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Lessons of Zimbabwe: An exchange between Patrick Bond and Mahmood Mamdani

Aftermath of Mugabe's 2005 Operation Murambatsvina.

By Patrick Bond

December 2008 -- Mahmood Mamdani is an inspiring intellectual and political writer, one of Africa's greatest ever. But I think there are a few points raised in his recent London Review of Books article, ``Lessons of Zimbabwe'' (see full text in the appendix at the end of this article; quotes from Mamdani's article are in indented italics) that are worth debating.

... [Mugabe's] policies have helped lay waste the country's economy, though sanctions have played no small part.

A deeper capitalist malaise engulfed Zimbabwe since around 1974, the year that per capita wealth began to decline, based on overaccumulation of capital and, by the time of structural adjustment in the early 1990s, a turn to the speculative/parasitical mode of not only capital accumulation but also state management. These are not Mugabe's ``policies'', but problems all state managers have faced, nearly everywhere in the world.

Mugabe had much more leverage -- because politically he is a dictator -- to adopt a unique zig-zag technique between market liberalisation, crony-capitalist corruption and state interventions, leaving Zimbabwe with the highest inflation ever recorded in human history, at a time when neighbouring states' inflation was declining substantially due to more pure versions of neoliberalism. In comparison to such processes, ``sanctions'' have played a very small part in the present manifestation of this long crisis. (I try to spell out the long crisis argument here: http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/files/Bond%20Zimbabwe%27s%20Long%20Economic%20Crisis.pdf

... it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa.

This sort of phraseology is confusing. Mugabe's ``popularity'' within the electorate at election time is less than half, and has been since 2000 (assuming that his voters are genuinely free to cast their ballots, which they are not). Elections Mugabe supposedly ``won'' -- such as June 28, 2008 -- have not been free and fair, and coercion has been characteristic of his rule, especially in rural areas where pro-opposition forces (e.g. pro-Movement for Democratic Change teachers) have been bullied and in many cases disappeared or killed. His land reform measures were ``harsh'' -- to a few thousand white farmers yes, but mainly to millions of black peasants and urban workers now starving or unable to buy food, and hundreds of thousands of rural farmworkers -- not to those outside Zimbabwe who support him (who remain well-fed). Hence the middle-ground phrasing Mamdani employs here sets the tone for a false balance.

... My abiding recollection of my first few months back is that no one I met opposed Amin's expulsion of ``Asians''. Most merely said: ``It was bad the way he did it.'' The same is likely to be said of the land transfers in Zimbabwe.

Is this an appropriate comparison? The 4000 whites who controlled the bulk of good Zimbabwe land included beneficiaries of the historic colonial theft, while others bought into the system by purchasing farms after independence. Most had vast swathes of underutilised land, but many were extremely productive, using racially exclusive networks for inputs and marketing, especially to growing international markets during the 1990s liberalisation era. Helter skelter, they were all removed; a few hundred remained on their farms through the late 2000s because they cut deals with local elites or in some rare cases, had the support of neighbouring Communal Area [indigenous] constituencies for whom they provided services.

Rather than confuse matters with the Uganda comparison (which related mainly to urban Asians and those in commercial circuits), the following is more ``likely to be said'' of the situation prevailing in February 2000:

  • Land transfers to the majority were necessary and long overdue, since the free market model agreed at Lancaster House [the independence agreement between the liberation movement and the British government] and in subsequent World Bank loans wasn't working (nor was it meant to), and since structural adjustment had generated vast profits for tobacco, horticultural and other (mainly white) agro-exporters, while peasants lost economic ground during the 1990s (a point important for understanding what fueled so much resentment against wealthy white farmers);
  • Mugabe used his defeat in the national constitutional referendum of February 2000 as a pretense for war veteran invasions of white farms (especially after white farmers were shown on TV writing cheques to the opposition);
  • Mugabe allowed far too many of his cronies to get good farms (as even a state investigating commission conceded), and didn't set up proper agricultural support systems for those millions of landless who should have benefited from redistribution, leading to a huge decline in agricultural output, food aid dependency on Western donors and NGO distributors, and the prospect now of mass starvation (points that Mamdani skirts).
What distinguishes Mugabe and Amin from other authoritarian rulers is not their demagoguery but the fact that they projected themselves as champions of mass justice and successfully rallied those to whom justice had been denied by the colonial system.

There are a wide variety of such rulers who used a fake anti-imperialism and anti-neocolonialism to rally support, from Marcos in the Philippines to the Argentine generals, back to the characters Frantz Fanon described in Wretched of the Earth in 1961. It's an old trick.

