On 29 March 2008, the people of Zimbabwe voted in harmonised presidential, parliamentary and local government polls.
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 companies.
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 Zimbabweans.
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 states.
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 packages’.
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 Empowerment Bill.
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 foreign investment.
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 World Bank.”
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!