Pambazuka News has received a number of responses to recent articles that we have carried about Zimbabwe. Two of these are reproduced here and below them are responses from two of the authors of recent articles.
Anti-Mugabe, pro-white supremacy
Simon Hinds, London
Why did so many liberals forge an alliance with imperialists when faced with black self-determination in Zimbabwe? Even liberal 'ownership' of human rights was a weapon of attack when black people said 'we want our land back from the descendants of white imperialists'.
According to a list of African-American groups, Zanu-PF has carried out one of the biggest land transfers in history. In the 2002 elections, most observer groups reported that the election represented the will of the people. In February, the Daily Telegraph reported that Tanzania's leader Mkapa exonerated Mugabe of blame for political violence, economic crisis and food shortages.
The Zimbabwe government finally rejected the IMF in the late Nineties after its policies caused unemployment and de-industrialisation. It finally succumbed to pressure for land reform. When regional governments decided militarily intervention was necessary in Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe alongside other countries went in. In areas held by Western-backed armies, diamonds were grabbed and hundreds of thousands were killed.
There was a clear neo-colonial response to this that included funding the Movement for Democratic Change and other opposition groups. The Commonwealth split on Zimbabwe along racial lines, when African regional states rejected the Western demonisation, when Mugabe was hailed as a hero by black South Africans. Amara Essy, secretary-general of the African Union, formerly the Organisation of African Unity, endorsed Mugabe's initial rejection of foreign election observer teams, and the Union has endorsed the recent elections. Yet still, liberals sided with neo-colonialists.
What was liberal opinion? New York Times opinion page editor Anthony Lewis in 5 May 2001, summed it up. He stated: 'The title of worst government on Earth, the most brutal, destructive, lawless...can probably be claimed by Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe'. But this ridiculous exaggeration was echoed by The Guardian, The Independent, Amnesty International and other liberal organizations.
Black people were susceptible to this propaganda, but not entirely. In 2003, the UK black newspaper, The Voice reported that 40 per cent of the black people they questioned regarded Mugabe as a dictator. Yet, 30 per cent regarded him as a strong leader. The majority thought Western interest in Zimbabwe was motivated by racism.
Not all liberal organizations signed up for racist propaganda. On the media web site, Spiked, Barrie Collins, a researcher in African international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, wrote:
"Since the end of the Cold War, the USA and the UK have got used to a high degree of compliance on the part of African governments - and they are no longer prepared to tolerate those that insist doing things their own way… It is Western meddling in Zimbabwe that is undermining the accountability of the government to its electorate, since it has forced the contestants to respond to an external agenda. This is a far bigger threat to democracy than any of Zanu-PF's bullying tactics." (http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000002D428.htm)
Pressure for land reform in other parts of southern Africa will occur. Will liberals continue to support white supremacy? Around the world, black people have worked with white liberals. Perhaps, black Africans can no longer afford to do this uncritically.
Mugabe, the social justice champ
Kuthula Matshazi, Canada
What kind of social justice do you advocate for in Africa when you denigrate the very man who wants to achieve social justice for the Black people through the land reform? Now are you going to tell us that the election was rigged? Are you sure that you not trying to confuse African people - and the world opinion indeed - that you are neo-colonialists in the making of missionaries of the 18th century colonisation?
MARY NDLOVU replies: Mugabe is a very shrewd and clever man, and it is sad that he has been able to dupe well-intentioned people into thinking that because he is black and because he has undertaken a large land transfer everyone that criticises him is a white racist. Perhaps it is easy for those who have run away from Zimbabwe to Canada or are sitting in London to theorise about the great revolution for social justice that has taken place. In Zimbabwe, one has to face the hard realities. Seizing land from productive farmers to correct an historical injustice may seem just to some. But it does not constitute a successful social revolution unless it is used to redistribute productive capacity to the dispossessed. While some disadvantaged individuals have received land and been able to farm it productively, the vast majority of recipients have been civil servants, members of the armed forces and ZANU PF hacks with other jobs; the award of land has been a means to reward party loyalists and compromise and silence potential critics. The effect of the transfers and the violence which accompanied it has been the complete collapse of commercial agricultural production, the disappearance of tourists, the decline of manufacturing, the disintegration of public services, the spread of hunger and starvation and the impoverishment of all Zimbabweans except the few. These few have established themselves as an exceedingly corrupt parasite class which produces nothing, but lives, through state revenues, off the taxes of the small minority who do work. Hardly the redistribution of wealth and the advent of justice about which so many of us dream.
Surely Zimbabweans would have to be the stupidest people on earth to choose to support a government which turns a once thriving society into chaos and desperation. Even those who received land have voted in large numbers for the MDC, because they are unable to use their land, and only hold it at the pleasure of the local ZANU PF bosses. Why should I vote for someone who is responsible for my unemployment, for my inability to access health care or my children’s education, and promises to get rid of Blair who I have never seen and never heard of and restore something called sovereignty which I cannot eat? Why can some people not accept that when African governments fail to deliver what the people want, opposition parties will gain the support of the people? Yes, most certainly the election was grandly rigged, and the facts and figures are now emerging to prove it.
The fact that Southern African regional governments choose to ignore the agony of ordinary Zimbabweans and endorse failed policies and gross human rights abuses does not mean that it is only whites who condemn elections which are not free and fair, or take a stand against injustice. It was President Obasanjo of Nigeria who blocked Zimbabwe’s return to full membership of the Commonwealth, and the African Union in January 2005 adopted the report of its own African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which roundly condemned human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. This gives us hope that before too long we may be able to move beyond black and white lenses and see reality in its full range of colours. Then we should be in a position to build democracy and create social justice simultaneously.
STEVE KIBBLE responds: Is it really so difficult to move beyond the simple binaries of black/white, imperialist/ anti-colonialist, (neo)liberal/ revolutionary nationalist etc? My article was precisely an attempt to situate the fight for social justice beyond these confining modes of thought into a genuine people-based politics. Furthermore it was based on a genuine solidarity between North and South, expressing the views of those in Zimbabwe who have consistently opposed the structural adjustment programmes instituted by ZANU-PF in the 1990s, the turn to authoritarian nationalism from 2000 as well as the ‘shock and awe’; of a resurgent US seeking to impose its view on the rest of the world. The sad aspect is not only that certain ‘anti-imperialists’ do not recognise this, but how similar authoritarian nationalism and neo-liberalism are in their stunted view of the world, their resort to demonisation, and their lack of engagement with the lives of people as actually lived on this planet.