...The people of Zimbabwe are likely to remember 2000-3 as the end of the settler colonial era. Any assessment of contemporary Zimbabwe needs to begin with this sobering fact.

Sounds good, but is it really a ``fact''? Just as much a ``fact'' are perceptions that:

  • 2000-03 was the moment when -- reminiscent of the early/mid-1980s in Matabeleland -- Mugabe used brutal violence against his opponents, terrorising the society and vindicating those who claimed Mugabe's rule would necessarily end in dictatorship, hence leaving the early 2000s the definitively ``exhausted'' state of Mugabe's ultra-nationalism (insofar as it stopped delivering goods and instead switched to coercion);
  • ``Settler colonialism'' easily transformed into post-settler neocolonialism nearly everywhere, and Zimbabwe is no exception, for while the society may now have only a quarter (or even less) of its former peak of white inhabitants, the economy is still oriented to activities that, if not controlled by white Zimbabweans or white South Africans or white Brits, mimics that control through compliant local black ownership -- in finance, commerce, mining and residual manufacturing especially (while a preponderance of white senior managers remains).

(There follow some contentious points on land reform, which I'll leave to others to rebut. I'm most concerned that Mamdani amplifies what can be considered Mugabe's greatest myth: economic destruction and inflation unprecedented in recorded human history is due to ``sanctions''.)

... When international donors pressured the regime in the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2000 by suspending aid and loans – a boycott favoured by the MDC and the unions.

Not true; the only sanctions the MDC has publicly advocated are ``smart sanctions'' -- personal bank account freezes and travel bans on about 150 ZANU-PF and state officials. The MDC and most in civil society have formally opposed Western-style sanctions. On rare occasions -- such as the prevention of weapons transfers from a Chinese ship in April 2000 by labour and church leaders here in Durban -- the oppositional forces in Zimbabwe have expressed support for specific sanctions.

... The best publicised casualties of the land reform movement were the urban poor who hoped to benefit from extending land invasions to urban areas.

There was a huge disconnect between what was happening in the countryside and the city, so that this sentence is misleading:

The veterans spearheaded occupations of urban residential land in 2000-1. Housing co-operatives and other associations followed their lead and set up ``illegal'' residential or business sites.

The housing coop movement was firmly established by the mid-1990s and did not follow the war veterans' lead -- but instead joined hundreds of thousands of atomistic urban residents in setting up illegal or informal economic activities and residential situations in the overcrowded, underhoused cities. They did so in an incremental way beginning in the 1980s, hence there were an estimated 700,000 people whose shelter and livelihoods were destroyed by Operation Murambatsvina, including those of Mugabe supporters.

But the state feared that it would lose control over towns to the MDC if the land reform movement was allowed to spread ...

This is an unusual formulation, one I've never heard in discussions about Murambatsvina. Mugabe had a simple rationale for invoking Murambatsvina: demonisation/intimidation of opposition supporters (and even, by accident, some of his own urban supporters). There was no ``land reform'' rhetoric here.

... and met these occupations with stiff repression, including Operation Restore Order/ Murambatsvina, a surprise military-style intervention in 2005 in which tens of thousands of families were evicted. Not surprisingly, those who opposed land reform in rural areas were the strongest critics of government efforts to stifle occupations in urban areas.

Another unusual formulation. If this barb is aimed at white farmers, US/British diplomats and the world's conservative media, it is technically true. If it is aimed at those in civil society who consistently supported poor people both through radical land reform (minus the problems caused by Mugabe's rural ploys starting in 2000) and through ``rights to the city'' projects such as informalisation of survival activity, then it's misplaced.

... Zimbabwe has been the target of Western sanctions twice in the last 50 years: once after UDI in 1965 (very ``soft'' sanctions, which did not stop the country becoming the second most industrialised in sub-Saharan Africa by the mid-1970s).

A few words on the sanctions against Ian Smith's Rhodesia, which not only ``did not stop'' the fastest growth in the world from 1966-74 (9.5% per annum), but caused such growth, since sanctions were the basis for import substitution (the following is from my book Uneven Zimbabwe):

Overcapacity had been the rule across industry prior to UDI, with
capacity utilisation down to below 60% in 1962 (Ramsey, 1974;
Davies, 1982). What was particularly important about how that
capacity was taken up during UDI was the extraordinary flexibility
shown both by capitalists (who organised an extension of product
lines largely on the basis of existing plant and equipment prior to
1970) and by black workers who adapted to the initial skills
shortage caused by early 1960s white emigration, and to the new
production demands. Rhodesia suddenly produced its own breakfast
cereals, cube sugar, high quality furniture, lollipop sticks, canned
asparagus, bird seed, fifteen varieties of hair shampoo, ten
different hand cleaners, five lipsticks, seven varieties of swimming
pool paints, and ten varieties of pet foods. These corresponded to a
vast expansion in local industrial production units (ie, with ten or
more workers) from 665 at UDI to 1,036 five years later, as the
number of different products increased from 1,059 in 1967 to 3,837
in 1970.

