Every year or so, the British state and its friends in the press descend into an excited frenzy of anticipation, thinking that the downfall of Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF government is imminent. Perhaps there is an election, or perhaps news has emerged of some or other altercation between the police and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists in Harare.
Needless to say, this attention given to the affairs of Zimbabwe by the imperialists is none too healthy. Kwame Nkrumah, first president of post-colonial Ghana, said: “It is far easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the needle’s eye, hump and all, than for an erstwhile colonial administration to give sound and honest counsel of a political nature to its liberated territory.” Why is Zimbabwe so often front-page news in Britain? Why does the British government think it its right to counsel Zimbabweans on ‘democracy’ (after all, exactly how much democracy did Britain introduce into Zimbabwe during its colonial rule?!)? Why does Britain put so much effort into providing financial and propaganda support to the stooge organisation called the Movement for Democratic Change, which may as well be called the Movement for British Economic Interests?
The answer is this: i) Zimbabwe is an extremely rich country in terms of its mineral resources, which remain largely untouched. Imperialism would dearly love to get its grubby mitts on these resources; ii) with its fast-track land reform programme, Zimbabwe has illuminated a path for the whole of Africa in terms of resolving the land question. This is a lesson that the neo-colonialists of Europe and North America are very keen should not be learnt by the Africans; iii) Zimbabwe has consistently played an honourable role in supporting fellow African countries, including DR Congo, in their struggles against imperialist interference. Nobody should doubt that Britain and the US would dearly love to see Mugabe and his government deposed by any measure – ‘democratic’ or otherwise.
Imperialist plans for regime change
In March this year, Zimbabwe hit the front pages of the mainstream British press, with journalists and politicians queuing up to denounce the Zimbabwean state for its allegedly brutal behaviour towards various activists from the MDC, in particular Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of one of its two main factions. There have been a number of other confrontations between the police and MDC supporters.
The line of British press has been that the MDC supporters were holding a ‘peaceful prayer meeting’ and that this was brutally attacked by the state police. However, according to Assistant Commissioner Bvudzijena, “three police officers, who were in a group of some 26 police officers, were attacked by an unruly mob of some 200 MDC thugs who were using children as shields” (Zimbabwe Herald). Two very different stories. Now, it is true that the Herald is a pro-government newspaper, but its reporters were at the very least there at the scene, as opposed to the members of the British press, who waited in the comfort of their London offices for indignant reports from MDC leading lights to flood in. In fact, so absurd were the claims of ‘peaceful prayer meetings’ that even the MDC soon stopped whining about them.
Clearly the MDC were attacking police and police stations with a view to starting a massive conflict, which in turn would give the UN an excuse to send ‘peacekeepers’. The Zimbabwe Sunday Mail explains as follows: “The plot was to turn the gatherings convened in the name of prayer into rallies where riots would create enough confusion and panic to allow a third force to massacre people, blame the massacres on the State, invoke a UN Security Council vote on the matter and justify direct external intervention if possible. The purpose of the foreign intervention would be either to install the dying puppet MDC as a government or to force the ruling ZANU-PF to accept the MDC into coalition government which would save the latter from its impending collapse.” (18 March 2007)
The papers didn’t lose any time preparing for ‘life after Mugabe’. For instance, The Guardian of 23 March:
“Britain is making contingency plans for the post-Mugabe era in Zimbabwe in the belief that the president – under increasing pressure from within his own party as well as from the opposition and a plummeting economy – may not last the year … A senior Foreign Office official said that 2007 would be ‘a pivotal year … There will be significant change this year … If one faction succeeded in easing him out and wished to re-engage with the international community, we would look closely at what that faction stood for.'” (‘Britain prepares for life after Mugabe’)
Needless to say, the Zimbabwean authorities were able to stop the fighting without difficulty, and the imperialist media excitement has since died down.
ZANU government has the support of the people
In spite of the predictions for disaster that have been sounded in the British press for years, Zimbabwe has still not collapsed, and the government is still popular. In a country with a legal opposition, mainly anti-government independent press and an anti-government movement with ample access to foreign funds, it is implausible that the ZANU government could have remained in power without the overwhelming support of the masses of Zimbabwe.
And Mugabe and ZANU are not just popular at home in Zimbabwe. Throughout Africa, the successful struggle to reclaim the land and the willingness (sadly not often seen on that continent) to stand up to imperialist diktat are celebrated by the downtrodden masses. As recently as August 2004, Mugabe was voted at number 3 in New Africa magazine’s poll ‘100 Greatest Africans’ (Mandela was at number 1; Nkrumah at number 2).
The very thing that the imperialists are so upset about – the transfer of land from rich white landowners to poor blacks – is the same thing that keeps ZANU well ahead of any competition in terms of its political popularity. While the cities are certainly suffering as a result of the sanctions being applied by the west, the poor peasantry is enjoying an incomparably better standard of life than it was before the fast-track land reform programmes. As Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete pointed out, “isolation may work in urban areas, but the rural population anywhere in Africa far outnumbers the urban population. Isolation may work in urban areas but will never work in rural areas. And this is precisely what happens – you go to elections tomorrow, the government loses in urban areas but the rural areas continue to vote for it, and the government remains in power.” (The Herald, 7 May)
Zimbabweans, or at least the vast majority of them, do not want to return to the days of apartheid. They do not want to return to the days when the white minority (1.5%) own over half the land, and the best land at that. They have fought, struggled, for years, and are not about to give up what they fought for. Mugabe put it well in his statement to the 60th session of the general assembly of the United Nations, 18 September 2005: “The people of Zimbabwe came through a protracted guerrilla struggle to establish themselves as a free and sovereign nation. We indeed went through long and bitter times to get our freedom and Independence and to be where we are today. We cherish that hard-won freedom and independence, and no amount of coercion, political, economic, or otherwise, will make us a colony again.”
Defend Zimbabwe from imperialist interference!