West says battle is for democracy, others say fight is for control of land in Southern Africa
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – Robert Mugabe, 84, has been elected president of Zimbabwe for another six years. The United Nations, pushed by the United States, Britain, France, Australia and Canada, says the election did not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.
President Bush has condemned the voting as a sham as the U.S. threatens an arms embargo and other measures to force Mr. Mugabe to step down. The pressure of the West hasn’t been effective thus far on African leaders and governments: “Of course we discussed the issue of Zimbabwe, where we understand your concerns, but I want to assure you that the concerns you have expressed are, indeed, the concerns of many of us on the African continent,” said President Jakaya Kikwete, of Tanzania, the president of the African Union, responding to Mr. Bush July 8 at the meeting of the Group of Eight world economic leaders in Toyako, Japan.
“We are saying no party can govern alone in Zimbabwe and therefore the parties have to work together to come up to — to come out, work together, in a government, and then look at the future of their country together,” said President Kikwete.
The London-based Telegraph reported on its website, “Seven African leaders, including President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, were invited to join the G8 on the first day of the summit held on Japan’s island of Hokkaido. Their considered opinion was that none of the world’s most powerful countries should do anything about Zimbabwe.”
The Zimbabwe Guardian reported July 7 that the United States and Britain were involved in negotiations between the Movement for Democracy and the Mugabe government at the recent African Union Summit in Egypt. “The MDC-T party delegation to the just ended African Union summit in Egypt was ‘heavily’ represented by a delegation which included its vice president Thokozani Khupe, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and British Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Malloch-Brown, according to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.”
“Chinamasa told the Herald newspaper that Tsvangirai was no longer ‘his own person’ as he had mortgaged the MDC-T party and the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis to foreigners. He said if left alone, the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition MDC-T would resolve their differences speedily.”
“ ‘Britain, the US and the EU, in particular, should stop meddling in our affairs. It is very evident that their hand is involved and complicating the smooth dialogue between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations,’ he (Mr. Chinamasa) said adding that he was ‘confident that if we are left to discuss this matter as Zimbabweans, we will find a solution sooner rather than later.’
“Tsvangirai snubbed a meeting he had called for at the weekend between the MDC and President Mugabe saying he had been advised by Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Jean Ping against the idea,” the Herald reported.
Pressure exerted through the United Nations?
Diplomats in the corridors of the UN said July 2 they were considering a shortlist of leading African politicians including former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help negotiate a political settlement in Zimbabwe. Spokespersons for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon say he plans to discuss the possible appointment of a new mediator with South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki during the G8 summit.
Some observers say the UN’s push for greater involvement comes amid the world body’s frustration with what it sees as a failure of the mediation efforts to get the ruling party in Zimbabwe (ZANU-PF) and the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to negotiate a power-sharing agreement.
Others say the United States and Britain are behind the push as part of their overt efforts to have Mr. Mugabe relinquish power.
The Mugabe-Tvsangarai runoff became necessary after none of the four candidates vying for the presidency in March 29 garnered the necessary 51 percent to claim the office. The Zimbabwe Election Commission set June 27 as the date for a run-off election, but days before the election Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew, garnering international media attention with charges that Mr. Mugabe’s party had unleashed a campaign of violence and intimidation.
The UN Security Council on June 23 authored a unanimous resolution saying that the run-off should be postponed; and blamed “violence, intimidation and denial of free campaigning” squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF.
However Zimbabwe elections officials ruled that, according to the constitution, Mr. Tsvangarai had to make a formal notice of withdrawal 21-days ahead of the scheduled run-off and the run-off would proceed.
The Brooklyn-based December 12 Movement International Secretariat reported from Zimbabwe June 27 that people were “voting in an atmosphere of peace and security.” According to Omowale Clay, Dec. 12 observers traveled to various “constituencies to observe the balloting.” Along the way they encountered Pres. Mugabe and his family casting their vote, he said. The “president was confident that the Zimbabwe people would vote their interest in keeping Zimbabwe free and independent,” said Mr. Clay.