... and again after Zimbabwe's entry into the Congo war in August 1998. Zimbabwe's involvement in the war was not well received in the West.

The difficult task here is to sort out what factors were in play at what points. In 1998 Mugabe was supporting Laurent Kabila (who came to power in part through mining interests), and his own allies' and generals' personal interests in that process are well documented. No doubt some geopolitical factors related to control over the eastern DRC were also in play, with the US lining up with Uganda and Rwanda for medium-term control of the region's resources. But Mamdani forgets that the IMF explicitly allowed huge financial transfers from within the Zimbabwe fiscus to the war (so long as cuts in other programs paid for it), and expressed much more concern about a new set of economic policies (the following from my co-authored book Zimbabwe's Plunge):

introduction of selective price controls, increased tariffs, import
licensing on some goods, procrastination in meeting regional
liberalisation targets, pegging of the exchange rate, suspension of
foreign currency accounts, introduction of new export incentives and
application of new levies on tobacco and consumer goods. Although
five major parastatals were privatised, a more rapid sell-off of
state assets was postponed. The Value Added Tax, on the cards since
the World Bank began pressing hard in 1996, was also delayed. The
IMF sent a high-level team to negotiate the disbursement of a US$53
million loan (which in turn would release another US$800 million
from other lenders). There was a confused flurry in early 1999, when
Mugabe sought funding elsewhere than the IMF. The IMF’s Zimbabwe
objectives were straightforward: reversal of both the luxury import
tax and price controls on staple foods. According to Michael Nowak,
the IMF official controlling a US$53 million loan tranche, "There
are two issues outstanding and these have stopped the IMF from
making the standby credit available to the country. These issues
are, one, we want the government to reduce the tariffs slapped on
luxury goods last September, and secondly, we also want the
government to give us a clear timetable as to when and how they will
remove the price controls they have imposed on some goods." Later in
1999, the IMF agreed to increase the loan amount to US$200 million.
But according to an IMF official, yet more conditions emerged,
namely, access to classified Democratic Republic of Congo war
information and a commitment to pay new war expenditure from the
existing budget: ‘The Zimbabweans felt offended, shocked, but they
all the same agreed to give us the information, we got all the
clarification we wanted. They had no choice... We have had
assurances [that] if there is budgetary overspending, there will be
cuts in other budget sectors.’ A final deal arranged in August 1999
also compelled the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank to restore foreign currency
accounts to local corporations. The deal soon fell apart, however,
when Mugabe’s government violated several provisions.

Participants in the donor conference for Zimbabwe that year were decidedly lukewarm about committing funds.

As they had been since 1980.

Britain announced a review of arms sales to Zimbabwe and, after the conference, again disclaimed any responsibility for funding land reform.

Again, nothing new. The US also ended its military flirtation with the Zimbabwe army in the late 1990s.

The following year the IMF suspended lending to Zimbabwe,

By then, Mugabe had stopped paying IMF loans back, and was violating several of the neoliberal conditions placed on earlier loans.

while the US and the UK decided to fund the labour movement, led by the ZCTU, first to oppose constitutional change and then to launch the MDC as a full-fledged opposition party.

International donor support for the Zimbabe Congress of Trade Unions' more conservative initiatives was nothing new (I was a victim of one such process when the US labour movement's Solidarity Center told the ZCTU -- then run by Morgan Tsvangirai -- to stop working with me on various projects).

Its enemies have claimed that, by the late 1990s, the ZCTU was dependent on foreign sources for two-thirds of its income.

But that would probably also be true of many labour movements in Africa, especially when the manufacturing base and industrial workforce had been so dramatically reduced by structural adjustment.

Once ``fast-track'' land reform began in 2000, the Western donor community shut the door on Zimbabwe.

There were other factors in play here, too: the uptick in state repression, Mugabe's zigzagging away from neoliberal economic policies, and a sense that Mugabe would soon lose to Tsvangirai in an election. But a great deal more donor aid continued to flow during the 2000s; the door was not shut, by any means. US AID in particular was prolific in sending out its food support, replete with branding logos all over the maize bags and cooking oil tins.

