president has an unquenchable thirst for power and will brook no opposition. If opposition activists have been arrested, it’s not because they’ve committed crimes, but because the leader is repressive and dictatorial. If Morgan Tsvangirai is beaten by police, it’s not because he tried to break through police lines, but because the leader is a brutal dictator and ordered Tsvangirai’s beating because that’s what brutal dictators do. If an opposition leader is arrested and charged with treason, it’s not because there is evidence of treason, but because the president is gagging the opposition to cling to power because it is in the nature of dictators to do so. If the economy falls into crisis, it’s not because the West has cut off the country’s access to credit, but because of the leader’s incompetence. If agricultural production drops, it’s not due to the drought, electricity shortages and rising fuel costs that have bedeviled other countries in the region, but because the leader is too stupid to recognize his land reform policies are disastrous.

A New York Times story published three days before the March 29 elections shows how Western governments and mass media cooperate with civil society agents on the ground to shape public opinion. The aim of the March 26, 2008 article, titled “Hope and Fear for Zimbabwe Vote,” was to discredit the elections that Zanu-PF seemed at the time likely to win.

Harare had barred election monitors from the US and EU, but allowed observers from Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, South Africa and the SADC to monitor the vote. The Western media pointed to the decision to bar Western observers as indirect evidence of vote rigging. After all, if Zimbabwe had nothing to hide, why wouldn’t it admit observers from Europe and the US? At the same time, Western reporters suggested that Zimbabwe was only allowing observers from friendly countries because they could be counted on to bless the election results. By the same logic, one would have expected that a negative evaluation from observers representing unfriendly countries would be just as automatic and foreordained, especially considering the official policy of the US and EU is to replace the current government with one friendly to Western business interests. Indeed, it is this fear that had led Harare to ban Western monitors.

With Western observers unable to monitor the elections directly, governments in North America and Europe found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. How could they declare the vote fraudulent, if they hadn’t observed it? To get around this difficulty, the US, Britain and other Western countries provided grants to Zimbabweans on the ground to monitor the vote. These Zimbabweans, part of civil society, declared themselves to be independent “non-governmental” observers, and prepared to render a foreordained verdict that the election was rigged. Cooperating in the deception, the Western media amplified their voices as “independent” experts on the ground. The US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy — an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly — provided grants to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network “to train and organize 240 long-term elections observers throughout Zimbabwe.” The NED is also connected to the Media Monitoring Project through the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which it funds, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which is funded by Britain’s NED equivalent, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and Canada’s Rights and Democracy. The Media Monitoring Project calls itself independent, but is connected to the US and British governments, and to billionaire speculator George Soros’ Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

When the New York Times needed Zimbabweans to comment on the upcoming election, its reporters turned to representatives of these two NGOs. Noel Kututwa, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, told the newspaper that his group would be using “sampling techniques to assess the accuracy of the results announced nationally.” Yet, Mr. Kututwa also told the newspaper that, “We will not have a free and fair election.” If Kututwa had already decided the election would be unfair and coerced, why was he bothering to assess its accuracy? Andrew Moyse, a regular commentator on Studio 7, an anti-Mugabe radio station sponsored by the US government’s propaganda arm, Voice of America, was quoted in the same article. “Even if Mugabe only gets one vote,” Mr. Moyse opined, “the tabulated results are in the box and he has won.”

Moyse, on top of acting as a US mouthpiece on Voice of America, heads up the Media Monitoring Project. While part of the NGO election observer team the US and EU were relying on to ostensibly assess the fairness of the vote, he had already decided the vote was rigged. Kutatwa and Moyse were the only experts the New York Times cited in its story on the upcoming elections. Yet both represented NGOs funded by hostile governments whose official policy is to replace Robert Mugabe and his government’s land reform and economic indigenization policies. Both presented themselves as independent, though they could hardly be independent of their sources of foreign government and foundation funding. Both declared in advance of the election that the vote would be coerced and unfair and that the tabulated results were already in the box. Their foreordained conclusions – which turned out to be wildly inaccurate — happened to be the same conclusions their sponsors in the US and Britain were looking for, to obtain the consent of a confused public to intervene vigorously in Zimbabwe’s affairs. This is emblematic of the symbiotic collaboration of media, Western governments, and NGOs on the ground. Western governments, corporations and wealthy individuals fund NGOs to discredit the Zanu-PF government, and the Western media present the same NGOs as independent actors, and provide them a platform to present their views. Meanwhile, the Western media marginalize the Zanu-PF government and its supporters on the ground, denying them a platform to present their side. To publics in the West, the only story heard is the story told by the MDC and its civil society allies, who reinforce, as a matter of strategy, the view that Mugabe is a murderous dictator at the head of a uniquely wicked regime. The MDC, civil society, the Western media, the British and US governments, and imperialist think tanks and foundations, are all interlocked. All of these sources, then, tell the same story.

Safeguarding the Revolution

After the revolutionary war, would the Americans who led and carried out the revolution have allowed loyalists to band together to seek public office in elections with a program of restoring the monarchy? We’ve already seen that the answer is no. When the Nazis were ousted in Germany, was the Nazi party allowed to reconstitute itself to seek the return of the Third Reich through electoral means? No. Countries that have gone through revolutionary change are careful, if the revolution is to survive, to deny those who have been overthrown an opportunity to recover their privileged positions. That often means denying former exploiters and their partisans opportunities to band together to contest elections, or constitutionally prescribing a desired form of government and prohibiting a return to the old. The US revolutionaries did both; they repressed the loyalists and declared a republic, which, as a corollary, forbade a return to monarchy. Even if every American voter decided that George Bush should become king, the US constitution forbids it, no matter what the majority wants. The gun (that is, the violence employed by the American revolutionaries to free themselves from the oppression of the British crown) is more powerful than the pen (Americans can’t vote the monarchy back in.)

In Zimbabwe, the former colonial oppressor, Britain, has been working with its allies to restore its former privileges through civil society and the MDC. Britain doesn’t seek a return to an overt colonialism, complete with a British viceroy and British troops garrisoned throughout the country, but to a neo-colonialism, in which the local government acts in the place of a viceroy, safeguarding and nurturing British investments and looking after Western interests under the rubric of managing the economy soundly. Britain, then, wants the MDC, for the MDC is British rule by proxy. Many Zimbabweans, however, are vehemently opposed to selling out their revolution to a party that was founded and is financed by a country to which they were once enslaved.

Western media propaganda presents Zimbabwe as a pyramidal society, in which an elite at the apex, comprising Mugabe, his ministers and the heads of the security services, brutally rule over the vast majority of Zimbabweans at the base who long for the MDC to deliver them from a dictatorship. A fairer description is that Zimbabwe is a society in which both sides command considerable popular support, but where Zanu-PF has an edge. This may sound incredible to anyone looking at Zimbabwe through the distorting lens of the Western media, but let Munyaradzi Gwisai, leader of the International Socialist Organization in Zimbabwe, a fierce opponent of the Mugabe government, set matters straight.

“There is no doubt about it – the regime is rooted among the population with a solid social base. Despite the catastrophic economic collapse, Zanu-PF still won more popular votes in parliament than the MDC in the March 29 parliamentary elections. Mugabe might have lost on the streets, but if you count the actual votes, his party won more than the MDC in elections to the House of Assembly and Senate. Zanu-PF won an absolute majority of votes in five of the country’s 10 provinces, plus a simple majority in another province. By contrast, the MDC won two provinces with an absolute majority and two with a simple majority. But because we use first past the post, not proportional representation, Zanu-PF’s votes were not translated into a majority in parliament. It was only Mugabe himself, in the presidential election, who did worse in terms of the popular vote.” [37]

Those in the thrall of Western propaganda will dismiss strong support for Zanu-PF in the March 29 elections as a consequence of electoral fraud, not genuine popular backing. But it would be a very inept government that rigged the election and lost control of the assembly and had to face a run-off in the presidential race. No, Mugabe’s support runs deep.