Human Rights Watch, however, reported numerous incidents of voters being coerced into supporting Mr. Mugabe and said violence was continuing in Zimbabwe after the election.
Mr. Mugabe was declared winner of the run-off June 30 with 2.1 million votes to 233,000 votes for MDC candidate.
In the Security Council, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution on June 30 calling for freezing assets and implementing travel bans against members of Mr. Mugabe’s government. The U.S. already has financial and travel bans in place against 170 citizens and entities tied to the Mugabe administration.
“We will press for strong action against from the UN, including an arms embargo,” said President Bush.
Critics of sanctions say the measures have a dismal record on forging political change and may hurt ordinary people and not political leaders. Case-in-point: The British supermarket giant Tesco says it will stop buying fruit and vegetables from Zimbabwe which means hundreds of jobs lost. A German company, under pressure from the German government, has said it will not provide paper used to print Zimbabwe’s currency.
U.S. motives in Zimbabwe questioned
Prof. Stephen Zunes, assistant professor of politics at the University of San Francisco wrote July 1 that the U.S. stance against Mr. Mugabe is at best hypocritical. Mr. Mugabe is condemned for a lack of democracy, but the U.S. supports dictators throughout Africa, he argued. “Indeed the U.S. currently provides economic aid and security assistance to repressive African regimes such as Swaziland, Congo, Togo, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Gabon, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia,” Mr. Zunes said, in an article written for Foreign Policy In Focus.
“As long as the U.S. maintains such a blatant double-standard, U.S. credibility is seriously compromised,” stated the professor.
Abdul Akbar Muhammad, Africa and the World syndicated columnist, said the problem isn’t that Mr. Mugabe is a dictator. The desire is for Whites to keep land in Zimbabwe and other parts of Southern Africa, he said, in a July 3 appearance on the Cliff Kelley Show on WVON-AM in Chicago. The problem dates back to the Reagan administration, which reneged on U.S. commitments to pay for land Whites took from Black Zimbabweans, he said. Mr. Mugabe is being made an example of to keep land return movements from breaking out in the region, said Mr. Muhammad.
Massive violence didn’t stop elections in Kenya and other countries, he observed. The opposition leader chose to drop out of the elections, but he could have run, Mr. Muhammad said. “We cannot allow the press to shape how we view someone unless we can hear from them or get their side,” he added.
Dr. Leonard Jeffries, professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at City College in New York City and a leading Pan Africanist, said the western media and its leaders are going out of their way to “demonize” Pres. Mugabe and the electoral process of Zimbabwe.
“The issue was and always will be the land,” Dr. Jeffries said. “And if Mugabe can hold off the British from trying to place his people back into colonial status, then that causes people in South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique to take notice and a movement will ensue across southern Africa,” Dr. Jeffries argued.
“Men such as Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson and the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan have always understood that when African leaders turned away from a survival culture to a development culture, there would be an onslaught from the colonial powers to discredit the vision of Africans controlling their resources,” Dr. Jeffries told The Final Call.
“Just look at what these same powers that want to demonize Mugabe did to Patrice Lumumba back in 1960. He had no real power, he just had a vision and they killed him,” said Dr. Jeffries, referring to the assassination of the first prime minister of the Congo.
Dr. Davis Gazi, author “Zimbabwe: Racism and the Land Question, A Colonial Legacy,” said demonizing Zimbabwe’s president is a smoke screen. “A discussion about the rights and wrongs made by individual personalities such as Robert Mugabe, at this stage are just a distraction from the real issue–the issue is that we want our land and we want to keep it,” Dr. Gazi said.
After defeating White minority rulers in 1979, Mr. Mugabe, then Zimbabwe’s prime minister and other leaders entered into an agreement with the British. After three months of haggling, there was a “willing buyer, willing seller” arrangement with White minority farmers, who owned most of the land, selling some land to Black Zimbabwean families. Whites were to be compensated by the British government.
