Oppose continuing demonisation of Zimbabwe
The never-ceasing demonisation of Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the land distribution in that country obliges us to return to the subject again. If one paid any attention to the media and statesmen of imperialism, especially Anglo-American imperialism, one would get the impression that everything in Zimbabwe is a disaster, that the country is going to the dogs, with its economy in tatters, agriculture close to collapse, a total absence of the rule of law, complete violation of democratic norms and human rights.
Respectable organs of British imperialism, from the BBC to the Financial Times and the ‘liberal’ Guardian, routinely and disgracefully refer to the Zimbabwean government as “corrupt and oppressive”, headed by “a capricious 81-year old autocrat”, isolated from the ‘international community’ and international donor agencies, and defying ‘international’ opinion. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State and a representative of the most brutal and tyrannical imperialist power on earth, which along with British imperialism has killed well over 100,000 Iraqi people in its genocidal and predatory war for domination against Iraq, had the temerity to characterise Zimbabwe as the sixth “outpost of tyranny”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, the ZANU-PF government of Zimbabwe is one of the most democratic in the world, let alone Africa. It regularly, and on time, holds elections which are free, fair and transparent, the contrary assertions of imperialism and its flunkeys notwithstanding. Since its Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has held 6 parliamentary and 2 presidential elections. If ZANU-PF has been the winner in all these, it is because it, through its leadership of the Zimbabwean people’s armed liberation struggle and subsequently its stewardship of the affairs of independent Zimbabwe, has acquitted itself well and honourably in the eyes of the masses of Zimbabwe. In the midst of economic constraints and political obstacles, the government of Zimbabwe has instituted a decent healthcare programme and, in the words of the Financial Times, “…one of Africa’s best education systems – something that redounds to Mr Mugabe’s credit” (1 April 2005).
Whereas before Independence, the 250,000 whites of Rhodesia owned 350,000 houses across country, the black majority, numbering 20 times the white population, owned fewer houses than the number owned by the tiny white minority. Since 1980, the ZANU-PF government has built more housing units for the black masses than were built during the 8 decades of colonial rule.
With limited resources at its disposal, the Zimbabwean government has managed to build, apart from its healthcare and education systems, a fairly decent infrastructure in the form of rural roads, electrification and irrigation facilities – far more than any other African country with similar economic constraints. The Zimbabwean government is one of the least corrupt in the world and its ranks abound with highly educated, intelligent, honest, dedicated and patriotic revolutionaries. And this is precisely why Zimbabwe’s government is fiercely denounced by imperialism. Zimbabwe’s government has become a pariah regime, not because it has betrayed its people, nor because of its violation of democratic norms or indulgence in corruption, but because it belied the hopes and expectations of imperialism. Unlike many of the regimes in Africa and elsewhere, the Zimbabwean government, instead of serving the interests of the privileged sections of the population at home and imperialism abroad, has chosen the much more honourable, and therefore much more difficult, path of serving the vast masses of the Zimbabwean people and rendering selfless fraternal assistance to sister African countries under attack from imperialism.
Zimbabwe came to be painted in the darkest of colours for three specific reasons, which have nothing whatever to do with democracy, rule of law, human rights and suchlike hoaxes used by imperialism as battering rams to denounce and bring down governments that do not follow its diktat.
First, Zimbabwe’s refusal in the late 1990’s to continue with the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) dictated by the IMF/WB combine; second, the dispatch of Zimbabwean troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to bolster the Kabila government and help the latter to frustrate the imperialist proxy war, through Rwanda and Uganda, against the DRC; third, the expropriation of the land of the tiny white minority who had in turn expropriated the vast black majority during colonial times, and its redistribution to the black masses. By this single act, the Zimbabwean government has violated the only human rights that capitalism truly stands for: the right to private property and the right of one human being to exploit another and, by extension, the right of one nation to exploit another. In doing so, ZANU-PF has put itself beyond the pale as far as imperialism is concerned. There is nothing it can do, which will win it praise in imperialist quarters.
