Zimbabwe: Imperialism’s attempts at regime change in the name of concern for human rights

The EU-Africa Summit is scheduled to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, the coming December. The first such gathering took place in the Egyptian capital of Cairo in 2000. With the sole exception of the UK, the members states of the African Union and the European Union are of the view that all members states of the AU and the EU should attend the planned Summit.

Seeking regime change

Writing in

The Independent

of 20 September, this is how the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, attempted to arm-twist member governments of the AU and the EU into excluding Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, from the Lisbon Summit:

“It is also right that I make clear my position on the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit. I want this summit – under the leadership of


Prime Minister Socrates – to be a real success. It is a serious opportunity to forge a change, and agree new initiatives on education, health and peacekeeping…

“I believe that President Mugabe’s presence would undermine the Summit, diverting attention from the important issues that need to be resolved. In these circumstances, my attendance would not be appropriate.”

Gordon Brown did not explain how the presence of President Mugabe would

“divert attention from the important issues that need to be resolved”,

let alone

“undermine the Summit

“. Although he did not spell it out, for reasons of duplicity or cowardice, it is all too clear that he, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Tony Blair, and the latter’s fellow war criminal, George W Bush, is seeking a regime change in Zimbabwe. This aim has been often stated by the authoritative political and ideological representatives of Anglo-American imperialism over the last decade. Only recently, in an editorial entitled ‘The virtues of isolationism’, one of the authoritative publications of British monopoly capitalism,

The Economist

, fulminated thus on the question of Zimbabwe:

“In a blistering attack on Mr Mugabe’s rule, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, said that the state of the country was now so bad that foreign govts (particularly Britain’s) should intervene to ‘remove’ Mr Mugabe from power… Mr Ncube’s appeal to the West to remove Mr Mugabe should be taken as a cry of pain, not a reason for the West to invade… It is only the Africans, and particularly the southern Africans, who can apply the strong pressure needed to get rid of him quickly.

“Yet the Portuguese do now have a way to give the African Union a much-needed jolt. They should refuse to let Mr Mugabe come to Lisbon. That will force Africa’s leaders to reconsider their priorities. If that stops the summit from taking place, so be it: a firm stand would send a powerful message of solidarity to all those in Zimbabwe who long to be rescued from their plight. Welcoming their tormentor to Lisbon for the sake of a jamboree would be a corresponding disgrace”

(5 July 2007).

Unlike Gordon Brown’s hypocritical cant and deceitful meanderings,

The Economist

, with refreshing candour, backs the call by Pius Ncube, the most corrupt and degenerate priest of Zimbabwe, for foreign intervention to ‘remove’ President Mugabe from power. And by way of giving a “

much-needed jolt

” to the AU in this regard,

The Economist

calls upon the Portuguese to

“refuse to let Mr Mugabe come to Lisbon

“, even if this should mean the scuppering of the Summit.

Not wanting to lag behind Gordon Brown and

The Economist

, the ‘liberal’ British imperialist organ

The Observer

, in its leading article of 23 September 2007, backed the call for sanctions against Zimbabwe, and the exclusion of President Mugabe from the Lisbon Summit, hurling this bouquet of abuse at him:

“Robert Mugabe is a tyrant who has crippled Zimbabwe. He has oppressed its people, degraded its constitution and vandalised its economy. Millions of Zimbabweans face famine; their basic freedoms are denied; 80 per cent are unemployed; life expectancy is 37. Mr Mugabe’s continued rule over the wreckage of the country is a brake on economic development and an affront to hopes for a democratic renaissance in sub-Saharan Africa. He has committed crimes against his nation and so forfeited his right to represent it on the international stage.

“That is why Britain is right to be leading moves to exclude Mr Mugabe from an EU-Africa summit in Portugal in December. The Prime Minister has said he will not attend if the Zimbabwean President is there.”

(‘A call for sanctions is not a return to colonialism’).

If President Mugabe has “


” the right to represent his country on the international stage because of his alleged “

crimes against the nation

“, how come that

the Observer

does not apply its stern moral standards to Brown and Blair, who have committed real, not imaginary, crimes against the peoples of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan? Why not start at home and call for regime change here, for, after all, the leading figures in the British government have willingly participated in the mass murder of over a million Iraqis in just the last four years? They have destroyed a once beautiful and prosperous country, Iraq; wrecked its economy, destroyed its health and educations systems, which until recently were the pride of the Middle East; forced 2 million Iraqis to flee and caused the forced internal displacement of another 2 million; brought its infrastructure – roads, water and electricity supplies, sewage system and sanitation – into a state of utter ruin. In short, the leading figures in the British government, especially Blair and Brown, along with their counterparts in the US administration, are guilty of the most horrendous war crimes and, as such, they should be brought before a Nuremberg type of tribunal. Even if all crimes laid at the doorstep of the Zimbabwean government were to be true – and they are not – they pale into insignificance compared with those of which Messrs Brown, Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld

et al

are truly guilty.

