Hands off Zimbabwe!
A massive and sustained campaign of interference,
blackmail and propaganda by western imperialism has
done its work in undermining electoral support for
Zanu-PF, but there is still everything to play for.
On 29 March 2008, the people of Zimbabwe voted in
harmonised presidential, parliamentary and local
At the time of going to press, we have learnt that
Zanu-PF has lost its majority in parliament, with
seats divided roughly equally between it and the
so-called Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) (the
main MDC faction, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, ended up
with 99 seats, Zanu-PF with 97, MDC (Mutabara faction)
with 10 and one independent).
The actual split of votes favoured Zanu, who received
45.94 percent of the votes, compared with
MDC-Tsvangirai’s 42,88 percent. No results have yet
been released from the presidential election, but it
looks likely that neither of the two main candidates –
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai – will get over 50
percent, and therefore a run-off will be needed.
What’s at stake for Britain and the US?
It is certainly unusual for an election in Africa to
be getting the level of press attention that the
Zimbabwean election is getting. Elections take place
in Malawi, in Botswana, in Angola and in lots of other
countries, but they barely get a mention in the
western media. What’s so special about Zimbabwe?
There are a few reasons that Zimbabwe remains so
important for its erstwhile colonisers. For a start,
it has very fertile land, and is therefore potentially
a source of cheap crops. Also, it has vast amounts of
untapped mineral wealth, and is therefore potentially
a source of untold profit for British mining
Additionally, there are a few ways in which Zimbabwe
is setting a ‘bad example’ in the eyes of Britain and
various other imperialist states.
First, Zimbabwe’s government made the bold move of
solving the question of the unequal and racist
distribution of land in Zimbabwe. A fast-track land
resettlement programme, starting in 2000, transferred
a significant proportion of the country’s land from a
tiny white minority of colonial settlers to thousands
of landless black farmers.
Second, Zimbabwe’s government has, over the last
decade, refused to play the role of pliant neo-colony.
It has rejected the IMF’s diktat, and has increasingly
looked towards ‘non-aligned’ countries such as China,
Venezuela and Iran for trade and investment. In a bid
to break the economic domination of foreign
monopolies, the Indigenisation and Economic
Empowerment Bill has been introduced, stipulating that
every company operating in the country must have at
least 51 percent of its shares owned by indigenous
These things are, of course, not the sort of example
imperialists want to see set in Africa, and have
therefore earned Zimbabwe’s government the not
inconsiderable wrath of the various imperialist
During every election held in Zimbabwe over the course
of the last eight years, the imperialist press has
gone into overdrive to denounce Zanu and to promote a
more ‘friendly’ opposition, in the form of the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In this most
recent election, the list of imperialist-friendly
candidates has been augmented by the candidature of
Simba Makoni, a former Zanu-PF finance minister, who
left the party to form his own campaign.
What do the various parties stand for?
The policies of Mugabe and Zanu-PF are clear and
unambiguous: they stand for independence and freedom
for Zimbabwe. Zanu’s central campaigning slogan for
the election – “Defending our Land and National
Sovereignty: Building Prosperity through Empowerment”
– highlights their priorities: defend and build upon
the gains made through the land reform programme;
break the foreign monopolies’ stranglehold on the
economy; develop a sustainable economy built on small
and medium-sized businesses; focus on producing
subsistence crops rather than cash crops; reduce
dependence on western capital; and ‘Look East’ (ie, to
China) for trade and investment.
The policies of the MDC and of the group around Simba
Makoni are not so immediately transparent. However, a
glance beneath the surface of their official
utterances reveals both groups’ affection for
liberalisation, privatisation and IMF-led ‘rescue
The Movement for Democratic Change was formed out of
the notoriously racist Commercial Farmers Union in
cooperation with the shady Zimbabwe Democracy Trust (a
powerful organisation of imperialists, including three
former British foreign secretaries and a former US
assistant secretary of state for Africa), towards the
end of 1999.
On every issue of importance, the MDC has taken a
reactionary stand. It opposed the land resettlement
programme; it opposed the heroic military support
rendered by Zimbabwe to its neighbour, the Democratic
Republic of Congo; it has advocated an economic
programme of privatisation and liberalisation; and it
opposes the new Indigenisation and Economic
Simba Makoni has yet to make any particularly clear or
meaningful statements in relation to his economic or
political policies; however, it is fair to make a few
assumptions based on the rapture with which his
candidature was greeted by the representatives of
imperialism, who could barely disguise their
excitement at having managed to entice a relatively
high-profile Zanu member to oppose Mugabe.
