|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
UNDERSTANDING MUGABE (22. 9. 2002)
It is hard for anyone used to the checks and balances of democracy to understand what drives Robert Mugabe … how can he watch his people die ? How can he lie so believably ? Is he a fool - or in the last stages of a fatal disease ?
Each has been proffered as an excuse – yet Mugabe needs none of them. He’s a brilliant man, an avowed Marxist and capable of exterminating whatever stands in the way of achieving his objectives.
In the late 60’s - the communist world determined to spread its ideology through young people, particularly from Africa. who could be trained for leadership. Mugabe, with thousands of other black youngsters, received information from or were physically taken to the Prague ‘centre for disinformation’, to Russia, China or Korea ostensibly for leadership and weapons training. More important was political indoctrination.
Unimpressed with it or its outcomes they saw little relevance until they realised that through communism they could engineer absolute power - for life. For youngsters unlikely to taste power otherwise – this was heady stuff.
Leadership inherited or won for a limited term on merit, has its rights and privileges tempered by responsibility. Leadership gained ‘through the barrel of a gun’ believes implicitly and only, in its rights to that leadership … and thinks not of responsibility for people or country.
As a television newsreader and journalist, I saw clearly what drove Robert Mugabe in those early days. After reading the dreaded word comrade 17 times as I announced the 1980 election results, I watched as a body of comrades clutching little red books of ZANU doctrine marched, stone-faced into the ZBC newsrooms. They announced that never again would we speak of England, the United States, Australia, Canada – unless with pejorative handles of "colonialist", "expansionist" etc. In future we would praise the glorious deeds of Kim Il Sung, Marshall Tito and Ceaucescu.
For most of the population however, the apprehensions of white and many black Zimbabweans were short lived.
In his inaugural speech Mugabe declared: ‘Our new nation requires every one of us to be a new man. If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you will become a friend and ally.’
The country was beguiled - amazed at his oratory, his erudition. Mugabe took pains to talk to renegade Prime Minister, Ian Smith and Army Commander Peter Walls. Sanctions were removed … black and white relationships improved - and the Lancaster House agreement held safeguards for the next ten years.
The country was beguiled. It heard, but did not understand … the insistence on the word Comrade for all government officials. It heard, but did not understand … the formation of the inner circle to be named the Politburo. It heard – but did not understand … Mugabe was an avowed Marxist.
As millions found out elsewhere, people can and will be subdued as and when necessary.
Shortly after independence the first signs of revolt were seen in Matabeleland. A North Korean team was appointed to train a brigade answerable to Mugabe, to ‘keep the peace.’ The infamous 5th Brigade murdered tens of thousands of Matabele and threw their bodies down mine shafts. Journalists were removed from the area and few people elsewhere knew what was happening.
Their leader, and Rhodesia’s first true Nationalist, Joshua Nkomo was hounded out of the country until Mugabe neutered him by offering a meaningless Cabinet position.
The country settled and flourished, capitalism seemed acceptable … fears diminished – until the early ‘90’s. The economy dipped and election promises of a free house and schooling for all came to nothing. Educated blacks and the whites became an irritant, questioning decisions, passing judgement against government and continuing to hold the high economic ground.
Many black Zimbabweans openly stated rule under the whites had served them better.
In February 2000 - a referendum thought to be mere endorsement of a desired constitutional change was decisively overthrown. When Mugabe realised he no longer held the hearts and minds of his people, he turned straight back to Marxism.
Mugabe then ordered 21,000 AK47's from Russia and $72 million worth of other equipment, including tanks and anti-personnel weaponry, from China. He started repatriating soldiers from the war in the DRC (Congo).
His fury grew, when in parliamentary elections four months later, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, all but threw his government out. The ‘all but’ being the MDC’s inability to cover and expose every aspect of the vote rigging taking place.
Mugabe ordered the most sophisticated anti-riot equipment in the world from Israel … for the time had come to subdue the people for their insubordination.
For several years after Independence, the fist-pumping calls of ‘A’luta continua’ – the struggle continues – became the mantra for jogging demonstrations through the streets.