“According to a poll of 1,200 Zimbabweans published in August (2004) by South African and American researchers, the level of public trust in Mr. Mugabe’s leadership” more than doubled from 1999, “to 46 percent – even as the economy” was severely weakened by Western sanctions. [38] Significantly, it was over this period that the government launched its fast track land reform program. Notwithstanding Western news reports that Mugabe’s supporters are limited to his “cronies”, Zimbabweans participated in a million man and woman march last December, where marchers “proclaimed that Washington, Downing Street and Wall Street (had) no right to remove Mugabe.” [39]

Elsewhere in Africa, Zimbabwe’s president is enormously popular. As recently as August 2004, Mugabe was voted at number three in the New Africa magazine’s poll of 100 Greatest Africans, behind Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah. [40] The Los Angeles Times, no fan of the Zimbabwean president, acknowledges that “Mugabe is so popular on the continent…that he is feted and cheered wherever he goes.” [41] That was evident last summer when, much to the chagrin of Western reporters, who had been assuring their readers that Mugabe was being called to a meeting of SADC to be dressed down, that “Mr. Mugabe arrived at the meeting to a fusillade of cheers and applause from attendees that…overwhelmed the polite welcomes of the other heads of states.” [42] A European Union-African Union summit planned for 2003 was aborted after African leaders refused to show up in solidarity with a Mugabe who had been banned by the Europeans for promoting the interests of Zimbabweans, not Europeans. The summit went ahead in 2007, but only after African leaders threatened once again to boycott the meeting if Mugabe was barred. With China doing deals with African countries, the Europeans were reluctant to sacrifice trade and investment opportunities, and laid aside their misgivings about attending a meeting at which Mugabe would be present. That is, all except British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He stayed home in protest. German leader Angela Merkel did attend, but thought it necessary to scold Mugabe to distance herself from him. Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade sprang to Mugabe’s defense, dismissing Merkel’s vituperative comments as untrue and accusing the German leader of being misinformed. [43]

Opposition’s Failed Attempts at Insurrection

Mugabe’s popularity, and that of the movement for Zimbabwean empowerment he leads, explains Zanu-PF’s strong showing in elections and why the opposition’s numerous efforts at seizing power by general strike and insurrection have failed. Civil society organizations and MDC leaders have called for insurrectionary activity many times. In 2000, Morgan Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down peacefully or face violence. “If you don’t want to go peacefully,” the new opposition leader warned, “we will remove you violently.” [44] Arthur Mutambara, a robotics professor and former consultant with McKinsey & Company and leader of an alternative wing of the MDC, declared in 2006 that he was “going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal.” Asked to clarify what he meant, he replied, “We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” [45] Three days before the March 29 elections, Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai’s MDC faction, warned of Kenya-style post electoral violence if Mugabe won. [46] In the US, where United States Code, Section 2385, “prohibits anyone from advocating abetting, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States by force or violence,” opposition leaders like Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Biti would be charged with treason (Biti has been.)

Leaders of civil society organizations which receive Western funding have been no less diffident about threatening to overthrow the government violently. Last summer, the then Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, said he thought it was “justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe. We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.” [47] Ncube complained bitterly that Zimbabweans were cowards, unwilling to take up arms against the government. This was a strange complaint to make against a people who waged a guerilla war for over a decade to achieve independence. Zimbabweans’ unwillingness to follow Ncube, guns blazing, had nothing to do with cowardice, and everything to do with the absence of popular support for Ncube’s position.

Recently, the International Socialist Organization, one of the founding members of the MDC along with the British government, argued in its newspaper that “the crisis was not going to be resolved through elections, but through mass action.” ISO – Zimbabwe leader Munyaradzi Gwisai “said that the way forward for the Movement for Democratic Change and civil society was to create a united front and mobilize against the regime.” [48] The ISO makes the curious argument that Zimbabweans should take to the streets to bring the MDC to power, recognizing the MDC to be a comprador party (one the ISO helped found). A comprador party, in the febrile reasoning of the ISO, is preferable to Zanu-PF. Gwisai’s offices were visited by the police, touching off howls of outrage over Mugabe’s “repressions” from the ISO’s Trotskyite brethren around the world. Followers of Trotsky are forever siding with reactionaries against revolutionaries, the revolutionaries invariably failing to live up to a Trotskyite ideal. If they can’t have their ideal, they’ll settle for imperialism. While Gwisai wasn’t arrested, Wellington Chibebe, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, was. He too had urged Zimbabweans to take to the streets to bring down the government.

Some opponents of Mugabe’s government go further. An organization called the Zimbabwe Resistance Movement promises to take up arms against the Zanu-PF government if “the poodles who run the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,” fail to declare Tsvangirai the victor of the presidential run-off election. [49] The Western media have been silent on this form of oppositional intimidation and threats of violence.

The opposition has also tried other means to clear the way for its rise to power. In April, 2007 it called a general strike, as part of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign. The strike fizzled, accomplishing nothing more than showing the opposition’s program of seizing power extra-constitutionally had no popular support. The campaign “was a joint effort of the opposition, church groups and civil society… As a body…it (did) not…have widespread grassroots support,” reported the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail. [50] While depicted in the Western media as a peaceful campaign of prayer meetings, the campaign was predicated on violence. MDC activists carried out a series of fire bombings of buses and police stations, events the Western press was slow to acknowledge. A May 2 2007 Human Rights Watch report finally acknowledged that there had been a series of gasoline bombings, but questioned whether the MDC was really responsible. By this point, as far as Western publics knew, peaceful protests had been brutally suppressed by a uniquely wicked government. To keep matters under control, the government banned political gatherings. The opposition defied the ban, calling their rallies “prayer meetings.” It was a result of this defiance that Arthur Mutambara was arrested, and Morgan Tsvangirai roughed up by police when he tried to force his way through police lines to demand Mutambara’s release. The MDC took full advantage of the event to play up to the Western media, claiming Tsvangirai had been beaten up as part of a program of political repression, rather than as a response to his tussling with the police. As the Cuban ambassador to Zimbabwe explained, “What happened in Zimbabwe of course is similar to what groups based in Florida have done in Cuba. They put many bombs in some hotels in Cuba. They were trying to…generate political instability in Cuba, so I see the same pattern in Zimbabwe.” [51]

Making the Economy Scream

While quislings work from within the country to make it ungovernable, pressure is applied from without. Western governments say they’ve imposed only targeted sanctions aimed at key members of the government, nothing to undermine the economy and hurt ordinary Zimbabweans, but as we’ve already seen, the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act has far-reaching economic implications. On top of this, other, informal, sanctions do their part to make the economy scream. As Robert Mugabe explains:

The British and their allies “influence other countries to cut their economic ties with us…the soft loans, grants and investments that were coming our way, started decreasing and in some cases practically petering out. Then the signals to the rest of the world that Zimbabwe is under sanctions, that rings bells and countries that would want to invest in Zimbabwe are being very cautious. And we are being dragged through the mud every day on CNN, BBC, Sky News, and they are saying to these potential investors ‘your investments will not be safe in Zimbabwe, the British farmers have lost their land, and your investments will go the same way.’” [52]

In March 2002, Canada withdrew all direct funding to the government of Zimbabwe. [53] In 2005, the IT department at Zimbabwe’s Africa University discovered that Microsoft had been instructed by the US Treasury Department to refrain from doing business with the university. [54] Western companies refuse to supply spare parts to Zimbabwe’s national railway company, even though there are no official trade sanctions in place. [55] Britain and its allies are now planning to escalate the pressure. Plans have been made to press South Africa to cut off electricity to Zimbabwe if the MDC doesn’t come to power. Pressure will also be applied on countries surrounding Zimbabwe to mount an economic blockade. [56] The point of sanctions is to starve the people of Zimbabwe into revolting against the government to clear the way for the rise of the MDC and control, by proxy, from London and Washington. Apply enough pressure and eventually the people will cry uncle (or so goes the theory.) You can’t say Zanu-PF wasn’t forewarned. Stanley Mudenge, the former foreign minister of Zimbabwe, said Robin Cook, then British foreign secretary, once pulled him aside at a meeting and said: “Stan, you must get rid of Bob (Mugabe)…If you don’t get rid of Bob, what will hit you will make your people stone you in the streets.” [57]

Harare’s Options

Those who condemn the actions of the Zanu-PF government in defending their revolution have an obligation to say what they would do. Usually, they skirt the issue, saying there is no revolution, or that there was one once, but that it was long ago corrupted by cronyism. Their simple answer is to dump Mugabe, and start over again – a course of action that would inevitably see a return to the neo-liberal restructuring of the 1990s, a dismantling of land reforms, and a neo-colonial tyranny. Not surprisingly, people who make this argument find favor with imperialist governments and ruling class foundations and are often rewarded by them for appearing to be radical while actually serving imperialist goals.

