Robert Mugabe is bit like Osama bin Laden, if he didn’t exist they’d have to invent him, and invent him they have, with a vengeance.
Now I’m not a supporter of Zanu-PF, for me their politics have always been suspect. Back during the Apartheid years, Zanu-PF never acknowledged the ANC as the leader of the liberation struggle in South Africa, preferring instead to support the PAC (the Pan Africanist Congress). Well you win some, you lose some.
Zanu-PF has oscillated wildly in its choice of political position, veering from the quasi-Trotskyist to the Maoist and ending up as Mugabeism. Since gaining independence in 1980, Zanu-PF have had well over twenty years to do something about real land re-distribution (the Lancaster House ‘agreement’ notwithstanding), and whilst recognizing the conniving and hypocritical role of the Brits in the process (what else is new?), Mugabe, who cares not a whit about what the rest of the world thinks about his policies, has his sights firmly fixed on the Zimbabweans themselves and staying in power at all costs.
And as long as Mugabe left Britain’s ‘kith and kin’ alone (the settler farmers), it was quite happy to let Zanu-PF spout all kinds of socialist rhetoric, as long as he didn’t actually implement any of it. Thus all the statements out of the West about the ‘miracle’ of Zimbabwe, the “bread basket” of Southern Africa.
Zimbabwe, like its neighbor, South Africa, has (or at least had) a highly mechanized agricultural economy geared for export, with over 80% of the most productive land owned by a handful of white farmers. But here the parallel ends, for unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe’s rural population are largely peasant, subsistence farmers and importantly Zanu-PF’s power base. The divide between urban and rural could not be starker with the majority of the MDC’s supporters members of Zimbabwe’s small, urban working class.
And this is what it’s all about — land and the political power that goes with those who control it. Unfortunately, since independence, Zanu-PF has done little to actually deal with this issue failing, until recently to return the land to its rightful owners and then making a right mess of it because it did it for all the wrong reasons.
Ever since independence was gained in 1980, Zimbabwe has been a one-party state with Mugabe long proclaiming an allegedly socialist, anti-Western message without a single bleat of protest from the UK, even knighting the guy (just this week withdrawn by the ‘Queen’). So what changed? Why has Mugabe become the man the West loves to hate?
Basically, it’s sheer convenience together with a deeply ingrained racism that has propelled Mugabe into the media meat grinder and for no other purpose than to rationalize its own illegal actions of intervention and mass murder in the name of human rights and democracy.
We saw the same demonization of Myanmar (or Burma as the West chooses to continue calling it) even as major Western oil cartels continue to suck oil from the ground.
The pattern is plain for all to see: keep diverting attention away from the actions of the pirates by making a big song and dance about other countries’ when the reality is that the West doesn’t give a damn about the people of Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, or any country that fits the profile—allegedly anti-democratic, trashing human rights, this is after all, the current propaganda line of the West, a case of do as I say but don’t do as I do.
I think the following sums up one of the the results of interfering so blatantly in what are the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Zimbabwe regardless of what you think of the Zanu-PF,
“And yet the effective cancellation of the election [after the MDC’s withdrawal from the presidential runoff], followed by Tsvangirai’s calls for the United Nations, the African Union and South Africa to intervene in order to prevent a ‘genocide’, also shows up the dangers of internationalising local conflicts. The events of the past 24 hours demonstrate that Western governments’ relentless exploitation of the Zimbabwe crisis has helped to disenfranchise the Zimbabwean people. Literally. The logic of Western pressure has made the MDC reliant on the favour and flattery of external forces, rather than on the grit and the votes of its own mass support base.” — ‘Disenfranchising the people of Zimbabwe’ By Brendan O’Neill, Spiked, 23 June, 2008
But then this is the entire point of the exercise, to back Mugabe into a corner, make Mugabe the centre of attention. Had the UK really wanted to solve the land issue in Zimbabwe, it could have assisted the Zimbabwean government in compensating the settlers and helped the government in the development process (as it promised to do), for example in training and education to assist Zimbabwean peasant farmers in making the transition to mechanized farming.