The Observer

laments that previous British diplomatic efforts against Mr Mugabe have been either “

ineffective or downright counterproductive”,

because as a former brutal colonial power Britain can claim little moral authority and is “

vulnerable to attacks of hypocrisy”.

Besides, as a veteran of southern Africa’s liberation struggle, President Mugabe attracts tremendous solidarity from the leaders of other African countries, especially in southern Africa; even those heads of government and state who do not share his agenda of African liberation are obliged to show support for him as the masses in their countries are enthusiastic supporters of the progressive policies, especially on the land question, and anti-imperialist stance of the ZANU(PF) government.

While admitting the force of the argument that “

having colonised and exploited Africa, Britain is in no position to lecture African leaders on how they manage their independent state


The Observer

nevertheless goes on to urge African leaders to be “

wary of confusing past solidarity with present-day criminal collusion”,

adding unctuously that “

Britain does not seek to reassert

[Oh, no!]

its hegemony over Zimbabwe – it seeks the empowerment of Zimbabwe’s own people

[just as it did during 90 years of its brutal and inhuman occupation of that country!]”.

Narrative misses the truth

Missing from the above narrative of Mr Brown’s, as well as from that of the



The Observer,

are the true facts concerning Zimbabwe. Apart from a cursory and passing reference in the


editorial to Britain’s colonial rule and the vulnerability of its claim to moral authority, there is not a word about the brutal nature of the regime established by Britain following its colonial conquest of Zimbabwe, with its total denial of civil and political liberties; there is not a word about the wholesale expropriation of the land of Zimbabwe and the mass eviction of the Africans from all fertile land; there is not a word about the fact that, while 4,000 white, die-hard racist, farmers monopolised most of the land, the Zimbabwean masses were compelled to eke out a miserable existence in the native reserves on marginal land, subjected to slave labour and forcible conversion to Christianity.

Missing too from the above narrative is the fact that Britain, when in 1910 it decided to devolve some power in Rhodesia, thought fit, in keeping with its usual ‘democratic’ traditions and practice, to hand it over to a tiny white minority which ruled with a rod of iron over the black masses, who only managed to escape that fate by a regime change effected through armed liberation struggle, which cost 50,000 African lives. Such was Britain’s love of democracy and its concern for the welfare of the African masses of Rhodesia that when on 11 November 1965 Ian Smith’s minority regime made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), the Wilson Labour government refused to suppress the rebellion even though Wilson had characterised the UDI by the Smith regime as an act of treason against the British Crown. Britain’s concern was for its ‘kith and kin’, not for the democratic rights of the black masses.

Labour imperialism

While the record of all British governments with regard to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is shameful, that of Labour governments is particularly so. During the course of the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations, the Thatcher Conservative government did all that it could to protect and preserve the privileges of the white minority in Rhodesia. The Lancaster House constitution, under which Zimbabwe gained its independence, barred the government of the newly-liberated Zimbabwe from effecting any change in the ownership of land for a period of 10 years. But, at the same time, under pressure from the leaders of the liberation struggle, the British government, with support from the US, undertook to provide substantial funds to enable the Zimbabwean government to acquire land from the white farmers on the basis of the ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ principle.

After prolonged and tortuous negotiations with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, her successor, prime minister John Major, eventually agreed to honour the British government’s undertaking made during the Lancaster House negotiations.

On taking office in 1997, the Labour government, contrary to international convention and rule of law, reneged on the undertakings given by the Major government and which it had inherited on the assumption of office. In the infamous letter of 5 November 1997, the then British International Development (no joke!) Secretary, Claire Short, wrote to Kumbirai Kangai, the then Zimbabwean Minister of Agriculture and Land, thus:

I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers…

“Again, I am told there were discussion in 1989 and 1996 to explore the possibility of further assistance. However that is all in the past. If we look to the present a number of specific issues are unresolved, including the way in which land would be acquired and compensation paid – clearly it would not help the poor of Zimbabwe if it was done in a way which undermined investor confidence… It follows from this that a programme of rapid land acquisition as you now seem to envisage would be impossible for us to support.”

