|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive for the opening of the Parliament in Harare June 9. (Photo: STR / AFP-Getty Images)
Squashing speculation of ill health and imminent demise, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, recently opened the first session of the Sixth Parliament on the backcloth of a failed, if not foiled, mass job stay away to protest growing poverty and lawlessness following a massive crackdown on urban blight in the country.
Civil society groups, the Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.) and trade unions called for a two-day nation wide work boycott and demonstrations against the Mugabe regime for running the country into the ground. This follows three weeks of a nationwide clean up campaign code named “Operation Murambatsvina” aimed at arresting urban squalor and vending within cities using terror and brutality.
Comments by Zimbabwean newspapers suggest the stay away had no takers.
Opposition weekly Zimbabwe Independent (June 10, 2005) said the protest action faltered “largely due to poor organization and lack of leadership.” While the centrist Zimbabwe Mirror (June 12, 2005) quotes unidentified sources saying opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was against the work boycott whose failure was expected, according to the pro-government press. Zimbabwe, once a breadbasket of Southern Africa and a model democracy, is facing its worst economic performance since independence in 1980. Besides, three million Zimbabweans including children could starve to death unless the country speedily finds enough foreign currency to pay for grain imports.
However, in his opening speech to Parliament, Mugabe did not blame the political and economic lethargy on his regime. Instead, he said the drought has necessitated a shift from depending on rain fed agriculture to irrigation schemes.
Persistent fuel shortages have dogged the country for nearly three weeks owing to the scarcity of foreign currency to pay suppliers in the Middle East and South Africa. As a result of the fuel crisis, public transportation has ground to a halt forcing most people to walk to work and it has paralyzed industrial operations and commercial trade.
The black or unofficial market, which government is battling to stamp out is thriving better than before. A countrywide blitz meant to eliminate the parallel foreign currency market, illegal vending and the sale of cheap Chinese goods has left close to one million Zimbabweans homeless and countless hawkers and informal traders without a source of livelihood.
The pro-government, Herald (June 10, 2005) credited government for the clean up operation saying, “The cleanup exercise apart from improving the face of the towns and cities will also rid the towns of dangerous criminals … The government, working together with the respective municipalities, should shame the prophets of doom who want to whip the people’s emotions by claiming the cleanup exercise is meant to punish the people in towns for voting for opposition Movement for Democratic Change.”
Analysts expect the unemployment figure to jump beyond the currently estimated 70 percent and that the wave of crime will escalate as people seek to make life tolerable in Zimbabwe. According to the country’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, an average family now needs close to $4 million Zimbabwean dollars (ZW) a month just to keep soul and body together.
A liter of petrol is going for $30 000 ZW just over $1 (U.S.) on the black market, a far cry from the official $3400 ZW a liter. Basic commodities such as milk, sugar, bread, and mealie meal (cornmeal) are in short supply and at times available at inflated prices.
Amidst the current challenges, the Sunday Mail (June 12, 2005) another pro-government weekly praised the clean up campaign it linked to President Mugabe’s order and development message when he opened Parliament:
“The ongoing Operation Restore Order is meant to achieve this [order] … Of course, the outcry against this drive to restore order orchestrated by Britain and America and their puppet M.D.C. was to be expected. The prospect of seeing a Mugabe-led Government achieving the expected order and neatness in a Zimbabwe they love to see in ruins is anathema to these detractors.”
Zimbabwe — shunned by international investors and donors — is a pariah state propped up by scorched-earth policies, political patronage and state-sponsored repression.
“For far too long our policy making and administration has been rather piece meal, hand-to-mouth and poorly thought out. We have been our own worst enemies … We sincerely hope that cronyism and patronage will not lead to the suffocation of our institutions any further. We demand that the right people, key people, should be placed in key positions for the benefit of the country,” commented the Daily Mirror (June 12, 2005).
