Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 22, 2008

Zimbabwe - Has Zanu-PF outwitted the IMF?

by Debs is dead
lifted from a comment

The announcement current Zimbabwe government headed by long serving president Robert Mugabe, which has met with both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change including the faction led by Amerikan Enterprise Institute sock puppet Morgan Tsvangirai, appears to have wrong footed the media led hysterics who have been building to a crescendo screaming lies since Tsvangirai wimped out of the second round of elections.

The media running coverage of this meeting, brokered by South African President Mbeki, has been really unsure of what line to take.

An obvious sign of being unprepared is having no pre-prepped lines to use to denigrate the current Zimbabwe government with. This was the usual methodology; to pick on some side issue that plays to whitey's fear of Africans in control, then make it an issue by having a chorus of unanimous distortions throughout the western media. No one ever questions the veracity of a statement made by nearly every fishwrap on the news stand.

At the moment, favorite in the past-deadline English media is to discuss the meeting as if it hasn't yet occurred. This to give time for a consternation soaked huddle, called to get the 'sound bites' to be 'read off the same page'.

The big talking point of the Associated Press story carried in this (NZ time) morning's NZ Herald is unlikely to have traction as they say.  It goes: 

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for all 28 years since independence and just last month declared election victory, appeared nervous at the ceremony. Head bent and looking beaten as he stood between two jubilant opposition leaders, Mugabe never once looked at Tsvangirai during the hour-long ceremony. Afterwards, he shook hands with everyone except his rival.

This piece of slanted ad hominem gossip won't have legs if a picture is really worth a thousand words. The par sits directly under a photo of Mugabe and Tsvangirai shaking hands at the meeting. The same image was in a vid run on BBC World. The BBC are completely dependent on others for footage since Zanu-PF tired of their one sided tirades against the president on the beeb. In the Herald story this obvious disconnect is explained thus:

"Asked about it at a news conference later, he posed for journalists, giving Tsvangirai a limp handshake."

  That complexity is just too hard to work.  Lies spread by western media rely on a superficial analysis by the consumer. 

Making peeps understand that shaking hands at a press conference but not in private is dangerous stuff, even if it could be nuanced correctly, in itself unlikely.

Readers forced to go beyond simple imagery may delve too far, as in: "Do you mean all the pix n vid of pols we are shown, are posed?"

But I am betting that the mention of two competing factions within the Movement for Democratic Change will be edited out of most stories and as for the Prime Minister of Kenya Raila Odinga, his comment in the Independent"

"Robert Mugabe is an embarrassment to the African continent," Odinga told BBC television. "He lost an election and refused to move on."

is not only beyond the bounds of normal hypocrisy it is dangerous ground.

Readers may remember, as Zanu_PF does, that Odinga, at the time a populist advocate of opposition to the neo-con attacks on the economic well being of the people of Kenya, won an election yet was forced to negotiate with the defeated government who wouldn't concede that defeat. This anti-democratic intransigence was backed by, maybe even instigated by, USuk, UN seppo suck asses and the greed heads

So Odinga settled for the role of Prime Minister, a largely powerless figure-head position whilst IMF and amerikan enterprise institute darling Mwai Kibaki kept his gig as president of Kenya.

Readers may get lost following the neo-con logic which goes like this. 

"When a humanist wins government in Africa we pay the thugs we had originally put in control, to beat the humanist supporters senseless. We call this tribalism. Then when the violence gets out of hand we force the newly elected government to accept well paid powerless positions.

This scam not only sabotages any prospect of change, it destroys the credibility of the anti-neo-cons and cripples the momentum for a change.

But when an anti neo-con is in power and wins an election, we instigate the same violence ("they are all tribalists in Africa" is a widely accepted meme), but refuse to accept the result of negotiations put together by any broker who isn't an IMF sock puppet. Even if that broker is the democratically elected leader of the nation in question's long time friend and neighbor.

For those of us who have looked at Kenya from all sides, this latest outburst confirms that Raila Odinga is competing with Mwai Kibaki for the position of most agreeable western lap-dog. A sad day for Kenyans indeed, yet what else can one expect, for decades this has been the stuff which elections are made of in the so called ' great democracies of the West'.

Incidentally the execrable Gordon Brown is prevailing upon the EU to bludgeon the Zimbabwean people with another round of economic sanctions, will this rapprochement between the political powers in Zimbabwe prevent that? I'm betting not if Gordon can help it. After all this has never been about the people of Zimbabwe, it has been about England's re-colonization of a former food source.

Zanu-PF will ensure as much as they can, that Zimbabwe isn't forced to relive the horrors of the 1990's when it's national institutions were put up for sale to the highest foreign bidder. That is inaccurate actually the national assets given away to carpet baggers with IMF connections.

Even the World Bank admitted in their warm and fuzzily titled paper

Structural Adjustment and Zimbabwe's Poor:

Zimbabwe's Economic and Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) supported by the World Bank dismantled many of the controls confining the country's economy. . .
. . . 1/ the program did not reduce poverty and unemployment as its architects had hoped. Critical fiscal reforms made slow and uncertain progress, keeping budget deficits high. This created uncertainty and shortages of capital for private producers, which delayed investment in new capacity and job creation. By focusing on the formal urban sector, the program restricted its ability to reach the majority of Zimbabweans, who work predominantly in the informal sector and in rural areas.

The part of this paper that really gets my goat comes next:

Two basic lessons are that: (1) macroeconomic stabilization--particularly fiscal adjustment--is a prerequisite for sustainable growth in employment, output, and incomes, and (2) sound macroeconomic policies need to be accompanied by actions specifically designed to assist and protect people who do not directly benefit from formal sector growth.

Zimbabweans are starving and these World Bank technocrats are dispassionate to the point of sociopathy when they discuss the problems they have caused as if it were the result of a laboratory experiment, which of course it was.