Throughout history, reformers and revolutionaries have been accused of being self-aggrandizing demagogues manipulating their followers with populist rhetoric to cling to power to enjoy its many perks. [58] But as one writer in the British anti-imperialist journal Lalkar pointed out, “The government of Zimbabwe could very easily abandon its militant policies aimed at protecting Zimbabwe’s independence and building its collective wealth – no doubt its ministers would be rewarded amply by the likes of the World Bank and the IMF.” [59] If Mugabe is really using all means at his disposable to hang on to power simply to enjoy its perks, he has chosen the least certain and most difficult way of going about it. Lay this argument aside as the specious drivel of those who want to bury their heads in the sand to avoid confronting tough questions. What would you do in these circumstances?

In retaliation for democratizing patterns of land ownership, distributing land previously owned by 4,000 farmers, mainly of British stock, to 300,000 previously landless families, Britain has “mobilized her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. They have cut off all development assistance, disabled lines of credit, prevented the Bretton Woods institutions from providing financial assistance, and ordered private companies in the United States not to do business with Zimbabwe.” [60] They have done this to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy to alienate the revolutionary government of its popular support. For years, they have done this. Soni Rajan, employed by the British government to investigate land reform in Zimbabwe, told author Heidi Holland:

“It was absolutely clear…that Labour’s strategy was to accelerate Mugabe’s unpopularity by failing to provide him with funding for land redistribution. They thought if they didn’t give him the money for land reform, his people in the rural areas would start to turn against him. That was their position; they want him out and they were going to do whatever they could to hasten his demise.” [61]

The main political opposition party, the MDC, is the creation of the Rhodesian Commercial Farmers’ Union, the British government and the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, whose patrons are former British foreign secretaries Douglas Hurd, Geoffrey Howe, Malcolm Rifkind and whose chair is Lord Renwick of Clifton, who has collected a string of board memberships in southern African corporations. The party’s funding comes from European governments and corporations, and its raison d’etre is to reverse every measure the Zanu-PF government has taken to invest Zimbabwean independence with real meaning. Civil society organizations are funded by governments whose official policy is one of regime change in Zimbabwe. The US, Britain and the Netherlands finance pirate radio stations and newspapers, which the Western media disingenuously call “independent”, to poison public opinion against the Mugabe government and its land democratization and economic indigenization programs. It’s impossible to hold free and fair elections, because the interference by Western powers is massive, a point acknowledge by Mugabe opponent Munyaradzi Gwisai. [62]

Guns Trump “Xs”

Zimbabweans who fought for the country’s independence and democratization of land ownership are not prepared to give up the gains of their revolution simply because a majority of Zimbabweans marked an “X” for a party of quislings. There are two reasons for their steadfastness in defense of their revolution: First, Americans can’t vote the monarchy back in, or return, through the ballot box, to the status quo ante of British colonial domination. The US revolutionaries recognized that some gains are senior to others, freedom from foreign domination being one of them. Americans would never allow a majority vote to place the country once again under British rule. Nor will Zimbabwe’s patriots allow the same to happen to their country. Second, no election in Zimbabwe can be free and fair, so long as the country is under sanctions and the main opposition party and civil society organizations are agents of hostile foreign governments. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Justice has called on the government “to consider the possibility of declaring a state of emergency,” pointing out correctly that “Zimbabwe is at war with foreign elements using local puppets.” [63] Western governments would do – and have done – no less under similar circumstances. Patriots writing to the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, urge the government to take a stronger line. “The electoral environment is heavily tilted in favour of the (MDC) because of the economic sanctions,” wrote one Herald reader. “If it was up to me there should be no elections until the sanctions are scrapped. If we don’t defend our independence and sovereignty, then we are doomed to become hewers of wood and drawers of water. I stand ready to take up arms to defend my sovereignty if need be.” [64] The heads of the police and army have let it be known that they won’t “salute sell-outs and agents of the West” [65] – and nor should they. And veterans of the war for national liberation have told Mugabe that they can never accept that their country, won through the barrel of the gun, should be taken merely by an ‘X’ made by a ballpoint pen.” [66] Mugabe recounted that the war veterans had told him “if this country goes back into white hands just because we have used a pen, we will return to the bush to fight.” The former guerilla leader added, “I’m even prepared to join the fight. We can’t allow the British to dominate us through their puppets.” [67] Zimbabwe, as patriots have said many times, will never be a colony again. Even if it means returning to arms.

1. Herbert Aptheker, “The Nature of Democracy, Freedom and Revolution,” International Publishers, New York, 2001.
2. Herald (Zimbabwe) April 2, 2008.
3. “No Better Opportunity,” German Foreign Policy.Com, March 26, 2007. http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/56059
4. Times (London), November 25, 2007.
5. Rob Gowland, “Zimbabwe: The struggle for land, the struggle for independence,” Communist Party of Australia. http://www.cpa.org.au/booklets/zimbabwe.pdf
6. Herald (Zimbabwe) May 29, 2008.
7. Guardian (UK), March 3, 2008.
8. Wall Street Journal, quoted in Herald (Zimbabwe) March 23, 2008.
9. Talkzimbabwe.com, June 19, 2008.
10. Guardian (UK), August 22, 2002.
11. Herald (Zimbabwe) May 29, 2008.
12. Herald (Zimbabwe), February 22, 2008.
13. New York Times, March 27, 2005.
14. Ibid.
15. Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2005.
16. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, “Manufacturing Consent,” Pantheon Books, 1988, p. 28.
17. The Independent (UK), October 22, 2007; New York Times, October 23, 3007.
18. New African, June 2008.
19. Antonia Juhasz, “The Tragic Tale of the IMF in Zimbabwe,” Daily Mirror of Zimbabwe, March 7, 2004.
20. Herald (Zimbabwe) September 13, 2005.
21. Herald (Zimbabwe) August 12, 2005.
22. Morgan Tsvangirai, “Zimbabwe’s Razor Edge,” Guardian (UK) April 7, 2008.
23. Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 31, 2008.
24. Response to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Monetary Policy Statement,” Ambassador Christopher Dell, February 7, 2007.
25. The Independent (UK), September 20, 2007.
26. John Wright, “Victims of the West,” Morning Star (UK), December 18, 2007.
27. Herald (Zimbabwe), July 6, 2005.
28. AFP, July 29, 2005.
29 Ibid.
30. US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001.
31. Herald (Zimbabwe) June 4, 2008.
32. “President Signs Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, December 21, 2001. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/12/200111221-15.html
33. http://www.pslweb.org, October 17, 2006.
34. Guardian (UK), April 17, 2008. Milne is also clear on who’s responsible for the conflict in Zimbabwe. In an April 17, 2008 column in The Guardian, he wrote, “Britain refused to act against a white racist coup, triggering a bloody 15-year liberation war, and then imposed racial parliamentary quotas and a 10-year moratorium on land reform at independence. The subsequent failure by Britain and the US to finance land buyouts as expected, along with the impact of IMF programs, laid the ground for the current impasse.”
35. Herald (Zimbabwe), June 11, 2008.
36. The Independent (UK), June 9, 2008.
37. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html.
38. New York Times, December 24, 2004.
39. Workers World (US), December 12, 2007.
40. Proletarian (UK) April-May 2007.
41. Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2007.
42. New York Times, August 17, 2007.
43. New York Times, December 9, 2007.
44. BBC, September 30, 2000.
45. Times Online, March 5, 2006.
46. Herald (Zimbabwe), March 27, 2008.
47. Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007.
48. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html
49. The Zimbabwe Times, May 31, 2008.
50. Globe and Mail (Toronto) March 22, 2007.
51. Herald (Zimbabwe) April 15, 2007.
52. New African, May 2008.
53. Herald (Zimbabwe), October 18, 2007.
54. Herald (Zimbabwe), January 28, 2008.
55. Herald (Zimbabwe), January 11, 2008.
56. Guardian (UK), June 16, 2008.
57. New African, May 2008.
58. See, for example, Michael Parenti, “The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History Ancient Rome,” The New Press, 2003.
59. Lalkar, May-June, 2008. http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/may2008/zim.php
60. Address of Robert Mugabe to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, June 3, 2008.
61. New African, May 2008.
62. Weekly Worker, 726, June 19, 2008 http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/726/forced.html
63. TalkZimbabwe.com, May 15, 2008.
64. Letter to the Herald (Zimbabwe), May 6, 2008.
65. Guardian (UK), March 15, 2008.
66. Herald (Zimbabwe), June 20, 2008.
67. The Independent (UK), June 14, 2008.