On the economic front, the country has not fared better either. The central bank governor, Dr. Gideon Gono, hailed as the country’s economic messiah, has admitted that the economy is performing below 80 percent. Finance minister, Dr. Herbert Murerwa, has revised the previously projected 5 percent economic growth to 3 percent. Surprisingly, the much avowed land reform, which economic analysts blame for destroying Zimbabwe’s agriculture, is only expected to grow by a mere 28 percent, raising questions about its effectiveness.
Dr. Gono has also unexpectedly revised his inflation targets upwards to 50 percent against earlier projections of single digit inflation by year-end. The economic meltdown has been precipitated by massive government expenditure and over borrowing, corruption, and lack of viable exports.
The government, despite swearing by the voluntary Southern Africa Development Community Electoral protocol agreed in Mauritius last year, is still facing accusations of electoral fraud in the March 2005 parliamentary polls. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won 78 seats in the 150-member House of Parliament; the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.) grabbed 41 seats. The only independent seat in Parliament went to maverick Jonathan Moyo. Talks aimed at revising inter-part dialogue to deliberate the future of Zimbabwe have been on the back-burner confirming fears that Zanu-PF will never revisit them again. With the two-thirds majority, the ruling party has announced plans to amend the constitution and create a Senate among other changes.
President Mugabe, at the helm for the last 25 years has hinted at retiring after 2008 when his current term of office expires. But, many Zimbabweans are skeptical that he will bow out of the political stage at the drop of a hat.
A regular contributor to the opposition Zimbabwe Independent newspaper recently said the problem with Mugabe’s leadership is that he thinks he is made of the same stuff as God. Maybe this line of thinking has frequently crossed Mugabe’s mind as he contemplates the future after 2008.
The elevation of former guerrilla fighter, Joyce Mujuru, to the third powerful post of second vice president could not have left Zanu-PF more divided. At the urging of the important Zanu-PF Women’s League, political watchers say, Mugabe pushed for the endorsement of Mujuru’s candidate by all provinces. Those who did not toe the line paid the price, including Jonathan Moyo — a former government critic turned apologist.
The December 2004, the Fourth People’s National Congress of the ruling party confirmed that Mugabe still calls the shots and democracy is only in the vocabulary of the M.D.C. Questions are also being asked as to when Mugabe decided that his ‘man would be a woman”. Political scientist John Makumbe says Mugabe has challenged Mujuru to aspire for his position but only when he (Mugabe) says so. The elevation of Mujuru, who is far junior in party ranks to Mugabe’s former blue-eyed boy Emmerson Mnangagwa, party chairman John Nkomo and former speaker Didymus Mutasa, whose names were floated as potential successors, makes Mujuru an obvious target. Makumbe predicts that the losing suitors to Mugabe’s political throne will use every trick in the book to bring down Mujuru if this will stop her succeeding Mugabe. Mugabe himself is a former liberation war hero now turned dictator.
By his own confession, Mugabe seems healthy and fit in body, even though his political diagnosis may be different.
Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe
PROMOTING NON-VIOLENT PRINCIPLES TO ACHIEVE DEMOCRACY
On becoming a
'We are a sovereign nation! We will never be a colony again!' This slogan drove ZANU PF's 2005 election campaign; and it was followed by a frenzied attack on Tony Blair and his treasonous accomplices of imperialism within Zimbabwe. The thousands of school children forced to listen to such rantings have never experienced being a colony and surely do not understand the concept of sovereignty. But, as they boast disingenuously of Zimbabwe's sovereignty, they are busy selling what little remains of it to a different coloniser - the Chinese.
In the 1960's, when our push for independence with majority rule began in earnest, we knew what a colony meant, and thought we knew what sovereignty meant. A colony was a country ruled not by its own people, but by others. Sovereignty meant being in charge of our own fate, our own government, our own natural resources, and our own decisions about our present and future development. If we threw off our foreign rulers then we would be sovereign in our own land. There were two problems with this, we discovered. One was that in order to gain that "independence" we had to make compromises, particularly in regard to what we could do with private ownership of land. Secondly, although we might be politically independent, economically we could not progress without assistance from foreigners in the form of loans and investment.