New Zealand had gone through exactly the same 'reforms' a few years before Zimbabwe's mid '90s attempt, the voters there finally managed to rid themselves of the technocrats responsible out of the Tweedledee and Tweedledum parties.

Those appalling failures of humanity immediately picked up gigs with the IMF and World Bank so they could continue their 'experiments'.

NZ's once enviable community has been on a downward spiral of gaping income gaps and an ever growing 'underclass' (neo con talk for unwhite) ever since the experiments. The people of Zimbabwe have paid a high price for their successful rejection of neo-con subjugation but if they can trade free of sanctions, then they should recover quickly because unlike NZ, Zimbabwe hasn't sold the farm.

The vast bulk of Zimbabwe's resources still remain under Zimbabwean ownership.
So let us hope Zanu-PF have successfully pulled off their staunch rejection of the 'new imperialism'.

ps: Apologies for the remaining typos and mis-spellings but if I don't cut my losses I'll never finish.

Posted by b on July 22, 2008 at 19:06 UTC | Permalink


I am a bit surprised by this. I don't have strong feelings one side or the other in Zimbabwe. But the present situation in Zimbabwe was not created by the IMF. Mugabe already had a bad reputation back in the days of the anti-apartheid struggle. What DiD is talking about is the problem in NZ, which is certainly related to IMF policies.

Although I entirely agree with DiD's description of Gordon Brown as execrable, Britland is not out to recolonise Zimbabwe. That is Mugabe's need to find an ogre. Yes, there is a certain tendency in UK to sympathise with the anti-Mugabe movement, and that is related to colonial issues, but that is all.

I don't understand Tsvangarai's agreement to talks, as anyone would think ZANU-PF is playing with him. However the reasoning has not come out yet, and I can't judge until we see a bit more.

Posted by: alex | Jul 22 2008 19:55 utc | 1

The present situation in Zimababwe was not created by the IMF No of course not how could I think such a thing Foreign financiers would never force a right wing economic model on a nation struggling to throw off the shackles of colonialism.
Here is a piece from B's original link to Swans commentary on Zimbabwe in the 1990's.

"There was a time when the management of the economy in Zimbabwe was highly regarded in Western circles. Throughout its first decade of independence, Zimbabwe's economy grew at an average of 4 percent per year, and substantial gains were made in education and health. Zimbabwe was handling its finances well, and between 1985 and 1989 had cut its debt-service ratio in half. (6) However, the demise of socialism in Europe resulted in an inhospitable environment for nations charting an independent course, and Zimbabwe felt compelled by Western demands to liberalize its economy. In January 1991, Zimbabwe adopted its Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), designed primarily by the World Bank. The program called for the usual prescription of actions advocated by Western financial institutions, including privatization, deregulation, a reduction of government expenditures on social needs, and deficit cutting. User fees were instituted for health and education, and food subsidies were eliminated. Measures protecting local industry from foreign competition were also withdrawn.

The impact was immediate. While pleasing for Western investors, the result was a disaster for the people of Zimbabwe. According to one study, the poorest households in Harare saw their income drop over 12 percent in the year from 1991 to 1992 alone, while real wages in the country plunged by a third over the life of the program. Falling income levels forced people to spend a greater percentage of their income on food, and second-hand clothes were imported to compensate for the inability of most of Zimbabwe's citizens to purchase new clothing. A 1994 survey in Harare found that 90 percent of those interviewed felt that ESAP had adversely affected their lives. The rise in food prices was seen as a major problem by 64 percent of respondents, while many indicated that they were forced to reduce their food intake. ESAP resulted in mass layoffs and crippled the job market so that many were unable to find any employment at all. In the communal areas, the rise in fertilizer prices meant that subsistence farmers were no longer able to fertilize their land, resulting in lower yields. ESAP also mandated the elimination of price controls, allowing those shop owners in communal area who were free of competition to mark prices up dramatically. In 1995, the IMF cut funding to the program when it felt that Zimbabwe wasn't cutting its budget and laying off civil service employees fast enough. Furthermore, the IMF complained, the pace of privatization wasn't rapid enough. But implementation of ESAP was quite fast enough for the people of Zimbabwe. By 1995, over one third of Zimbabwe's citizens could not afford a basic food basket, shelter and clothing. From 1991 to 1995, Zimbabwe experienced a sharp deindustrialization, as manufacturing output fell 40 percent. (7) According to an economic writer from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), "There is a general consensus among the people of Zimbabwe that ESAP has driven many families into poverty. The program only benefited a privileged minority at the expense of the underprivileged majority." (8) As intended by Western financial institutions, one could argue.

Realising the error of their ways and in reaction to the growing domestic reaction against these draconian economic measures Zimbabwe ditched the neo-con policy. The response from the G-8 led by USuk was immediate. From Swans again:

" As Zimbabwe moved away from the neoliberal path dictated by Western financial institutions, Western hostility grew. On September 24, 2001, the IMF "declared Zimbabwe ineligible to use the general resources of the IMF, and removed Zimbabwe from the list of countries eligible to borrow resources under the Poverty and Growth Facility." The stated motivation for the cutoff was that Zimbabwe had fallen $53 million in arrears on payments. Rather than work with Zimbabwe, as the IMF had elsewhere in similar circumstances, the IMF "urged the Zimbabwean authorities to adopt the economic and financial policies needed to enable Zimbabwe to achieve economic recovery as soon as possible." In other words, the IMF felt nervous at indications that ZANU-PF was abandoning ESAP, and was demanding a return to the neoliberal agenda. The IMF added that it "stood ready to cooperate with the authorities in support of efforts to adopt and implement a comprehensive economic recovery program." (14)

