March 17, 2003
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's many Western critics took heart when
Zimbabwe's long-divided opposition forces coalesced in September 1999 into
a new political party called the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Led by
former trade union leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC quickly drew generous
patronage from a constellation of Western governments, non-governmental
organizations, and transnational interests such as the British "Zimbabwe
Democracy Trust," all united in their hostility to Mugabe's economic
program and in particular to its centerpiece, the Land Acquisition Act.
The latter seeks to transform the Rhodesia-era land tenure system which
left most of Zimbabwe's best land in the hands of a small white
British-descended minority, by assigning smallholder farms to the landless
black majority. The MDC calls for reversal of the land reform, claiming
that it has been marred by "corruption" and "human rights abuses," and
generally advocates a return to neo-liberal policies under IMF auspices
and Western supervision. As British civil liberties lawyer Christine Stone
observed, the MDC "has all the trappings of a Western-sponsored political
party including a close relationship with the US International Republican
Institute (IRI) which can always be relied upon to promote the engines of
the new globalism under the guise of backing new democrats."
After successfully helping defeat President Mugabe's referendum campaign in early 2000 for a constitutional amendment which would have enabled government confiscation of white-owned land, the MDC elected a large minority of 57 deputies to the ruling Zanu-PF party's 62 in that year's legislative elections. Hopes were riding high in MDC ranks. But the last year has seen important setbacks for MDC, from which it may not recover. Less than two weeks before Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election, the Australian public broadcasting outlet SBS broke the story of a plot to assassinate President Mugabe involving MDC presidential candidate Tsvangirai and key figures in the MDC leadership. Revelations have emerged of the MDC courting the support of a top military official for an MDC coup, and most recently, of a South African-British plot to dump Tsvangirai and the MDC as the vehicle of Western interests in Zimbabwe, and to create a new party in its place, in the belief that Tsvangirai is now a liability. New African Magazine editor Baffour Ankomah visited Zimbabwe in February, on the eve of Tsvangirai's treason trial. Here is his report.