Throughout the first twenty years of "Independence", ZANU PF pursued an essentially western-oriented, capitalist approach to the economy. In spite of socialist rhetoric and tight economic controls, socialism was in no way a serious prospect. When the economy ran into trouble at the end of the 1980's, because we could not pay our debts, we had to depend on balance of payments support from the IMF; being indebted meant we had to take instructions from the lenders on how to organise our economy, and this entangled us deeper in the tentacles of world capitalism. Indeed, we were no longer a colony, but we were hardly sovereign in our land because we could not choose our own policies. Too late ZANU PF realised the danger. By the end of the 1990's with the economy contracting under structural adjustment, ZANU's political support crumbled. They decided to renew efforts to use land redistribution to pacify sup porters and reinvigorate the economy. But land reform still required foreign assistance and they were frustrated by conditions placed by donors who distrusted their corrupt, opaque and nepotistic methods. It is a fact of economic life that the financier dictates the terms; but while in 1980 and 1990 ZANU PF had been prepared to work within the conditions, in 2000 they could see that the impositions would affect their ability to rule by patronage. Instead they staged a governmental temper tantrum, denounced the west, and returned to the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the liberation struggle.
In the name of sovereignty, of not accepting dictates from anyone, they accused the west of interfering in their internal affairs. And then rationality flew away in the wind and they took the breathtaking step of destroying the whole of the economy. Did they believe that it could be rebuilt from scratch and genuine independence would result? Had they no understanding of the painstaking work based on experience, skill, time and financial resources required to develop a complex economy such as was Zimbabwe's? Free from external dictates of western governments they may now be, but it is time to realise that economic reality can also dictate and curtail sovereignty.
When the economic dislocation began to produce serious shortages, it became clear that ZANU PF could not "go it alone"; they had no alternative but to look for other friends. Did they believe that the new friends would not place conditions on them, would respect their "sovereignty"? The first choice was Libya, because at least it could produce badly needed fuel, and it was known to be anti-western; but Libya was not enough of a friend to give away fuel that could not be paid for, and was just then busy compromising its own "sovereignty" to gain acceptability in the western world. Malaysia was initially sympathetic but had a change of leadership, which diverted its interest in assisting ZANU PF. Then they had to look for the player of last resort - the Chinese.
It was not the first time that ZANU PF had turned to China when it had no other friends. In the early 1960's, when the nationalists decided to demand full independence, they first thought that they could achieve it simply by negotiating with the British government. They were not socialists and were not revolutionaries; they were nationalists, wanting a liberal form of democracy on the British model. But the British could not or would not deliver. The decision to embrace armed struggle drove both ZAPU and ZANU to the "East". ZAPU, on the scene earlier, had made contact with the Soviet Union. ZANU was forced to make do with the Chinese version of communism; the split between the Soviet Union and China by the early 60's allowed them space to develop alongside the Soviet-backed ZAPU. ZANU rapidly transformed themselves into socialists and developed a new rhetoric to fit the need for support from China. They sacrificed the freedom to develop their own political line in order to get training, logistics, and political support. And increasingly Chinese ideology seemed to make sense in their struggle to dislodge settler colonialism.
In the 60's, ZANU needed China to assist with the struggle to overthrow colonialism. China needed ZANU to bolster its quarrel with the Soviets for the control of world communism. China was itself becoming a champion of the oppressed and colonised, in competition with the Soviet Union, and African liberation movements provided suitable clients. The split in the Zimbabwean liberation movement was a golden opportunity.
ZANU PF is again in desperate need of a friend. They have clung to power in Zimbabwe in the face of clear and repeated demonstrations that the people do not want them. They have destroyed an already struggling economy in the name of anti-imperialism and sovereignty. They have alienated their friends of the 1980's and the 1990's. What better solution than to turn again to their friend of the 1960's and 70's?