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Written by what's left

June 24, 2008 at 2:39 pm

35 Responses

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  1. I have to say that this is an excellent article and very informative–especially when you drew important parallels between Zimbabwe’s experience and the American Revolution.
    Most Westerners automatically assume that unless a nation gives ANY AND ALL opposition a free reign, that it is by default a totalitarian state that needs regime change. Obviously, this type of logic threatens economic independence, especially of oppressed nations.
    Anyway, great insight. I’ll link to this article.

    NA Altieri

    June 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm

  2. youre most comprehensive article on Zimbabwe yet Stephen.Thank you for youre insight

    kram

    June 24, 2008 at 5:53 pm

  3. I am a Zimbabwean in Zimbabwe . Its refreshing to hear that objectivity is still alive. Thank you Steve. I wonder what will happen if Tsvangirai wins the electon that he has since withdrawn from.

    willard

    June 25, 2008 at 7:00 am

  4. “The American revolutionaries, Thomas Jefferson among them, answered similar questions through harsh repression of the monarchists who threatened to reverse the gains of the American Revolution. There were 600,000 to 700,000 Tories, loyal to the king and hostile to the revolutionaries, who stood as a threat to the revolution. To neutralize the threat, the new government denied the Tories any platform from which to organize a counter-revolution. They were forbidden to own a press, to teach, to mount a pulpit. The professions were closed to them. They were denied the right to vote and hold political office. The property of wealthy Tories was confiscated. Many loyalists were beaten, others jailed without trial. Some were summarily executed. And 100,000 were driven into exile. Hundreds of thousands of people were denied advocacy rights, rights to property, and suffrage rights, in order to enlarge the liberties of a larger number of people who had been oppressed.”

    So, that’s a GOOD thing, is it Stephen? How about we repress your right of free speach then? Or are double standards OK when Stephen Gowans says so, and not otherwise?

    Fred Allegia

    June 25, 2008 at 8:00 am

  5. Don’t be dense Fred. Stephen’s point isn’t that repression is good or bad, but that the West hails people like Thomas Jefferson as heroes but demonizes Robert Mugabe for doing the same thing for his people.

    The United States is a powerful, prosperous country that got that way through a history of difficult decisions that must be remembered for what they were. Judge those decisions any way you like, but to condemn Zanu-PF for repressive policies that were used successfully in the West’s own past is the only double standard here.

    Sirenos

    June 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  6. thank you stephen. great article.

    fred,
    maybe you missed this: “revolutionaries recognized that some gains are senior to others, freedom from foreign domination being one of them.”

    john smartt

    June 25, 2008 at 2:58 pm

  7. Your views display a shocking ignorance of the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe.

    Are we to take comfort in the fact that American revolutionaries beat up Tories, then we Zimbabweans should have no objection to the orgy of murder, rape, pillage, destruction of property etc that Matibiri’s cabal has unleashed on us in order to persuade us to accept his continued stay in an office that he lost the right to be in about a decade ago?

    You seem to think that because you hate America or Bush and they have spoken against Matibiri then the correct thing is to stand in his corner. In other words, the aspirations, the sentiments, the predicament of Zimbabweans is to be pushed aside so you can have your online soapbox war against Bush & co?

    Mahoso- the other loony apologist for the regime who desperately tries to impart the impression of intellectual vigour to his rantings in the papers- got a 4×4 and a job in one of the new-fangled gravy train outfits. What is your motivation in all this, Joe. Are you one of the beneficiaries of the £3m the regime doled out to international “movements” in a desperate bid to create the impression that what they are doing has the support of progressive people everywhere.

    Zimbabwe ngaisunungurwe!!!!

    Masimba Musodza

    June 25, 2008 at 9:48 pm

  8. Sirenos and John Smartt, thank you for your restained and masured response to my comments. I had expcted a lot worse.

    I hope you realise that I picked up only what I thought was the fundamental point, just for economy of effort: I’m actually at work so I don’t have a lot of time. (Also, I work for myself so I’m not stealing any employer’s time, in case anyone picks up on that little point.)

    The fundamental issue seems to me to be this: the fact that particularly reprehensible means were used in the past, in the furtherance of laudable objectives, did not necessarily make them right (ie MORALLY right) then, and neither does it make them right now. Just because Caesar was stabbed to death on the steps of the Senate all those years ago, by people who presumably believed in good faith that they were acting for the greater good, it is not morally right that either Bush or Mugabe, or Tsvangirai and his supporters, are fair game now.

    John – I agree with the sentiment in your quote, but you can’t extend that to say that some moral imperatives are subservient to others, and can therefore be ignored whenever we choose, just to suit a purpose. It’s just plain WRONG to use violence and intimidation on your opponents to get the result you want. Isn’t that what the colonialists did? Are we to sink to that level?

    Sirenos, can’t I “hail the hero” and criticise his methods? Franco was an excellent leader, but I’m sure I wouldn’t agree with or support everything he subsequently did.

    Fred Allegia

    June 26, 2008 at 8:43 am

  9. It is good to hear the truth. Remeber the stories of the last Zimbawe election when the claimed Mugabe was not elected fairly.

    xxPeter

    June 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

  10. There are many similarities with Zimbabwe’s efforts to throw off the colonial yoke. Stephens brilliantly laid out and researched article is extremely informative and a must read for anyone attempting to analyze the situation in Zimbabwe.
    India experienced the most severe form of British colonialism. At the end of the 16th century the Indian economy was 2nd largest in the world in terms of GDP. Within a couple of hundred years of English colonialism and the requisite plundering of resources, the Indian economy was in tatters and its people were subjected to extreme poverty, the effects of which are still prevalent.
    If after Independance the English had continued owning a majority of farmable land I can assure you they would have been kicked out on their arses.

    Reddy

    June 26, 2008 at 9:43 pm

  11. fred: ‘So, that’s a GOOD thing, is it Stephen? How about we repress your right of free speach then? Or are double standards OK when Stephen Gowans says so, and not otherwise?’

    the american revolutionaries thought so, Fred! And without this, US would not exist. It would have returned to an appendix of british empire.

    Cant you see the parallels? No

    GREAT article Stephen. Thanks.

    ALSO people should know that here is australia a recent ABC TV (GOVT CHANNEL) Q&A program had on a pannel of govt and opposition an others who uniformly demonised Zimbabwe on late night TV.

    SBS News regularly demonises Mugabe, even the ABC news called him a dictator, and 7:30 report, also on ABC called him a despot. This is the same ABC that the former Howard (conservative) govt called lacking balance and too ‘left’.
    Australia remains a handmaiden of empire.

    brian

    June 26, 2008 at 9:59 pm

  12. Do people know that Green Left Weekly the supposely radical left wing journal, has been demonising president Mugabe and Zimbabwe?

    Here is my letter to them:
    Hi GLW
    What do president mugabe of Zimbabwe and Fidel Casto have in common: both are victors in wars of liberation, both are regularly demonised by the capitalist countries. Where do they differ: in their treatment by Green Left Weekly.

    Where GLW is clueless, Castro is aware: In a 2002 meeting with Mugabe, he had this to say, as reported in the Zim Herald and told by Rob Gowland: ‘Castro told president Mugabe that he was ‘confident in Zimbabwe’s victory despite the obstacles”‘

    http://www.cpa.org.au/booklets/zimbabwe.pdf

    No mention here of Mugabe being an authoritian capitalist terrorisng his country…

    In 2006, President mugabe attended the NAM summit, where Granma, had this to say:
    ‘The first to take the floor was Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe who, in the name of Africa, thanked the Cuban people and government for their hospitality and organization of the event.

    He expressed the absolute confidence of the African nations in Cuba’s leadership of the Movement and reiterated his conviction that when this troika is ended and we arrive in Egypt, the next summit venue, we will have recovered the role that the Movement had one day in international relations and the much desired revitalization will be a fact.

    We all consider, said Mugabe, that this Summit has been one of the best, while asking for the transmission of “our extremely warm message to brother Fidel for his prompt recovery.”‘

    http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:Y6DxFdkRZvwJ:www.granma.cu/ingles/2006/septiembre/domin17/39clausura-i.html+zimbabwe+mugabe+granma&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=au

    So given Cubas pleasant reception of president Mugabe, over many years, why has GLW persisted in its attacks on Mugabe and his government? Has it been deceived by the mainstream media hysterical media demonisation campaign?

    Why has GLW not made use of the work of Stephen Gowans and Gregory Elich, both left wing comentators, and both well versed in the issue?

    Is it because Gowans has written:
    ‘In their zeal to demonize Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF government it sometimes seems that members of the “independent left” are working for the US government. The reason why is that many are.’


    ‘Australia’s Green Left Weekly, and the Zimbabwe International Socialist Organization, have both backed the opposition MDC from the start (in fact, the ISO is a founding member) [6]. The problem with the MDC is that it’s the US and EU vehicle for strengthening a neo-colonial domination of Zimbabwe and of white farmers for stopping land reform.’

    http://www.raceandhistory.com/Zimbabwe/2007/0804.html

    Instead, and as if to illustrate Gowans thesis, we have Norm Dixon, who believes Mugabe is carrying out a terror campaign:

    ‘Zimbabwe’s authoritarian capitalist government, headed by President Robert Mugabe, has unleashed a massive wave of police brutality and destruction in an attempt to terrorize the country’s fiercely anti-government urban working class and other poor city dwellers.’

    http://www.worldpress.org/Africa/2095.cfm

    Someone should tell Fidel and the Cubans, because they seems unware of this. Authoritarian? Capitalist? The above statement that appeared in the GLW for 2005 is pure bilge. It’s the poor who have bene consistently voting FOR Mugbe and ZANU-PF. The alernative is the MDC, which is both funded by foreign governments (an act illegal in the US) and has a policy of neoliberal privatisation:

    ‘The establishment of a new opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in September 1999, found instant support from Western leaders. Significant funding from Western sources enabled the party to rapidly grow to the point where it won 57 out of 120 seats in the June 24-25 2000 parliamentary election, less than one year after its creation. Ostensibly based in the labor movement, the program of MDC reads like a call for a return to ESAP. A policy paper issued by the party spelled out its plans for privatization. Upon taking power, the party plans to appoint a “fund manager to dispose of government-owned shares in publicly quoted companies.” The boards of all public enterprises would be “reconstituted,” and the new boards would be “required to privatize their enterprises within specified timetables…with an overall target of privatizing all designated parastatals [public companies] within two years.” The interests of Western capital would not be ignored

    http://www.swans.com/library/art8/elich004.html

    Is Norm aware of this? Is GLW? Are both aware that the MDC’s base like the base for Bush: is the urban MIDDLE classes NOT the urban poor, let alone the rural majority of zimbabweans. It is these latter people for whom the war of liberation was fought. They are the ones driving Mugabes very uncapitalist policies: esp the reclamation of land stolen from them by the white invaders. Doesn’t it seem strange that Norms capitalist should be having talks with the worlds leading critic of capitalism: Fidel Castro?

    So why is a leading left wing paper like GLW supporting making common cause with the MSM and neoliberal foreign funded political party?

    Its revealing that GLW publishes the writings of Dixon and Patrick Bond where both are clearly Pro-MDC, while refusing to publish the work of Stephen Gowans and Greg Elich?

    Why has GLW not reported on Tsvangirais remarks that even the BBC reported:
    ‘The Movement for Democratic Change leader told 20,000 supprters at a rally on Saturday that if Mr Mugabe did not want to step down before the next elections scheduled for 2002 “we will remove you violently”. ‘

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/952796.stm

    Why has GLW not reported on president Mugabes repudiation of violence:

    ‘President slams violence’

    http://www.herald.co.zw/inside.aspx?sectid=34757&cat=1

    GLW is self described as ‘Australia’s Radical Newspaper’ and it is on most issues. But as the decision to post Bond and Dixon over Elich and Gowans is an editorial one; on Zimbabwe, it is as conservative as the Australian.

    regards
    Brian
    Australia

    brian

    June 26, 2008 at 10:04 pm

  13. Masimba:

    ‘Your views display a shocking ignorance of the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. ‘

    ah yes Masima, maybe youd like to see some of those stories on the ground:

    1. MDC-M holds a peaceful rally : police presence, but no repression, yet MDC-T youths attack rally, police avert, and are thanked by Mutambara!

    ‘POLICE intervened at the weekend to avert violent clashes between rival factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
    There was tension in Chitungwiza as former student leader Arthur Mutambara, now leading a rival faction, addressed a public rally.
    As Mutambara addressed cheering supporters, a group of activists who support the other faction leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, appeared in the distance, cheering and singing.
    Mutambara’s supporters charged towards them, but police intervened to avert potential clashes.
    In a statement Monday, a spokesman for Mutambara’s faction accused Tsvangirai’s group of “hiring thugs” to disrupt their rally.
    “MDC would like to express its gratitude to the police for taking swift action to defuse the situation. We also wish to thank our supporters for staying calm in spite of the blatant and unprovoked attack by Tsvangirai’s hired thugs,” the spokesman said.
    The spokesman said 5000 people attended the rally.
    The MDC has split into two, and both factions claim to be the legitimate group. Efforts to reconcile the two, or get an “amicable divorce” appear to be floundering which could drag the fight over the party name to the Zimbabwe courts.

    http://www.newzimbabwe.com/pages/senate166.13964.html

    Where is the orgy of murder rape and pillage here? Why is the MDC-T atttacking the MDC-M?

    brian

    June 26, 2008 at 10:08 pm

  14. Fred, you certainly are free to criticise Mugabe’s methods, but that’s not what you were doing. You were criticising Stephen Gowans’ criticism of the West, attacking the very freedom you now claim for yourself.

    Zanu-PF believes, strongly, that the freedoms they achieved for Zimbabwe through their armed struggle for liberation is under attack from the West. In that armed struggle, they killed people. Was that morally right? If one argues that it was right, why? Answer that question, and remembering that Zanu-PF once again believes the nation’s freedoms are under threat, now ask yourself why what they are doing now is suddenly not morally right.

