Zimbabwe: Whose Election Is It?

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There’s no question there has been massive Western interference in the elections. During the election campaign British Prime Minister Gordon Brown informed the British Law Society that his government’s funding to civil society organizations in Zimbabwe opposing the Mugabe government had been stepped up.

[International: Africa]

Zimbabwe’s political opposition and its Western-sponsored civil society allies are concocting stories of an impending genocide to call for Western intervention to oust the economic nationalist Zanu-PF government of Robert Mugabe.

Yet they themselves have used threats of violence to destabilize the country to pursue an agenda shaped by and conducive to the interests of Western corporations and investors and the white settler community.


The opposition had planned to use the March 29 elections to follow the color revolution scri pt written in Washington to springboard to power. That scri pt called on the opposition to declare victory in elections before the first vote was cast, and then to denounce any outcome other than a clear opposition victory as evidence of electoral fraud. If the opposition failed to prevail at the polls, its supporters were to be mobilized to take to the streets to bring down the government, in a repeat of previous Western-engineered color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.


On the eve of the election, Ian Makoni, director of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s campaign, explained that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would avoid the failures of the past.


“The lesson from (the election of) 2002 is we didn’t plan for after the vote. Everyone stayed at home and said we will go to the courts. What happened in Kenya was they knew there would be fraud and they were ready. We will be out in the streets celebrating when the polls close. It can turn into a protest easily. Zimbabweans are angry; they are desperate; they are ready to protest. It’s the tipping point we are planning for.” [1]


But when the opposition’s charges of vote rigging fell flat as election results showed the governing Zanu-PF party losing its majority in the assembly and the party’s presidential candidate Robert Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai in the presidential contest, the edifice on which the MDC’s color revolution plan was predicated collapsed. If the vote had been rigged, Mugabe’s party would have sailed to victory. Instead, Zanu-PF trailed. The margin separating the two parties, however, was slim, revealing the opposition’s support to be limited. With Tsvangirai unable to command overwhelming support, despite massive Western intervention in the election against Mugabe, the opposition needed a way to grab power without having to rely on the uncertainties of a run-off election.

It decided to take a leaf from the book of its US and British patrons, inventing a pretext for military intervention on par with the WMD fiction used as the basis for US-British intervention in Iraq. Outside forces, preferably those of the former colonizer Britain, whose corporations still have a large stake in the country, would be called upon to intervene militarily to avert an impending genocide and in the process, install the MDC as the new government.


Over a month ago, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti appealed to his “brothers and sisters across” Africa not to “wait for dead bodies in the streets of Harare.” “Intervene now,” he demanded. [2] Twelve days later, with no sign of an impending genocide, Morgan Tsvangirai called on the West to launch a humanitarian intervention. [3] The next day, church clerics weighed in with their own warning: “If nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere.” [4] Two days later, MDC-T (the faction of the party led by Morgan Tsvangirai) spokesman Nelson Chamisa warned that “If something isn’t done in a few days, this country is going to be converted into a genocide zone.” [5] That was more than three weeks ago. A half a month later and with still no looming genocide in sight, Biti sounded the genocide alarm once again, calling on Zimbabwe’s neighbors to ease Mugabe from power “before rivers of dead people start to flow, as they did in Rwanda.” [6]


It is true that there has been politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe, but it has occurred on both sides, is political, not ethnic, and has led to nowhere near the number of deaths that would even remotely qualify as genocide.


The stakes in the election aftermath are high. Violence has erupted on the part of some Zanu-PF supporters because they fear the loss of what they gained through their revolutionary struggles, and there’s no doubt that an MDC government would set back the project of investing national liberation with real content. That the elections were neither free nor fair has only made Zanu-PF supporters more embittered by Zanu-PF’s poor showing in the elections. Jabulami Sibanda, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, has criticized the vote for being held “when people were being pushed by hunger and illegal sanctions to conduct themselves in a way that could have been different.” [7] And Zanu-PF itself has challenged the fairness of the elections, pointing out that:


o NGOs distributing food threatened to cut off food aid if Zanu-PF won the election.


o The sanctions, which will be removed if Zanu-PF is ousted, amount to Western blackmail.


o The campaigns of the MDC-T and former Zanu-PF member Simba Makoni were financed by foreign governments and corporations.


o Western-financed anti-Zanu-PF radio stations, including Radio SW Africa (financed by the US State Department) and the Voice of America’s Studio 7 stepped up their broadcasts during the election period.


o MDC activists doubled as vote educators working for the US government-financed Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network and used their position to promote the opposition under the guise of explaining electoral procedures. [8]


There’s no question there has been massive Western interference in the elections. During the election campaign British Prime Minister Gordon Brown informed the British Law Society that his government’s funding to civil society organizations in Zimbabwe opposing the Mugabe government had been stepped up. [9] On May 14, 2007 Australia announced it would spend $18 million backing critics of Mugabe, two-thirds of which was slated to be spent in the run-up to the elections. [10] And this doesn’t include the much more extensive funding Mugabe’s opponents have received from the United States, other Western governments, corporate foundations, and wealthy individuals.