Three months later, on December 14, the IMF issued a statement regarding recent consultations with authorities in Zimbabwe. The IMF characterized Zimbabwe's efforts to reverse the ESAP-induced economic plunge as "deterioration," and worried that Zimbabwe's "inappropriate economic policies" had "undermined investor confidence." During consultations in Zimbabwe, IMF officials had advocated "significant changes in the government's economic policies," and "underscored the importance of sustained structural reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy." (15)

IMF policy was only one component in a broad-based Western effort to discipline Zimbabwe and force it to return to a neoliberal economic model in which the interests of Western capital would have primacy over the needs of its people. On December 21, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law S. 494, the "Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001." The law instructed American officials in international financial institutions to "oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe," and to vote against any reduction or cancellation of "indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe." The law also authorized President Bush to fund "an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe," referring to media opposed to the government of Zimbabwe. Six million dollars were granted for aid to "democracy and governance programs," a euphemism for groups seeking to topple the government. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who had been a supporter of Ian Smith's apartheid Rhodesia. After the bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 396-11, an African diplomat in Washington remarked, "The passing of the Bill is a triumph of right wing people who have always been against Zimbabwe and do not understand the land issue but would want to safeguard the imperial rights of Britain."

Source material is provided if you follow the link to the original site. I'm sorry I don't have time as I'm late for a class.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 22 2008 21:41 utc | 2

I know you don't need it but thanks Did for yet another great post. The hypocrisy of the western media is indeed breathtaking. I do not know if Mugabe is an ogre or not and I really don't care. that would be between him and the people of Zimbabwe. What I do observe with amusement as it does not affect me in any way, is the spin put on the whole affair by UK and US media. I do watch some satellite teevee and have Russia Today, BBC World, CNBC, a Chinese News Service (name escapes me right now) SkyNews, CNN, Euronews, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, Deutschewelle, and Rai that I watch for news. Oddly enough the only ones to harp on Zimbabwe are the brit stations and CNN.

I once looked forward to Gordon Brown replacing the other imbecile Tony Blair but am finding out that Brown is even more despicable than Bliar....if that is even possible. It appears that Brown is a Tory agent with the mission of destroying Labor. If so he will be successful beyond all expectations.

Unfortunately, it seems most people do not have the time nor inclination to dig a bit deeper into these issues and the news organizations take advantage of this to present a sort of infotainment/propagenda that provides enough to persuade the majority that they are indeed informed and hip to what is going on. would it not for you Debs, and breal my knowledge of things african would be close to 100% less than it is now...and it aint a whole lot even now.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 22 2008 22:03 utc | 3


The UK House of Commons- Chatham House sanctuary this week played host to 2-African leaders:

The World Affairs Lecture series was inaugurated in 2006 by USA Secretary for State Dr. Condeeleza Rice.

This month alone (July 2008) the same UK Parliament House hosted:
- President Sarkozy of France
- USA Secretary on Treasure/Finance Paulson
Kenyan Prime Minister Odinga address
Nigerian President Yaradua address

Posted by: lANINA | Jul 23 2008 0:07 utc | 4

" 'Two basic lessons are that: ... (1) blah blah, (2) blah blah ..'

Zimbabweans are starving and these World Bank technocrats are dispassionate to the point of sociopathy when they discuss the problems they have caused as if it were the result of a laboratory experiment, which of course it was."

Sorry, you're all wet here. (1) is a gentle hint that zillion-percent inflation is not such a good idea. This is simply true. (2) is not inconsistent with land reform or other micro initiatives. But Mugabe can't pull that off. Mugabe's problem with autocracy is real, sad to say, also his propensity to go broke. He is George Bush with more balls. His problem was the same as South Africa's: the country looked much richer when its wealth was concentrated by the white oligarchy, so when you try to spread the wealth you realize there isn't that much to go around. Mugabe could not admit that, he had to have some villains.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 0:15 utc | 5

The post-colonial regime ran the country pretty much the way the Rhodies did: overvalued exchange rate to keep tinned food cheap for the elite; pushing for too much capital intensity. Their one innovation was to go into hock, deep enough so that the first Bush family financial debacle creamed them. It wasn't that the evil multilaterals tripped up Zim's post-colonial baby steps. Zim had already hit the wall.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 1:01 utc | 6

Its interesting that a very high percentage of Africans & their leaders maintain very strong affinities for their ex-colonial masters. And this includes Mugabe & probably his entire leadership. But the delusionary aspect of this is how Western leaders & media interpret the affinity as dependence almost 100% of the time.

Its doubtful that anyone could have foreseen that Mugabe's Zimbabwe would withstand the barrage & intensity of so-called "smart-sanctions" unleashed by the West. And its more than clear today that the Western sanctions have been a complete failure. The use of sanctions for the purpose of undermining support for a relatively popular leader (at the time) has proven to be a stupid and extremely immoral failure. Whats emerged is an extremely divided country and untold hardship for the very people the sanctions were "intended to help".

Maybe the West is beginning to have pause. Not because there is any moral reluctance to spare the people of Zimbabwe or any reluctance to apply even more severe sanctions. The real reason is more likely because the West has been outwitted by Mugabe's government.

We are going to go through more cycles like this, and with each step we'll see the already threatened affinities between the West & Africa crumble & disintegrate even further.

