Black propaganda: imperialist lies about Zimbabwe

The Furies of private interest unleashed on Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

Much to the dismay and humiliation of the ruling classes of Britain and the US, Robert Mugabe was inaugurated for a sixth term as President of Zimbabwe on 29 June, winning the runoff election in a landslide victory after his opponent, the IMF-favoured Morgan Tsvangirai, saw the writing on the wall and pulled out of the contest.

We congratulate Comrade Mugabe, Zanu-PF and the people of Zimbabwe on their hard-won victory in the face of what Abayomi Azikiwe quite rightly referred to as “a well-orchestrated destabilisation campaign” composed of “economic sanctions as well as an intense international media blitz which seeks to create public opinion against [Zanu]”. (Pan-African News Wire, 3 July 2008)

Media lies

Duping the masses is, of course, an essential component of the ruling class’s programme to maintain its power at home and to pursue its vile neo-colonial agenda abroad.

Public relations experts and government spin doctors – modern-day Goebbels figures that they are – have paved the way for every war in recent memory, with their finely-tuned emotional rhetoric, phoney evidence and far-reaching media.

Remember Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction? Slobodan Milosevic and his supposed ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Albanians? Older readers might remember the putative ‘terrorist threat’ posed by the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, or the ‘Soviet-Cuban militarisation’ of Grenada.

Time and time again, the imperialist press has been able to build a climate of fear and hatred that has served to pacify a working class that might otherwise have found common cause with the superexploited masses of the third world.

Of course, the truth generally comes out in the end – newspapers are forced to print retractions (which they bury as far away from the casual reader as possible), and, very occasionally, a governmental inquiry will be conducted. However, by the time this happens, the damage has already been done.

One way to make smear campaigns particularly effective is to make children the victims of your enemy’s evil deeds.

The classic example of this is the notorious Kuwaiti incubators story from 1990. For several days, the television screens and newspaper pages of the world were filled with the harrowing testimony of the tearful 15-year-old volunteer nurse relaying the events that had taken place at Kuwait’s Al-Addan hospital, where Iraqi soldiers had apparently torn hundreds of sick babies from their incubators and left them on the floor to die.

That wonderfully neutral defender of human rights, Amnesty International, took out full-page newspaper ads bringing the world’s attention to the incident.

However, this festival of stage-managed grief was interrupted somewhat when it emerged that the heroic young volunteer nurse was, in fact, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US; she had never worked in the hospital and was not even in Kuwait at the time of the alleged incident.

She had been coached by one of the top US public relations firms, Hill and Knowlton, to forge her testimony, with the specific purpose of building US support for Operation Desert Storm.

As it was with Iraq in 1990, so it is with Zimbabwe in 2008.

Ever since the run-up to the 29 March harmonised parliamentary, senate and presidential elections, the press has stepped up its campaign of slander and lies against Zanu-PF, and in particular its leader, Robert Mugabe.

Mind-boggling and heart-wrenching stories have been made up, facts have been distorted and journalistic integrity has been done away with.

The Zimbabwean opposition, led by the disingenuously-named Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has basically been turned into an imperialist news agency. Every word emanating from the mouths of Morgan Tsvangirai and his mob is treated as gospel.

A good example is the case of Blessing Mabhena. On 29 June, the Sunday Times carried an article called ‘Robert Mugabe’s thugs shout: “Let’s kill the baby”’, containing the following passages:

“A baby boy had both legs broken by supporters of President Robert Mugabe to punish his father for being an opposition councillor in Zimbabwe.

“Blessing Mabhena, aged 11 months, was seized from a bed and flung down with force as his mother, Agnes, hid from the thugs, convinced that they were about to murder her.

“She heard one of them say, ‘Let’s kill the baby’, before Blessing was hurled on to a bare concrete floor.

“Blessing, who may never be able to walk properly, was one of the youngest victims of atrocities against the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change in the run-up to last Friday’s sham presidential election.”

This story was also run in the New York Times and dozens of other high-profile newspapers and magazines. Newsweek published it with the chilling headline: ‘In Zimbabwe, no victim is too young for Robert Mugabe’s brutal reign. And the opposition is finding fewer and fewer places to hide’. Decent people the world over were shocked and indignant.

It turns out the whole thing was a fabrication. According to the Sunday Times of 6 July, “Doubts about the mother’s account arose when our reporter tried to arrange an operation. An orthopaedic surgeon said an X-ray of the child’s legs showed no sign of fractures …

“The mother, whose husband is an opposition councillor, repeatedly insisted that the child had been maimed when he was picked up from a bed and hurled to the floor.

“Her story, which was first reported in The New York Times, was reiterated last week by Newsweek, the US magazine. While there is no suggestion that the mother’s account of an attack is false, doctors have yet to find any evidence to support her claims that her son was injured.

“Our inquiries in the past few days suggest we were wrong to report that the baby’s legs had been broken in an assault. For that, we unreservedly apologise.” (Cited on

Needless to say, the retraction was not splashed across the front pages of Newsweek, the New York Times or the Sunday Times. Whereas the original story was propagated far and wide in order to be lapped up by an all-too-willing audience, the retraction was tucked safely away out of sight.