It was following this bombshell by the Labour Minister that the Zimbabwean government embarked on the course of fast track land acquisition (for details see Harpal Brar,

Chimurenga – the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe,

Lalkar Publications, 2004). The Zimbabwean government, above all the towering leader of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, have earned the wrath of imperialism, for by expropriating the expropriators of the Zimbabwean people’s land, they have set a dangerous precedent for the violation of the sacred right of private property – a precedent which could prove very infectious indeed and spread to other parts of Africa, notably South Africa.

Attempts to revert to colonialism

While pretending not to seek to reassert hegemony over Zimbabwe and feigning to seek the “

empowerment of Zimbabwe’s own people

“, the representatives of imperialism are busy doing just the opposite, namely, attempting to create the conditions for the recolonisation of the former colonial possessions of the various imperialist powers. The US and Britain are in the van of those wanting to return to the good old days of colonial subjugation of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Blair Labour government, and its successor Brown administration, are particularly characterised by a messianic zeal to revert to colonialism – all in the name of humanitarian intervention and on the pretext of putting an end to chaos and dealing with the alleged phenomenon of “

failed states


The Observer,

the same


that we encountered earlier in this article – of 7 April 2002 reproduced excerpts from a paper, written by a certain Robert Cooper and published by the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), with its focus on

“Re-ordering the world: the long term implications of September 11


This Robert Cooper, dubbed by

The Observer “Tony Blair’s foreign policy guru”

was described by the FPC as a senior British diplomat who had “

helped to shape British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s calls for a new internationalism and a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention which would place limits on state sovereignty”.

Inter alia,

Cooper argued that the collapse of colonialism had made way for global chaos and the emergence of “

failed states


The most logical way to deal with this chaos

“, he asserted, “

and the one employed most often in the past, is colonisation. But this is unacceptable to post-modern states. Empires and imperialism are words that have become a form of abuse and no colonial powers are willing to take on the job, though the opportunities – perhaps even the need – for colonisation is as great as it ever was in the nineteenth century. Those left out of the global economy risk falling into a vicious circle. Weak government means disorder and that means falling investment.

“All the conditions for imperialism are there, but both the supply and demand for imperialism have dried up. And yet a world in which the efficient and well governed export stability and liberty seems eminently desirable.

“What is needed is a new kind of imperialism, one compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values; an imperialism which aims to bring order and organisation but which rests today on the voluntary principle.”

Robert Cooper, this arrogant and rabidly reactionary ideologue of imperialism, is wrong in asserting that the supply of imperialism has dried up. What has dried up is the “


” for it. More than that, people everywhere are waging a fierce struggle against imperialism’s attempts at subjugation, colonisation and domination. Imperialism, far from putting an end to chaos and bringing order, is, on the contrary, productive of chaos, death and destruction on a colossal scale. One has only to cast a cursory glance at Iraq post-March 2003, and compare it to the conditions in that country prior to the launch of the predatory Anglo-American war against the Iraqi people, to realise the truth of this statement of ours. Colonialism and imperialism are well past their sell-by date. All attempts at colonial subjugation by the tiny clique of imperialist bloodsuckers, donning the mantle of the ‘international community’, are bound to be shattered by the resistance of those whom it seeks to subjugate. The attempt by this handful of exceptionally rich and exceptionally powerful countries to arrogate to themselves the right to change regimes that are not to their liking, or to exclude from international fora the leaders who resist imperialism, are bound to end up in a total fiasco.

Why Zimbabwe singled out

If Zimbabwe is facing serious economic problems, these have nothing to do with land reforms but everything to do with draconian economic sanctions applied against it by all the imperialist countries over the last decade. The Zimbabwean regime and President Mugabe are not the hated dictators that they are portrayed as in the imperialist media. Zimbabwe regularly holds, on time, parliamentary and presidential elections which the ruling party has won regularly because of the support it enjoys among the masses of that country, especially the rural masses. The opposition in Zimbabwe, although a creation of, and fully funded by, foreign imperialist powers, is allowed to function, own newspapers and other forms of media, take part in elections, and be represented in parliament. This is much more than can be said of most African countries and regimes elsewhere – for instance, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf statelets. Next door to Zimbabwe happens to be Zambia, whose president, Levy Mwanawasa, rigged the election, whose police harass and beat up his opponents, and 75 per cent of whose people live in absolute poverty on less than one dollar a day. And yet, there is hardly and adverse comment on this regime in the imperialist media.