Of course, the popular Western perception that Mugabe is nothing but a dangerous uppity Negro will remain unblemished.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 23 2008 1:15 utc | 7

Now I'm just bewilderered. Mugabe, dangerous? No one gives a shit about Mugabe. And Mobutu ran rings around his IMF handlers, too, but that doesn't prove that he had legitimacy or popular support. He just knew how to work his system.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 1:57 utc | 8

the army that routed Mobutu was composed to no small part of "Kadogo" -- little boys some as young as nine & barely taller than their AK-47's & RPG's. Many of whom were orphans from Goma & Rwanda and they all spoke Swahili. They put Mobutu out of business. From Kisingani to Lubumbashi and on to Kinshasha, it was mostly a cakewalk. The Ugandan & Zimbabwean regulars saw less action but it was nice that they spoke English. As for the Angolans, very measured in their approach, it was'nt just about Mobutu, but also Jonas Savimbi's UNITA.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 23 2008 5:10 utc | 9

Now this is just getting plain silly. The western media has done little else other than personalise the issues which face Zimbabwe by talking about every action made by the government as having been made by Robert Mugabe. In addition Mugabe is blamed personally for every time an ex-pat english farmer is moved off a farm which had originally been grabbed off the local people back when the place was called Southern Rhodesia and was a colony of england. These land returns are usually planned and executed locally.

The land returns began after the Bliar Government made a unilateral decision to stop payments to Zimbabwe for continued temporary use of this land. No real reason for cessation was given but probably it was the Bliars crude way of trying to support the pressure from the IMF et al to have a 'modern' cruel user-pays thatcherite economy. Following that decision the central government in Zimbabwe stopped preventing local families of indigenous Zimbabweans from re-occupying their traditional land. But from watching granny beeb or reading the telegraph one would think president Mugabe has personally removed the white squatters.

ex-colonies have a complex relationship with the former invader we see this brewing in Vietnam unfortunately where amerikan corporations have been kissing up in the south.

Zimbabwe is a little different than most of the other ex english colonies because in most of the others the colonial masters had controlled the 'de-colonisation' process and used everything from bribery to assassination to ensure the selection of a 'suitable' independence administration.

Hollywood is not a good basis to study history from but the movie "The last King of Scotland does provide an inkling into the way that england continued to interfere in the affairs of former colonies after independence.
But Robert Mugabe wasn't the result of an english controlled selection process and he has endured vitriol and half truths about himself in the english media since long before he became president. That fear and loathing continues to this day.

Since it was the english media who primarily report on events in Zimbabwe for 'the west', that attitude towards Robert Mugabe has poisoned virtually all reportage of the country.

Whether or not Mugabe has popular support is a matter for the people of Zimbabwe, the notion that a country should be subjected to economic siege because some people outside have determined they don't like that nation's government is primitive, and the danger of that line of thinking has been revealed in the USuk attacks on Iraq's sovereignty culminating in the illegal invasion of 2003.

The sort of bullshit talked about Mugabe is demonstrated in the piss weak attempt to equate Mugabe's rule with Mobutu's rule of Zaire. Outrageous not only because there is no comparison between the two regimes, the comparison ignores Mobutu's rise to power on the back of USuk and some of their european allies murderous interference in the Congo.
The murder of Patrice Lumumba, that White Rhodesian and South African mercenaries slaughtered villagers across the Congo, and in all likelihood that USuk tried to cover up this mess by murdering the United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld as he flew over Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
The story of english, latterly english and amerikan (USuk) murder and theft in Africa is long and dark.
Unfortunately for africans, their nations just have too many resources for greedheads to allow the countries to develop the same way as the western countries most of the greed heads live in developed. That is by evolution of the nation state.

Evolution - which is always error prone, ideal material for "monday morning quarter backs" to leap to judgement on. When a self determining nation state makes an unjust mess (eg Henry VIII), the society learns from it. However there is no learning process when injustice is inflicted from the outside.

That means the society is forced to endure the evils of colonisation for as long as it takes, and then have to begin their evolution as a society back from scratch.
It is this interference from england that is the biggest obstacle in Zimbabwe's political development. Of course the english technocrats and F.O. bureaucrats know this but the strategy for theft of a nation's is much easier to maintain if the peeps are distracted by an unworkable political process. I have had Zanu-PF types tell me that the result of such blatant and unjust outside interference, only serves to unite support around Mugabe.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 23 2008 5:11 utc | 10

On DiD's #2, I am sorry I don't have time to reply right now, but I am not much impressed by a highly tendentious Swan's commentary, which is entirely Mugabe-good, colonialists-bad. It is also really old, six years when the IMF has no longer played a role in Zimbabwe. People are not starving today in Z because of what the IMF did ten years ago.

Posted by: alex | Jul 23 2008 8:59 utc | 11

Congo seems to be a bit of a hot button! After the mzungus installed Mobutu he fucked up till nothing but patronage kept him there. Similarly, Mugabe is past it but as long as he takes care of his friends, he's not going anywhere. That's the parallel. Anarchy in Congo drew in what, eight, nine neighboring countries, but anarchy came first. Can't quite see it as concerted attack on a functioning state - or as a template for intervention in Zimbabwe.

The question of what, if anything, to do about that annoying misery in Zim seems to be the nub here. Nothing, you guys say. Fine by me. From there I find myself unable to make the leap to viewing Mugabe as a plucky champion of self-determination. His regime is parasitic. He's a clown.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 9:30 utc | 12

Mugabe has more & far deeper loyalty from his supporters than any African leader today. otherwise he would have been gone a long time ago. And it does'nt matter how many times the West is informed that Mugabe is far from being a lone actor in the Zimbabwe situation, the Western fascination with Mugabe the person persists, like an incurable illness.

a key part of the Wests strategy in Africa as well as the rest of the world is based on fooling otherwise intelligent people that leaders like Mugabe, Castro, Chavez are bad (simply because they do not do the Yessir to Western interests), while any manner of undemocratic leaderships (Saudi, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya ...) are good-fellas (because they dance to the tune).

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 23 2008 11:53 utc | 13

Thanks Deb for the on point responses.