    If on the other hand you believe that the killings that occurred during the liberation struggle were not morally right, then you’ve clearly alreasy chosen a side in this struggle, and there’s little more to discuss.

    Sirenos

    June 27, 2008 at 4:21 am

  15. Thank you for this comprehensive and well argued article. It once again affirms the reality of Imperialist aggression today. It is not just a purely military conquest anymore but a subtle counter-revolution galvanized by imperialist states, Corporations, NGOs and the Corporate Media. What is impressive is that they are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, talking the ‘progressive’ language but working towards all that is reactionary. It is needless to say that this experience is not one of Zimbabwe alone but of most countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    john

    June 27, 2008 at 7:26 am

  16. Brian,

    “the american revolutionaries thought so, Fred! And without this, US would not exist. It would have returned to an appendix of british empire.”

    My point is, how do you know this to be a fact?

    This is all really about two things that characterise a large part of Stephen’s analysis, and the comments about it.

    The first thing is the blurring of the distiction between fact and opinion. Your comment Brian, quoted above, is a good example of it. We can probably agree that it is a fact that “the American revolutionaries thought so”. To say that had they not done so, the US would not exist, is opinion – not fact. The outcome cannot be certain. (By the way, wouldn’t the world be a better and safer place if the USA was still divided up and occupied by Britain and France? “Old Europe”, as Rumsfeld called it, is usually a heck of a lot less belligerent than the USA.

    The second thing characteristic of Stephen’s analysis and most of the comments about it, is the dilution of any moral absolutes.

    Murder and mayhem are OK, because Thomas Jefferson and his mates did it first. And it is even more OK because theirs was a “good” cause.

    And if it was OK for Jefferson, it is OK for Mugabe. And it will also be OK for Fred Allegia when he mobilises his tanks and militia and goes around to your place. Don’t try telling me I’m wrong: I have a precedent so it must be alright for me to raze your towns and villages to the ground. It’s all part of my anti-globalisation crusade. This is year zero. Don’t tell me I’m a tyrant or a genocidal maniac, because you have no moral absolutes so if I can just show you “just cause” then you must stand with me in the smoke and ruins and agree I’m a hero.

    And if you have any lingering doubts about whether I’m right to go on the rampage, well, I’m a socialist. (Trump Card!)

    Fred Allegia

    June 27, 2008 at 11:48 am

  17. Sirenos,

    Believe me, I wasn’t attacking the very freedom I claim for myself. I like it too much for that.

    But that’s what Mugabe is doing. He’s claiming freedoms for himself and his supporters, and denying them to his opponents. He’s certainly denying the people their right to vote him out of office. He stated that “only God can remove me” or something similar.

    Now with his track record, I’d have thought he was tempting fate a bit to be calling upon God to intervene, especialy at his age.

    You state that “Zanu-PF believes, strongly, that the freedoms they achieved for Zimbabwe through their armed struggle for liberation is under attack from the West. In that armed struggle, they killed people. Was that morally right?”

    Ask yourself this: was Martin Luther King right? Was Ghandi right? They both advocated non-violent struggle, and their “promised lands” have come to pass. Mugabe s just a passing cloud. The process will continue long after he has gone. It’s just a pity that he’s hurting so many people during his brief tenure on this earth. As a role model for revolutionaries, he is rubbish.

    You also say “If on the other hand you believe that the killings that occurred during the liberation struggle were not morally right, then you’ve clearly alreasy chosen a side in this struggle, and there’s little more to discuss.”

    I haven’t chosen sides at all. The liberation struggle was vital, necessary and right. It was a struggle for freedom. Freedom was achieved. Now, however, Mugabe is guilty of the most appalling violence to his own people. Once again, we have a freedom struggle. The circumstances are a little different; the players are different: the game is the same.

    Fred Allegia

    June 27, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  18. Listen, brian

    ah yes Masima, maybe youd like to see some of those stories on the ground:

    I bet you have never even been to Zimbabwe. You do not know nothing about stories on the ground until you have a cousin who is a major in the army bragging at your grandmother’s funeral that he looks forward to beating the hell out of MDC supporters. Not until you have an aunt beaten and badly burnt, but unable to get treatment because they took her I.D.

    The orgy of pillage and rape is not “here”, in this little article that you seized upon. It is in the cities, about 10 people died last week in my neighbourhood alone. It is in the rural areas, most of which are now closed off to the outside world. If you were a Zimbabwean- no matter what political persuasion you professed, you must have someone who is dead, kidnapped or needs to go to hospital. None of these people can be compared to the “Tories” that were beaten in the American Revolution.

    If I were you, I would leave Zimbabwe to Zimbabweans. Being able to cut and paste accross the world wide web does not make you knowledgeable on Zimbabwean issues.

    But then, if I were you, I’d be too stupid to realise this.

    Masimba Musodza

    June 27, 2008 at 11:29 pm

  19. Fred, your post ignores the violence of Tsvangirai and the MDC. Youd make a better arguement if not for this hole in it.

    The curren violence in Zimbabwe has its origins in the MDC and Tsvangirais intention:

    ‘In 2000, Morgan Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down peacefully or face violence. “If you don’t want to go peacefully,” the new opposition leader warned, “we will remove you violently.” [44]

    And ever since,then MDC has engaged in provocative violence, disguised as prayer allies or other actions of ‘civil disobedience’.
    Thoreau must be turning in his grave to see his idea being abused by reactionaries.

    brian

    June 28, 2008 at 1:20 am

  20. Jonathon Steel has posted an article in the Guardian. Here is my letter to him:
    hello Mr Steele
    Ive seen your article attacking president Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Just a few comments:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/28/zimbabwe.serbia?showCommentBox=true

    1. ‘While Zimbabwe’s obscene charade of a runoff election played itself out yesterday, foreign reaction still seemed stuck in two grooves’

    In fact its Zimbabwean law, where no candiate has a clear win, to have a run off. So its not a charade. It may be inconvenient if you are praying a western backed patsy gets into power in Zimbabwe.

    2.’either Mugabe-bashing or hand-wringing. The former is well justified, after everything the Zimbabwean president has done over the past few months’

    exactly what has the president done over the past few months? If you are refering to violence in Zimbabwe, then you may be interested in the following, it may be news to you:

    back in 2000, when the BBC was still even handed: ‘The Movement for Democratic Change leader told 20,000 supprters at a rally on Saturday that if Mr Mugabe did not want to step down before the next elections scheduled for 2002 “we will remove you violently”.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/952796.stm

    and sure enough, since then the MDC has engaged in provocative violence, often disguised as civil disobedience and even prayer rallies.

    MDC has split into two factions, the reason they split according to David Coltart of the MDC-M is due to Tsvangarais violence. Heres a case:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200705/ai_n21288052?tag=artBody;col1

    3.’The only route that will avoid yet more bloodshed is a negotiated transition of power in which legal immunity and guarantees of safety are given to the very men who have been responsible for the violence of the past few months. I am not referring primarily to Mugabe. It is the security and police chiefs around him who hold the key.’

    and
    ‘Its top men can call off the so-called liberation war veterans and other jobless youth who have been terrorising the opposition Movement for Democratic Change since the first round of elections in March’

    Whats wrong with this? Well, it ignores the jobless youths attacking the ZANU-PF…it also ignores the Tsvangirais MDC-T use of ‘jobless youths to attack the MDC-M

    as we saw with the article telling of MDC Trudy Stevensons experience.

    ‘ asked: “Shall we talk to them?”, but the youth said: “No, we should move away from this place.” Then I saw the advancing crowd start running. Mushonga said: “Give me the keys. I will drive!”, but I knew he would not be able to for two reasons, so I said: “No, I will have to drive, let’s go!”, and I unlocked the passenger door, slid over to the driver’s seat, and Mushonga got in the passenger seat.
    They were calling my name, “Trudy! Trudy! You’ve gone against Tsvangirai!” That’s when I realised it was me they were after.