In February 1983, between television news bulletins, I asked my co-reader, a man who headed Mugabe’s propaganda arm during the independence war, what the phrase A’luta continua really meant. I too, needed to know what I was struggling for. Reluctantly, the phrase was explained as the struggle towards "absolute power." When asked to define the phrase, I was told "when the people are on their knees asking for a handful of mealie meal, and you are the only one who can give it" (sic).
I chilled, as I saw the fanaticism in his eyes. It became our cue to join family in Australia.
To achieve absolute power, opposition must be removed – whites and educated black Zimbabweans first – then anyone informed enough to know there was a better way of doing things.
Phones are tapped, e-mails read, threats issued and carried out – independent journalists removed or harassed and those externally who write ‘nasty ‘ articles or broadcast into Zimbabwe, are under surveillance.
Land, businesses, local government, any power held in hands other than the ruling party is seen as a threat which might undermine absolute power. So it must be taken or ‘handed’ over … if neither happens, it must be destroyed so it can never be used against them.
The white farmers employ 400,000 black workers and have the trust of many more. Intelligence services told Mugabe farm workers were not afraid to vote the way conscience dictated. They said those connections as well as any between black Zimbabweans friendly to whites must be severed. They were guilty of treason and must be re-educated. If killed in the process, it was the opportune removal of another problem.
This helped achieve the primary strategy by disabling food production. Government then took over grain distribution and a convenient drought, means Zimbabwe and countries dependent upon their maize and wheat, are now starving.
Starvation - the ultimate disciplining force in all of world history, is Robert Mugabe’s final tool to subdue a people. But, the world said food aid must be distributed by internationally recognised organisations and not, as Mugabe insisted, only through government. He is incandescent with rage.
If you plan to subdue, you must, simultaneously, shore up support. Mugabe raised government and military officials pay by up to 100% while telling his troops that whites were behind all the problems and promising to ‘reward’ them for services rendered.
There will be few farms left in private hands – there are simply too many calls on them – soldiers from the Congo, debts to Libya and the need to ensure loyalty at all levels of Mugabe’s political and military superstructure.
Mugabe has now reshuffled his cabinet, and refers to it as his WAR cabinet. He fired the only white as well as Simba Makoni, an outstanding man, but one never in full support of what Mugabe was doing.
A month ago, the government said it needed only 6 million people – one must add in parentheses (provided they all vote for the ruling party.) Those who know the population level is almost 13 million gasped at its implication.
Mugabe will ensure the resources of state keep his supporters alive, while starving the opposition to death. It is the ultimate means of shoring up support.
Mugabe has been preparing for civil uprising. He knows there are millions of disaffected blacks many outside Zimbabwe. The 35,000 whites internally, are hardly worth bothering about – they’ll be used, if useful … mainly as cannon fodder for the ranting vilification which draws headlines.
But they could become dangerous bedfellows. So efforts will be redoubled to make sure anyone holding conflicting views is ‘neutered’ before this happens.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, last week talked of a gathering storm - calling people together and asking them to prepare. The opposition party has played the democracy game like the kindly gentlemen they are. They feel Mugabe must inevitably bow to pressure and play the game.
He is playing the game. Unfortunately, it is his game … not theirs.
Externally, Mugabe is taking actions most other African leaders admire, as most came through the same Marxist political indoctrination, sharing experiences in the same training camps. They feel he is ‘sorting out’ the whites - belligerently daring those ‘colonialists’ and ‘imperialists’ to take him on.
Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu have spoken angrily against what Mugabe is doing. Yet a few weeks ago, Mugabe was applauded by such as Sam Nujoma of Namibia. Mugabe played the race card to perfection, spitting vitriol at anyone who dared think they might influence what he was doing. The tacit support of African rulers, means millions of black Zimbabweans are condemned to death in the coming months. The double tragedy is that any democratic nation deemed to be ‘white’ orientated - is shamed into thinking it has no right to intervene.
A South African government order to close the border would see land-locked Zimbabwe grind to a halt in days
It won’t happen.
