Robert Mugabe was ‘disposed’ of by the very forces he did everything within his power to protect and nurture, that is, the armed forces, and the economic and political elite he represented. Those in uniform and in flashy suits knew that Mugabe would protect their mutual interests, because he shared with them their mutual plundering of State and private resources. It is only when he was increasingly incapable of protecting their interests that the prospect of making a replacement gathered momentum.
The worsening economic malaise, the rising demands of workers and the people in general, and the fact that Zimbabwe was becoming ever more fragile also contributed to the need to gently push the old man into retirement. Of course, his replacement in the form of Emmerson Mnangagwa, a ZANU-PF veteran and former Mugabe loyalist was heralded as a new dawn. He promised to tackle poverty and unemployment, he promised to reform the State and to dismantle the Mugabe repressive apparatus, he promised to bring social peace, and to rebuild Zimbabwe.
To a people that suffer 95% unemployment, and where more than 80% of the population are living in abject poverty, made worse by the parasites in a corrupt and repressive state, there was at least a little hope that President Mnangagwa might be an improvement on his predecessor.
Zimbabwe, just like South Africa and indeed the rest of the African continent did not make a decisive break with its colonial, capitalist and apartheid past. The ruling class simply outsmarted all the ruling elites across the continent. Our mis-leaders were simply accommodated into a capitalist economy as BEE partners. The immediate access to wealth for themselves made them to abandon the need to address the devastating impacts of both colonialism and capitalism. ZANU PF did nothing about address the land question in Zimbabwe until they were threatened at the electoral level. They did little to address the property hunger of the masses and did not overall the economy and center it on the meeting the needs of the people.
South Africa is on a fast march to where Zimbabwe is today while its leaders have joined the multimillionaire class – just like in Zimbabwe.
A Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots
It took less than a few months after the election of the new ZANU-PF President for the people of Zimbabwe to realise that even though the old man gone and had passed away, his legacy, and his way of governing was very much alive and kicking. And who exactly was being kicked? The workers and the poor of Zimbabwe. For the rich and politically connected it was business as usual.
Those who were involved in corruption and fleecing the national treasury continued to do so. Those raking in millions from phony contracts in mining, agriculture, and other sectors continued to do so. Multinationals and once hostile foreign governments were given assurances that they were not only welcome to invest in the ‘new’ Zimbabwe but would be given every inducement to ensure that profitable returns would be guaranteed. Mnangagwa has even gone so far as offering to compensate those farmers who were affected by Mugabe’s land invasions. Zimbabwe ruling elites under electoral pressure had to pretend that they care about the landlessness and propertyless of their people and encouraged so called war veterans to invade land. Today the elites are compensating the white farmers.
For Mnangagwa, and the ruling elite interests he represents, the deepening of the global economic crisis coupled with the Covid19 outbreak, has hardened their attitude. Not least because they can see that their own survival as a ruling class elite, that has enjoyed the uninterrupted fruits and benefits of office was in danger of imploding. Claims to be reversing the negative policies of the Mugabe regime in speeches and on paper is easy enough to do. Ensuring that super exploitation and unfettered and corrupt access to resources would continue is an altogether different matter.
Mnangagwa was effectively trained by Mugabe. He understood the need to ensure that the military and other repressive forces were kept on his side. He understood the need to maintain a brutal and repressive apparatus that would do his bidding. He also knew that he could not interrupt the networks and secretive channels of finance from illegal mining and other dubious activities to keep the security apparatus content. He knew that many of those politicians in the Opposition had skeletons in their cupboards, and that he had the intelligence service to dig out the dirt to manipulate and compromise those who claimed to be clean and innocent. He also knew that despite very rare and cautious reactions from neighbouring countries, and especially the relatively economically strong South Africa, that critical statements come and go, are never followed by any sanctions targeted at the elites or even sustained criticism. But what Mugabe feared, despite his brazen and patriarchal rhetoric, is also feared by his successor. They know that they have lost any semblance of support from the people of Zimbabwe, and it is the people they fear most!