The sanctions regime, led by the US and Britain, was elaborate, tested during the first Iraq war and then against Iran.

The only real US sanctions were the smart sanctions against the elites. Instead of imposing genuine economic sanctions, George W. Bush left Zimbabwe to his ``point man'' (sic), Thabo Mbeki.

In 2001 Jesse Helms, previously a supporter of UDI, sponsored the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery bill (another sponsor was Hillary Clinton) and it became law in December that year. Part of the act was a formal injunction on US 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'. In autumn 2001 the IMF had declared Zimbabwe ``ineligible to use the general resources of the IMF'' and removed it from the list of countries that could borrow from its Poverty and Growth Facility. In 2002, it issued a formal declaration of non-co-operation with Zimbabwe and suspended all technical assistance.

Surprisingly, Mamdani does not mention the most profound reason for the IMF's above decisions: Mugabe's failure to repay overdue loans. Moreover, when in 2005-06, Mugabe (egged on by Mbeki) tried to clear $210 million in extreme arrears (with more than $1 billion in other arrears to the IMF and World Bank still outstanding), he had not put in place neoliberal economic policies required by the IMF for ongoing support. My own understanding is that at no time did the US have to exercise the veto over IMF loans it has been notorious for in other cases. The ``sanctions'' Mamdani describes were simply not a factor -- Mugabe had himself imposed sanctions on himself by not repaying the Bretton Woods Institutions starting in 1999, and by adopting non-neoliberal economic policies. In any case, ``sanctions'' by the Bretton Woods Institutions should be no barrier to a country's growth, if it is managed properly, as Argentina showed after its 2002 default on $130 billion in foreign loans including IMF loans -- following which it led Latin America in recovery from the ``lost'' 1980s-90s neoliberal era.

 ... sanctions mainly affect the lives of ordinary people.

Where is the evidence for this?

Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, wrote recently that the country's foreign exchange reserves had declined from $830 million, representing three months' import cover in 1996, to less than one month's cover by 2006.

These statistics have nothing to do with ``sanctions'', but instead reflect the abuse of the forex control system by Gono. Zimbabwe has had the third worst outflow of capital flight of any country in Africa (only Nigeria and Angola have suffered a higher proportion of their GDP moving abroad, illegally, since the mid-1970s, according to the most rigorous study -- by Ndikumana and Boyce of U.Mass-Amherst), not to mention ubiquitous luxury good imports for Mugabe's cronies.

Total foreign payments arrears increased from $109 million at the end of 1999 to $2.5 billion at the end of 2006.

As the Jubilee movement (locally represented by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development) repeatedly requested, Mugabe stopped repaying foreign loans, starting in 1999. But instead of Mugabe following a principled strategy linked to other Third World leaders in a debtors' cartel, as Jubilee South (and Julius Nyerere and Fidel Castro) advocated, there was a simple reason: Mugabe ran out of forex. In 1998, Zimbabwe paid more in debt servicing than any country in the world (as a percentage of GDP) aside from Brazil and Burundi. Having stopped repaying -- except for the silly strategy of partial IMF repayments in 2005-06 -- naturally arrears increased dramatically. The Jubilee movement was disgusted by the 2005-06 repayment and advocates that Zimbabwe's entire foreign debt -- $5+ billion -- be repudiated, and indeed declared as ``odious debt'' under international law, since the vast majority of people who suffered because of those loans (which mainly funded the 1990s structural adjustment destruction of the economy and social wage) were not properly consulted by the Mugabe regime.

Foreign direct investment had shrunk from $444.3 million in 1998 to $50 million in 2006.

The Zimbabwe economy has been the fastest-shrinking in the world, so this is only to be expected -- it's not a sign of sanctions.

Donor support, even to sectors vital to popular welfare, such as health and education, was at an all-time low. Danish support for the health sector, $29.7 million in 2000, was suspended. Swedish support for education was also suspended.

What Mamdani fails to note here, is the systematic abuse of aid -- both in day-to-day activities (as the World Development Movement and ActionAid have documented) and also in Zimbabwe where forex used for aid has been systematically abused by the central bank and government departments.

The US issued travel warnings, blocked food aid during the heyday of land reform and opposed Zimbabwe's application to the Global Fund to Fight Aids – the country has the fourth highest infection rate in the world. Though it was renewed in 2005, the Zimbabwe grant is meagre.