In 1985, Mr. Mugabe, who had been elected president, crafted the “1985 Land Acquisition Act” which gave the government first right to purchase excess land to distribute to the landless. The act had limited impact because Zimbabwe’s government did not have enough money to compensate the landowners and White farmers mounted an organized effort to resist the land act.
Between 1980 and 1990 only 71,000 families were resettled out of a targeted number of 162,000 families. In 1997, British Secretary of State Claire Short stopped payments to Zimbabwe for the land requisition after only paying out $44 million of the $2 billion promised during negotiations to end the war.
In 2000, Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association marched against White farmers forcing the Mugabe administration to step up land reclamation efforts. The move also put the leaders in the crosshairs of the west, particularly former colonial power Britain. The U.S. and U.K. played the key roles in making the land reform program a volatile issue, claiming Mr. Mugabe’s land policies exacerbated the nation’s economic woes, according to his supporters.
Once the floodgates of western pressure opened with negative publicity, sanctions and other tools, a nation once called the “breadbasket of Africa” found itself facing triple digit inflation, hunger, 80 percent unemployment and a worthless currency.
Africa Confidential, an online news outlet, said inflation was at 9,030,000 percent June 20.
Mr. Mugabe’s land reform program was blamed for the collapse of the Zimbabwe economy.
The condemnations against Mr. Mugabe, which have been widely spread in the western media, and discussions of the country’s suffering led some Black leaders to call for a change in Zimbabwe. The Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote: “We cannot sit idly by in the face of what’s happening there (Zimbabwe).”
Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute for the Black World, told The Final Call it wasn’t just media outlets complaining about the Mugabe regime. Credible reports aren’t just coming from the New York Times, but organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, he noted. “We have to conclude that we have to intervene,” said Dr. Daniels.
Bill Fletcher, former director of the Washington, D.C.-based lobby TransAfrica Forum, told The Final Call President Mugabe “has lost all credibility and there was now need for a middle ground, a compromise. I think there should be a transitional government formed,” Mr. Fletcher said. Without a compromise, Pres. Mugabe may find himself in the same predicament as former Liberian president Charles Taylor, “on the way to the Hague before the International Criminal Court, charged with crimes against humanity,” Mr. Fletcher said.
Molefi Kete Asante, a Pan-Africanist and president of the Association of Nubian Kemetic Heritage, doubts the MDC has the confidence of Zimbabweans. Who would form the new government? he asked.
“MDC is an instrument of the western imperialists in the most concrete terms. It receives its money, resources and support from the most reactionary elements in the western countries; and has shown itself to be against the general interests of the masses of the (Zimbabwean) people,” said Dr. Asante.
Mr. Mugabe was quoted on allAfrica.com speaking to his supporters before the run-off election. “Once I am sure this legacy of returning land to the Blacks is truly in your hands, and the people are empowered, then I can say, aha, the work is done,” he said. “The war veterans came to me and said, president, we can never accept that our country, which we won through the barrel of the gun, can be taken merely by an ‘x’ made by a ballpoint pen.”
Zimbabwe Ambassador: Self-determination is at root of conflict (FCN, 04-22-2008)
Zimbabwe and the new Cowardly Colonialism (Spiked Online, 04-03-2008)
(Web Video) Mugabe rips ‘hypocrite’ Bush, condemns UK Foreign Policy toward Zimbabwe (UN, 09-26-2007)
Britain continues to pressure UN to censure Zimbabwe (FCN, 40-13-2007)
Reconnecting the international struggles of Black people (FCN/Minister Farrakhan, 05-07-2006)
Special Coverage: FinalCall.com Delegation visits Zimbabwe (FCN, 11-05-2002)
Mugabe rebuffs U.S. sanctions bill (FCN, 01-01-2002)