Posted by: BenIAM | Jul 23 2008 12:47 utc | 14

Far be it from me to downplay Zim's multitudinous systemic problems and bad breaks including two (2) crucial droughts (although I cannot see for myself the terms-of-trade shock mentioned in that ifpri link). Nonetheless Mugabe is in charge, quite firmly so, and he's not helping. The double standard for autocrats is certainly extant but that doesn't make Mugabe suck less. It would be highly unconvincing to imply that Museveni, for example, gets approbation solely because he's an asskisser. Their results on the ground are like night and day, including pluralism and civil society stuff.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 13:05 utc | 15

It would be highly unconvincing to imply that Museveni, for example, gets approbation solely because he's an asskisser.

the very same thing might have been said of Saddam, until he stopped dancing to the tune

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 23 2008 13:24 utc | 16

The return of colonial relations?

Gordon Brown, speaking after the Zimbabwean elections, made two important points. They are of interest beyond Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The first was a general remark on colonialism. The Labour Party, according to Gordon Brown, was never part of colonisation – they colonised no one.

The second important remark concerned the conditions under which the UK’s and Europe’s opposition to the Zimbabwean regime would end. These conditions were not only free and fair elections. They were also the return of lands seized, to their owners, or the payment of compensation. It should be noted that without in any way denying the personal horror of gangs unilaterally seizing property, this last is in contrast with the recent Canadian Government’s position on the alienation of Amerindian lands. It is also in opposition to one of the gains of the 1970s and 80s: the recognition of communal ownership – the type of ownership in pre-industrial societies.

What Gordon Brown’s statement does emphasise is the centrality of the Land issue. This is not, as in the case of South Africa, the question of Europeans there for centuries. In the 1969 census out of a White population of 228,296, only 92,934 were born in Rhodesia. These had purchased their land – but that land was not open for African purchase. It was also land initially grabbed by Cecil Rhodes Company and by the conquest of Zimbabwe. An unspoken part of the problem is the legitimacy of Rhodes conquest and colonial legislation after this.

There was also a difference in the capacity to borrow money to purchase land. Africans did not benefit from either bank overdrafts or from the possibility of borrowing from an Agricultural Fund set up to facilitate the acquisition of Farm Lands by Europeans. It should be noted that, where Africans did emerge as Master Farmers, they did not join Liberation Movements until quite late. It is generally agreed even by Mugabe in his more lucid moments, that there should be compensation for those who have had their lands seized. The question, emerging as early as the Lancaster House discussion between the Patriotic Front and British officials, is who compensates. The UK Government insists that, if lands are seized or nationalised it is the Zimbabwean Government which compensates. The Patriotic Front, whether the ZANU or before this ZAPU, has held that (a) land reform was a priority and that (b) compensation must be paid by the colonising power: Britain. This is the fundamental issue. Mugabe has clouded the issue by backing the grabbing of land. But the issue remains.

Posted by: b real | Jul 23 2008 15:10 utc | 17

Crying Wolf: Who's to Blame for Zimbabwe's Tragedy?

The British and U.S. governments have condemned and demonised the Zimbabwean government of President Robert Mugabe. They imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, and claim to be committed to democracy, human rights and ending the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Aren’t they crying wolf?

A brief history is instructive. During the British colonisation of Zimbabwe (1898-1979), thousands of Zimbabweans were rounded-up and sent to “reservations” and concentration camps or forced to labour as slaves in mines and plantations. The British-installed law prevented Zimbabweans from owing and cultivating arable land because most useable farmland reserved for white (settlers) farmers. British savagery was designed to terrorise the population and destroy black farmers. For decades, white settlers who made up less than 1 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population of 12 million people but controlled 70 per cent of the country's arable land reaps the benefits of British-imposed horrors of an apartheid system in Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe.

Posted by: jcairo | Jul 23 2008 16:01 utc | 18

When Saddam first became a pain in the ass it was by going to war in a region where instability could strangle the world. By comparison Zimbabwe is nohow worth the trouble of regime change. So here I am thinking to myself hmm, What could motivate Western pressure here? Hegemons enforcing a client-state relationship? Nah. Who needs them? Technocrats making examples of them? Nah. How much more of a clusterfuck could they be? Bush jumping at the chance to point at a regime more barbarous and brutal than his? Could be, that's his favorite thing. Brown doing his holy-rolling good works? Quite possibly. But the causal factor here is collapse. Intervention is reactive.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 23 2008 16:08 utc | 19

interesting perspective

What does Zimbabwe, scorched and almost completely atrophied, have to do with this Sino-US tug-of-war? Firstly, Zimbabwe is strategically located between China’s two largest trading partners, South Africa and Angola. Secondly, Zimbabwe is next to China’s biggest infrastructure projects in Africa, a railroad linking the east coast of Angola (oil) with Zambia (copper) to the east port of Tanzania. Thirdly, China is reported to import considerably in the areas of tobacco, chromium (probably for steel manufacturing) and platinum. It is not far-fetched to wonder whether China’s recent weapons shipment to Zimbabwe had something to do with Beijing’s concerns of US intervention in Zimbabwe.

The US outrage against Mugabe is not as a result of the man’s political gangsterism or as a result of Mugabe-sponsored violence prior and post that country’s rigged elections (who does not remember Kenya’s elections in December last year and the US government’s acceptance of the elections results?). We can go further afield, but the trouble we’ll have is repeating instance after instance of adverse meddling and US support for totalitarian interests and regimes when it safeguarded its interests. There are examples where the US support for individuals whose names begin with “Mu” is tied to like atrocities as those committed by Mugabe (the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Musharraf of Pakistan). Zimbabwe is the chosen field to engage in the current phase of the battle for hegemony in Africa between the US and China.

Posted by: b real | Jul 23 2008 18:22 utc | 20

I do not know if Mugabe is an ogre or not and I really don't care. that would be between him and the people of Zimbabwe.

He is. It has been between him and the people of Zimbabwe, on rather unequal terms. His response to being voted out of office was to send out the security forces, paramilitaries, and party militants to burn opponents' houses, beat them, and hack them up.