President Musharraf stole Pakistani democracy at gun point, exiled his opponents, and rigged himself into office while wearing the uniform of Chief of Staff of the Pakistani army. Mubarak of Egypt rules Egypt by the grace of imperialist support and the torture practised routinely by his intelligence services. The rulers of Saudi Arabia, besides suppressing all opposition, torturing and murdering opponents of the regime, never holding any sort of elections, resort to beating up women who dare to indulge in ordinary activity such as driving cars. The Zionist Israeli regime has turned occupied Palestine into a vast prison camp for several million Palestinians, tens of thousands of whom languish in the Zionist concentration camps; its army, air force and navy attack Palestinian population centres on a daily basis; it is busy attempting to starve the residents of Gaza into submission.

Yet the regimes of these countries do not attract much hostile comment in the imperialist media, let alone sanctions. From these few examples it is abundantly clear that human rights and the rule of law are of no concern to imperialism. Imperialism does not seek freedom, it seeks domination. It is precisely because the ZANU(PF) government stands in the way of the imperialist domination of Zimbabwe that it has come in for such harsh treatment at the hands of the imperialist powers, especially Britain and the US, as well as their agents in the working-class movement, the social democrats, Trotskyists and revisionists. Let these gentry understand that, to use the words of President Mugabe, the “…

colonial sun set a long time ago; in 1980 in the case of Zimbabwe, and hence Zimbabwe will never be a colony again. Never!”

(Speech at the UN General Assembly, 26 September 2007).

For our part we stand with the people of Zimbabwe, the ZANU(PF) government, and their undisputed leader, Robert Mugabe. We call upon the proletariat in Britain to side with the oppressed peoples of the world, the Zimbabwean people included, in their struggle against imperialist brigandage and domination, for the successes of the liberation struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations contribute immensely to the struggle of the proletariat in the imperialist countries for its own emancipation.

As an addendum to this article, we reproduce immediately below sections of Cde Mugabe’s speech at the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, New York, on 26 September, in which he lays bare the crimes of Anglo-American imperialism, its hypocrisy and double standards, and the vested economic and political interests which lurk behind their alleged concern for democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and such other hypocritical cant.

Comrade Mugabe’s Speech at the UN General Assembly

Mr. President,

We are for a United Nations that recognises the equality of sovereign nations and peoples whether big or small. We are averse to a body in which the economically and militarily powerful behave like bullies, trampling on the rights of weak and smaller states as sadly happened in Iraq. In the light of these inauspicious developments, this Organisation must surely examine the essence of its authority and the extent of its power when challenged in this manner.

Such challenges to the authority of the UN and its Charter underpin our repeated call for the revitalisation of the United Nations General Assembly, itself the most representative organ of the UN. The General Assembly should be more active in all areas including those of peace and security. The encroachment of some UN organs upon the work of the General Assembly is of great concern to us. Thus any process of revitalizing or strengthening of the General Assembly should necessarily avoid eroding the principle of the accountability of all principal and subsidiary organs to the General Assembly.

Mr. President, once again we reiterate our position that the Security Council as presently constituted is not democratic. In its present configuration, the Council has shown that it is not in a position to protect the weaker states who find themselves at loggerheads with a marauding super-power. Most importantly, justice demands that any Security Council reform redresses the fact that Africa is the only continent without a permanent seat and veto power in the Security Council. Africa’s demands are known and enunciated in the Ezulwini consensus.

Mr. President, we further call for the U.N. system to refrain from interfering in matters that are clearly the domain of member states and are not a threat to international peace and security. Development at country level should continue to be country-led, and not subject to the whims of powerful donor states.

Mr President, Zimbabwe won its independence on 18th April, 1980, after a protracted war against British colonial imperialism which denied us human rights and democracy. That colonial system which suppressed and oppressed us enjoyed the support of many countries of the West who were signatories to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Even after 1945, it would appear that the Berlin Conference of 1884, through which Africa was parcelled to colonial European powers, remained stronger than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is therefore clear that for the West, vested economic interests, racial and ethnocentric considerations proved stronger than their adherence to principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The West still negates our sovereignties by way of control of our resources, in the process making us mere chattels in our own lands, mere minders of its trans-national interests. In my own country and other sister states in Southern Africa, the most visible form of this control has been over land despoiled from us at the onset of British colonialism.