Zimbabwe is powerful militarily - but, so are both South Africa and Botswana. There have been angry protests from Botswana, but African military intervention is also unlikely to happen.
On one hand he blandly assures a gullible west and the desperately hoping Zimbabweans that everything will be all right - on the other, he determinedly pursues his dream. Let nobody believe otherwise.
To restore the country will require entrepreneurial skills and investment – likely to benefit those he deems traitors. He will not attempt to restore it until the people are suitably repressed. He doesn’t need to … his personal wealth and that of those around him is secure.
The programme of subjugation is almost complete.
Most Zimbabweans agree they had the best chance in Africa to become a model, prosperous, multi-racial country. In 1980, it lived within its means despite a 15-year war - with sufficient food for its people, one of the highest levels of education and growing opportunities for all.
Ian Smith knew what havoc a ruthless Marxist ideologist like Mugabe could wreak on his country. But his pleas for evolution to black rule came as prevailing wisdom, battered by libertarian denunciation of ‘red under the bed’ thinking, saw him as out of context and out of time.
Britain also knew. But, urging support from the Commonwealth, and in unseemly haste to solve the problem of a troublesome colony, she threw Zimbabwe to the dogs and has a lot to answer for.
HARARE — At 8am, people here wait in long queues for the shops and banks to open. Milk is scarce, and salt and oil can only be obtained at ridiculous prices on the black market. Cars form 1-kilometre-long queues for petrol. Shop owners do not bother to print new menus or price displays; they just add extra zeros in texta to keep up with hyperinflation.
The average Zimbabwean's wage is Z$15,000 per month, while farm workers earn just Z$6500 per month — the equivalent of US$4.30 at the real exchange rate. A can of soup is Z$500, a local bus trip is Z$100. Most people can't afford to eat. Workers' savings are disappearing. Many university students turn to prostitution or join the army to survive.
Munyaradzi Gwisai, an International Socialist Organisation (ISOZ) activist and a former member of parliament, told Green Left Weekly that in Zimbabwe, “for ordinary people capitalism has never been as much of a failure as it is today”.
Gwisai said that Zimbabwe's economic crisis is due to: the implementation of neoliberal “structural adjustment” policies, which have resulted in decreased economic self-reliance; deregulation of the currency exchange rate; and privatisation, which has resulted in massive price increases that hit poor people the hardest.
Repression against the workers' movement and the opposition is fierce in Zimbabwe. If more than three people gather together, they can be arrested and imprisoned for up to three years. On February 14, Valentine's Day, 70 women protesting against hunger and government violence were arrested in Harare just a few minutes after their protest began. The women were banging on pots and pans and giving roses to passersby. Police dressed in riot gear dispersed onlookers.
A meeting of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in Bulawayo on February 18 was raided before it started and trade union leaders were arrested. Workers who arrived for the meeting, as well as bystanders, were chased away by police wielding batons and “tear gas” (in reality, a substance originally intended for elephants). Police also regularly attend student meetings.
“The repression has not peaked. As the economic crisis worsens and people mobilise, the only way the regime of President Robert Mugabe can sustain itself is through massive violence”, Gwisai told GLW. “The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front government talks left to appease the working class, because it fears it more than local and international capital, but it's policies remain extremely right-wing.”
Gwisai was expelled from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for speaking out against its increasingly neoliberal, anti-worker policies. At the time, he was the elected MDC MP for the Harare seat of Highfield. The government declared Gwisai's seat vacant after the MDC informed it of its expulsion of the fiery young socialist.
Gwisai will stand as an independent, openly backed by the ISO, in the Highfield by-elections on March 28-29. “The Highfield by-election will be a rallying point for radical forces and the anti-capitalist forces” in Zimbabwe, Gwisai told GLW. “Many people are looking for an alternative. There is a real possibility that a very strong anti-neoliberal political formation” could arise out the campaign.
Gwisai and the ISOZ will campaign for increased taxation on the rich and big business, trade union rights, opposition to the war on Iraq, a shorter working week with no loss in pay, the implementation of public programs to create employment, the nationalisation of industry under workers' control and an end to government repression.
From Green Left Weekly, March 5, 2003.