The March parliamentary elections
It was therefore to be expected that the occasion of the latest parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe on 31 March this year would become the occasion, as did the presidential election of 2002, for unleashing a virulent propaganda campaign against Zimbabwe. Even before the elections were held, they were declared to be ‘rigged’ and ‘flawed’, and the Zimbabwe electoral roll was being described as ‘cooked’.
The results of these elections were beyond even ZANU’s own expectations. Of the 120 contested seats, it won 78, whereas the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), an outfit created and nurtured by imperialism, won 41, with one seat going to an independent candidate. With the 30 additional MP’s, which are within the remit of the president to appoint under the Constitution, ZANU-PF won a crushing victory, gaining a two-thirds majority, which gives it the power to make constitutional changes. This stunning victory was made possible by the popularity of the land redistribution programme carried out by the government. The peasantry, having benefited from this programme, turned en masse to ZANU-PF and gave it the landslide victory.
Although the US, the EU and the Commonwealth were barred from sending election monitors because, in the words of the Zimbabwean authorities, they had already made up their minds, observers from 40 other countries, including Russia, as well as the UN, were invited. In addition, 300 foreign journalists, including British, American and European, were given accreditation to cover the election, as were 100 western diplomats given individual accreditation. The 11-country observer mission from SADC (Southern African Development Community) concluded that the elections “reflected the will of the people”.
This, however, did not prevent the imperialist media and spokesmen from asserting that the elections had been ‘rigged’, voters intimidated, with manipulation of food aid for political purposes; that there had been ‘massive fraud’ in the tallying of votes, while thousands had been turned away from the polls. Even the fact that the elections were remarkably free from violence was portrayed as something sinister. Self-annihilatory and mutually contradictory accusations of malpractice were levelled at the government. On the one hand came the assertion that émigrés appeared on the electoral roll, and on the other, it was stated that 3 million Zimbabweans resident abroad were denied the right to vote! While the EU presidency blithely damned the elections as “a pseudo-election”, the US asserted that they had been held in an “atmosphere of intimidation” – the same US which on 30 January held sham elections in occupied Iraq under the shadow the their guns, in which there were no election monitors except for the imperialist soldiery, with the location of the polling booths and the identity of the candidates kept a close secret. Obviously, by these standards of imperialist democracy, the Zimbabwean elections were nothing short of a total disappointment.
The MDC, unable to explain its electoral defeat, could only blame it on media bias (bias indeed! The MDC is backed by the combined media of the principal imperialist states and their smaller lackeys in Scandinavia and elsewhere), gerrymandering and intimidation.
In the aftermath of the elections, Pius Ncube, the half-wit and reactionary Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, gave a call for “passive resistance” against the government. The imperialist media alternately called for violent confrontation on the streets and a peaceful ‘people’s revolution’ as in Georgia and the Ukraine. The ‘left’-wing of imperialism – the Troto-revisionist fraternity – joined in and called for the removal of “tyrannical Mugabe dictatorship”. The London-based SW Radio Africa, created and financed by imperialism, blared forth its anti-ZANU and pro-imperialist message to Zimbabwe. But all this came to nothing. ZANU-PF triumphed for it is closely connected with the masses of Zimbabwe whose interests it serves. This is why its election slogan that a vote for the government was a vote against Blair struck a chord among the anti-imperialist Zimbabwean masses who cherish their country’s sovereignty and independence, for the gaining of which they shed so much blood.
Operation Murambatsvina (Drive out trash)
No sooner had the torrent of abuse against Zimbabwe over the parliamentary elections begun to subside than the start of new campaign of vilification – this time over operation Murambatsvina (OM), initiated by the government on 18 May to rid urban areas of illegal and unhealthy shelters, eliminate hoarding and black marketeering in scarce commodities such as petrol and mealie meal, stamp out illegal foreign currency trade, put an end to unbearable congestion, lawlessness, drug trafficking and acts of public indecency, thievery, physical and verbal abuse.
In place of the dens of illegality and decadence, the government, in collaboration with the relevant local authorities, has taken steps to ensure that “…appropriately designated areas for informal business within and around the towns and cities are reserved and built up. These places are being provided with sufficient public conveniences such as clean water, toilets, security and properly constructed and designed market stalls, vendor marts, factory shells and home industries with prospective operators being properly vetted, registered and licensed to rid such places of criminals, thieves, and other unscrupulous functionaries.” (From the statement of Mr Chombo, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, in the Zimbabwe parliament on 28 June 2005).