Makoni is known to be on good terms the Bretton Hills
institutions, and has hinted at his enthusiasm for the
private sector, reducing government spending, removing
subsidies and doing everything possible to attract
South Africa’s Independent Online stated as far back
as May 2003 that “Makoni is seen, together with MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as the only contender for
the leadership who would be able to raise loans for
Zimbabwe from the International Monetary Fund and the
We all know what the conditions for raising these
loans are: privatisation, liberalisation, reduction in
public spending, land reform freeze and a removal of
subsidies. In short, opening up the Zimbabwean economy
for unfettered plunder by imperialism.
There are no significant differences between Makoni
and the MDC. Makoni’s candidature represents nothing
more than a recognition by the various western powers
that the more black faces they can persuade to do
their dirty work for them, the better.
Attempts to destabilise and subvert
For the last several months, and particularly in the
few days leading up to the election, the MDC and its
imperialist backers attempted to prejudice the results
by loudly shouting that the election would not be
‘free and fair’, citing the fact that western
countries were banned from monitoring the elections.
In fact, the elections were conducted in exemplary
fashion, and were hailed as free and fair, democratic,
credible and transparent by all the organisations that
monitored them, including the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU),
the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
(Comesa), the Pan African Parliament and Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Justice. That Zanu didn’t rig the election
is amply evidenced by the fact that they didn’t
preserve their majority in parliament! History is not
exactly littered with examples of organisations
rigging elections in order to almost win.
However, we aren’t able to say that the recent
elections were completely free from interference. Far
from it. Britain and the US in particular have been
making every effort to bribe the people of Zimbabwe
into rejecting the leadership of Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
Suffocating sanctions have been introduced in order to
destabilise the country, and there has been a
relentless propaganda campaign, both in Zimbabwe and
internationally, designed to discredit the Zimbabwean
leadership and prepare the way for a neo-colonial
stooge like Tsvangirai.
Naturally, the MDC have received significant external
funding for their election campaigning, and the IMF
has made it very clear that any non-Zanu government in
Zimbabwe would be offered an ‘attractive’ package of
aid and loans. Peter Hain is on record as saying that
Britain stands ready to help Zimbabwe “if there is a
real commitment to sound economic policies of
modernisation and privatisation.” (Financial Times, 16
February 2000, our emphasis)
The few days immediately following the election were
characterised by a media onslaught against Mugabe and
Zanu, with various bourgeois hacks repeating the MDC’s
declaration that the several-day delay in announcing
the final results could only imply foul play on the
part of the government. They chose to ignore the very
reasonable explanation of the Zimbabwe Election
Commission, which pointed out that there was a
significant amount of work involved in collating the
results of parliamentary, presidential and local
elections and properly verifying these results (a
process in which MDC were, in fact, involved).
Long before the final results came out, the western
media were announcing that Zanu had been trounced and
that Mugabe was in talks about stepping down
gracefully, etc. The day after the election, the
ostensibly non-partisan (but actually heavily pro-MDC)
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) announced –
on the basis of random polls – that Tsvangirai had won
an outright majority. This prompted the likes of the
BBC and the Guardian to declare Tsvangirai the winner.
These games have a clear purpose: to mobilise public
opinion in favour of an MDC coup in the event of the
election results coming back in favour of Mugabe/Zanu.
This is what the governments of the US and Britain
mean when they talk about ‘free and fair’ elections.
Although we don’t have the final results for the
presidential election at the time of going to press,
it’s clear that MDC have done relatively well and that
Zanu and Mugabe have lost some ground. Given the
crippling economic sanctions that have been applied
against Zimbabwe, it is in a way not surprising that
many Zimbabweans are looking for an easy way out.
The situation has deteriorated, and people have to
deal with the simple realities of food, shelter and
clothing. In the light of these considerations, the
IMF’s aid packages and loans probably sound like quite
a good idea to a lot of people.
Ahmed Sékou Touré, first president of Guinea, famously
said: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in
slavery.” Similarly, Ho Chi Minh said that “nothing is
more precious than independence and freedom”. These
statements also reflect the attitude of Comrade Mugabe
and Zanu-PF. “Poverty in liberty” means poverty but
with the means of building lasting wealth, while
“riches in slavery” means temporary riches for a few
lap-dogs of imperialism, combined with the most
terrible impoverishment of the masses and the
unbridled rapacity of foreign capital.
Clearly there are those in Zimbabwe who haven’t
understood that the carrots being put in front of them
by imperialism will only benefit a few and will be
accompanied by the complete pauperisation of the
masses of Zimbabweans. If Tsvangirai wins, public
spending will be massively reduced, agriculture will
be re-focussed on export crops, and the people of
Zimbabwe will be subjected to the iniquities of the
IMF’s ‘severe austerity’ programme.
It’s not possible to say at this point exactly what
the next government of Zimbabwe will look like;
however, it is our sincere hope that the Zimbabwean
people will not be tricked by the honeyed words of
imperialism, and that they will hold true to their
slogan: Zimbabwe will never be a colony again