As for the MDC, I think their leader Morgan Tsvangirai is a political half-wit, he should have stuck to running the trade unions. He has so compromised himself with his choice of ‘friends’, let alone his judgement, or lack of it, that he has really screwed up what was, in the early days at least, a real opportunity to create a viable alternative to Mugabeism, which as a political (let alone economic) solution to post-colonial Zimbabwe, has clearly failed.
Accusations that Tsvangirai is in the pay of foreign agents, may or may not be true, I have no way of knowing but regardless, it’s his political cowardice that undermines him and finally calling for foreign intervention reveals his complete lack of political courage.
The land question, something that is at the core of existence in every agrarian society, has been used by Mugabe to win votes and by so doing he has played right into the hands of the Western powers. Contrast Zimbabwe’s Mugabe with Venezuela’s Chavez. Sure, they’ve tried their damnest to demonize him too, but because his real power resides in the people, Western propaganda campaigns have not achieved the desired result, to isolate and present him as an ‘extremist’.
Mugabe for his part, has been very astute at exploiting the ‘Pan Africanist’ position viz a vis the black-white issue, again this is all for domestic consumption but still it’s up to the Zimbabwean people to decide what happens. More’s the pity that Tsvangarai is an inept and totally compromised politician.
As usual it’s the role of the Western media that is central to the process. Without its active complicity in covering up the crimes of the West and its participation in the Mugabe diversion, the USUK axis could not get away with its own anti-democratic and illegal actions around the planet.
The BBC are the worst culprits, conducting an endless diatribe against Mugabe, even accusing him of genocide. It’s reached the point where I just can’t watch the BBC news anymore, nearly every news broadcast opens with a story about Mugabe in what has to be a government-inspired propaganda blitz. The last BBC diatribe I watched found the reporter calling for military intervention.
But the UK, as the original ‘broker’ between Ian Smith’s pre-independence regime and the liberation movements of that time (1979-80) puts it in a difficult position, thus we read in a BBC Today story, the following:
“Long after his name ceased to resonate in British politics it is still possible to go to Zanu-PF rallies in Harare and hear a blood-curdling denunciation of Harold Wilson, and the pernicious treacheries of the 1960s and 70s.
“This is of course understood in the British government, which wants the conflict to be between Robert Mugabe and the world in general.” — ‘Zimbabwe awaits day of reckoning’ By Allan Little, 24 June, 2008. BBC Today Programme
You betcha! No flies on whoever wrote this. The last thing the UK wants is the history of successive British governments’ (both Labour and Tory) double-dealings in Zimbabwe being exposed as it connived to protect its investments and the white settlers (the majority of which are of British ‘stock’).
In part, it explains why, unlike its sanctions drives against other countries, with Zimbabwe they have targeted individuals (could it be because Barclays Bank is a major investor in Zimbabwe?).
Whatever one thinks of Zanu-PF’s policies, demonizing the country, because this is the end-product of the vicious propaganda campaign being conducted, we have to remember that the propaganda blitz is aimed not at Mugabe or the Zimbabwean people but at our domestic population (just as Mugabe’s propaganda about the evil Brits is aimed at his support base).
Mugabe’s shenanagins are insignificant when set against the USUK murder in Iraq and Afghanistan or the actions of the settler government of Israel in its genocidal activities in the Occupied Territories, thus by focusing in on an individual, by making it personal, masks the political reality of imperial intervention wherever it chooses to.
The propaganda blitz has two objectives: 1) to divert attention away from the crisis of capital and the loss of legitimacy in the West and, 2) to justify its interventionist policies around the world, based as they are on the fiction of spreading human rights and democracy.
Some of us on the left seem to be defending Mugabe for all the wrong reasons in a perverse version of ‘if you’re not for us you must be against us’, but unless as socialists we adopt a principled position and expose the underlying reasons for the media blitz, we are doomed to be caught between a rock and a hard place, for it’s not a case of defending or attacking Mugabe but of exposing the phony human rights message being peddled by the pirates.