Widescale abuse of donor funds (including in the health sector) is one reason for this low Global Fund grant level -- not sanctions. The opposition has systematically opposed Western sanctions against Zimbabwe (aside from smart sanctions), and even last week called for increased humanitarian aid to deal with the worsening food and health crises. There are a great many providers of humanitarian aid, as well as NGOs, ready to supply the Zimbabwe countryside with food and other services -- but Mugabe has systematically prevented them from operating.

... Nonetheless, it was clear that support for Zanu-PF was higher [in 2005] than in the pre-fast-track elections of 2000.

Given how widespread electoral fraud was in 2005, nothing is ``clear'' about support for the ruling party. Most important was the March 2008 election in which Mugabe conclusively lost the presidency, by his own admission because it was such an obvious fact, one that even weeks of delay in issuing the results could not disguise.

.. Namibia, Nigeria and the South African observer team, which had monitored the elections, concluded that the result was legitimate.

These were extremely contentious findings (in 2005), which left these observers utterly discredited. Quite simply, the 2005 election showed once again that African elites (from Windhoek, Abuja, Pretoria) could readily support other African elites (in Harare) -- against the mass of Zimbabweans.

 ... The experience of land reform in Zimbabwe has set alarm bells ringing in South Africa

Unfortunately, this is an exaggeration. The alarm bells tinkled once or twice in 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism and in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which were the debut and high point of the Landless People's Movement (LPM). The LPM was subsequently destabilised, and tragically, there is presently no rural South African social movement with the weight necessary to raise an alarm bell that the Zimbabwe experience will be repeated.

... In South Africa especially, the upheaval and bitterness felt in Zimbabwe seems to suggest that the ``Malaysian path'' to peaceful redistribution and development is not inevitable.

Everyone in South Africa awaits discovery of an ``Malaysian path'', because the present neoliberal government has a different roadmap of redistribution from poor to rich, and followed this path very successfully, moving South Africa up the rankings of the world's most unequal countries, and pushing South Africa's population far down the Human Development Index rankings.\

An anxious South Africa and less powerful members of the Southern Africa Development Community tend to feel that sanctions, along with other destabilising policies pursued by the West against Zimbabwe, have only made matters worse.

What proof is there of ``anxious'' South African and other SADC leaders' ``feeling'' on this matter? SADC's leaders showed their respect for democracy in Zimbabwe in mid-November in Sandton, when they willfully misread the political situation so as to favour Mugabe, advocating a shared ministry of home affairs (with no other comments on 10 other contested ministries), an unworkable and inequitous arrangement which the MDC rejected.

... South Africa's non-confrontational policy vis-à-vis Mugabe – which Mbeki pursued despite mounting criticism from the ANC and the unions in South Africa – along with its provision of fuel and electricity to its northern neighbour, set it at odds with Western governments.

Which Western government has publicly suggested South Africa cut off fuel and electricity to Zimbabwe? None have cut off any trade of their own to Zimbabwe (aside from arms -- which Pretoria and China supply Mugabe liberally), so how would they argue for fuel/electricity sanctions?

... many activists and intellectuals, for the most part progressives, have aligned themselves with distant or long-standing enemies in an effort to dislodge an authoritarian government clinging to power on the basis of historic grievances about the colonial theft of land. Symbolic of this was the refusal by Cosatu-affiliated unions to unload a cargo of Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe when the An Yue Jiang sailed into Durban in April.

Symbolic of alignment with long-standing enemies? What happened in April was that a local progressive church leader, Bishop Rubin Phillip (whose political roots are in the black consciousness movement), and the anti-Mugabe South African trade union movement together raised the alarm about crates of guns and about 3 million bullets moving from Durban to Harare, and prevented the unloading there and across the region (and they were assisted by a lawyer based at Open Society's regional arm). The most important alliance is only just beginning now, people-people solidarity across the Limpopo River. After the xenophobia attacks on tens of thousands of Zimbabweans here in May-June, this is ever more crucial to note. I don't know of any ``alliance'' between progressive activists (like Phillip or COSATU) and ``long-standing enemies''. Just because both may want to see the end of Mugabe's reign, doesn't mean there is an alliance or alignment.

The arguments, which are not new, turn on questions of nationalism and democracy, pitting champions of national sovereignty and state nationalism against advocates of civil society and internationalism. One group accuses the other of authoritarianism and self-righteous intolerance;

The left critique of Mugabe is the same you find in Fanon's chapter on ``Pitfalls of National Consciousness'', and highlights crony capitalism and compradorism. Mugabe would happily again be the Bretton Woods Institutions' fair-haired boy if he could squeeze sufficient surpluses from his society to do so (in 1995 he was considered the best African implementer of structural adjustment, winning a ``highly satisfactory'' label from the World Bank for helping to destroy large swathes of the productive economy and shrinking the social wage).

it replies that its critics are wallowing in donor largesse.

