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Over the past two decades, the world could have been hoodwinked by Western governments’ imposition of targeted sanctions on then Zimbabwean president Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s tyrannical regime, on the pretext of human rights abuses and electoral fraud. However, was that the real reasons for these targeted sanctions on Mugabe and members of his ruthless regime?

Are Western governments the torchbearers of human rights and democracy, as they would want the world to believe – or are there some sinister motives behind their foreign policies? Mugabe never knew any democracy in his entire political history, so why did it take Western countries 20 years after he came to power in Zimbabwe, for them to finally act?

The answer is quite simple.

Western countries have never been, and still are not, interested in democracy and human rights in other countries, but have other ulterior motives.

Barely two years after Mugabe assumed power in a newly independent Zimbabwe, he was already busy massacring tens of thousands of innocent and unarmed men, women and children in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces – in the worst heinous crimes against humanity ever committed in the country.

This genocide, which lasted between 1982 and 1987, targeted mainly those of the isiNdebele tribe, was neither condemned nor acted upon by Western countries. In fact, the British government was at the forefront of supplying both arms and leadership to the Zimbabwe military, whilst it was engaged in these atrocious acts against an innocent people.

At the same time, Mugabe was being invited to most Western capitals, where he was bestowed with numerous accolades on his supposedly exemplary leadership, which was characterised by killing tens of thousands of his own people.

Why were sanctions not imposed immediately on Mugabe and his regime, instead of rewarding him? The answer was very long as Black people were busy killing each other, that would not be a problem for Western countries – in fact, that would be good for business in arms sales.

Which is, more or less, what is still happening, with the West’s supplying of arms and logistics to the Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates military assault on innocent and predominantly unarmed people of Yemen.

It is also understood that Mugabe – who was poised to lose the country’s first post-independence – elections to fellow liberation movement Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo – fraudulently “won” due to British rigging. Mugabe had apparently promised the British that their interests, including businesses and farms owned by Whites, would be protected from being nationalised. Therefore, Mugabe – no matter how evil and heinous he was – received unlimited support and protection from Western governments, especially Britain.

So what changed in the early 2000s, when the British and their Western partners finally imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his regime? Mugabe broke his previous promise to protect British interests, when he embarked on his chaotic and violent land redistribution exercise, which resulted in the expropriation of White-owned farms.

In spite of having gotten away with massacring over 20,000 mostly isiNdebele unarmed people, he would not get away with taking White-owned land in Zimbabwe! That is when the pretext of human rights abuses and electoral fraud were used to punish Mugabe!

Fast forward to November 2017, Mugabe was ousted in a military coup d’état, which ushered in the man who was the security minister during the isiNdebele massacres – Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – as the new president. The West had absolutely no problem with the forceful removal of Mugabe, even swiftly endorsed his long-time right-hand man.

So why did the British and Western allies so readily accept a coup d’état, and a man who was security minister during Zimbabwe’s worst ever genocide? Did Mnangagwa promise them to continue with the promise that Mugabe had made, and later broken? Indeed, the new Zimbabwe leader had appeared a “changed” man, preaching peace and democracy, as well as free, fair and credible elections. However, was that what primarily motivated the West to receive him with such open arms?

I think not!

The main reason could have been his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra – it all has to do with doing business and making money in the country!...the very thing Britain and her Western allies care about more than the people of that country!

Were the British not behind the coup d’état itself? This would certainly not be the first time that Western countries have militarily removed governments, predominantly for business interests. They [with their close allies America] have done that in Chile (with General Augustino Pinochet), Indonesia (with General Suharto), in Zaire (with Mobuto se Seseko), as well as in Ghana against Kwame Nkrumah, and in Iran – amongst a whole host of others.

So why would the British and her allies not be behind the coup d’état in Zimbabwe – not, ironically, to restore democracy by forcefully removing a blood thirsty tyrant – but, for purely commercial interests? Let us not forget that one of the first things that Mnangagwa pledged, during his inauguration last year, was to pay compensation to those White farmers whose farms were taken. Another possible sign of the new alliance between him and the British – as “correction” of Mugabe’s broken promise!

Nonetheless, the biggest circumstantial evidence which “proves” the British have never been, and are still not, interested in democracy and human rights, is the apparent lackluster approach to the re-emergence of violence against the opposition in Zimbabwe soon after the 30 July 2018 harmonised elections. It is reported that at least six innocent and predominantly unarmed people were shot and killed by the military in Harare on 1 August 2018 during a protest against perceived electoral fraud by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Similarly, there have been numerous reports of people in various residential areas, especially where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) won, being beaten up by suspected members of the military.

How has the British and her Western allies responded? Very coldly, indeed! They have never come out openly and firmly to denounce these acts of violence against perceived opposition supporters, nor have they threatened further sanctions if this did not stop. The British and Western countries would rather respond to these acts of violence in a similar fashion to how they reacted towards the November 2017 coup d’état – with acceptance!

It is quite clear that Mugabe and his predecessor and former right-hand man Mnangagwa, are no different at all when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights, but the British would rather look aside when it comes to the latter as he has assured them to protecting their business interests...much the same way they looked aside when Mugabe was busy massacring tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children in the 1980s.

Therefore, the MDC-A and the generality of Zimbabweans, should never allow the charades of the past 20 years, meant to hoodwink them into trusting the British and her Western allies, and believing that they are genuinely interested in democracy and human rights in this country. They are not! Zimbabweans, who are truly interested in democracy and human rights, need to know and accept that we are all alone and we need to stand up for our rights, in a legal and democratic manner.

The Southern Africa Development Community, Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the African Union have long since betrayed and abandoned the people of the continent, by preferring to band together as leaders and tyrants.

We should be wary of being enticed by the West into believing that they are willing to help us, as they will throw us off the cliff’s edge! As long as it is Blacks killing Blacks, they would not give a hoot – so long as Western interests are protected.

The people of Zimbabwe, whilst maintaining peace and unity – as we are equally suffering and oppressed, no matter which party we belong to, including Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front, or even apolitical – need to also band together and bravely stand for our democratic and human rights.

No matter what those tyrants in power throw at us, with the tacit blessings of the British and their allies, we need to fearlessly remember the true sacrifices of those who came before us, and paid with their lives their desire for a genuinely free and fair Zimbabwe.

Where everyone is equal, and where we all equally benefit from the country’s wealth and resources without any “chef”, where people are not driven by fear of those supposedly there to protect them, and everyone’s voice – no matter how opposed – is heard and respected.


*Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice.