“It is homeland or death”: Breaking the neo-colonial chains in Zimbabwe

Flag of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe currently.
Flag of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe currently.

In 1996, the neo-colonial chains, of the post-independence period, began to be broken. In the presidential election that year, Mugabe was elected with over 92% of the vote, while Abel Muzorewa of the United Parties, the moderate opposition party, gained 4.8% of the vote. It was this year, the same year that Mugabe became the chair of the defense arm of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), that the Zanu-PF government began to back away from ESAP, as they realized its disastrous results.

The following year, in 1997, the chains holding Zimbabwe to Britain were completely snapped. The government began to seize land owned by a “handful of white farmers” which some called a “steadily increasing autocracy,” not realizing the deep-rooted reasons for regaining such land. [1] After failing to undertake the IMF’s “reforms” as quickly as they wanted, the assurances the British government made in 1979 to “fund the purchase of land from white settlers,” were rejected by the New Labour government controlled by Tony Blair. [2] This government was hostile to the land program and Zimbabwe, as the government went into “open revolt,” rejecting the IMF programs which they now saw as “injurious to Zimbabweans.” Around the same time, Morgan Tsvangirai came onto the scene as his anti-government activism continued under the umbrella of the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions), and the “IMF riots” in Harare, like many other “Third World” countries came to an end. [3]

In 1998, Zimbabwe snubbed the Western capitalists yet again. With his land program, resistance to IMF programs by adopting Black nationalist economic measures hostile to the West, and support for the new government of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who was following “economically nationalist policies reminiscent of those of Patrice Lumumba,” which the CIA had tried to overthrow many years earlier, the West was steaming. The economic measures adopted by Zimbabwe at the time included imposition of tariffs to protect new industries and providing Black investors incentives, and an affirmative action program, so that that could be “African ownership of the economy.” These measures clearly opposed the “Washington Consensus.” As for helping the Kabila government, a third of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), 11,000 souls, were sent into the DRC, in the Great African War (also called the Second Congo War) in order to stave off an “invasion by Rwandan and Ugandan forces,” which was backed by Britain and the United States, showing that Mugabe was not an “errand boy for Western capital.” By 1999, opposition formed from angry White farmers whose land was expropriated and redistributed justly to Black families. This included the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC, which was originally funded by the British-backed Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other governments in Europe, along with many western NGOs and “civil society” groups receiving funding from Western governments or foundations to this day. This new land reform was coupled with the completion of the break with the IMF, which refused to extend loans to the country, while the MDC pushed forward the Washington Consensus, setting in motion the continuing conflict since that time, a conflict between the Zanu-PF’s Black nationalism and the MDC’s neo-colonialism. Another factor for the end of IMF loans was the loss of military equipment in the DRC to back Kabila’s government, with the Zimbabwean government wanting to recoup the losses but Western donors shook their fingers is dismay, saying that aid programs to Zimbabwe were “under review, citing military spending in Congo among the reasons.” [4]

On July 1, 1999, Joshua Nkomo, the former leader of Zapu and foe of Mugabe died of prostate cancer. Not surprisingly, the Western media mourned in pain. The Guardian declared that Nkomo was the “unchallenged leader of the long struggle to achieve majority rule” and the “unofficial…king of Zimbabwe’s Ndebele people,” saying that he was a dedicated African nationalist who “became convinced that white Rhodesians would not voluntarily accept black majority rule” but had a less successful struggle, with his political role after independence supposedly “that of merely a figurehead” in their view. [5] BBC said something similar, calling him the “first modern nationalist leader in white-ruled Rhodesia,” saying that he dominated “the Zimbabwean stage,” while sparing with Mugabe, and lost his “ambition of becoming Zimbabwe’s first black president” with his career following a “steady decline” as some saw him as “selling out” with conservative attitudes toward women. [6] Both pieces, not surprisingly, mentioned the Gukurahundi campaign and disturbances (January 3, 1983 to December 22, 1987), in which the Zimbabwean government engaged in senseless violence against thousands of Ndebele people, who did not support the government, for which Mugabe has expressed regret. Recently, the Zimbabwean government has begun reburying victims of the war of liberation and post-independence disturbances, as part of a “national healing and reconciliation process” after these events, showing that everyone makes mistakes. At the same time, it is worth recognizing that these pieces predictably praised Nkomo who was the chosen leader for the White settlers and capitalists in the post-independence period, for which he did not get as Mugabe won the 1980 elections instead, for which all of those in the world should be grateful.

The boldness of the Zimbabwean government led to anger from Western capitalist governments and the capitalist class for years to come. This included claims that Mugabe is a “dictator” or a “one-party state” which is denied by sheer logic, along with support for the MDC, which has a “commitment to private property and capitalist freedoms,” and condemning measures the state takes “to prevent the eruption of violence” branding them as “authoritarian, dictatorial, and anti-democratic.” Anger from the West also is rooted in “expropriating farms owned by settlers of European origins” with compensation, helping Black Zimbabweans, foreign investment controls, and trying to “free Zimbabwe from neo-colonialism.” There have been a number of continuities through the 1990s worth mentioning. For one, Zimbabwe went from a one-party state to a multiparty state, HIV among unmarried people across the country begun to be more prevalent, and Tekere, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, led an opposition movement. [7] It is also worth noting that Mugabe has been critical of homosexuality since the mid-1990s, at least, seeing it as a western import. For those concerned about this, rightly so, they should push for Western NGOs pushing this issue to leave the country in order to not reinforce this perception even more. The only other aspects worth mentioning are the military equipment that entered the country in the 1990s, from a number of Western countries (Spain, UK, US, Italy, and France), along with other countries (Czechoslovakia, Russia, and PRC). This included, but is not limited to 1 transport aircraft, 52 self-propelled multiple-rocket launchers (MRL), 2 fighter aircraft, 5 trainer/combat aircraft, 2 light aircraft (for anti-poaching operations), 6 trainer aircraft, 23 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and 6 combat helicopters. [8]

The imperialist assault on Mugabe, the Zanu-PF, and the socially democratic Republic of Zimbabwe grew in the 21st century. For one, the state received weaponry to defend itself from the imperialistic vipers, including six multiple rocket launchers from the Czech Republic, 60 mortars from Bulgaria, two rocket launchers from Slovakia, three fighter aircraft from Libya, and 12 trainer aircraft from China, accompanied by 12 turbofan engines from Ukraine, during the years of 2000 to 2006. [9] While Mugabe is clearly an African nationalist not a doctrinaire Marxist and the policies of Zanu-PF are socially democratic, the Western capitalists would not relent in their assault. Freedom House, one of the many organizations which pushes “human rights” imperialism across the world, echoed by President Obama himself, claimed that the country had a “regime,” an “authoritarian system” that gives “unfettered power” to Mugabe, who they dubbed a “dictator,” and even more harshly, said that Mugabe had abandoned his “promise of liberation.” [10] Others, such as Jimmy Carter, another “human rights” NGO like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, called Human Rights First, went on to claim that there has been the “subversion of democracy” under the current government. Some in alternative media, such as Louis Proyect, Mahir Ali, Koni Benson, Mahmood Mamdani, Michelle Pinto, Allan Nairn, Rohini Hensman, and Peter Tatchell, fell in line by declaring that “Mugabe’s authoritarianism” is undeniable, that there is a “Mugabe cliché,” or that Mugabe is part of a “murderous” regime, among many other unfounded claims.

As it should be obvious, all of these claims deny the reality. These critics were denying that the handmaiden of imperialism, the National Endowment of Democracy, issued 21 grants in 2015, costing over $1.6 million, toward Zimbabwean “civil society,” words which translate to the anti-Zanu-PF “opposition,” while the government was taking an obvious anti-imperialist stand. Even by 2000, Zimbabwe’s fast-track land redistribution was beginning to become an act of racial justice, as it was not only independent from AFRICOM in later years, but was standing on the side of African liberation against neoliberal tyranny favored by the opposition, making the country “Africa’s Cuba” in the minds of some. Even the State Department had to admit that Zimbabwe is “constitutionally a republic” even while they condemned the country for what they claimed were “human rights violations” which is just another manifestation of their imperial propaganda.