    I tried to release the anti-theft immobiliser, but I couldn’t manage before the rocks – and I think bricks – started hitting the bonnet. I kept shouting: “It’s not my car! It’s not my car! Please don’t damage the car!”

    By now, they were all around and rocks were coming through the windscreen and the door windows. Mushonga was no longer in the passenger seat. They shouted: “Trudy, get out of the car! Trudy, get out of the car!”, and then I knew that I must stay in the car to stay alive.

    (ditto)

    SO why doent your article mention any of this?

    4. Your use of the Milosevic analogy is ironic, and shows you are not at all well informed. Milosevic was also victim of a campaign of demonisation. Stephen Goawns has invoked this comparison:

    ‘Mugabe Gets the Milosevic Treatment

    By STEPHEN GOWANS

    Arthur Mutambara, the leader of one faction of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC, and one of the principals in the Save Zimbabwe Campaign that’s at the centre of a storm of controversy over the Mugabe government’s crackdown on opposition, boasted a year ago that he was “going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal.” (1)

    Educated at Oxford, the former management consultant with McKinsey & Co. was asked in early 2006 whether “his plans might include a Ukrainian-style mass mobilization of opponents of Mugabe’s regime.” (2)

    “We’re going to use every tool we can get to dislodge this regime,” he replied. “We’re not going to rule out or in anything the sky’s the limit.” (3)

    Last year Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of an opposing MDC faction, and eight of his colleagues, were thrown out of Zambia after attending a meeting arranged by the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, with representatives of Freedom House, a US ruling class organization that promotes regime change in countries that aren’t sufficiently committed to free markets, free trade and free enterprise. (4)

    ….

    Headed by Wall St. investment banker Peter Ackerman, who produced a 2002 documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, a follow-up to A Force More Powerful, which celebrates the ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, Freedom House features a rogues’ gallery of US ruling class activists on its board of directors: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Forbes, among others.

    The campaign to replace Mugabe with the neo-liberal standard bearers of the MDC is rotten with connections to the overthrow of Milosevic. Dell, the US ambassador, prides himself on being one of the architects of Milosevic’s ouster. (5) He held a senior diplomatic post in Kosovo when Milosevic was driven out of office in a US-UK engineered uprising.’

    etc

    http://www.counterpunch.org/gowans03232007.html

    So, it was not so much that president Milosevic was a ‘hard man’, but that he was an obstacle to NATO reshaping of the Balkans after the end of communism. The new age involved demonising a person or counrty to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’ a phrase that sounds as innocuous as a rain of flowers, but usually ends up with a rain of bombs./

    5. ‘So if the EU puts sanctions on these men, they need to be conditional. Make it clear they will be lifted as soon as Zanu-PF’s hardliners accept an MDC-led government and tell Mugabe to go into retirement, elsewhere in Africa or preferably to a villa in China. Better still, hold the sanctions with the understanding they start only if the MDC negotiations, backed by SADC mediators, fail.

    It will be painful to let killers go free, but this is a case where justice should give way to pragmatism. The liberty of a few dozen thugs is the necessary price for millions of Zimbabweans to have a chance of life.’

    This is probably your most risible comment. It shows you endorsing the Tsvangirai threat, and opting for antidemocratic ‘regime change’ while pretending to be both a ‘democracy promoter’ and concerned for the well being of africans. This is all part of the NewSpeak the post communist era has saddled us with. Its a verty white mand burden’ kind of dishonesty.

    Note, the sanctions on Zimbabwe have always been conditional. Their purpose is to make the economy scream, so the people will vote ‘for the right candidate’. Im sure you are aware of this, but like the western media, youd prefer to conceal this information from the public.

    And as for ‘letting the killers go free’, you are letting killers go free: The MDC killers., and have thrown your support behind two govts UK an US who between them have killed more than a million people in the middle east. Thats not the best company to keep.

    regards

    Brian

    brian

    June 28, 2008 at 2:00 am

  21. Brian,

    You tell me “Fred, your post ignores the violence of Tsvangirai and the MDC. Youd make a better arguement if not for this hole in it.

    The curren violence in Zimbabwe has its origins in the MDC and Tsvangirais intention …….”

    Now I get it. Thanks Brian.

    In the moral vacuum that you and Stephen (and others here) inhabit, it’s all really just a blood feud: a vendetta. It had a beginning that everyone has forgotten, and each prod of violence just begets the next. Who you blame comes down to who you like, because you can never get to the origin of it all.

    It just becomes a vehicle for a bigger, anti-imperialist, anti-western agenda.

    Now I understand you. How very sad. And given the violence and mayhem that real people are suffering whilst you act out your political fatasies in cyberspace, how very selfish and self-indulgent.

    Fred Allegia

    June 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm

  22. Its very difficult to locate independent Zimbabwe news coverage; the UK & U.S. have flooded the web with anti Mugabe propaganda.

    So thanks Stephen for this insightful and relatively unbiased article.

    joell

    June 29, 2008 at 4:28 am

  23. masimba:
    ‘I bet you have never even been to Zimbabwe’

    Zimbabwe is in my living room and all over the newsstands…Mostly the Zimbabwe i’m being inundated with is propaganda aiding the recolonisation of the country.

    Fortunately, i can go on the Internet and discover other Zimbabwes, that you may prefer to avoid in your tour of the country.

    For eg, here is what you wont see on the ABC, BBC or NBC.:

    ‘POLICE intervened at the weekend to avert violent clashes between rival factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

    There was tension in Chitungwiza as former student leader Arthur Mutambara, now leading a rival faction, addressed a public rally.

    As Mutambara addressed cheering supporters, a group of activists who support the other faction leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, appeared in the distance, cheering and singing.

    Mutambara’s supporters charged towards them, but police intervened to avert potential clashes.

    In a statement Monday, a spokesman for Mutambara’s faction accused Tsvangirai’s group of “hiring thugs” to disrupt their rally.

    “MDC would like to express its gratitude to the police for taking swift action to defuse the situation. We also wish to thank our supporters for staying calm in spite of the blatant and unprovoked attack by Tsvangirai’s hired thugs,” the spokesman said.

    The spokesman said 5000 people attended the rally.

    The MDC has split into two, and both factions claim to be the legitimate group. Efforts to reconcile the two, or get an “amicable divorce” appear to be floundering which could drag the fight over the party name to the Zimbabwe courts.

    http://www.newzimbabwe.com/pages/senate166.13964.html

    So, NO REPRESSION here, BUT MDC-T youths attack a MDC-M rally. MDC-M spokesman actually thanks the police.

    How different from the UK, where the following took place last january:

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/01/389308.html

    UK peace activist Brian Haw attacked by police, and allegedly tortured.

    brian

    June 29, 2008 at 4:42 am

  24. Fred:
    ‘In the moral vacuum that you and Stephen (and others here) inhabit, it’s all really just a blood feud: a vendetta’

    no moral or any other vacuum here…maybe there is where you are sitting. I suggest you get some fresh air. Try not to be sucked into the vacuum of the MSM: it does strange things to people.

    ‘And given the violence and mayhem that real people are suffering ‘

    strange how this only began AFTER the formation of the MDC, and Mr T’s immortal words:

    ‘The Movement for Democratic Change leader told 20,000 supprters at a rally on Saturday that if Mr Mugabe did not want to step down before the next elections scheduled for 2002 “we will remove you violently”.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/952796.stm

    brian

    June 29, 2008 at 4:47 am

  25. fred: ‘“the american revolutionaries thought so, Fred! And without this, US would not exist. It would have returned to an appendix of british empire.”