During the Cold War, China pursued interests in independent African countries, providing assistance with projects such as the building of the railway from Zambia to Dar es Salaam after UDI, building roads, selling consumer goods, and distributing thousands of free copies of Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book". Their motive was primarily ideological. Surely they would be able to help ZANU PF again in their hour of need, to combat a common enemy.But while ZANU is still thinking in the cadences of armed revolutionary struggle against imperialism, the Chinese have moved on. Their once underdeveloped economy is fast transforming into a challenger to the dominant Americans, using capitalist principles of exploitation and profit taking.
China has recreated itself in the past fifteen years. The retention of a communist political system means little more than complete control of the political space by the Communist Party. Economically, they have developed capitalist production, relying to some extent on American, Japanese and European investment, but also on opening up to private Chinese ownership, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Growth of the Chinese economy in the past decade has been phenomenal, and they have reached the stage that European capitalism reached in the 19th century. The Chinese companies need fields for investment where they can raise capital through super-profits, they need raw materials, and they also need markets where they can sell the vast output from thousands of factories that produce cheap consumer goods.
Inside China, economic development has been rapid since the early nineties, but it is within the last five years that it has started to have a major impact on the world economy. It is a magnet for investment from the west, particularly the U.S.; it has seen major population changes from rural to urban centres, huge developments in the energy and electronics sectors and massive growth of manufacturing as its citizens become more able to afford mass-produced consumer goods. And as it has transformed its production from state-owned to privately owned, it has invaded foreign markets with all kinds of goods. Last year it joined the World Trade Organisation.
Quietly, without fanfare, China has been moving into Africa. Africa is the one continent which still has relatively untapped reserves, particularly of fossil fuels and minerals. Her main targets have been Sudan, Nigeria, and Angola. China needs oil, and has been getting it. She has been developing oilfields in Sudan and now Sudan supplies 5% of her oil consumption. Nigeria not only has oil, but also provides a huge market in a country where manufacturing is not well developed. But there is no African country where China would not like to sell her manufactured goods, particularly clothing, shoes, hardware, electronic goods - in fact almost anything, including as we have seen, airplanes. In just three years, from 2001 to 2004, China's trade with Africa has more than doubled from $US10 billion to $US 20 billion.
What could China want in Zimbabwe? We do not have oil, our population is small compared to those of larger African countries. Our location is not particularly strategic for an outsider. What the Chinese want is raw materials and opportunities for investment. They will be happy to have a share in mines, power production, anything that can turn them a profit for a comparatively small amount of investment. These are wanted not so much by the Chinese government, but by individual companies. They also need an outlet for the substandard manufactured goods that cannot be sold in the developed world, where they sell their quality products. The Chinese government is interested in their companies' progress, and assists them through such bodies as the China-Africa Co-operation Forum.
For China, Zimbabwe is economic small fry, but for ZANU PF, China is the only way out of a deep hole. ZANU PF needs what it has thrown away from the rest of the world - investment to get the economy going again, investment to cover the foreign currency gap, the energy gap, the food gap, and the agricultural production gap. But ZANU PF needs the Chinese for something more sinister as well - perhaps it is only the Chinese who are prepared to assist them to stay in power against the wishes of their own people. The Chinese have ample experience in controlling restive peoples, both their own and those they have colonised, as in Tibet. They have no compunctions about democracy or human rights, only a single minded obsession with control. And since their own people do not enjoy democratic freedom of expression and participation, they have no check on what types of regimes they support el sewhere. ZANU PF has doubtless observed how China has been able to supply the Sudanese government with military equipment used against their own people and at the same time frustrate any United Nations action against Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur.
The Chinese government also has an interest in political alliances that will promote China's policies world-wide. They want supporting votes in international bodies that will protect them from scrutiny over their human rights abuses, their non-observance of international labour standards, not to mention violations of democratic principles and civil rights. A state such as Zimbabwe can provide that support.
But the Chinese government is also perhaps the only one that succeeded in destroying their own economy while yet remaining in power. They reduced their own economy to ruins during the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960's and 70's, when they subdued all ideas outside the accepted party line through extreme brutality and deliberate breakdown of society. As communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, they prevented the same from occurring in China by the brute force symbolised by the massacre of hundreds in Tienanmen Square in 1989. They probably understand what ZANU PF are trying to do, and are quite prepared to help them do it.