That is a problem, to be sure.

... Nationalists have been able to withstand civil society-based opposition, reinforced by Western sanctions, because they are supported by large numbers of peasants.

The military/police are a rather more important source of support than the peasants, Mamdani would surely concede.

... In the wake of Mbeki's resignation as president of South Africa it is vital that this agreement remains in place.

Perhaps this is the most bizarre sentence. Land reform will again be needed in Zimbabwe, to dislodge Mugabe's cronies who have merely taken over existing plantations. But land aside, the September 15, 2008, [``powersharing''] agreement is a disaster in many other respects, as it combines the worst of both worlds: looming neoliberalism if the business faction of the MDC influences economic policy (the MDC gets the finance ministry), and ongoing crony capitalism through Mugabe's extensive patronage system within the Zimbabwe state; plus a relegitimised repressive arm of the state for those in civil society who would protest the new elite transition.

Fortunately, it's so very bad that civil society have persuaded progressives within the MDC not to accept the deal. The main problem is that with all the elite negotiating going on, there's really no Plan B for popular insurrection.

And Mahmood Mamdani's otherwise politically inspiring work does not help the Zimbabwean people there, at all.

Appendix

From London Review of Books, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n23/print/mamd01_.html

Lessons of Zimbabwe

By Mahmood Mamdani

It is hard to think of a figure more reviled in the West than Robert Mugabe. Liberal and conservative commentators alike portray him as a brutal dictator, and blame him for Zimbabwe’s descent into hyperinflation and poverty. The seizure of white-owned farms by his black supporters has been depicted as a form of thuggery, and as a cause of the country’s declining production, as if these lands were doomed by black ownership. Sanctions have been imposed, and opposition groups funded with the explicit aim of unseating him.

There is no denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to tolerate and even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters. His policies have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though sanctions have played no small part, while his refusal to share power with the country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the trade unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s crisis can be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman, but it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa. In any case, the preoccupation with his character does little to illuminate the socio-historical issues involved.

Many have compared Mugabe to Idi Amin and the land expropriation in Zimbabwe to the Asian expulsion in Uganda. The comparison isn’t entirely off the mark. I was one of the 70,000 people of South Asian descent booted out by Idi Amin in 1972; I returned to Uganda in 1979. My abiding recollection of my first few months back is that no one I met opposed Amin’s expulsion of ‘Asians’. Most merely said: ‘It was bad the way he did it.’ The same is likely to be said of the land transfers in Zimbabwe.

What distinguishes Mugabe and Amin from other authoritarian rulers is not their demagoguery but the fact that they projected themselves as champions of mass justice and successfully rallied those to whom justice had been denied by the colonial system. Not surprisingly, the justice dispensed by these demagogues mirrored the racialised injustice of the colonial system. In 1979 I began to realise that whatever they made of Amin’s brutality, the Ugandan people experienced the Asian expulsion of 1972 – and not the formal handover in 1962 – as the dawn of true independence. The people of Zimbabwe are likely to remember 2000-3 as the end of the settler colonial era. Any assessment of contemporary Zimbabwe needs to begin with this sobering fact.

Though widespread grievance over the theft of land – a process begun in 1889 and completed in the 1950s – fuelled the guerrilla struggle against the regime of Ian Smith, whose Rhodesian Front opposed black majority rule, the matter was never properly addressed when Britain came back into the picture to effect a constitutional transition to independence under majority rule. Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, but the social realities of the newly independent state remained embedded in an earlier historical period: some six thousand white farmers owned 15.5 million hectares of prime land, 39 per cent of the land in the country, while about 4.5 million farmers (a million households) in ‘communal areas’ were left to subsist on 16.4 million hectares of the most arid land, to which they’d been removed or confined by a century of colonial rule. In the middle were 8500 small-scale black farmers on about 1.4 million hectares of land.