That control largely persists, although it stands firmly challenged in Zimbabwe, thereby triggering the current stand-off between us and Britain, supported by her cousin states, most notably the United States and Australia. Mr Bush, Mr. Blair and now Mr Brown’s sense of human rights precludes our people’s right to their God-given resources, which in their view must be controlled by their kith and kin. I am termed dictator because I have rejected this supremacist view and frustrated the neo-colonialists.

Mr President, clearly the history of the struggle for out own national and people’s rights is unknown to the president of the United States of America. He thinks the Declaration of Human Rights starts with his last term in office! He thinks he can introduce to us, who bore the brunt of fighting for the freedoms of our peoples, the virtues of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What rank hypocrisy!

Mr President, I lost eleven precious years of my life in the jail of a white man whose freedom and well-being I have assured from the first day of Zimbabwe’s Independence. I lost a further fifteen years fighting white injustice in my country.

Ian Smith is responsible for the deaths of well over 50,000 of my people. I bear scars of his tyranny which Britain and America condoned. I meet his victims everyday. Yet he walks free. He farms free. He talks freely, associates freely under a black Government. We taught him democracy. We gave him back his humanity.

He would have faced a different fate here and in Europe if the 50,000 he killed were Europeans. Africa has not called for a Nuremberg trial against the white world which committed heinous crimes against its own humanity. It has not hunted perpetrators of this genocide, many of whom live to this day, nor has it got reparations from those who offended against it. Instead it is Africa which is in the dock, facing trial from the same world that persecuted it for centuries.

Let Mr. Bush read history correctly. Let him realise that both personally and in his representative capacity as the current President of the United States, he stands for this “civilisation” which occupied, which colonised, which incarcerated, which killed. He has much to atone for and very little to lecture us on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His hands drip with innocent blood of many nationalities.

He still kills.

He kills in Iraq. He kills in Afghanistan. And this is supposed to be our master on human rights?

He imprisons.

He imprisons and tortures at Guantanamo. He imprisoned and tortured at Abu Ghraib. He has secret torture chambers in Europe. Yes, he imprisons even here in the United States, with his jails carrying more blacks than his universities can ever enrol. He even suspends the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Take Guantanamo for example; at that concentration camp international law does not apply. The national laws of the people there do not apply. Laws of the United States of America do not apply. Only Bush’s law applies. Can the international community accept being lectured by this man on the provisions of the universal declaration of human rights? Definitely not!

Mr President, We are alarmed that under his leadership, basic rights of his own people and those of the rest of the world have summarily been rolled back. America is primarily responsible for rewriting core tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We seem all guilty for 9/11. Mr. Bush thinks he stands above all structures of governance, whether national or international.

At home, he apparently does not need the Congress. Abroad, he does not need the UN, international law and opinion. This forum did not sanction Blair and Bush’s misadventures in Iraq. The two rode roughshod over the UN and international opinion. Almighty Bush is now coming back to the UN for a rescue package because his nose is bloodied! Yet he dares lecture us on tyranny. Indeed, he wants us to praise him! We say No to him and encourage him to get out of Iraq. Indeed he should mend his ways before he clambers up the pulpit to deliver pieties of democracy.

Mr President, the British and the Americans have gone on a relentless campaign of destabilising and vilifying my country. They have sponsored surrogate forces to challenge lawful authority in my country. They seek regime change, placing themselves in the role of the Zimbabwean people in whose collective will democracy places the right to define and change regimes.

Let these sinister governments be told here and now that Zimbabwe will not allow a regime change authored by outsiders. We do not interfere with their own systems in America and Britain. Mr Bush and Mr Brown have no role to play in our national affairs. They are outsiders and mischievous outsiders and should therefore keep out! The colonial sun set a long time ago; in 1980 in the case of Zimbabwe, and hence Zimbabwe will never be a colony again. Never!

We do not deserve sanctions. We are Zimbabweans and we know how to deal with our problems. We have done so in the past, well before Bush and Brown were known politically. We have our own regional and continental organisations and communities.

In that vein, I wish to express my country’s gratitude to President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who, on behalf of SADC, successfully facilitated the dialogue between the Ruling Party and the Opposition Parties, which yielded the agreement that has now resulted in the constitutional provisions being finally adopted. Consequently, we will be holding multiple democratic elections in March 2008. Indeed we have always had timely general and presidential elections since our independence.

Mr. President, in conclusion, let me stress once more that the strength of the United Nations lies in its universality and impartiality as it implements its mandate to promote peace and security, economic and social development, human rights and international law as outlined in the Charter. Zimbabwe stands ready to play its part in all efforts and programmes aimed at achieving these noble goals.

I thank you.

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