Within 6 weeks of the commencement of this clean-up operation, it had achieved remarkable results. As intended:
1. The Central Business Districts (CBD) throughout the country have become cleaner and peaceful consequent upon the removal of menacing youngsters, touts, illegal vendors and unroadworthy vehicles. 2.
3. There has been a significant drop in crime following the demolition of illegal structures which served as a rendezvous for criminal activities. 4.
5. Basic commodities, which had disappeared from the shelves of most shops, are slowly beginning to reappear, as the illegal shops, which served as venues of black marketing, have been removed. 6.
7. Water and electricity supplies, as well as sewerage facilities, are set to improve, for the illegal structures had served to divert the provision of these services away from their intended lawful beneficiaries. 8.
9. Cases of sexual abuse produced by the conditions of overcrowding, thuggery, drunkenness and decadence are set to decline in areas such as Mbare. 10.
Problems and the government’s response
Of course there are problems. Some families find themselves homeless and some genuine informal traders have been thrown out of business, bereft as they have become of legally-sanctioned premises from which to conduct their business. But the government is committed to a programme designed to mitigate the temporary adverse effects of this clean-up operation. On the weekend of 25-26 June, president Mugabe announced plans to spend Z$ 3 trillion (£164 million) over the next three years to provide housing and business premises for the estimated 250,000-300,000 people who lost their homes and workplaces during this clean-up drive. Mr Mugabe declared that the clean-up was ” positive and corrective”, which had been “well-received by the majority of our people” except for a few “negative” elements. The government, he said, would provide 1.2 million homes and residential plots by 2008. Two days later, his officials went as far as to promise the elimination of the countrywide national housing backlog of 2 million homes by 2010.
Spurning the usual attacks from the spokesmen of imperialism, such as our ‘own’ Tony Blair, the Zimbabwean government has set up an ad-hoc inter-ministerial reconstruction committee to implement on this question the cabinet decision, monitor the co-ordinated operations of the reconstruction programme and report regularly to the Cabinet on progress made. A Steering Committee has been set up whose functions are to begin in earnest the mobilisation of material and financial resources; identify affected and other deserving persons in need of housing; provide on an interim basis shelter, food, water, basic health facilities, etc. to people affected; to allocate housing stands to the identified beneficiaries; to identify and register informal traders and SME’s (small and medium enterprises) and provide the necessary infrastructure; to design plans for vendor markets, factory shells, stalls, people’s shops, home industries and residential housing; to engage construction brigades within the public and private sector to undertake reconstruction work; and to ensure that the work is done continuously in order to meet the deadline of 30 August 2005 for the implementation of the programme.
We have every confidence that the government will achieve its aims. But that will make no difference in the attitude of the leading imperialist countries, their powerful media organs, and their MDC stooges in Zimbabwe, all of whom have been spreading scare stories of millions of Zimbabweans left homeless by the actions of “… the oppressive dictatorship”, which allegedly has taken this action to punish urban dwellers for voting against the ruling party in the parliamentary elections of last March. This is a total lie, for many of the people affected are ZANU-PF supporters. That the government was prepared to take this action, which affected some of its own followers, simply points to the honesty and courage with which it has grappled with this difficult question in the interests of the wider public.
Even such a biased source and impeccable organ of British monopoly capital as the Financial Times has had to admit that the government’s motivation is not misleading. In its editorial of 27 June (entitled ‘A shame for Africa – what more can Mugabe do before his neighbours wake up?’), among other things, it says: “The Zimbabwe authorities present the clearances as part of a wider attempt to strengthen the formal economy by cracking down on underground activities. This may not be wholly misleading … The outrage lies in the brutality rather than the motivation” (Our emphasis).