Because Morgan Tsvangirai is a capitalist tool does not make Robert Mugabe a hero.

Posted by: Nell | Jul 25 2008 21:05 utc | 21

@ Nell,

Is there no truth to the assertion that the opponents you speak of are funded by external secret service agencies? If indeed they are foreign agitators as is alleged elsewhere, would not the government have the right to defend themselves against that?

In the US we have PATRIOT which deals very severly with terrorists and anyone who wishes to bring down our government. Locally grown and groomed politicians would have the support of the elders in Zim, why do these guys getting hacked up not have local support? How can the evil Mugabe exert such tremendous control over the entire population?

I ask these questions with no malice, I am truly curious.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 25 2008 21:30 utc | 22

Fuck the government's right, governments do not have fucking crap shit fuck rights fuck shit crap shit fuck. Beside if the world can send in foreign agitators to deal with a pissant like Mugabe, where the fuck were they while George W. Fucking Bush was turning entire tectonic plates into shit? People got fucked-up fucking priorities. Fuck.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 26 2008 3:15 utc | 23

...---...: yes, talking about the relativity of human slaughtering should indeed illicit that kind of response. those who define who the war criminals are are themselves the worst perpetrators. fuck all of 'em who preside over human misery until the sun burns out.

Posted by: Lizard | Jul 26 2008 3:32 utc | 24

u.s. dept of treasury: Treasury Designates Zimbabwean Parastatals and Companies Supporting the Mugabe Regime

Washington, DC--The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated seventeen entities, including several Zimbabwean parastatals, and one individual whose support for Robert Mugabe's regime contributes to the undermining of democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe.
Treasury's designations today include the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (a.k.a MMCZ), the sole marketing and export agent for all minerals, except gold and silver, mined in Zimbabwe; the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (a.k.a. ZMDC), involved in investment in the mining industry in Zimbabwe, and in planning, coordinating and implementing mining projects on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe; the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (a.k.a. ZISCO), Zimbabwe's largest steel works; the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (a.k.a Agribank), a commercial bank owned by the Government of Zimbabwe; the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Ltd, a state-owned enterprise that owns a large number of companies operating in the industrial sector, including the chemical, clothing and textiles, mineral processing, and motor and transport sectors; the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, a financing entity; Zimre Holdings Limited, an investment and reinsurance entity; ZB Financial Holdings Limited, a holding company for a group of companies involved in commercial and merchant banking; and 4 major subsidiaries of ZB Financial Holdings Limited: ZB Bank Limited (a.k.a Zimbank), ZB Holdings Limited, Intermarket Holdings Limited, and Scotfin Limited.


As a result of Treasury's action, any assets of the individual and entities designated today that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the individual or entities.

Posted by: b real | Jul 26 2008 5:19 utc | 25

SOS and Lizard,

as you can see in b real's post at 25 there are indeed people who would bring misery upon innocent people with malice aforethought. So many industries in Zimbabwe that have had or will have their assets stolen by some faceless white fatcats on another continent far far away, and for what reason? so that the evil Mugabe will be forced to step down? or could it be to advance the interests of a few white fatcats in the UK?

where does this hatred toward Mugabe come from? who here has lived in Zimbabwe and is actually a native of the land? Europeans discussing the internal affairs of an African country are bound to see the situation through their own pre-conceived notions, no?

I do agree that just because one guy is a western tool does not make the other a saint but that really doesn't take away the fact that the west hates/fears Mugabe so much that they invest this much time and energy in bringing about his downfall.

why is the US fvcking with Zimbabwe now? what is in it for them? is this a grab to reduce UK influence and put their own guy in?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 26 2008 7:12 utc | 26

Russia & China by refusing to vote for USUK sanctions against Zim at the UN, gain major props amongst many in other African countries (and around the world). Its this bone-headed habit that USUK has acquired for pulling the door wider & wider open for the Russians & Chinese to step in.

One thing that should be clear to most reasonable people is that the land-reform process in Zimbabwe has overall been very fair & magnanimous to White Zims, and also that the process is most likely irreversible for all intents & purposes.

Which means that all the USUK is left with is vengeful arrogance. Its pretty obvious why the UK finds itself in this situation, and its also pretty stupid that the USA insists on joining UK's sulk-fest.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 26 2008 19:38 utc | 27

DoS: you make good points. i was just sympathizing with the frustration one feels when attempting to track the endless geopolitical competition of corrupt, hypocritical governments. i'm probably the least informed on this matter here, but even i understand USuk criticizing what has unfolded in Zimbabwe requires looking at the map like you're playing the board game RISK

thanks all. i'm a little less ignorant today than i was yesterday, and some days that's the best you can hope for.

Posted by: Lizard | Jul 27 2008 4:51 utc | 28

allow me to re-publish a comment i posted in an open thread earlier this month, and then add to it

why wasn't AP writing as frank as the lead in this story for the past month?
West condemns Mugabe, ignores other Africa despots

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — Nigeria. Rwanda. Uganda. Ethiopia. Gabon. Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe has plenty of competitors for the title of "least democratic in Africa."

But while he has been singled out for condemnation by the West, leaders of other autocratic states in Africa have largely been able to avoid sanctions and isolation. Many have friends in Western capitals. Or play a strategic role in the war against terrorist groups. Or sit on oil.


Today, only 21 states, including Botswana and South Africa, hold relatively free elections. Many of the remaining 31 are ruled by despots, including many offering the illusion of democracy with elections like those Mugabe held.

Rights activists put much of the blame on the West.

"It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the 'victor' is a strategic or commercial ally," Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a recent report.

Among countries he singled out as sham democracies are oil-rich Chad and Nigeria; Uganda, whose President Yoweri Museveni's friendship with President Bush has shielded him from criticism; and Ethiopia, a major U.S. ally against Islamic militants.