2000 was an eventful year for Zimbabwe. Apart from Sithole, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, dying in Philadelphia that year, the land reforms, mentioned in the previous paragraph, began in earnest. In February 2000, the Zanu-PF government held a constitutional referendum, on February 11 and 12, giving power to the government to seize White farms without compensation and proposed a bill of rights within the proposed constitution. Sadly, it was rejected by the populace, with roughly 55% of the population voting against it, and about 45% for it. It is worth noting that the Centre for Democracy and Development Observer Mission said that the referendum was “conducted in an atmosphere that was generally free, fair and peaceful.” While speculating on the reason for this defeat might be a fool’s errand, there is no doubt that the opposition party, the MDC, took this as a victory and the Zanu-PF did not say this result was invalid, showing once again, that there is no “dictatorship.” Luckily for the Zimbabwean people, the land reforms went on, in a different way of course.

The redistribution of White farms to the Zimbabwean populace, even as every White farmer was allowed to control individual, single farms, not more than one per farmer, was begun in a way that shocked Western capitalists. After the relatively close parliamentary elections, in June 2000, in which the Zanu-PF won seven additional seats but only gained 48.6% of the popular vote, while the MDC gained 47% of the popular vote, the government used its available powers to seize such farms, under their fast-track land program, at an opportune time, a time when there as an “acute financial crisis” in the country because of Western destabilization measures. While some claimed that the land reform, coupled with takeover of mines, and “other productive enterprises,” with the help of veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, was “deeply destabilizing,” nothing could be further from the truth. [11] In fact, the Zimbabwean government was finishing off in its quest to cast off the hideous shadow of neo-colonialism with its land reform program, which tried to “redistribute land owned by 4,000 famers of European descent to 300,000 landless families,” and indigenization laws allowing indigenous Zimbabweans or the government to “take controlling stakes in all foreign-owned banks and companies,” leading to economic backlash from the West. This manifested itself in sanctions from the US, Britain, and the European Union, along with blocking the country’s access to “international lines of credit,” and building up opposition within the country, coalesced around the MDC, in an effort to destabilize the country. These measures also made it near impossible for the Zimbabwean military to “secure foreign currency to buy spares for its fleet of immobilised Cascavel and Urutu armoured cars” which were still fighting in the DRC at the time. [12]

In the following years, the Zanu-PF government continued to assert its independence, resisting the attempts by British and US imperialists to gain control in Southern Africa. The White farmers who used their money and wealth to try and stop the Zanu-PF in the ownership of natural resources by the Zimbabwean populace, and reclaiming White land for indigenous Black farmers, were not alone. In 2001, the US government, as the “prime guarantor of the imperialist system,” introduced the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, or ZDERA, and passed by a vote of 396-11 in the House, and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. The law declared that US representations to international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank must “oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe” or any attempt to reduce that government’s debt, a measure which not only deprived the country of “foreign currency required to import necessities from abroad,” such as chemicals to fluoridate water, but aid from the World Bank was cut off, plunging the country into an “economic abyss.” These sanctions were coupled with the hostility of Botswana, which said that nearby countries should impose an oil blockade to bring down the government, all because Zimbabwe stood against the Western capitalist order. This law was also, as Cynthia McKinney pointed out, not only was the Zimbabwean government trying to right a historical wrong, but the law was “nothing more than a formal declaration of United States complicity in a program to maintain white-skin privilege.” Simbi Veke Mubako, then Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United States, called the law an “attempt to show some support for white farmers” which is “unfair, unjust, and racially motivated.” Both of these statements were more accurate than claims it was about “human rights, good governance, and economic development in Africa,” as George W. Bush claimed at the time, but definitely about helping the Zimbabwean people pursue “peaceful democratic change” through US backing of the opposition.

In 2002 and 2003, Zimbabwe trudged forward. In March 2002, Jonathan Moyo, then the Information Minister, said that the demise of the Soviet Union caused the “current image crisis” of the country since, in his view, global scrutiny of Zimbabwe began with the “end of the bipolar world order” and beginning of a unipolar world order by extension. [13] The same year, there was a presidential election, which was later declared “free and fair” by a team from the Organization of African Unity, along with observers from Nigeria, South Africa, and Namibia, even as groups from the British Commonwealth and Norway scowled at the result. [14] The result of the election makes these responses even more understandable: in which Zanu-PF gained over 56% of the vote, the MDC garnered 42% of the vote, along with a slew of other independent parties. Apart from this vote showing that the Zanu-PF had gained strength and support among the Zimbabwean populace, it also led to an adverse reaction. Zimbabwe was expelled from the British Commonwealth, Switzerland sanctioned the country, and Denmark closed its embassy in Harare, after an “unfair” election in which the Zanu-PF, a Black nationalist party, gained more of the vote. [15] Of course, apart from the British Commonwealth defending their imperialist decision, the MDC was elated, saying it “vindicates what we’ve been saying all along” while Morgan Tsvangirai of the same party demanded new elections, without wanting to engage in negotiations, and trade unions seemed to also been the pocket of the West by calling for a “three-day general strike.” All in all, the reactions by the West were not surprising, but more significant was the fact that this suspension meant that foreign aid to Zimbabwe was further restricted. The following year, after this whole ordeal, Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth entirely, with Mugabe declaring, rightly, that with the suspension still in place, it was unfair, meaning that “Zimbabwe is still the subject of the Commonwealth,” which he said was unacceptable. [16]

Fast forward to 2005, when the country was still under siege. The Western-backed MDC, which had continued its destabilization, split into two different sections after 2005. [17] Not only was this positive news, but the government launched Operation Restore Order, unofficially known as Operation Murambatsvina or Move the Rubbish. This was a massive campaign to eliminate the slum conditions across the country, which Westerners, even the respected medical journal, The Lancet, claimed was actually aimed at the “opposition” and had many “victims.” [18] In actuality, it was a drive for urban renewal, specifically aimed at illegal houses, which displaced some, and reducing the spread of infectious disease, at a time when the country was in an economic crisis due to imperialist destabilization. [19] It is worth quoting what the Robert Mugabe said to the UN in its defense of the this urban renewal effort:

“…in the aftermath of our urban clean-up operation, popularly known as Operation Murambatsvina or Restore Order, the familiar noises re-echoed from the same malicious prophets of doom, claiming that there was a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. Those unfounded alarms are aimed at deliberately tarnishing the image of Zimbabwe and projecting it as a failed state. We find it strange and obviously anomalous that the Government of Zimbabwe should be maligned and condemned for restoring order and the rule of law in its municipal areas. Our detractors fail to acknowledge that Operation Restore Order soon gave way to a well-planned vast reconstruction programme through which properly planned accommodation, factory shells and vending stalls are being constructed in many areas of the country for our people. We have rejected the scandalous demand…that we lower our urban housing standards to allow for mud huts, bush latrines and put toilets as suitable for the urban people of Zimbabwe and for Africans generally. Nothing can be more insulting and degrading of a people than that! Surely, we do not need development in reverse…We…went through long and bitter times to gain our freedom and Independence and to be where we are today. We cherish that hard-won freedom and Independence, and no amount of coercion, political, economic, or otherwise, will make use a colony again.”

The same year, the Zimbabwean parliament passed a law to move the fast-track land redistribution effort forward. The law, which nationalized land that had been redistributed, was later ruled against by the SADC in 2009, but they allowed for the decision to not be enforced, which was a victory for Black nationalism. Another victory for such nationalism and defeats for neo-colonialism was the Senate elections where the Zanu-PF garnered about 74% of the popular vote compared to the MDC’s measly 20% approximately, among a slew of many political parties, which translated to 43 more seats for the Zanu-PF and only 7 for the MDC. The same happened in the parliamentary elections, for the lower House of Assembly, where the Zanu-PF gained 16 seats, with about 60% of the popular vote, while the MDC lost the same amount, only garnering about 40% of the popular vote. Internationally, the Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist Leninist or CPGB-ML praised the efforts of the Zanu-PF. They wrote in their Proletarian newsletter that “The pressing question of land ownership is the reason that the Zimbabwean war of independence was fought in the first place. It has finally been addressed by the recent programme of land redistribution, which in turn has led to the unremitting stream of vitriol that has been poured upon the Zanu administration by the imperialist press in the last few years.”

In 2007, the imperial assault still continued. After acting to maintain order and counter the MDC, with the help of the Zambian government the previous year, the Zanu-PF government was in for another hard year. This year, individuals such as Arthur Mutambara, tied to a British consulting firm, US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, and Freedom House, along with others, worked together to replace Mugabe with “neo-liberal standard bearers of the MDC,” with some of the people the same as those who overthrew Slobodan Milosevic, trying to undermine the Zimbabwean government! This regime change agenda was part of a way to destabilize the country yet again. By September, the country was in an economic crisis, with shortages in food and electricity not because of the government or Mugabe the supposed “strongman,” but because Zimbabwe is “singled out in the Western media for special attention” and due to efforts of Western domination. Some went even further. They argued that Africa was better under White rule, since they were angry about socially democratic policies in Zimbabwe which included a program distributing land from White farmers to the Black populace and indigenisation measures, with these “sins against private property” seen as a reason to undermine the country itself. [20] The New York Times even said that Ian Smith, the leader of White apartheid government, which the Zimbabwean freedom fighters fought against, was better than Mugabe! [23] Others grumbled that Mugabe’s “Look East” policy, launched in 2003 to offset a loss of Western investment by trying to get investment from Asian countries such as the PRC, has not paid off, with “few Chinese deals” to due because “Asian countries have become as wary of the Zimbabwean situation,” and warned that investors need to “approach with extreme caution” Zimbabwe.

All of this criticism is unfounded since not only does “every country in north Africa,” ban Islamist opposition parties but there are only two state-owned newspapers in Zimbabwe, with “most newspapers taking a pro-opposition viewpoint and are “sold freely on the street,” showing once again that there is no dictatorship afoot. Additionally, the MDC has been on the wrong side for this whole time. When the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was passed by the Zimbabwean parliament in 2007, and put into force in 2008, it was harshly opposed by the MDC, showing that they only really care about neo-colonialism.

In 2008, Zimbabwe suffered a political crisis. Mugabe handily won the Presidency, in the second round of voting, after the first round when no candidate gained more than 50% of the total, with over 85% of the popular vote, and Tsvangirai gaining about 9% of the popular vote. However, the Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority, in an election where the MDC, still having a “fondness for neo-liberalism,” including privatization of government resources, engaged in voter fraud, celebrated by the United States. [21] In sum, the Zanu-PF gained 19 seats but the two MDC factions gained 69 seats, meaning that no party had an absolute majority. This situation, caused in part by the merging of the two MDC factions into a bloc in late April 2008, led to negotiating for power-sharing between the MDC and Zanu-PF starting in July. Tsvangirai’s sect of the MDC, MDC-T, refused to take part in talks to create a national unity government, but the other sect, the MDC-N, did participate, with three rounds of negotiations. As the MDC gaining a speaker in Parliament, the Zanu-PF stayed strong, finally reaching an agreement in September of that year. [22] While negotiations continued into October to put on the finalizing touches, the ouster of Mbeki in South Africa led to more disputes, but Mugabe and the Zanu-PF moved to creating a cabinet, as Mugabe still refused Western demands he “step aside,” knowing that it would let neo-colonialism back into the country. [23] By February 2009, the agreement was finally put in place, and a MDC-Zanu-PF unity government was formed, which would be in place until 2013 when the opposition grew angry at Mugabe, giving Black nationalism an upper hand once again. [24]

Apart from the political crisis, divided society of Zimbabwe faced many other pressures. There was no doubt that the opposition had the ruling class of the United States on their side and followed Washington’s plan. More importantly, this opposition was directly backed by the United States, with the former engaging in allegations of vote rigging and genocide while people like Jestina Mukoko, of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, worked to undermine the government at any cost. In this effort, the forces aligned against the Zanu-PF had an unlikely ally: the Western left. Such commentators, which followed almost lock-step, the agendas of capitalist elite who hate Mugabe, included Stephen Zunes who declared his allegiance to ““independent” grassroots nonviolent activists” who happen to be the same forces the murderous empire uses to destabilize nations, attacking those who disagree with him, endorsing the US imperial narrative on Zimbabwe and lying about Zimbabwe numerous times over. Another such commentator, among those who don’t support the Zanu-PF government, is Patrick Bond, with his magical Center for Civil Society, branding Mugabe as a “dictator” and supporting the Zimbabwean opposition. If this isn’t enough, now-defunct MR Zine, Socialist Project and ISO, are trotting out a Western imperialist argument which could as easily be found in The Independent or the New York Times.

Other than these criticisms, Zimbabwe still stood strong. It was rocked by additional US sanctions, additional EU sanctions, and anti-Mugabe NGOs, with the sanctions sabotaging the country’s economy, leading to “widespread misery and need for food aid.” While the MDC was an “instrument of US foreign policy,” with its policy platform friendly to Western investors and elections denounced as “unfair” by the West, the Zanu-PF government retained “considerable popular support” even with the Western-caused economic devastation. There was still hope on the horizon with China and Russia vetoing UN sanctions on Zimbabwe, which would have put in place “an arms embargo, and financial and travel restrictions” on top leaders of the country’s government, in July. [25] At the end of the year, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela declaring its “solidarity with the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe” while the late Hugo Chavez expressed “his support for the independent government of Zimbabwe in its efforts for stability and peace in this brother country of Africa.” Clearly, the pro-business, African nationalist Zanu-PF had (and has) allies across the world, allowing it to pursue its Black nationalist interests, even as it clashes “with the interests of Western banks and corporations…[and] minority population of settlers of European origin.”

The following year, Zimbabwe continued to be under attack. Along with continuing Western sanctions on the country, showing their obvious hypocrisy, Washington also had a plan for post-Mugabe Zimbabwe including a reform agenda to pacify nationalist and populist sentiments, part of the overall US imperial destabilization in Zimbabwe. Beyond this, Western left intellectuals such as Stephen Zunes, Bill Fletcher, and a group called Concerned Africa Scholars, denounced Mugabe, engaging in “reflexive anti-Zanu-PF bashing.” The opposition in Zimbabwe partially grew with traitorous action of ZAPU breaking with ZANU-PF, ending the unity agreement, and Tekere, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war and leader of anti-Zanu-PF opposition in the 1990s, became a guest of honor of the MDC the same year. [26] The Zimbabwean state paper, The Herald, also showed its dedication to “national independence” by expressing affinity with other countries fighting for their own independence such as Syria and the DPRK.

In 2010, Zimbabwe took steps forward to advance its national independence. While there was US-backed opposition in the form of the MDC, along with people such as Jestina Mukoko and efforts by some to return to conditions that favor Western investors, the Zimbabwean government declared that it would sell diamonds from its mineral fields. Sadly, while this would bring billions of dollars in sales for the country, this was stopped by Australia, the US, and Canada, at the time, as they refused to certify the purchase under the Kimberly Process, since the Marange fields “could be secured by the Zimbabwean army” which they accused of numerous falsities. Six years later, Zimbabwe got past this hurdle and the government nationalized the mines, with Mugabe saying “the state will now own all the diamonds in the country. [These] companies…have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly,” which even a Chinese company challenged, showing that the country is not a “colony” of China. [27]

Speaking of China, the Zimbabwean government strongly defend their involvement in Africa. In March, the chairman of the Zanu-PF, Simon Khaya-Moyo, said that “those Western countries criticizing the relations know that China is a powerful nation which is about to overtake the United States as the world’s economic power. The West is going to China more often than other countries so China is a giant and that’s why they want to castigate it.” Other Zanu-PF officials were quoted as saying that Zimbabwe could choose its own friendly countries, instead of colonizers telling them who to associate with, while Chinese state media rightly acknowledged that “the West imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the turn of the century following the expropriation of White owned land by government to resettle indigenous people.” A few months later, a communique said that Chinese Communist Party and Zanu-PF dedicated themselves to strengthen “inter-party relations in a bid to promote bilateral economic cooperation.” It was also noted that the Chinese recognized that under Mugabe and the Zanu-PF’s leadership, “the Zimbabwean people have made great achievements in developing the economy and improving the living standards” while a four-point proposal was put forward to improve inter-party relations by strengthening “high-level exchange…enhanc[ing]…exchange in ruling experiences, to promote bilateral cooperation and to make efforts to promote folk or informal exchange between the two countries,” leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

In 2011 and 2012, Zimbabwe asserted itself on the world stage. For one, in his address to the UN general assembly, Mugabe declared that the war in Libya was about “oil resources,” that NATO is lying about Gaddafi, that Africans are concerned about the anti-African orientation of the ICC, and that Palestine should be granted statehood. From this alone, there is no doubt that if the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, a Western favorite, became president, there would be a very different address at future meetings of the General Assembly. The same year, polls showed that Zimbabweans believed in respect for authority, the government compelling people to pay taxes, that economic growth and creating jobs are more important, even if it leads to the environment suffering. [28] Additionally, Zimbabweans said that a stable economy is more important than a “humane society,” that order being maintained is more important than free speech, and that it is not justified for one to skip paying fares on public transportation, cheat on taxes, steal property, or engage in violence against other people. [29] These findings, in and of themselves are no surprising, as the country is under imperialist assault. But, they also show that not everyone in the world buys into Western-style democracy. The following year, China seemed to be “playing both sides” to the Western media. What this means is that Chinese officials met with the Zimbabwean opposition, including Morgan Tsvangirai himself, who is “anti-China.” [30] However, this may have been a way for China to work with both parts of Zimbabwe’s then-coalition government and feel out the opposition.

Notes

[1] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 366-7.

[2] Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[3] BBC, “Zimbabwe losses add up in Congo,” Nov. 25, 1999. The First Congo War was between 1996 and 1997, when the forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew US-backed autocrat Mobutu Sésé Seko, creating the present-day DRC. There was has been low-level conflict in the Ituri and Kivu region of the DRC from 2003/2004 to the present-day.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Andrew Meldrum, “Joshua Nkomo,” The Guardian, July 1, 1999.

[6] BBC, “Obituary: Joshua Nkomo,” July 1, 1999.

[7] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 38, 42, 135. Apparently Rwandans also found “Zimbabwe’s demobilization model” more relevant than that used in Nicaragua.

[8] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[9] Ibid. Zimbabwe also received one transport aircraft from Ukraine in 2001, and gave the Czech Republic 10 self-propelled guns the same year.

[10] Dennis C. Blair and Daniel Calingaert, “The Scourge of Savvy Dictators,” Politico, September 22, 2013; Alissa Greenberg, “More Than 40 Lions Get Hunted in Zimbabwe Every Year,”Time, July 30, 2015; Peta Thornycroft and Colin Freeman, “Zimbabwe Election: Ageing Mugabe Still Hungry for Power,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2013.

[11] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 122, 153; Lionel Cliffe, Jocelyn Alexander, Ben Cousins, and Rudio Gaidzanwa, “An overview of Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe: editorial introduction,” Outcomes of Post-2000 Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe (ed. Lionel Cliffe, Jocelyn Alexander, Ben Cousins, and Rudio Gaidzanwa, York: Routledge, 2013), 1; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[12] Vincent Kahiya, “Zimbabwe: Controversy Over $600m Spare Parts for ZNA,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 19, 2000.

[13] Dumisani Muleya, “Zimbabwe: Minister Mourns Fall of Soviet Union,” Zimbabwe Independent, March 8, 2002.

[14] BBC News, “Was Zimbabwe’s election fair?,” November 3, 2003; Simon Allison, “Analysis: The Khampepe Report, a crushing blow to SA’s diplomatic credibility,” Daily Maverick, November 17, 2014.

[15] BBC News, “Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe,” March 19, 2002.

[16] BBC News, “Zimbabwe quits Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003; AFP, “Zimbabwe leaves the Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003.

[17] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 282.

[18] “Homes ‘smashed’ by Zimbabwe paramilitary police,” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2005; BBC News, “Zimbabwe cleric urges ‘uprising’,” March 27, 2005; Abraham McLaughlin, “Zimbabwe’s opposition hopeful,” Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 2005; BBC News, “Africa rejects action on Zimbabwe,” June 24, 2005; BBC News, “Zimbabwe slum evictions ‘a crime’,” May 23, 2007; Clare Kapp, “Operation “Restore Order” wreaks havoc in Zimbabwe,” The Lancet, October 1, 2005; NewsDay, “Informal traders fear repeat of Murambatsvina,” May 28, 2015; Nelson Chenga, “Zimbabwe: Zim’s Housing Crisis Far From Over,” Financial Gazette, August 27, 2015; The Guardian, “UN condemns Zimbabwe demolitions,” July 22, 2005.

[19] In later years, an operation with the same name would be implemented by Zimbabwean police to crackdown on black market trading, especially in mobile phones, among other technologies.

[20] The former chief of staff for Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, grumbled later that year that “Mugabe can use anything we say or do to stir the dying embers of anti-colonialism.”

[21] BBC News, “Mugabe’s Zanu-PF loses majority,” April 3, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe announces first results,” March 31, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF, MDC-T in Photo Finish,” April 3, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: ZEC Releases Seven More Poll Recount Results,” April 26, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: MDC-T House of Assembly Elect Arrested,” April 17, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: Another ZEC Official Appears in Court,” April 18, 2008; BBC News, “First results in Zimbabwe recount,” April 23, 2008; BBC News, “Opposition reunites in Zimbabwe,” April 28, 2008.

[22] Al Jazeera, “Mugabe meets opposition faction,” July 5, 2008; BBC News, “SA leader denies Zimbabwean deal,” August 12, 2008; BBC News, “MDC wins Zimbabwe parliament vote,” August 25, 2008; BBC News, “Mugabe says talks moving forward,” September 9, 2008; BBC News, “Positive signs at Zimbabwe talks,” September 10, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal,” September 11, 2008; Chris McGreal, “Zimbabwe deal gives power to Tsvangirai,” The Guardian, September 11, 2008; Celia W. Dugger, “Zimbabwe Rivals Strike a Bargain to Share Power,” September 11, 2008; CNN, “Rivals sign Zimbabwe power-share deal,” September 16, 2008.

[23] Itai Mushekwe and Sebastien Berger, “Robert Mugabe wants Morgan Tsvangerai’s party to win back foreign aid,” The Telegraph, October 4, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rivals agree bill on PM,” November 28, 2008; BBC News, “Mugabe insists ‘Zimbabwe is mine’,” December 19, 2008.

[24] BBC News, “Mugabe ‘to hold talks with rival’,” January 15, 2009; BBC News, “Mugabe calls for government deal,” January 18, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rival to enter coalition,” January 30, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe passes unity deal bill,” February 5, 2009; BBC News, “Rows mar Zimbabwe oath ceremony,” February 13, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe President Mugabe re-elected amid fraud claims,” August 3, 2013.

[25] CNN, “Russia, China veto U.N. sanctions on Zimbabwe,” July 12, 2008; Patrick Worship, “Russia and China veto U.N. Zimbabwe sanctions,” Reuters, July 11, 2008; Daniel Nasaw, “China and Russia veto Zimbabwe sanctions,”The Guardian, July 11, 2008. Of course, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Sir John Sawers, UK foreign secretary David Miliband, and US state department spokesman, Robert McInturff, were angry about the result. In contrast, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, responding that this veto was justified, and the UN ambassador to China, Wang Guangya, declared that “the development of the situation in Zimbabwe until now has not exceeded the context of domestic affairs. It will unavoidably interfere with the negotiation process.” This article noted that the “US, France, Britain, Belgium, Burkino Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Italy and Panama voted in favour,” Libya and Vietnam voted against it, and Indonesia abstained.

[26] Kholwani Nyathi, “Zimbabwe: Revived PF Zapu Officials Allege Abductions of Members,” The Standard, January 10, 2009.

[27] Reuters, “Zimbabwe’s Mugabe says government will take over all diamond operations,” March 4, 2016; Reuters, “Robert Mugabe to nationalise Zimbabwe’s diamond industry,” March 3, 2016; Dmitry Rashnitsov, “Zimbabwe’s president kicks out private diamond miners, nationalizes industry,” UPI, February 22, 2016; Corey Fedde, “Mugabe nationalizes mines: Unlocking an industry or spurning trade partners?,” Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2016; Fanuel Jongwe, “Zimbabwe to nationalise diamond mines: Mugabe,” AFP, March 4, 2016; BBC News, “Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe: Foreign companies ‘stole diamonds’,” March 4, 2016; NewZimbabwe.com, “Zimbabwe: Chinese Ambassador Urges Zimbabwe to Respect Investment Protection Pact,” April 2, 2016. While some thought there would be nationalization in 2015, this was clearly incorrect.

[28] Pipa Norris, World Values Survey (2010-2014) – Zimbabwe 2011. Tech. Vol. 2016.01.01. Johannesburg: Topline Research Solutions (TRS), 2012. Print. Wave 6. Done on behalf of TNS RMS Nigeria, comes from this website, clicking on “Zimbabwe 2011” and then clicked the link under the heading “Codebook”; Stephen Ndoma and Richman Kokera, “AD55: Zimbabweans Support Taxation but Perceive Tax Officials as Corrupt, Demand Accountability,” AfroBarometer, January 1, 2015. There is no doubt that AfroBarometer serves the interests of capitalistic elites, since they are funded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, UK Department for International Development, USAID, World Bank, South African Institute for Security Studies, United States Institute of Peace, Transparency International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Duke University China Research Center. However, it is worth using them because it shows that even the Western-funded polls go against their own propaganda, in a way.

[29] Pipa Norris, World Values Survey (2010-2014) – Zimbabwe 2011.

[30] Erin Conway-Smith, “China’s new Zimbabwe strategy: woo the opposition,” PRI, May 31, 2012; Haru Mutasa, “To China with love from Zimbabwe,” Al Jazeera, June 14, 2012.

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“It is homeland or death”: Final days of Zimbabwe’s liberation war and post-independence

A photograph on page 6 of this Zanu pamphlet, accompanying a speech by Mugabe in a recent collection of his speeches I compiled.
A photograph on page 6 of this Zanu pamphlet, accompanying a speech by Mugabe in a recent collection of his speeches I compiled.

While the liberation war was just beginning in the 1960s, it became more intense in the 1970s. The revolutionaries were fighting against, as Zapu put it, the “brutal and neo-fascist nature of the gangster British settler minority regime,” specifically against “minority oppressive rule and terror-racism in Zimbabwe.” [1] By 1972, the British colony of Zimbabwe, lying on the great Limpopo and Zambrezi rivers, was bordered by the apartheid South African government “hostile to genuine African independence” along with the “understanding” state of Botswana, the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, and “brotherly republic” of Zambia. [2] In the latter country, Zapu had their provisional headquarters. Within the area of Zimbabwe itself, there were 4.8 million Black Africans, 228,000 White European settlers, 7,700 Asian traders, and 11,000 people of mixed race, with the Africans divided into ethnic groups such as the Tonga, Nanzwa, Shangani, Venda, Ndebele, Shona, Suthu, and Kalanga, which the White settlers tried to divide and rule, but this backfired with intermarriages across ethnic lines, leading to “the formation of a Zimbabwe Nation.” [3]

However, not everything was “peaceful” in Zimbabwe. As the White settler government worked hard to maintain a favorable image, cooperating with numerous Western media outlets (print and radio) to manage where they went and control the press, the British press had a “consistently hostile” image of Mugabe, many of the columns in their papers respecting the views of White settlers rather than militants. [4] Internationally, the Sino-Soviet split continued to manifest itself. As Zapu and the ANC were close to the Soviet Union, Zanu was supported by Beijing, allowing the revolutionary group to prosecute a war of liberation, with Chinese aid as a contributing factor to victory. [5] Still, the relationship between Zanu and the Chinese was sometimes fraught, possibly with opportunism. Even so, the involvement of China had a positive effect on Zanu, with this involvement during the liberation struggle and after independence, allowing China to stay active in Zimbabwe to this day. [6] The Chinese tactics also rubbed off on other liberation groups. FRELIMO adopted the Maoist ideas of self-criticism and guerrilla warfare used by the Chinese, allowing these revolutionaries to “pursue an effective hit-and-run campaign against the Portuguese military, well-suited to Mozambican conditions” for which Samora Michel, the leader of FRELIMO, later thanked the Chinese for. [7] As for Zapu, which described itself inaccurately as the “authentic representative and spokesperson of the Zimbabwe people engaged in a liberation war,” they had roles in many international organizations. These organizations included the AASPO, World Council for Peace, Pan-African Youth Movement, and World Federation of Democratic Youth, along with saying they had a relationship with the OAU (Organization of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union) and attended the UN Committee of 24, also called the Special Committee on Decolonization. [8] Zapu also claimed to have liaisons in Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, Cuba, Europe, and North America, which is probably understating it. [9]

As the years past, the liberation struggle advanced. Zapu, with an executive committee comprised of 14 individuals, appealed to “freedom-loving and peace-loving peoples” of the world, asking for assistance to Zapu and the Zimbabwean people, especially for release of prisoners and if not release, demanding that they treated according to the Geneva Conventions. [10] As for Zanu, it dictated something more powerful: a statement on culture. It declared, in 1972, that a new culture should be formed in an independent Zimbabwe:

“..eighty years of decolonization have warped the minds of our people…our rich national heritage has been lost…in a free, independent and socialist Zimbabwe the people will be encouraged and assisted in building a new Zimbabwe culture, derived from the best in what our heritage and history has given, and developed to meet the needs of the new socialist society of the twentieth century…out culture must stem from our own creativeness and so remain African and indigenous.” [11]

Once again, the freedom fighters were up against a powerful enemy. Adding to the existing military equipment, the White settler-apartheid state received, from 1971-1979, 47 armored cars, ten armored personnel carriers, 46 light helicopters, 52 light aircraft (18 of which were illegally transferred there), 11 helicopters, and 17 trainer aircraft, mostly from South Africa and France, along with other material from Israel, West Germany, and Belgium. [12] Still, they kept fighting on.

As the 1970s trudged on, there were a number of changes, especially in Zanu. In 1974, Sithole was pushed out of the leadership, with Mugabe put in his place, and fully taking control of Zanu after the death of Herbert Chitepo in 1975. While Mozambique may have seemed as a “safe haven” for revolutionaries, Michel of Mozambique put him under house arrest for several months, and later released him, allowing him to wage a propaganda war against the regime as Josiah Tongogara, who died in 1979, to lead the forces, as Mugabe presented himself as a Marxist-Leninist. This meant that Mugabe, unlike Nkomo, was a radical nationalist and he opposed settlement with the White settler government and that he remained suspicious of numerous commanders of the armed military wing, ZANLA, having them removed from time to time. In 1975, the internationalist support of the Zimbabwean liberation movement was still clear. The White settler-apartheid government described how Zapu guerrillas had been trained in Moscow (and across the Soviet Union), Zanu guerrilla strained in Pyongyang, Peking, Nanking, Ghana, saying that Zapu courses, sometimes also given in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Bulgaria, and Egypt, were focused on “para-military training, military engineering, radio…and intelligence,” while Zanu courses focuses on “influencing the minds and attitudes of the terrorists through political indoctrination and the ‘ideology’ of guerrilla warfare.” Their report went on to say that that “weapons, ammunition, explosives, uniforms, finance and food” is either given to the OAU’s Liberation Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which distributes it to Zanu and Zapu, or directly to the groups themselves, sometimes through other countries such as “East Germany” (which printed a Zapu newsletter called The Zimbabwe Review), the DPRK, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. It also mentioned that the Chinese had supplied radio stations in Tanzania and Zambia the ability to broadcast what they considered “terrorist propaganda against the White-governed countries of Southern Africa” which was actually propaganda for liberation. Still, they make a point to say that there is “no lack of evidence of communist support of Zanu and Zapu” but couch it in their colonialist, anti-communist mindset.

