of us in the US who see ourselves as progressive have interpreted
developments in Zimbabwe in very different ways. Honest people
can disagree. At the same time, it is important for us to
identify the source of the disagreement, particularly if we
ever hope to overcome such disputes.
the case of Zimbabwe, the rhetoric of the Mugabe regime is
disconnected from the actual evolution of the country post-independence.
The irony of the current rhetoric of President Mugabe is that
its militancy stands in opposition to many of the practices
that he himself followed in the years subsequent to the Lancaster
House Agreements of December 1979 that brought about Zimbabwe's
freedom in 1980. President Mugabe, the truth be told, supported
the structural adjustment policies insisted upon by the International
Monetary Fund and World Bank. In fact, it was largely the
backward and anti-people economic policies of his government
that resulted in the development of a major opposition movement
in the late 1990s.
Mugabe has convinced many people of good will, here in the
USA, that his stand on land redistribution demonstrates his
commitment to true Black majority rule in Zimbabwe. What is
strikingly odd about this is that land redistribution could
have been conducted over the last 10 years (for the first
ten, due to the terms of the Lancaster House Agreements, there
was little that could be done). In fact, it needed to happen.
The demand for land by agricultural workers and farmers was
a real initiative. While it is absolutely the case that the
US and Britain were to assist in subsidizing the land redistribution
(and in fact reneged on this promise) the issue of land redistribution
was largely ignored by President Mugabe's government until
a mass opposition movement arose that challenged his, until
then, undisputed leadership role. It was only at that juncture
that President Mugabe championed immediate land redistribution,
but in a manner that benefited not the mass of agricultural
workers and farmers, but instead first and foremost the party
faithful of the ZANU-PF-the ruling party.
to speak out on Zimbabwe does not mean that I or the other
signatories either support or oppose the principal opposition
movement: the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Rather,
speaking out represents a concern that the current political
repression conducted by the government is fueling fires that
might ignite into civil war. The MDC, contrary to President
Mugabe's propaganda, is neither a small clique of opponents
nor agents of Western imperialism. They are a mass-based opposition
that has often contradictory politics. That said, driving
the country to the brink of civil war not only threatens the
future of Zimbabwe, but as well threatens to destabilize Southern
Africa as a whole.
final point. Speaking out on Zimbabwe is also a 'preemptive
strike' against the 'regime change rhetoric'-and possible
actions-of the Bush administration and the Blair administration
(in Britain). Both the USA and Britain have opportunistically
seized upon the crisis in Zimbabwe over the last two years
in order to focus attention on the plight of the white farmers.
Despite many other human rights situations that have been
far worse, both within Africa as well as globally, Bush and
Blair have called attention to the alleged plight of the white
farmers and their loss of land. We, who have signed this letter,
share nothing in common with the politics or sentiments of
Bush or Blair. We are, in fact, quite worried that in the
triumphalism that has followed the US/British invasion of
Iraq, that Bush and Blair may choose to opt for a military
intervention (covert or overt) in Zimbabwe in order to install
a regime more favorable to their imperial ambitions. Such
a step would have a catastrophic impact region wide.
believe, in issuing the open letter to President Mugabe, that
Africans must resolve the situation in Zimbabwe. There is
no role for the regime change mania of Bush and Blair. Yes,
it is time for a new, progressive leadership to emerge in
Zimbabwe, a leadership that draws from the best elements of
the ZANU-PF and the MDC. A leadership that charts a course
for Zimbabwe toward self-determined development and democracy.
But that course must be developed by Africans, with the help
of Zimbabwe's neighbors, and absent the megalomania and interventionism
of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing Street.
for excellent background reading I would suggest Patrick Bond
& Masimba Manyanya, Zimbabwe Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism,
Neo-liberalism and the Search for Social Justice. Published
by Merlin Press, 2002].
web at TransAfrica Forum