Where, we may ask, this oracle of British imperialism, is the brutality? Everyone affected by this operation had been notified well in advance of the government’s plan and some affected persons voluntarily demolished the structures they had built illegally. Others refused. In the circumstances the government had to send in the bulldozers. Such illegal structures are routinely demolished by the authorities in cities such as Delhi and Bombay, in south Africa, in Latin America and many other parts of the world. The only difference is that, whereas the Zimbabwean authorities are providing alternative legal places of residence and business to the persons affected by its operation, in other parts of the world such assistance is notable by its absence. Yet the Financial Times and other imperialist organs of propaganda have hardly anything ever to say on such occasions. One wonders if any British local authorities, faced with such widespread breach of its planning and other laws, would act any differently. Of course, the most flagrant, and most brutal destruction and demolition, involving the loss of tens of thousands of lives, are carried out by Anglo-American imperialism in occupied Iraq and by the Israeli Zionists in Palestine, using warplanes in indiscriminate bombing of the centres of population in these countries, about which the lovers of ‘human rights’ from the Financial Times and the BBC and Messrs Bush and Blair are forever deafly silent.
The popularity of ZANU-PF at home and abroad
As a matter of fact, far from being perceived as brutal, the government’s clearnance campaign has been welcomed by the majority of the Zimbabweans, including urban dwellers, many of whom even support the opposition MDC. This is precisely the explanation for the utter failure of the 2-day strike called by the so-called Broad Alliance, comprising trade unions, the MDC and shadowy groups which go under the name of civic organisations, for Thursday and Friday (June 9-10) in protest against the clean-up drive.
The dismal performance of the MDC in the March parliamentary elections, and now its failure to stage a successful strike and mobilise street protests, has so disappointed its imperialist backers that they have begun to murmur about the beginning of the end for Tsvangirai’s leadership of the MDC. Two days before this non-strike was due to take place, the Financial Times warned: “… that if this week’s threatened confrontation with the government is unsuccessful, it could mark the … end for Mr Tsvangirai’s leadership of the MDC… if Mr Tsvangirai is not seen to lead from the front this week, his increasingly vociferous critics, both within and outside the party, will push for his replacement by a more dynamic and militant leader.” Devoid of all euphemism, this means that imperialism has had enough of Morgan, for he has failed to deliver the regime change in Zimbabwe. So he must go and make way for someone “more dynamic and militant”, i.e., a more effective tool for carrying out imperialism’s plans in Zimbabwe.
Since neither the economic boycott nor the MDC, nor the imperialist campaign of lies have diverted the ZANU-PF government from its course of consolidating Zimbabwe’s independence and sovereignty through control and ownership of its resources, especially the land, imperialism is increasingly resorting now to putting pressure on the leaders of other African countries to pressurise Zimbabwe into accepting imperialist demands. This too is not working, for President Mugabe’s government enjoys widespread support in Africa and he personally is the most popular African leader. This is, on rare occasions, even admitted to by the imperialist press. The opening paragraph of an article in the Financial Times of 31 March 2005 has this to say:
“It was an unsettling moment that marred an otherwise festive day. When South Africa celebrated the 10th anniversary of its non-racial democracy last April, Robert Mugabe was among the guests. As Zimbabwe’s president took his seat on the podium at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, the largely South African audience greeted him with cheers. The 81-year old has been similarly feted at summits of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the regional grouping to which both Zimbabwe and South Africa belong.” (‘Concerns that explain Pretoria’s ‘quiet diplomacy’).
As a matter of fact, the black majority in South Africa have nothing but admiration for the way the Zimbabwean government carried out the land resettlement programme in the teeth of imperialist opposition. They would like nothing better than to see a similar programme of land resettlement carried out in South Africa itself. And president Thabo Mbeki knows that. That is why he will not be a party to a public criticism of Zimbabwe. Even people like President Abasanjo of Nigeria have been forced publicly to state that if they had been pushed into a corner, like Mr Mugabe was by Britain and the US, they might not have acted differently from the way Mr Mugabe did. Members of the ANC in South Africa refer to Mr Mugabe as ‘Comrade Bob’ and if he were to run for the presidentship of South Africa against Mbeki, it is reliably believed that he would win a landslide victory.