This was not a sustainable arrangement in a country whose independence had been secured at the end of a long armed struggle supported by a land-hungry population. But the agreement that Britain drafted at Lancaster House in 1979 – and that the settlers eagerly backed – didn’t seem to take into account the kind of transition that would be necessary to secure a stable social order. Two of its provisions, one economic and the other political, reflected this short-termism: one called for land transfers on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ basis, with the British funding the scheme; the other reserved 20 per cent of seats in the House of Assembly for whites – 3 per cent of the population – giving the settler community an effective veto over any amendment to the Lancaster House terms. This was qualified majority rule at best. Both provisions had a time limit: 1990 for land transfers based on the market principle, and 1987 for the settler minority to set limits on majority rule. The deal sustained illusions among the settlers that what they had failed to achieve by UDI – Smith’s 1965 declaration of independence from the UK – and force of arms, they could now achieve through support from a government of ‘kith and kin’ (as Smith called it) in Britain. In reality, however, the agreement drew a line under settler privilege.

The inadequacy of the Lancaster House provisions for the decolonisation of land ensured that it remained the focus of politics in independent Zimbabwe. The course of land relations and land reform in Zimbabwe has over the years been meticulously documented by Sam Moyo, a professor who directs the African Institute of Agrarian Studies in Harare. Transfers during the first decade of independence were so minimal that they increased rather than appeased land hunger. The new regime in Harare, installed in 1980 and led by Mugabe and his party, Zanu, called for the purchase of eight million hectares to resettle 162,000 land-poor farming households from communal areas. But the ban on compulsory purchase drove up land prices and encouraged white farmers to sell only the worst land. As the decade drew to a close, only 58,000 families had been resettled on three million hectares of land. No more than 19 per cent of the land acquired between 1980 and 1992 was of prime agricultural value.

As the 1980s wore on, land transfers actually declined, dropping from 430,000 hectares per annum during the first half of the decade to 75,000 hectares during the second. The greater land hunger became, the more often invasions were mounted; in response, Mugabe created local ‘squatter control’ units in 1985, and they were soon evicting squatters in droves. At this point Zimbabwean law still defined a squatter in racial terms, as ‘an African whose house happens to be situated in an area which has been declared European or is set apart for some other reason’. By 1990, 40 per cent of the rural population was said to be landless or affected by the landlessness of dependent relations.

When the Lancaster House Agreement’s rules on land transfer expired in 1990, the pressure to take direct action was intensified by two very different developments: an IMF Structural Adjustment Programme and recurrent drought. Peasant production, which had been a meagre 8 per cent of marketed output at independence in 1980, and had shot up to 45 per cent by 1985, declined as a result of the programme. Trade-union analysts pointed out that employment growth also fell from 2.4 per cent in the late 1980s to 1.55 per cent in the period 1991-97. The percentage of households living in poverty throughout the country increased by 14 per cent in five years. There was now widespread squatting on all types of land, from communal areas to state land, commercial farms (mainly growing tobacco), resettlement areas and urban sites.

The demand for land reform came from two powerful groups at extreme ends of the social spectrum yet both firmly in Mugabe’s camp: the veterans of the liberation war and the small but growing number of indigenous businesses, hitherto the main beneficiaries of independence under majority rule. At the end of the liberation war in 1980, 20,000 guerrillas had been incorporated into the national army and other state organisations, and the rest – about 45,000 – had had to fend for themselves. They found it difficult to survive without land or a job, which is why land occupations began in the countryside soon after independence.

Mugabe and the Zanu leaders tended at first to dismiss complaints from veterans as expressions of resentment on the part of the rival liberation movement, Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu, which had been marginalised in 1980. But after Zanu and Zapu signed a unity accord in 1987, former fighters from both groups became involved in land agitation. Their most significant joint initiative was to form a welfare organisation, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) in 1988, which called for pensions to be paid and land redistributed. It soon gained a large membership drawn from most sections of Zimbabwean society and from the two ethnic groups – the Shona majority and the Ndebele – which had defined Zanu and Zapu respectively. Its members, about 200,000 of them, came from a variety of classes, employed and unemployed, urban and rural, with positions in different branches of the state and party and the private sector. Although their strength lay in the countryside, the war vets formed the only alliance that was both independent of Mugabe and Zanu-PF, and could claim to have national support, giving them a decisive advantage over the better organised but urban-based trade-union federation in the power struggle that would shortly tear the country apart.

War vets were among the first targets of Structural Adjustment, when its effects began to be felt in 1991. Entire departments and ministries that had been heavily staffed by ex-combatants were disbanded and the stage set for a series of high-profile confrontations between veterans and government. Mugabe accused the vets of being ‘armchair critics’ at the inaugural conference of the ZNLWVA in April 1992; they went on to organise street demonstrations, lock top government and party officials in their offices, interrupt Mugabe’s Heroes’ Day speech in 1997, intervene in court sessions and besiege the State House.