Western interference has made the post-election period one aptly described by Sibanda as “a battle between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries: Zimbabwean people represented by President Mugabe and foreign interests (represented by) the MDC.” [11] Under these conditions, and especially considering that MDC youth activists have a history of using violence to provoke the police, and then to use the police response to paint the government as authoritarian and repressive, some degree of political violence is inevitable. But is it out of hand? And is it one-sided?


The documentation of violence against MDC supporters has been gathered by the US Embassy in Harare, which is hardly neutral and has an interest in discrediting Zanu-PF to bring its favored vehicle, the MDC, to power. Human Rights Watch (HRW), which is dominated by former members of the US foreign policy establishment, has also been involved. But even HRW acknowledges the violence isn’t exclusive to supporters of Zanu-PF. “Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that…MDC supporters had burned homes of known Zanu-PF supporters and officials.” [12] Louise Arbour, the UN’s top human rights official, who, in previous jobs has invariably sided with the US and Britain, notes that the information she has “received suggests an emerging pattern of political violence” that is not exclusively inflicted by supporters of Zanu-PF. [13]

Kingsley Mamabolo, a senior South African official who led the region’s observer team for the March 29 elections agrees that violence is “taking place on both sides,” as do human rights and doctors groups in Harare, most of which have Western sources of funding. [14] Paul Themba Nyathi, a civil rights lawyer and MDC member, says that “Tsvangirai’s followers seem to be saying to themselves that they can win elections by beating people and by using the crudest methods of intimidation.” This has largely escaped the attention of the media, he adds, “because the big prize is still to rid the country of Mugabe.” [15] Police arrested 58 opposition activists on May 9 on suspicion of setting fire to the homes of Zanu-PF members. On May 14, they arrested 50 Zanu-PF activists.


While Mugabe is often portrayed as a monster egging on thugs to beat opposition supporters (whereas we’ll see below, it is opposition leaders who have egged on their followers to use violence), he has spoken out against violence. On May 17, he told the country that “Such violence is needless and must stop forthwith.” He added that “support comes from persuasion, not from pugilism. Genuine support for the party cannot come through coercion or violence.” [16] At the same time, Zanu-PF has proposed a joint Zanu-PF-MDC committee to investigate political violence. Zanu-PF representative Patrick Chinamasa invited the MDC-T to form a joint team “to investigate violence so that we do not end up with false allegations.” MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa voiced no objection, “as long as there was commitment among the parties.” [17]


Despite these developments, it’s unlikely the opposition’s calls for military intervention will cease. Last summer, then Archbishop Pius Ncube called on Britain to invade. “I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe,” he said. “We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.” [18]


Former head of the British military General Lord Charles Guthrie revealed that the British government had pressed him to consider invading Zimbabwe on a number of occasions. Guthrie says he advised against an invasion, warning military intervention would backfire. [19] But that hasn’t stopped the politicos from pressing for a military assault. Tony Blair’s chief of staff for 10 years, Jonathan Powell, argued in a Guardian article in November for British military intervention in Zimbabwe on humanitarian grounds. In the article, Powell defends interventions in Yugoslavia and Iraq and argues for a British invasion of Zimbabwe. “Are we really saying we just have to wait while (Mugabe’s) people suffer?” [20] If Powell were genuinely concerned about the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people, he would press for the removal of sanctions, the principal cause of Zimbabweans’ suffering.


Basildon Peta, an opposition journalist, also makes the case for Western intervention. “The philosophy that African states should take the lead in Zimbabwe is bankrupt,” he argues. “Most of these entities would not survive without Western subsidies. We Zimbabweans have reconciled ourselves to the fact that our fellow Africans will do nothing for us in our hour of need. In desperation we have to look to our former colonizers for help.” [21]


The MDC claims to be the party of democratic change, founded on the non-violent principles of Ghandi and King, but its behaviour belies its claims. No sooner had the party been born, with Britain acting as mother, father and midwife, than it was threatening political violence. “What we would like to tell Mugabe is please go peacefully,” said leader Morgan Tsvangirai. “If you don’t want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently.” [22]


When Tsvangirai lost an internal vote on whether to boycott or participate in Senate elections, he claimed that the leader of the party was not bound by the majority’s decision. What ensued showed the party’s non-violent credentials to be as bogus as its democratic principles. An internecine war flared between the two factions, featuring beatings, hijackings, posters stripped from street polls, and the party’s director of security thrown down a stairwell. [23]


Leader of the alternative MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, is equally prepared to use violence to achieve political goals. “I’m going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal,” he told supporters. “We’re going to use every tool we can get to dislodge this regime. We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” [24] Were Mutambara the leader of an opposition group opposed to a British or US ally, he would find himself on the US and EU official lists of terrorists.