    My point is, how do you know this to be a fact? ‘
    ==============================

    You could know it as a fact if you bothered to do a little research:

    ‘On a chill autumn day in 1783, 1,500 men and women stood on the decks of the British ships anchored in the Bay of Fundy off Nova Scotia. They looked at the coastline–the site for the new town they would call Digby–with both apprehension and determination. They had chosen life in a new country and that life included allegiance to the British Crown rather than allegiance to the infant United States of America. Behind them lay landholdings, mercantile fortunes, and positions of authority, all confiscated by American Revolutionary forces either during or immediately following the bloody war years.

    ‘When the Continental Congress, on November 27, 1777, recommended to the States that they seize Loyalist property, sell it, and use the proceeds to finance the War, Loyalists had reacted bitterly to the loss of their holdings and became even more staunch supporters of King George. There was, too, the strong pull of tradition, and many who had nothing to lose in terms of worldly goods found it impossible to turn against their homeland. Among the Dutch, Scotch, Irish, and Germans who had emigrated to America, there also were many who chose not to cast their lot with the revolutionaries.

    From the beginning, those with Loyalist sentiments were subjected to confiscation of personal property, public harassment, tar-and-feathering, and imprisonment. Because of this, Tories began leaving the Colonies as early as 1776, when over 1,000 fled Boston with the British. Another 9,000 left New York City and a like number departed from Charleston, S.C., when those cities were evacuated by British troops. All told, about 100,000 eventually left, to be scattered around Great Britain, Canada, Florida, and the British West Indies.

    etc

    http://www.trivia-library.com/a/revoltionary-war-tory-descendants-in-nova-scotia-part-1.htm

    Satisfied Fred?

    brian

    June 29, 2008 at 4:59 am

  26. Brian,

    Re: the American Revolutionaries and the Tories……

    I’ve read your post and followed the link you provided. Thanks for that. I am still, though, left with the question: How do you know for a fact that “It would have returned to an appendix of british empire”.

    This conclusion does not NECESSARILY follow from the material. Therefore, it is
    an opinion, not a fact.

    Similarly, much of what Stephen and others here have to say about Zimbabwe is simply opinion. That is fair enough and none the less valid for it. But opinions about events, motives and causal effects are no substitute for hard facts.

    And to knowingly present opinions as if they were facts is a deliberate attempt to deceive. To do it unintentionally simply displays muddled thinking and a lack of intellectual rigour.

    Masimba clearly has the benefit of first hand experience on the ground in Zimbabwe. He said to you: ‘I bet you have never even been to Zimbabwe’

    To which you replied: “Zimbabwe is in my living room and all over the newsstands…Mostly the Zimbabwe i’m being inundated with is propaganda aiding the recolonisation of the country. Fortunately, i can go on the Internet and discover other Zimbabwes, that you may prefer to avoid in your tour of the country.”

    How on earth can you claim that your armchair research is any substitute for real first hand experience? You would command more respect if you ASKED Masimba about his experiences and how he accounts for the difference between the evidence of his own eyes and the reports you get by surfing the internet.

    You don’t need to surf cyberspace for very long before you find all manner of nutcases. Great care is needed to sift fact from fiction, fact from opinion, and genuine mistakes from deliberate misinformation. A lot of people profess to be able to research a topic, and they can certainly write volumes about it. Yet they still display to those able to spot it a total lack of perspective, independent thought, skills of critical analysis, and scholarship.

    Some write here.

    Fred Allegia

    June 29, 2008 at 9:32 pm

  27. ‘Similarly, much of what Stephen and others here have to say about Zimbabwe is simply opinion’

    which would put him streets ahead of most of the media which prefers baseless propaganda.

    ‘Masimba clearly has the benefit of first hand experience on the ground in Zimbabwe’

    you mean Harare? Being on the ground is not as good as having a birds eye view.

    ‘How on earth can you claim that your armchair research is any substitute for real first hand experience?’

    Because i can read plenty of other peoples first hand evidence, and not be dependent on a selective investigator like M. Has he ever interviewed ZANU supporters?

    ‘You don’t need to surf cyberspace for very long before you find all manner of nutcases.’

    youre telling me!

    ‘To do it unintentionally simply displays muddled thinking and a lack of intellectual rigour.’

    i would love to see this in the western media…it would be a refreshing change from the blanket hysteria.

    brian

    June 30, 2008 at 1:02 am

  28. Brian,

    I give up!

    But one last request if I may:

    PLEASE consider carefully and thoroughly the possibility that you may be mistaken.

    Fred Allegia

    June 30, 2008 at 10:56 am

  29. ‘PLEASE consider carefully and thoroughly the possibility that you may be mistaken.’

    I have fred, but i also checked out who was backing whom. The MDC is backed by the likes of UK/US/EU Australian govts, which have poor track records and histories of white-mans-burdenism.

    brian

    July 1, 2008 at 1:08 am

  30. Fred
    I do appreciate the constant references to Gandhi (not Ghandi) and King and other famous ‘saints of non-violence’. My grandfather was part of the Satyagraha movement in Indias freedom struggle as well and was involved with the local chapter for land reform etc.

    However, non-violence alone did not win us Independance from the hated British Empire. The English realized it was politically and economically not feasible to hold onto India. They departed in a helluva hurry without settling issues like Kashmir which fester till today.

    Morality had no impact on their decision to leave but it did provide the perfect smokescreen and they do come off as a perfectly civilized and gracious people who ‘modernized’ India !! Never mind 300 years of Imperialist plunder. They civilized us ! How deeply that affects the Indian psyche is evident till today … despite the recent ‘hyper-capitalist’ lurch.

    The point is non-violence alone did not help us get Independance. Our First War of Independance in 1857 .. the Sepoy Mutiny … was a violent reaction to Empire and was crushed ruthlessly by the English who didnt want the other colonies to get any ideas !!

    I do not hold the view that non-violence doesnt work (it does in some cases) but right now im sitting comfortable in my ‘free’ home in India and find it extremely hard to give Zimbabweans who are subjected to crushing ‘western’ sanctions, advice on how to rebel.

    Reddy

    July 1, 2008 at 10:57 pm

  31. On the Gandhi issue, people talk of non-violence…that was part of Satyagraha(holding firmly to the Truth)….BUT that also involved non-cooperation.
    If people refuse to cooperate with the system,that system comes to a shuddering halt.

    brian

    July 3, 2008 at 12:08 am

  32. [...] sabotage their system and gain control over their land and natural resources. In a recent article, Stephen Gowans drew important parallels between the American Revolution in 1776 to the anti-colonial struggle [...]

  33. The biggest problem is brother agaist brother fights which the devils have used and continue to use in order to divide and rule. They have destroyed infrastructures, generations and now they want to pretend as if they are saviors ready to support the country which they have destroyed through sanctions. They plunder our resources which they do not pay for and offer the socalled aid as if they care.

    tenso

    July 7, 2008 at 12:05 am

  34. This is just one of the most powerful articles produced of late. The problem us Zimbabweans is that when we talk politics we tend to get too emotional. Not saying that we do not have to sympathize we the violence on the ground. But we have to learn that the world will never ever be perfect and ppol we’ll die. I might die tomorrow, and such is life. I hate when ppol try to pin down Mugabe and his cronies as the ones only responsible for what ia happenning Zimbabwe. MDC itself has done more damage because they lack identity. They are blind to see that they are just been used to satisfy the imperialists needs. If you think that Africa is liberated, you need some serious counseling. As long as our resources are owned by the foreigners, forget about a bright future for Africa. Can’t we learn from how China, against all odds have managed to take control of their belongings, hence are in control of their own destiny. Black ppol have been in the USA for generations but they are still under a lot of discrimination from the same ppol that we claim want to help us. What then makes us think that these same ppol have go our back. We Zimbabweans are destroying ourselves when we are supposed to be taking ownership of what is ours. Note: Lets not get emotional in debate, but analyse the reality and find a way forward as one.

    Bidza

    July 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm

  35. What youre saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. They fit so well with what youre trying to say. Im sure youll reach so many people with what youve got to say.

    pastakare

    November 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm


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