On September 9, 1976, the equation changed in the fight for Zimbabwean liberation. On that day, Mao Zedong died. At that point, the nationalist movement was divided, but the military and political rebirth of Zanu/ZANILA brought in more nationalist military strength to the table. When Mugabe tried to approach the Soviets and their allies to ask for aid, especially since the aid went to a trickle after Western reformist Deng Xiaoping took power, allying more with the US, leaving the “Third World” behind in the dust. [13] Again and again, he was rebuffed, with “East Germany” calling them a “splinter group,” showing they did not understand the liberation movement, leading to an anti-Soviet attitude among Zanu, with open clashes with Zapu cadres, and Mugabe accusing the Soviets of giving aid as to make others their puppets. This belief was reinforced by the fact that not only the situation in Angola was different than Zimbabwe but the Soviets said that they would support him if he separated from China and stopped calling himself a Maoist while they continued to support Nkomo who was a leader that the Western business community and White Zimbabweans wanted to win the liberation struggle because he was more moderate. However, in 1976, the Patriotic Front formed as a political alliance of Zapu and Zanu. As a result, the following year they were able to form a 10-member coordinating committee agreeing on a joint program but military unity did not happen as Nkomo and Mugabe were “strange bedfellows” as Zanu and Zapu still clashed on occasion. [14]

In the later 1970s, Zapu continued to receive Soviet support. Even as the Soviets began to “warm up” to Mugabe, who visited the Soviet Union in 1978, they remained loyal to Nkomo. They sent Zapu heavy weapons, fearing that helping Mugabe would ultimately assist “Chinese interests” as they worked to undermine Western and Chinese influence in the region by supporting the “bourgeois nationalist” Nkomo instead of Mugabe, who was more radical! On the international stage, Zapu had more ability to spread their propaganda. They had observer status as the UN as a recognized liberation movement where they lobbied UN member states to not recognize the UDI government, and also depended on the international community for successes. At the same time, Zanu was more wary of such involvement. In seeing the CIA involvement in play in places like Zimbabwe and acutely aware of the decline in Chinese support, they published lectures in 1978 on political education for Zanu cadres in Zimbabwe News declaring that the capitalist state needs to be smashed and that Zanu was trying to build a “Marxist-Leninist vanguard party.” [15] They further called for socialist revolution in Zimbabwe which rubbed off on some Zapu members, but they did not call for socialist revolution. Still, in Southern Africa, the Soviets had gained an advantage with a favorable Marxist government in Angola controlled by the MPLA, while the main Chinese involvement was in Zimbabwe where they had close links to Mugabe and Zanu. [16]

In 1979, the liberation war, militarily at least, seemed to be coming to an end. Zapu, led by Nkomo, and Zanu, led by Mugabe, continued to have a tenuous alliance called the Patriotic Front but Zanu had double the amount of troops in Zimbabwe (8,000) than Zapu, by the later 1970s. [17] Josiah Tongogora, a Chinese trained guerrilla, led Zanu’s military wing, only one of the 40-50,000 able-bodied personnel, and 15,000 people with guns which were part of Zanu, a formidable force to say the least. [18] Zanu, led by “very educated,” by Zimbabwean standards, educated by Christian missionaries, members, tried to teach villagers socialist cooperation within the agricultural settings. Actions like this were why people said that the guerrillas didn’t live up to their “terroristic image” which White settlers tried to conjure by posing as guerrillas and killing people.

Mugabe was very open to the changes to come in the future. While he defiantly said he didn’t care what the Western media said about it, with his wife, Sally Heyfron (later known as “amal” or mother of the nation) who he met in Ghana in 1961, saying that those who knew Mugabe would not call him evil, he also said that he was “not a trained soldier, I’m a revolutionary nonetheless.” He also said that Black Africans who had suffered from over ninety years of colonialism (1889-1979 at minimum) should have an “honorable peace” which allows Black Africans to have sovereignty over the country. He further said that he was “prepared to be whatever the people want me to be…in a democratic system you have to accept the verdict of the people…British government is bias toward the settler regime” even as he argued that

“…we [Zimbabwean freedom fighters] are fighting a war which is a difficult one…we take care to not make people unnecessarily suffer…we are waging a struggle to overthrow the settler system…we are fighting a just war, that we overthrow the settler government which is currently oppressing out people…no one is fighting an individual war, all our fighters are fighting collectively under a command that derives its authority from the central committee of the party.”

In 1979, when military victory seemed in view, two new African leaders betrayed the Zimbabwean liberation struggle. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique, the latter of whom would be killed in a 1986 plane crash “accidentally,” demanded that Mugabe’s Zanu’s guerrillas forces, fighting for “one-man-one-vote and return of land confiscated by British settlers” could not use their countries as bases to launch attacks on the UDI government. [19] This forced Mugabe to the negotiating table. If these liberation forces had been allowed to win militarily, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe would have been a different country. In the negotiating process to give the country (and the black masses) independence, Mugabe took positions that made him an opponent of the White settler-apartheid government, but the British tried to accelerate the conference and rejected more nationalist demands. [20] In April 1979, as the scorned government tried to “help” make the process “peaceful,” Ian Smith abdicated his position to a moderate Black leader named Abel Muzorewa, who offered amnesty to Zanu and Zapu forces. But, this was rejected, leading to an intensified war, with Nkomo having thousands of men armed with armored vehicles and MiG fighters in Zambia, disregarding the advice of his socialist (Soviet, Cuban, and East German) advisers by continuing the war. Ultimately, he, like Mugabe, was forced to accept negotiated terms of the Lancaster Agreement.

The Lancaster House Agreement, signed on December 17, 1979, was a moderate agreement which officially ended British colonialism only in name. Not only did it include phased British withdrawal, but the nation was reverted to colonial status before it was declared independent in April 1980. There was a draft constitution, power-sharing, 20 seats in Parliament were reserved for White settlers, a ten-year moratorium was put on constitutional amendments, and the White minority retained many of its political and economic privileges. As Mugabe was rightly angry and disappointed, Ian Smith, British tycoon “Tiny” Rowland of Nigeria still preferred Nkomo over Mugabe as leader of an “independent Zimbabwe” since Mugabe was clearly more radical with his Marxist and Black nationalist pronouncements over the years. [21]

In April 1980, in elections allowed under the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe became the Prime Minister of the free nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe, named after the ancient ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, edging out Nkomo of Zapu-PF (Zimbabwe African People’s Union – Patriotic Front). [22] With the war at an end, the refugees caused by the violence could return since there was no White settler army to attack their refugee camps, an army which engaged in “genocide and massacres” against the people of Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. [23] Additionally, there could be no more deaths of freedom fighters who had fought for liberation, with the settler-apartheid government claiming it had killed 10,000, and education, which was limited to a small minority might have an opportunity to change. Reportedly, over 1,300 Rhodesian security forces were killed, over 7,700 Black Zimbabweans were killed, and only about 468 were killed during the liberation war. With the thirteen year war of liberation, roughly from July 1965 to December 1979 at an end, also called the Rhodesian Bush War, the influence of Portugal, South Africa, and Israel who supported the settler-apartheid government, could be limited, while those were on the side of the guerrillas (Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania), Zanu (China, Tanzania, and Libya) and Zapu (Cuba, Zambia, East Germany, and the USSR) would be praised. To those who think that this could have been all solved with nonviolent respectfulness, you are sorely wrong, as Mugabe said himself in 1979:

“No, no no…there was a whole history of having tried nonviolent methods, they had failed completely and neither the settler regime or Britain heeded our cries, they just wouldn’t move… [we realized that] armed struggle would be the right thing.” [24]

As the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) first competed in 1980 elections and was socialist in ideology, this would quickly change. Surviving two assassination attempts by White Zimbabweans during the campaign, since he seemed “terrifying” due to his comments during the war and Marxist outlook, he took more a conciliatory approach once in office. In the election for the lower assembly, the House of Assembly the Zanu-PF gained 57 seats with 63% of the national vote, Zapu-PF gained 20 seats with 24.1% of the national vote, and the racist Republican Front (previously called the Rhodesian Front) party retained 20 seats, with 83% of the White vote nationwide, Mugabe attempted to calm panic and White flight. After being advised by Machel of Mozambique to not alienate the White minority since it could lead to “White capital flight,” resulting in him avoiding revolutionary and Marxist rhetoric in the campaign, and declaring that private property (code for White property) would be respected, while the country would remain stable. Additionally, 20 percent of the seats, like in the House of Assembly, in the Senate, specifically eight of the 40 seats, were reserved for Whites.