Trotskyites line up behind imperialism
As was to be expected, the Trotskyites have come out fully in support of imperialism on the question of Zimbabwe, as they have always done on every important issue. Their attacks on Zimbabwe are, for obvious camouflage reasons, from the ‘left’. Following in the footsteps of Trotsky, his present-day followers, while serving imperialism heart and soul, accuse every progressive regime of being an agent of imperialism. Zimbabwe is no exception.
The Zimbabwean Trot, Munyaradzi Gwisai, one of the leading lights of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), spawned by the British counter-revolutionary organisation the Socialist Workers’ Party, writing in a recent issue of the Trotskyite Weekly Worker, has some extremely queer things to say.
At the beginning of his article, as if to show how unhinged and totally disengaged from reality he is, he attacks imperialism and its propaganda and financial arms for not denouncing the Zimbabwean government on the question of the clean-up operation! “And where”, he asks, “is the West [this Trotskyite’s affectionate term for the bloodthirsty imperialist countries] – the UK, USA, BBC, CNN and IMF – denouncing Mugabe, as millions suffer, as they did with the invasion of the white farms?” This moron must live in a world of make believe not to realise that imperialism has been, and is, conducting a non-stop anti-ZANU campaign for years and that the IMF cut off financial support for Zimbabwe as far back as 1999.
He goes on to say that the clean-up operation is motivated by two factors. The first is to send a clear message “…to the global capitalist class that the political elites of ZANU-PF have turned a new leaf and are now ready and prepared to defend and advance the interests of capitalist private property at all costs … [and] destroying ZANU-PF’s radical base, which spearheaded the previous ‘lawlessness’, or jamabanja, to save ZANU from imminent defeat by the MDC in 2000”. The second is to deal “…a decisive pre-emptive blow against all lingering and potential centres of resistance amongst the urban poor, workers, informal traders, war veterans and peasants before Gono (governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) unleashes the promised full ‘pain’ of his ‘turnaround programme’, i.e., an ESAP harsher than the original one …” [our emphasis].
The use of the word ‘now’ in the last but one paragraph above is new, for Mr Gwisai has been saying the same thing for years as a cover and an excuse for his membership of the MDC which was created, and supplied with ample funds and generous media support, precisely to “defend and advance the interests of capitalist private property at all costs” – especially to defend the interests of imperialism. ZANU was saved from defeat at the hands of the MDC solely because of the former’s support among the masses at a time when Mr Gwisai and his ISO, as an integral constituent of the MDC, were busy acting as stooges and battering rams of imperialism to bring down the ZANU-PF government.
In any case, if ZANU-PF is seriously sending a signal to imperialism that it (ZANU) is ready to advance the interests of “capitalist private property” and defend that which is dear to the “global capitalist class”, then the latter must be blind, deaf, dumb and stupid not to realise it, for it is still carrying on with its anti-ZANU propaganda campaign in terms harsher and more strident than ever before. No! This cannot be, and is not, true.
Imperialism is fully aware of who defends and who opposes its interests. It has a very well-developed sense of its self interest. It is, therefore, fully capable of changing its propaganda tune at literally the drop of a hat. Should ZANU-PF and President Mugabe be guilty of the accusations levelled against them by Mr Gwisai, they would instantly be presented in the imperialist press as “wise” and “pragmatic” practitioners of ‘democracy’, the ‘rule of law’ and ‘good governance’. Because this is not the case, they continue to be fiercely denounced. It is our Trot who has got it wrong, or, and this is more likely, he is uttering a deliberate lie to cover his own counter-revolutionary theory and practice.
We do not know whether the government of Zimbabwe intends to re-engage with the IMF or not. It may very well do so. But if it does, it would be doing so from a position of relative strength after settling in a revolutionary way the land question.
Thus it can be seen that in its struggle to maintain its independent stance, and carry out revolutionary democratic measures, the government of Zimbabwe is up against not only the powerful forces of imperialism but also the latter’s stooges in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. There exists, as it were, a united front between imperialism, the MDC, scores of NGO’s, the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, European social democracy and its offshoot, Trotskyism. In this struggle the revolutionary proletariat must side with the ZANU-PF government to defend the hard-won gains of the Zimbabwean revolution. Only such a course weakens imperialism, strengthen Zimbabwe and strengthens us.