The Blessing Mabhena story is just one example of MDC lies being sold to the public outside Zimbabwe as ‘proof’ of the supposed cruelty and violence of Zanu-PF. Even the most far-fetched of claims by the MDC are considered as absolute facts, in no need of independent verification.

Suffice to say that the principles of journalistic integrity have once more been severely compromised in the interests of imperialism. As the Zimbabwe Herald noted on 11 July: “This ready acceptance of a one-sided story has led to an abuse of the system. People can lie point blank because they have been led into believing that ‘the regime’ knows no limits to its level of cruelty and badness.”

Strategy behind the slander

The intensification of the anti-Zanu smear campaign is a major component of the British and US strategy to oust the anti-imperialist, pan-Africanist Zanu-PF government and replace it with an administration more amenable to market liberalisation, privatisation, cash crop production and the return of the land to white commercial farmers.

The purpose of this imperialist campaign is not lost on its intended victims. President Mugabe, addressing more than 15,000 people at a pre-election rally in the Gaza Stadium, Chipinge, said: “Britain and her allies are telling a lot of lies about Zimbabwe, saying a lot of people are dying. These are all lies because they want to build a situation to justify their intervention in Zimbabwe.”

Now that the election is over and has ended with defeat for the forces of imperialism, Britain and the US have started mobilising in a big way for military intervention. This is dressed up in the most innocuous terms of course – an international ‘peacekeeping’ force to ensure ‘democracy’ – but what Britain and the US plan is nonetheless a military intervention.

There are plenty of examples of UN-led ‘peacekeeping’ forces that have done the dirty work of imperialism: Korea, Congo, Haiti, Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, to name but a few.

Public opinion in the West is already prepared for an intervention (how could we not intervene while 11-month-old babies are being thrown on the floor?), but a military campaign is still a very dangerous option for imperialism, some of the reasons for which are enumerated below:

i) The Zimbabwean armed forces are well trained, well armed and highly motivated. They will not easily be overcome.

ii) Sections of the Zimbabwean population may have been fooled (or bribed) for a while into voting for the MDC in the hope that an end to sanctions would bring an end to poverty, but it is basically impossible that this mighty population that shook colonialism to its very core would quietly suffer a military occupation.

iii) The major regional power, South Africa, and the overwhelming majority of countries in the region, would never support such a campaign, and a breakdown in relations could be very damaging to Britain and the US.

iv) China – the most consistent international friend of Africa – simply wouldn’t stand for it, and would block any attempt to leverage the UN.

v) None of the individual southern African countries could easily be used as a proxy against Zimbabwe, given the balance of forces in the region and Mugabe’s immense popularity with the African masses, as well as the historic relations between Zanu-PF and the other liberation movements in the region, most of which are still in power.

vi) US and British military forces are already considerably overstretched and pinned down by the heroic Iraqi and Afghan resistance.

Gordon Brown and David Miliband have been busily running round the world attempting to build support for a new wave of sanctions and trying to push governments and world bodies into refusing to recognise Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe.

However, their efforts have so far come to naught. The recent African Union summit, attended by the newly re-elected Robert Mugabe, was under a great deal of pressure from the ‘international community’ to denounce Mugabe and to call for Tsvangirai to be recognised as president. But no such thing took place.

The AU simply passed a resolution encouraging Zanu and MDC to engage in talks directed at establishing a power-sharing government (indeed, such talks are already underway). Just two weeks later, China and Russia vetoed a US draft resolution at the United Nations that would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe as well as an assets freeze and travel ban on Mugabe and other Zanu leaders. South Africa, Libya and Vietnam also voted against the resolution, while Indonesia abstained.

Remain vigilant

Zanu have recovered well from the shock of the 29 March elections, when they lost their majority in parliament for the first time since the establishment of the state of Zimbabwe in 1980. The have campaigned tirelessly, and have been able to expose some of their opponents’ lies.

However, the struggle is not over – imperialism will not give up that easily. Zanu must now focus on regaining the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the population of Zimbabwe.

As Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity, Bright Matonga, said: “The enemy has not rested. The enemy is very bitter, vindictive and racist. We should not relax and say we have defeated them. It may look as victory, but it is not. We did not want to be on the agenda. We have to focus on nation building.” (Zimbabwe Herald, 14 July 2008)

Those who voted for MDC must understand that the promises of the IMF and the World Bank can only lead to the destitution and plunder of the Zimbabwean masses. The people of Zimbabwe need to work together to fend off the onslaught of the US and Britain, to defend their sovereignty, to defend their land, and to build up their economy in cooperation with those countries such as China and South Africa who are willing to trade on an equal basis.

Congratulations to Comrade Robert Mugabe, to Zanu and to the Zimbabwean people.

Pamberi ne Chimurenga! Zimbabwe will never be a colony again!

> Zimbabwe election update – June 2008

> Hands off Zimbabwe – April 2008

> Zimbabwe Will Never be a Colony Again – Lalkar September 2004