Of course, they will wheel out their empty paranoia of ‘dark forces’ trying to recapture Zimbabwe for imperialism and say that foreign based NGO’s are financing rebellion against legitimate government, but the truth is known to people on the ground. They have seen and heard it all before in one form or another, and worse, they have felt the truncheons, have been sexually assaulted, abducted and imprisoned without charge, or without observance of even the most basic human rights protocols, have had their belongings impounded, their homes wrecked and broken, had their livelihood’s stolen and disrupted to deliberately prevent them from earning the little they can to support their families. This is the reality of Zimbabwe today. Whatever Mnangagwa says he cannot hide the truth from the people of Zimbabwe. His credibility is zero.
The regime is increasingly desperate and we must be on our guard. Trade Union leaders, including the President of the ZCTU Comrade Peter Mutasa, and General Secretary Japhet Moyo are under constant surveillance. Over the last few years, both have been subject to arrest and detention, harassed, bullied and deprived of their basic rights. Fake charges against them have repeatedly failed to secure convictions. Other comrades continue to be ‘detained’ and kept incommunicado. Women comrades in particular have been arrested on the feeblest of charges, and subject to appalling treatment including sexual assault. This is well documented and cannot be denied. There can be little doubt that the regime is increasingly being pushed into a corner by events, including the worsening of the economy, and its inadequate response to the Covid19 crisis. When this happens, the regime will lash out first at its domestic retractors, in an attempt to forestall any opposition. We must be ready to defend all those who are subject to state violence in all its forms.
Support the People of Zimbabwe : Down with Divisiveness!
This is why supporting calls for democratization, for an end to repression, corruption, and for an end to all the measures that prop up a wasteful and selfish elite is so important. We need to let the people of Zimbabwe know, and especially our dear comrades in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the unemployed masses in both urban and rural areas, the workers in the survivalist economy that they are not alone, and that we are with them. We especially align ourselves with those health workers forced to take industrial action at this critical time, because to continue to work normally would have been life threatening for them, their patients and their communities. We send warm solidarity greetings to all those who have courageously marched, who have summoned up their human dignity to say, ‘enough is enough’, who have braved the threats and baton charges. You are the real heroines and heroes of Zimbabwe. It is you who deserve our upmost respect.
We also align ourselves with all those Zimbabweans that have had to flee their own country in order to support their families, to escape repression, and to try and eke out a living where they can. We do not blame them for doing so. The history of the world has been shaped by populations having to escape repression, or poverty or the complete lack of opportunity. Zimbabweans in South Africa are our sisters and brothers, and comrades. Those who seek to divide us are playing into the hands of the ruling class who seek to exploit us all! Xenophobia is a weapon to divide us which is why we completely reject it.
Support the People of Zimbabwe : no ‘If’s or Buts’
For our part we shall continue to put pressure on the South African Government to break from its one sided and misguided approach. The people of Zimbabwe have paid a terrible price because successive South African Presidents have bypassed and ignored the expressed needs of the people in Zimbabwe in favour of maintaining support for corrupt and repressive regimes.
If President Mbeki had not thrown a cover over the rigged elections that declared Mugabe the winner against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, and who later bullied the MDC into accepting a hopelessly compromised Government of National Unity; If President Zuma had not cozied up to Mugabe when he was at his most brutal to the people of Zimbabwe and covered his bloody tracks in the SADC Region and beyond,
If President Ramaphosa was not in the pockets of the mining and multinational companies, and if he continues to remain silent when they deliberately exploit desperate workers, and stay quiet when they see barbarism at play.
The truth is that successive ANC Governments have consciously placed the needs of the South African and Zimbabwean ruling elites before the needs of the Zimbabwean and South African people. The accumulation of private profit has been put before democracy time and again despite the rhetoric of the IMF, the EU, the USA and yes, China too.
That’s why we say, No ‘if’s or buts’. Now is the time for the upmost of solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. To help them rebuild their community organisations and trade unions. To help them speak as one and to raise their pressing and completely legitimate democratic demands. To help them counter the brutality of the regime and its armed cadre and expose their crimes to the world. To help them to begin to take control of their own economy and if necessary, from below.
Zimbabwe is not a poor country, and yet most of its people are impoverished. Its wealth can and must be shared for the common good. Because the people of Zimbabwe do matter. We call on the working class and the poor of Zimbabwe to join hands with their counterparts in the continent and indeed the whole world in intensification of a socialist Zimbabwe free from exploitation and oppression! Amandla!