Neither is the Roman Catholic Church averse to violence, as already seen in former Archbishop Pius Ncube’s desire to lead the people, guns blazing. “In an Easter (2007) message pinned to church bulletin boards around the country, Zimbabwe’s Roman Catholic Church bishops called on President Robert G. Mugabe to leave office or face ‘open revolt.’” [25]


Ncube contemns Zimbabweans as cowards. “The idea of dying for your country was something valuable in Western countries. We haven’t grasped the idea of laying down your life. The people are cowards. I was hoping the politicians would do it but it seems that don’t have any convictions. We must torment and harass the government. Zimbabweans are a bit lethargic and we find ourselves caught with our pants down.” [26] Zimbabweans are hardly cowards. Many fought in the war to liberate Zimbabwe from British colonial rule and Rhodesian apartheid. They are understandably uninterested in rallying behind Ncube and others who are leading the charge to restore Britain to its former dominant position in Zimbabwe.


Finally, it should be noted that MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa, whose colleague Tendai Biti was crying wolf over an impending genocide a little over one week later, warned three days before the elections that if Zanu-PF won, Kenya would look like a picnic. [27]


Zimbabwe’s government has been far more lax in its tolerance of violent dissent than Western governments would ever be. In the US or Britain, a political leader who threatened to use violence to oust the government, appealed for foreign military intervention and economic warfare, and accepted funding from hostile foreign powers, would be branded a terrorist and traitor and locked up. Not surprisingly, there are some in Zimbabwe urging the government to take a harder line. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Justice has importuned the government to declare a state of emergency. “Zimbabwe is at war with foreign elements using local puppets,” says the organization’s chief advocate Martin Dinha. “Western countries are known to fuel violence, civil war and strife.” The government, Dinha says, should “consider the possibility of declaring a state of emergency to quell the disturbances.” [28]


Clearly, the opposition, with the massive backing of Western governments, corporate foundations and wealthy individuals, intent on coming to power to reverse Zanu-PF’s economically nationalist policies, has no qualms about using violence, nor deception, to carry out its Quisling aims. Tsvangirai, Biti, Chamisa and their civil society allies are prepared to use a lie as great as the WMD deception of their British and US patrons for the same end: to justify military intervention in order to put the West firmly in charge. Where Zanu-PF has used violence, has been in the struggle against oppression. Where the opposition has threatened and carried out violence has been in the pursuit of an agenda shaped by and conducing to the interests of Western economic elites. There is no looming genocide in Zimbabwe, only the threat of Western military intervention whose justification is a lie concocted by fifth columnists doing their masters’ bidding.


References:
1. The Guardian (UK), March 28, 2008.
2. The Independent (UK), April 9, 2008.
3. The Times (London), in The Ottawa Citizen, April 22, 2008.
4. Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. The Independent (UK), April 23, 2008.
5. The New York Times, April 26, 2008.
6. The Washington Post, May 16, 2008.
7. TalkZimbabwe.com, April 4, 2008.
8. The Herald (Zimbabwe) May 3, 2008.
9. The New African, April 2008.
10. Reuters May 14, 2007.
11. The Herald (Zimbabwe) April, 2, 2008.
12. Human Rights Watch, April 25, 2008.
13. The New York Times, April 28, 2008.
14. The New York Times, May 10, 2008.
15. TalkZimbabwe.com, April 28, 2008.
16. Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe), May 18, 2008.
17. The Herald (Zimbabwe), May 20, 2008.
18. The Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007.
19. AFP, November 21, 2007.
20. The Guardian (UK), November 18, 2007.
21. The Independent (UK), September 20, 2008.
22. BBC, September 30, 2000.
23. The New York Times, May 5, 2007.
24. Times Online, March 5, 2006.
25. The New York Times, April 9, 2007.
26. The Guardian (UK), April 2, 2007.
27. The Herald (Zimbabwe), March 27, 2008.
28. TalkZimbabwe.com, May 15, 2008.


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