So where are we at the moment in terms of engagement with the Chinese? Our government is so secretive that it is often difficult to have authenticated information. In terms of investment, we have been told of their interest in Hwange colliery and electricity generation, their interest in farming, and of possible involvement in platinum mining. We know the government is targeting China as a source of tourists; we also know that we have bought three commercial airplanes for the price of two, and we have seen the Chinese busses that are reportedly of poor quality. We have also seen the military aircraft, the brand new army trucks and riot gear, and experienced the effects of jamming of radio broadcasts, said to be done using Chinese equipment.
What we do not know are the terms of engagement. Is it true that we are paying for military equipment and commercial aircraft with our tobacco crop, or with our natural resources? We don't know; nor do we know the prices we are paying. We have already seen the flood of cheap Chinese goods on the market. How do they repatriate their profits? There are stories such as that of the individual Chinese businessman who made enough profit in four years of small trading to build himself a house in Dubai. Are they being favoured in forex deals? We don't know. While we may need the investment in key productive areas, what are we giving in exchange? One thing we do know from our own experience is that the Chinese do not have any concern for labour standards and exploit labour to the fullest. Furthermore, they often do not even provide the jobs we need, preferring to bring their own personnel to work on projects in Africa. And their environmental awareness has been open to question even within China, demonstrating that development takes priority, with environmental impact far down the scale of priorities. If they have no wish to preserve their own environment, why would they care about ours?
Recently we have seen the use of the Chinese jets, the army trucks and riot gear in the war on the urban poor. The use of slogans for campaigns such as "Driving out the Rubbish" are reminiscent of Chinese campaigns during the Cultural Revolution. Is this the beginning of an attempt, with Chinese assistance and protection, to engineer society in a manner beneficial to ZANU PF? It is too early to tell, but it is a frightening thought.
If we follow this policy line, where will we be in three or fours years' time? Of course it all depends on how large the Chinese presence looms, and how much we offer in return. Although we could not describe the relationship between our two countries as classic colonialism, it certainly fits the bill of late twentieth century neo-colonialism - we invest in your economy for our own benefit, extract the natural resources for the development of our own industries, not yours, and sell you the products of our factories. Such investment brings few jobs for Zimbabweans, and little benefit, while the Chinese take their profits. That is the economic side of it. The political side is even more sinister for the Zimbabwean people - we provide you the means to maintain your control over your own people when they resist your policies, and the protection from censure in international bodies.
The Chinese know that our people do not appreciate the relationship, but they will support an oppressive government so that the relationship can continue to their benefit. As long as ZANU PF remains in power they will provide them with military equipment, even airplanes, to suppress the people's aspirations, their right not to be arbitrarily deprived of their property, their civil rights, even their right to make a living in the informal sector. They will assist ZANU PF to gain total control of all information that circulates in the country so that people may remain in ignorance. They even know how to depopulate cities and send "unwanted elements" to the countryside for hard labour. In spite of all the sweet nothings mouthed at diplomatic encounters, China is no longer the champion of African "liberation" or even of African development. Its business deals are purely that - business, and in competition with American business to exploit the opportunities that Africa offers. The political deals serve their own interests first, the ZANU PF elite second, and the Zimbabwean people not at all.
ZANU PF seems to think that the Chinese will rescue them and the economy. It's possible that they will, but not in the name of sovereignty, not in the name of development and certainly not in the name of democratic progress. They will become the new colonisers, dictating the terms of engagement. They may bring a distorted growth while undermining indigenous Zimbabwean development, and depriving us of what little is left of our rights as citizens. China will not be the champion of poor Zimbabweans, the defenders of our nation against the grasping foreigner. China will be the foreigner and ZANU PF the aider and abettor in the sale of our resources and exploitation of our people. Has ZANU PF understood the price of turning to China at this juncture? Or is no price too high to pay for remaining in power?
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