Other oil producers that have managed to avoid international condemnation include Angola, which hasn't held a presidential election since 1992, and Gabon, where President Omar Bongo seized power in a 1967 coup and now reigns as Africa's longest-serving leader.

"Countries that have made a point of overtly aligning themselves with U.S. narratives and policies regarding terrorism appear to have benefited not only from financial and military support but seem successfully to have diverted attention away from their internal poor governance and human rights abuse," said Akwe Amosu, senior analyst at the Open Society Institute in Washington.

parts of the article (unquoted) reek of cultural supremacism and/or racism, but it's all-too-rare to see the MSM draw attention to this outright hypocrisy

however, i want to draw attention to the inclusion of botswana in this story, as well as many other news stories this year, as being recognized as a model democracy w/ "relatively free election" to be emulated on the african continent.

i do plan on writing more on botswana's govt at some point in the future (wrt AFRICOM) but let me point out for now that, contrary to the media's spin, that country is not exactly what readers are being led to believe.

the current president, seretse khama ian khama, was not even elected -- he assumed office after the former president, festus gontebanye mogae, stepped down this april, more than 18-months ahead of botswana's next presidential elections. this allowed khama (his veep) to assume office & restructure the govt w/ his own cabinet etc w/o having any kind of public mandate.

and it's not unusual -- this is how mogae himself became president. this tradition, if you will, has allowed one-party rule (the BDP) in botswana to persist since independence.

and there's an even bigger problem, where the notion of a model democracy is concerned -- in addition to being the son of the first president of botswana, khama is a military man, lt. gen. khama, schooled by the u.k., the u.s. & israel, and was onetime commander of the BDF, botswana's u.s.-dependent military institution.

and khama, as unelected president, selected another high-ranking military man, actually his onetime commander/mentor, lt. gen. mompati sebogodi merafhe, to be his own veep. and then a couple more military personnel were given prominent spots in khama's unelected administration.

lots of crazy, completely undemocratic stuff taking place & setting up in botswana. one of those other cabinet appointments from the military is khama's close friend lt. col. isaac kgosi as the directorate of intelligence and security. botswana recently passed a controversial intelligence law that provides for secret spying on citizens and unrestricted powers (w/ no oversight provisions) to the president & his cohorts.

now what was the MSM saying about botswana being a model african democracy? a new version of an autocratic model, perhaps, esp in the eyes of the ever-expanding/ever-militarizing united states. but definitely not what most citizenry would idealize as embodying a democracy.

lots more to write on this at a later date - just don't be surprised to hear more rpts of botswana being more overtly involved w/ u.s. africa policy, as is currently the case wrt mugabe's presidency in zim.


from a srongly-worded editorial in botswana's mmegi online on thursday

Is our government increasingly being run by decrees?

Pronouncements of the past few months appear to point in that direction. We are still grappling with the effects of Security and Intelligence law, the registration of mobile (cell) phone users and the Media Practitioners Bill.

The latest announcement of the 70 percent increase duty on alcoholic beverages has taken by many by surprise...


It is not only SABMiller which will be the loser here. Many Batswana have invested in the liquor industry knowing fully well that this is a legitimate business. It only took a change of a president, who the country has not asked for in any case, to change the trading environment.

President Khama is not alone in his abhorrence of liquor, many in this country do not like the irresponsible way in which some have turned themselves into alcoholics, the resultant drunken driving, divorces, child neglect and many other ills that are caused by irresponsible drinking. Even with these hard facts, President Khama does not have the right to behave as if this country is a religious state or a monarchy where he issue decrees as he likes.

Whether he is the grandson of Khama, whose abhorrence of liquor is legendary, he should at least respect the constitution that he swore to. This is a secular state where consultation and accommodation of each other views is the foundation of our democracy.

Khama should live up to his promise that he joined politics to defend democracy. We are not too convinced that he is a democrat. Other than the few populist stunts that he made to dupe the gullible masses we see no democrat but a dictator worse than Mugabe emerging. We can only hope that we are wrong.

Posted by: b real | Jul 27 2008 5:59 utc | 29

top go w/ #20, another argument that puts zim in the context of a u.s. - china scramble

f. william engdahl: Mugabe’s Biggest Sin: Anglo-American and Chinese interests clash over Zimbabwe’s strategic mineral wealth

What his sin is seems to have more to do with his attempts to get out from under Anglo-American neo-colonial serfdom dependency and to pursue a national economic development independent of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. His real sin seems to be the fact that he has turned to the one nation that offers his government credits and soft loans for economic development with no strings attached—The Peoples’ Republic of China.

Western media accounts conveniently tend to omit the second major party to what is a huge tug of war between Anglo-American interests and China to get control of Zimbabwe’s vast mineral wealth. We should keep in mind that for Washington there are always "good dictators" and "bad dictators." The difference is whether the given dictator serves US national interests or not. Mugabe clearly is in the latter category.
The US State Department, as well as London, is aware of the vast minerals and other riches of Zimbabwe. It states in a recent report on Zimbabwe,

"Zimbabwe is endowed with rich mineral resources. Exports of gold, asbestos, chrome, coal, platinum, nickel, and copper could lead to an economic recovery one day...The country is richly endowed with coal-bed methane gas that has yet to be exploited.

With international attractions such as Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe stone ruins, Lake Kariba, and extensive wildlife, tourism historically has been a significant segment of the economy and contributor of foreign exchange. The sector has contracted sharply since 1999, however, due to the country's declining international image.(sic).