Such maneuvers were part of what could be described as the neo-colonial era in post-independence Zimbabwe, lasting arguably from 1980 until 1996. Generally, neo-colonialism manifests itself when essentials of Western economic domination are maintained indirectly with imperialists partially satisfying the aspirations of a national liberation movement while they still protect imperialist economic interests, co-opt power of such a movement, in an attempt to move the populace away from socialism. [25] This exploitative arrangement, with political, ideological, military, and ideological elements, is reinforced by sections of the local and petty bourgeoisie, appearing in the new independent African nation, which allies with external imperialism while there are conditions of “acute competition and rivalry” among imperialist powers. [26] Add to this that countries that agree to these conditions allow themselves to transform from formerly colonized territories into economically dependent countries where colonial marketing channels are maintained, along with other Western interests, while native African bourgeoisie just go along. [27]

In Zimbabwe, such neocolonialism was put in place in a manner which hurt the well-being of the populace. During Mugabe’s time as prime minister of Zimbabwe, he lived in highly fortified residences, and Zimbabwe received Western aid in hopes of pacifying it, and the UK funded a land redistribution program. Additionally, even as Mugabe spoke of socialism, the government maintained a conservative framework, operating within a capitalist framework, and he tried to build state institutions, working to limit corruption among a new leadership elite formed, leading to resentment as many remained in poverty, even as the Zanu-PF took more control of government assets post-independence. Most importantly, the land reform of willing seller, willing buyer lasted from 1980 to 1990, with the British government allowing land to be sold if it was bought and sold on a willing basis. More broadly, this meant that a tiny group of White settlers still continued to own much of the country’s mineral wealth and “productive farmland” while access to development aid and credit from international donors dependent on “economic policies that favored the economic elite of donor countries. [121] This led to the indigenous population continuing life as landless peasants or employees of foreign companies, which was sadly, the same condition many of these people lived under, during colonial rule. Mugabe, in 2009 interview, inadvertently described what Zimbabwe’s government did in the 1980s and 1990s:

“I think over the recent few years gone by there has been a development…determined by the economic situations of our countries and a situation that greater reliance on Western funding would assist our economies in transforming, and because of that naturally if you are a beggar, you cannot at the same time prescribe, you see, the rules of how you should be given whether it’s food or any items at all. So we were subjected to certain conditionalities as a basis on which whatever was paid, be it food, be it humanitarian aid in other directions, was sent to us…once you are inadequate in terms of funding yourselves monetarily and you have got to look outside for someone to assist you, and that someone outside naturally dictates conditions on you, and the moment that happens you have lost a bit of your own sovereign right to determine how you run your affairs. Those who give you money will naturally determine how you should run your country, and through that we tended to subject ourselves to the will of outsiders, to the will, even, of our erstwhile colonisers. It was neo-colonialism back again, what Nkrumah called neo-colonialism. There it was, it was crammed into our system, they were deciding how we should run our elections; who should be in government, who should not, regime changes, that nonsense. So our Pan-Africanism was lost because Pan-Africanism was based on the right of Africa determining its own future, the right of Africa standing on its own, and being the master of its own destiny, master of its own resources that had been lost…the Chinese fund does not come in that way. It has been targeted rightly, it’s a fund coming to Government not NGOs, to Government, an inclusive Government, towards development and will assist us in turning around the economy, and that is the kind of help we would want to get, and not the Western dictates.”

However, it is worth acknowledging that Mugabe and the Zanu-PF did not do this willingly. For one, as 100,000 White settlers remained in the country, they commanded the “commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture” industries, Mugabe tried to create a socially democratic state, rather than a socialist one, helping the Chinese gain markets for their companies. [28] This policy, expanded to socialist nations, resulting in the USSR established an embassy in Zimbabwe in 1981, but was encouraged by the Chinese revisionists, under Deng Xiaoping (Chinese leader from 1978 to 1989), encouraging Mugabe to not follow Mao’s model of Chinese socialism, engaging in market measures again, as the Chinese became the big economic benefactor of Zimbabwe for years to come. [29] This did not mean that the country was a Chinese colony, but rather that it within the sphere of influence of the Chinese revisionists, which likely angered the Soviets even though they were partially revisionist themselves since the Khrushchev years. At the same time, even with these market measures by Zimbabwe, it is worth acknowledging that Zimbabwe was, at the time of independence, a “poor, underdeveloped third world country” and that there was a “real threat of a right-wing military coup by the White minority still in Zimbabwe, backed by South Africa,” even as the fight against western imperialism, and its allies, seemed to fade away. [30]

This cozying up to the West, forced on them by the Lancaster Agreement and British imperial dominance, led to military material from Europeans going to the new independent government. From 1980 to 1987, the country received two bomber aircraft, eight trainer/combat aircraft, and nine fighter aircraft from the UK, six light helicopters and two ground surveillance radar from France, six trainer aircraft and six transport aircraft from Spain, and 12 helicopters from Italy. [31] China continued to give the most military equipment of any country, transferring to Zimbabwe 30 armored personnel carriers, four towed guns, 22 tanks, 12 fighter aircraft, and two trainer aircraft. [32]

As the years past, the political situation changed in Zimbabwe. In 1981, Edgar Tekere, part of Zanu-PF, was dismissed from the government in 1981, with Tekere supported by Whites in Zimbabwe and later becoming a rival to Mugabe. The same year, traditional doctors were given legal recognition by Zimbabwe, and other nationalist governments, in 1981, and throughout the 1980s. [33] In order to avoid a “repeat of Angola” in Zimbabwe, Mugabe kept a tactical alliance with Nkomo, who he allowed to stay in the government first as Minister of Home Affairs (1980-1982), and then as Vice-President for twelve years (December 1987 to July 1999), even as he viewed Nkomo as an adversary. In the years that followed, some Westerners still were wary of national liberation movements such as MPLA and FRELIMO which had seized power, along with Zanu and Zapu in Zimbabwe. [34] This partially manifested itself in the bloody Gukurahundi campaign, from 1983-1987, in which the CIA almost seemed afraid of Nkomo-friendly forces being suppressed. While the facts are mired in political accusations aimed at Mugabe and so on, Mugabe did call what happened “madness” at the 2000 funeral service for Nkomo, saying that thousands were killed, after an uprising by those favoring Nkomo, and that he was not proud of what happened.

As the years passed on, some moderate opposition grew. In 1985, in the elections for the lower assembly, the seats for the Zanu-PF grew, with a loss of seats for the Zapu and newly-christened Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ), a racist White party. The same year, people said that Zanu-PF was a “bogus liberation front,” thrown off the stage of African liberation in the place of Zapu-PF and the ANC, along with attacking organizations such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC). Keeping this in mind, it worth pointing out that while Mugabe did not nationalize White land, he did become the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986, a position he retained until 1989, Black nationalists were supported rhetorically and there were strained relations between Whites and Blacks from 1980-1989 as “White flight” continued despite his pandering. Domestically, in 1987, Mugabe became president, replacing Canaan Banana, the country’s first President, under which it was a ceremonial positional, constitutional amendments were passed, a unity agreement between Zanu-PF and Zapu-PF meant that Zapu-PF was merged into the Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). The opposition to this government manifested itself in a Zimbabwean Unity Movement (ZUM) led by Tekere, and the CAZ, which enjoyed representation on the municipal level, after 1987. The latter party, still lead by Ian Smith, chaired a meeting of opposition groups, including the Zanu–Ndonga party, UANC (United African National Council), and ZUM (Zimbabwe Unity Movement), in 1992, with these parties basically splintering and disappearing in later years. Internationally, Mugabe stood by the Chinese government during the June Fourth Incident, called the Tiananmen Square protests in the West, lasting from April until June 1989, and peaceful economic relations continued between the two countries. [35] Some consider these protests to be counter-revolutionary, while others claim they had “merit.” Even Margaret Thatcher told Mikhail Gorbachev, the person who was a biggest cause of the Soviet Union’s dissolution due to his market-friendly policies, making the Western capitalist class smile with glee, that there needed to be a settlement in South Africa, saying that events happening there were the same as those that occurred “during the initial period of implementation of the agreement granting independence to Zimbabwe.”

By the 1990s, the situation in Zimbabwe was changing. In the first general elections under the amended constitution in 1987, which abolished the Senate, was conducted on a single roll, with no separate voting for Whites and Blacks, a step forward in the country’s post-independence period. In the elections, the Zanu-PF gained over 83% of the vote and the ZUM gained roughly 17% of the vote, which apportioned seats in the lower assembly. The dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 had a profound effect on Africa, which even the US White propaganda outlet, VOA, admits, as deeply affecting “Marxist-inspired governments and movements” such as those in Benin, Ethiopia, and Angola, while those “anti-communist authoritarian governments” backed by the US and Europe also “turned to multi-party elections” in due time. For Zimbabwe, mentions to Marxist-Leninism and scientific socialism were removed from the Constitution, with market measures seeming the way to go. As a government that was short on cash, the Zanu-PF government began an IMF Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), with similar programs pushed by the US across the world, leading to a program of austerity which hurt the populace for years to come, while also weakening the government.

