by Joe Davison
(Swans - April 11, 2005) As widely predicted by commentators, Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF swept the boards in Zimbabwe's recent parliamentary elections (held on Thursday, 31 March). In the weeks and days leading up to the elections a veritable deluge of vitriol and condemnation was leveled against Mugabe, confirming his status as international pariah and one he shares with the likes of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jung Il, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, the Palestinian people in their entirety, Iran; in short anyone who dares offer resistance to the world order as determined by plutocrats in Washington, D.C.
Mugabe has held power in Zimbabwe since the nation gained its "independence" from the former white supremacist, apartheid state of Rhodesia in 1980, but it's only been in the last 6 years or so that he's fallen foul of the representatives of international capital in Washington, London and Brussels. Charges of imprisonment without trial, torture, voter intimidation and even the control of scarce food supplies to starve his opponents and their supporters into submission have been made against the incumbent regime.
Even on the Left, voices have been raised to the point of crescendo in condemnation and vilification of Mugabe's regime, as they were against Milosevic's in the former Yugoslavia, before its breakup, as they've always been against the Cuban Revolution, and as they were against Saddam Hussein's in Iraq in advance of a war and occupation which, to date, has accounted for some 100,000 Iraqi lives, has ushered in material poverty of an extreme previously unheard of in that country, and has completely destroyed any vestige of infrastructure or civil society.
But, as in the case of the aforementioned regimes, is Robert Mugabe's crime that he refuses to allow fair elections and rules with an iron fist, as the spokesmen for international capital would have us believe? Or is it in truth that, with a series of controversial land expropriations, he's dared to attempt the redistribution of wealth from a privileged elite (in Zimbabwe's case a white elite) to millions of landless peasants, many of whom fought in the country's protracted and righteous struggle for independence and the overthrow of the previous neo-colonial state of Rhodesia, in which, as with South Africa, racism had been institutionalized and enshrined in law?
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the West's relationship with Mugabe wasn't always this way. Indeed, back in 1980, a veritable honeymoon period followed the Lancaster House negotiations, during which the incipient nation's constitution was written (Zimbabwe's constitution being written in consultation with its former colonial masters). One of the most important provisions in that constitution, at least from the point of view of the white farmers and businessmen determined to retain control of the nation's wealth, was the one stipulating that the British government would compensate any white farmer for his land only in those cases where he agreed to sell to the new regime, thus effectively blocking any plans to institute measures of social or economic justice in a nation in which the very opposite prevailed. At the time, and still to this day, over 70 percent of the most arable land was owned by the white minority, a transplanted ascendancy much like the Loyalist ascendancy which obtains to this day in the occupied six counties of Ireland, and the Zionist ascendancy in the occupied territories of Palestine.
Initially, Robert Mugabe proved a faithful servant to the interests of international capital; and just like every other former colonial possession in that tortured and long-pillaged continent, he duly accepted IMF structural adjustments as a precondition of desperately needed capital loans and investment. The poverty wrought by this savage neo-colonialist control reached a nadir in the 1990s, by which time the Zimbabwean economy had been reduced to tatters and allegations of state and private corruption being made against the regime by a coalition of trade unionists, students, clergymen, and others, led directly to the formation of the opposition MDC in September 2000.
However, lest anyone be under the impression that the alternative offered by the opposition be an improvement on the current state of affairs, let the words of the MDC's economic spokesman, Eddie Cross, spoken in advance of Zimbabwe's 2000 parliamentary elections, leave them under no illusion.
We are going to fast track privatization. All fifty government parastatals (a government-owned company or agency) will be privatized within a two year time frame, but we are going far 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.
Mugabe, responding to the threat posed by this new opposition back in 2000, unleashed the expropriations and confiscations that have so attracted the fury of governments and free market demagogues in the West. His motivation for doing so undoubtedly had its roots in opportunism, being nothing less than a desperate measure designed to maintain and solidify his grasp on power. However, that in no way diminishes the justice of such expropriations, which in a very real sense have involved the expropriating of the expropriators.
In short, Mugabe's real crime, as will be judged by history, was not one committed against the white privileged minority with land expropriations, it was the crime committed against the Zimbabwean people back in 1980 with the passing of control of Zimbabwe's economy to the IMF and the World Bank, thus ensuring the continuance of a legacy of exploitation and pillage begun by Cecil Rhodes in the 19th century, and subsequently carried on with vigor by successive British governments thereafter.
Indeed, the entire history of Africa is written in the architectural splendor of European capitals, monuments and palaces paid for in the blood of millions of African men, women and children, either forced to work extracting the wealth of the most resource rich continent on the planet, or sold into slavery, at the behest of that breed of savage gentlemen colonizer whose exploits throughout the African continent have accounted for more innocent lives than Hitler and Genghis Khan combined.
This is the reality of Africa, one which all the insincere platitudes about the crisis of debt in that continent cannot refute.
Rather than be vilified for undertaking the expropriation of land and the confiscation of farms belonging to supporters of the former colonial regime, Mugabe should in fact be vilified for not allowing more expropriations, repudiating the debt and confiscating the industry and businesses in Zimbabwe that continue to be owned and controlled by foreign interests and corporations.
As a bourgeois nationalist, and with a monstrous track record on human rights with respect to gays in particular, he is clearly not up to the task. It is to be hoped, however, that the consciousness instilled in the Zimbabwean people as a result of the expropriations that have taken place thus far has equipped them to continue a process which constitutes the only way forward, not only for Zimbabwe but for the entire developing world.