Energy Resources

With considerable hydroelectric power potential and plentiful coal deposits for thermal power station, Zimbabwe is less dependent on oil as an energy source than most other comparably industrialized countries, but it still imports 40% of its electric power needs from surrounding countries--primarily Mozambique. Only about 15% of Zimbabwe's total energy consumption is accounted for by oil, all of which is imported. Zimbabwe imports about 1.2 billion liters of oil per year. Zimbabwe also has substantial coal reserves that are utilized for power generation, and coal-bed methane deposits recently discovered in Matabeleland province are greater than any known natural gas field in Southern or Eastern Africa. In recent years, poor economic management and low foreign currency reserves have led to serious fuel shortages."

In short, chrome, copper, gold, platinum, huge hydroelectric power potential and vast coal reserves are what is at stake for Washington and London in Zimbabwe. The country also has unverified reserves of uranium, something in big demand today for nuclear power generation.

It is clear of late that so long as the tenacious Mugabe is running things, not the Anglo-Americans, but rather the Chinese, are Zimbabwe’s preferred business partners. This seems to be Mugabe’s greatest sin. He’s not reading from the right program as George W. Bush’s friends see it. His real sin seems to be turning East not West for economic and investment help.

Posted by: b real | Jul 30 2008 15:30 utc | 30

first sentence above should start "to go w/"

Posted by: b real | Jul 30 2008 15:31 utc | 31

in #29 i wrote

don't be surprised to hear more rpts of botswana being more overtly involved w/ u.s. africa policy, as is currently the case wrt mugabe's presidency in zim

nairobi's daily nation provides some of the details
Diplomacy: Botswana ceases praising in public and scolding in private

Dismissed as an upstart in African diplomacy and regional power politics for long, Botswana has suddenly emerged as the most vocal and concerted voice in the continent against the Zimbabwe crisis.

The diamond-rich southern African country now rivals South Africa and Zambia as the focal points of southern African diplomacy. Through straight talk and bold pre-emptive actions, Botswana has won the diplomatic initiative on Zimbabwe and emerged as an important player in the region, thanks to the new administration of President Ian Khama who took over in April.

As the rest of Africa wrings its hands at every turn on how to handle the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe, previously less regarded Botswana has provided leadership by being very clear and proactive on the matter.

Days after coming to power, Khama engineered an emergency summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lusaka, Zambia to discuss Zimbabwe post-election crisis. Despite opposition from some countries, Botswana made sure that Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) attended the summit although he is not a head of state.
Meanwhile, the straight-shooting new Botswana Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani, kept the pressure by releasing unequivocal statements on the crisis occasioned by an electoral result that had not produced an outright winner and President Mugabe’s reluctance to organise a free and fair run off.

At the same time, the state media in Botswana was instructed to highlight the situation in Zimbabwe through special reports. For the first, the Botswana authorities allowed journalists from privately media unfettered access to the refugees.

At the AU Summit in Egypt weeks later, Botswana through its Vice-President Mompati Merafhe did not mince words. In the presence of the combative Mugabe, Merafhe was very categorical that the controversial one-man Zimbabwean presidential election run-off that gave Mugabe victory was a nullity and called for the exclusion of Zimbabwe from AU or SADC meetings to avoid legitimising the run off.

Contrary to tradition, Botswana publicised the hard-hitting presentation it made at the AU Summit. Back in Gaborone, Skelemani followed the representation in Egypt stressing that Botswana did not recognise Mugabe and his government. Skelemani’s logic was simple: Zimbabwe under Mugabe had committed itself to SADC principles on elections and had to honour them.

As SADC observers and other election monitors had dismissed the Zimbabwean presidential election run-off as utterly flawed, it was a given that whoever claimed was in office because of that poll was relying on an illegality.

While this argument is right, perhaps the point of departure is the manner in which Botswana has handled the Zimbabwe crisis.

Gaborone’s approach has been robust with very little of the usual diplomatic waffling and double-speak so common in African politics.
The change in Botswana’s diplomacy from a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil has been as sudden as it has been effective.

Within hours of coming to power on April 1, Khama performed a major reshuffled the Botswana cabinet and civil service, dropping five cabinet ministers and promoting long-serving Foreign Affairs Minister, Merafhe, to vice-presidency.

His place at Foreign Affairs was taken by Skelemani who moved from Defence, Justice and Security. Under the veteran politician Merafhe, Botswana’s foreign policy and diplomacy had been laid back and silent in what became known as “we scold in private, but praise in public”.

Though a former police chief and army commander, Merafhe was a master at cautious speak and circular diplomatic talk, never revealing much and talking out of turn. In former President Festus Mogae, he found a boss who was not willing to rock the regional diplomatic set-up.

When told to be more robust on the Zimbabwe issue, Mogae pleaded that Botswana was a small country and didn’t have the clout to impose its will on anybody least of all Mugabe. He added that Botswana could only advise behind closed doors which could either be taken up or ignored.

Ironically, Merafhe should have been more fitted to the current strengthening of Botswana diplomacy and foreign policy but not Skelemani. With his military background Merafhe should have been blunter than Skelemani, a former Attorney-General.

It is likely that the performance of the two ministers has been so different because of the men they served. While Khama is not afraid to rattle the old boys club of southern African presidents, his predecessor Mogae showed no such guts.
Previously, there has been pressure on Botswana that as Africa’s longest running multiparty democracy and economic success story to take the lead in effecting good governance in the continent.

Proponents of this argument said that Botswana was the only country in Africa with the moral authority to lecture others on democracy, good governance and peace and didn’t have to be apologetic about it.

However, under both Sir Ketumile Masire and his successor, Mogae, Botswana seemed to put much emphasis on domestic matters than foreign affairs. While Masire had a foreign affairs nightmare in the form of apartheid South Africa, Mogae had no such ill-luck. However, the two men shared the advantage of leading a country hosting the headquarters of SADC, arguably the most vibrant regional organisation in Africa. This however, added little to Botswana’s diplomatic weight until Khama arrived on the scene.

Posted by: b real | Aug 1 2008 3:40 utc | 32

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