With the United States as the sole superpower, a unitary world order began to form, with the US using the IMF, World Bank, and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), along with the WTO (World Trade Organization) to impose a “global neoliberal iron heel.” In an effort to lessen their “significant international debts,” their debt service involved yielding to the “global neoliberal dictatorship” which resulted in the large state sector and local industries, which were protected, were declared as “inefficient.” [36] Furthermore, such measures were adopted by Mugabe and the Zimbabwean government enthusiastically even though the results were disastrous. This IMF prescribed program, lasting from 1991 to 1995, resulted in scarce foreign exchange, destruction of domestic industry, many consumer goods became unobtainable, and thousands of civil servants fired, but Mugabe was arguably forced into this position, with the country opened to foreign investment. [37]

The ESAP program was clearly a form of neo-colonialism forced upon Zimbabwe. Kwame Nkumrah explained this in his book on the subject, saying that this form of domination operates in the economic, religious, political, ideological, and cultural spheres, writing that:

“…it [the former colonial power] is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development…it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism…another neo-colonialist trap on the economic front has come to be known as ‘multilateral aid’ through international organisations: the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank), the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association are examples, all, significantly, having U.S. capital as their major backing…neo-colonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather of its last hideous gasp. It testifies to its inability to rule any longer by old methods. Independence is a luxury it can no longer afford to permit its subject peoples.”

Nkumrah goes on to say that other forms of neo-colonialism are: (1) the “economic penetration” due to the fact that much of the world’s ocean shipping is “controlled by me imperialist countries,” (2) evangelism, (3) international capital’s control of the “world market, as well as of the prices of commodities bought and sold there,” and (4) the “use of high rates of interest.” He also writes that neo-colonialism, with its divide and rule tactics, can be defeated, with unity and ideological clarity, providing that neo-colonialism is simply “the symptom of imperialism’s weakness and that it is defeatable,” with the fighter for independence “invariably decides for freedom.”

In 1992, there was another sea change in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s wife, Sally Heyfron, died of kidney illness, and before her death he reportedly saw a mistress named Grace Marufu. With Sally dead, this may have given Mugabe more of the initiative to engage in nationalist policies (though this is doubtful). [38]In 1996, he married Grace, a South African-born woman, who currently has an active role in the Zimbabwean government, which has led to Western sanctions, and anger from some because of her alleged (and overblown claims of) “extravagance.”

As the years went by, the ESAP was still implemented, making the West happy that Mugabe seemed to be “on their side.” This is reflected in the fact, for example, that in 1994, the Queen of England made Mugabe an honorary knight. The following year, in parliamentary elections this year, the Zanu-PF won more than 81% of the vote while the opposition Zanu-Ndonga only gained about 7% of the vote. Also the same year, Sithole, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, returned in 1995 and was elected to parliament, later becoming part of the small opposition to the government.

Notes

[1] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle (ed. Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), Cairo: Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, 1972, second edition), 7.

[2] Ibid, 13.

[3] Ibid, 13-14.

[4] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary. The reporter in this documentary implies that stereotypes persisted because guerrilla forces don’t want interviews from reporters stereotypes persisted, but these viewpoints may have been ingrained because of a colonized mindset so such interviews could have still led to negative reporting, which the guerrillas may have realized.

[5] Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 351; Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (New York: Routledge, 2006), 114.

[6] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 106.

[7] Ibid, 94.

[8] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 57-60. Other organizations included the International Union of Students, World Trade Union Federation (Zacu a member), All African Trade Union Federation, All Africa Women’s Conference, Women’s International Democratic Federation, Pan-African Journalist Union, and Tri-Continental Organization (implying that Cuba, Vietnam, and U.A.R. are their allies).

[9] Ibid, 68-70. They also said that Zapu firmly believes in “armed struggle” but for it not to be “random,” with no considerations of race, class, tribe, or other delineations within the struggle.

[10] Zimbabwe: A History of Struggle, 8-9, 71. Those on the Zapu executive committee are as follows: Life President Joshua Nkomo, Deputy Secretary to the President William J. Mukarati, Deputy National Secretary Edward S. Ndlovu, National Chairman Samuel Munedawafa, National Treasurer Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, Financial Secretary Rubatso George Marange, Secretary for External Affairs Joseph Musika, Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Clement Muchachi, Deputy Secretary for Youth and Cultural Affairs Boniface Nhariwa Gumbo, Secretary for Information and Publicity T. George Silundika, Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity Alois Z. Wingwiri, Secretary for Women Jane Ngwenya, Secretary for Public Relations Dzawanda Willie Musarurwa, Secretary for Organization Lazarus Nkala, and Secretary for Education Josiah Chinamano.

[11] Thomas Turino, “Race, Class, and Musical Nationalism in Zimbabwe,” Music and the Racial Imagination (ed. Ronald M. Radano and Philip V. Bohlman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 572.

[12] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register. The government also received five Reconnaissance AVs in 1977, five APCs in 1977, and ten Portable SAMs from an “unknown country” from 1977-1978, along with reportedly 5 light transport aircraft from Mozambique, though this is mostly definitely an error since Sonora Machel of the Marxist Mozambican government would never have made such a transfer. Additionally, the government received 14 trainer aircraft from an unknown country in 1977.

[13] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 108-109, 113.

[14] Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 255; M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 174.

[15] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (New York: Frank Cass, 1990, 2006 reprint), 219; Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun, 351.

[16] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 48.

[17] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[18] Ibid. All the information until the next footnote comes from this documentary.

[19] Also, Machel of Mozambique insisted that Mugabe attend the talks, saying that he would withhold support for ZANU if he did not attend.

[20] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[21] M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe, 201.

[22] Alex Thomson, Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 31. Also Sithole lost 1980 election to Mugabe, going to London, then Silver Spring, Maryland later in his life.

[23] “The Lion of Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe,” Internet Archive, 1979 British documentary.

[24] Ibid. Films about the Zimbabwean liberation struggle were also put out over the years, including but limited to Albino (1976 German Thriller), Game for Vultures (1979 British Thriller seeming to show Black nationalists fairly), Blind Justice (1988 British film which shows Black nationalists unfairly), Flame (1996 American film which portrays Zimbabwe as authoritarian after independence and ZANU as betraying their revolutionary ideals), Concerning Violence (documentary on protests and resistance against White rule in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 1970s, based on a passage of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth).

[25] Jack Woddis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism: The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing), 28, 32, 43-44, 46, 52.

[26] Woddis, 56, 70, 68-69, 87.

[27] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 27-28, 55, 59-60, 101, 120, 124. Fanon cites the ruling of Monsieur M’ba in Ghana as an example of neocolonialism.

[28] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005. In this article Bond (and Richard Saunders) wrote he cites ZCTU, Anti-Privatization Forum (APF), and MDC as “resistance” and angry at anything pro-ZANU-PF. Saunders is a smiling bourgeois academic who has written a good amount on Zimbabwe clearly of a critical nature.

[29] Ibid; Reuters, “Soviet Union Is Establishing An Embassy in Zimbabwe,” June 3, 1981; three paragraph article reprinted in the New York Times.

[30] You might think that mentioning social imperialism would get the Trotskyists to like Mugabe, but that is the opposite case. In fact, they consistently hate Mugabe time and time again, making it hard to find anything on the Marxist Internet Archive on Mugabe that is more fair that Trotskyist smears.

[31] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[32] Also Zimbabwe received five fighter aircraft from Kenya in 1981 and 90 armored cars from Brazil form 1984 to 1987.

[33] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 93.

[34] Thomas G., “How the U.N. Aids Marxist Guerrilla Groups,” Heritage Foundation, April 8, 1992.

[35] Ian Taylor, China and Africa, 114-115, 117, 119-121, 123, 126.

[36] She also told him that in South Africa, the “situation in dangerous” and that we need to “doe everything possible in order to control the situation, not to let the settlement be destroyed,” a typical fear of a Western capitalist ruler.

[37] Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[38] Ibid; Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, 2000, p. 177; Staff Reporter, “Mugabe reminisces about late wife, Sally,” NewZimbabwe.com, November 9, 2014; LA Times, “Sally Mugabe; Wife of Zimbabwe President,” January 28, 1992; Robert Verkaik, “Exclusive: The love that made Robert Mugabe a monster,” The Independent, April 6, 2008. Sally spent 10 years in exile, from 1967-1977 in London, and was a loyal comrade to Mugabe. Some say that the battle to save his wife from deportation from 1970 made Mugabe angry at the British government as he never forgot the British attempts to deport her, with both of them as comrades in love in the liberation struggle.