After the Lancaster House Agreement had expired, the government tried to occupy the middle ground by shifting from the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ formula with a new law, the Land Acquisition Act of 1992, which gave the state powers of compulsory purchase, though landowners retained the right to challenge the price set and to receive prompt compensation. By the late 1990s, market-led land transfers had dwindled to a trickle. So had British contributions to the fund set up to pay landowners, with a mere £44 million paid out between 1980 and 1992, much less than anticipated at Lancaster House. When New Labour took over in 1997, Clare Short, the minister for international development, claimed that since neither she nor her colleagues came from the landed class in Britain – ‘my own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers,’ she wrote to the Zimbabwean minister of agriculture and land – they could not be held responsible for what Britain had done in colonial Rhodesia.

This effective default coincided with a rise inside Zimbabwe of demands for compulsory acquisition. Veterans led land occupations at Svosve and Goromonzi in 1997, clashing with Mugabe and Zanu-PF. They were joined by local chiefs and party leaders, peasants and spirit mediums (who had played a key role in the liberation war against Ian Smith). The next year, a wave of co-ordinated land occupations swept across the country, with veterans receiving critical support from the Indigenous Business Development Centre (IBDC), an affirmative action lobby set up in 1988 by members of the new black bourgeoisie. From now on, two very different elements huddled under the war vets’ banner: the landless victims of settler colonialism and the elite beneficiaries of the end of settler rule.

It was largely for his own purposes, but also as a response to pressure from squatters, occupiers and their local leaders, as well as from sections of the new black elite, that in 1999 Mugabe decided to revise the constitution drafted at Lancaster House. Two major changes were envisaged: one would allow him to stay in power for two more terms and would ensure immunity from prosecution for political and military leaders accused of committing crimes while in office; the other would empower the government to seize land from white farmers without compensation, which was held to be the responsibility of Britain. The proposals were put to a referendum in February 2000 and defeated: 45.3 per cent of voters were in favour. But only a little more than 20 per cent of the electorate had cast a vote. The urban centres of Harare and Bulawayo were three to one against adoption; voting in the countryside was marked by large-scale abstentions. Post-colonial Zimbabwe had reached a turning point.

Very early on, the colonial bureaucracy had translated the ethnic mosaic of the country into an administrative map in such a way as to allow minimum co-operation and maximum competition between different ethnic groups and areas, ensuring among other things that labour for mining, manufacture and service was not recruited from areas where peasants were needed on large farms or plantations. These areas, as it happened, were mainly Shona and so, unsurprisingly, when the trade-union movement developed in Rhodesia, its leaders were mostly Ndebele, and had few links with the Shona leadership of the peasant-based liberation movement (Mugabe belongs to the Shona majority). I remember listening to the minister of labour in Harare in 1981 complain that workers had failed to support the nationalist movement. When I suggested that it might be useful to turn the proposition around and ask why the nationalist movement had failed to organise support among workers, there was silence.

The Shona-Ndebele divide so conspicuous in the two guerrilla movements produced great tension after independence between the mainly Shona government and the mainly Ndebele labour movement, with Mugabe’s ferocious repression in Ndebele areas in 1986 remaining the bloodiest phase in post-independence Zimbabwean history. The slaughter in Matabeleland was followed by a ‘reconciliation’ that paved the way for a unity government in 1987, but Zanu-PF leaders thereafter suspected all protest – from whatever source – of concealing an Ndebele agenda.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, formed in 1981 with the blessing of the government, had by the end of the decade distanced itself from its Zanu patrons, purged internal corruption and elected an independent leadership. In the 1990s it spearheaded the national agitation against Structural Adjustment and the one-party state that acquiesced in it. Yet its organisation in the countryside was confined to workers on commercial farms. The ZCTU had at first been an umbrella body for private sector unions. The spectacular growth of ZCTU, its organisation of public sector workers, has been written about by two Zimbabwean social historians, Brian Raftapolous and Ian Phimister. After independence, workers in the rapidly Africanised public sector had retained close links to the government. But this began to change when the Structural Adjustment Programme led to public sector job losses and many African workers – especially veterans – were dismissed. When government workers came out on strike in 1996, the ZCTU was able to establish a base in the public sector. A general strike in 1997 and mass stay-aways the following year set the trade unions against the government. Civil servants – including teachers and health workers – who had declared allegiance to the ruling party and the state now began to affiliate to the ZCTU. In 1998, it organised a National Constituent Assembly, with the participation of civic, NGO and church groups.

By the time Mugabe put forward amendments to the Lancaster House constitution, an impressive alliance of forces – not only trade unions, churches, civic and NGO groups, but white farmers and Western governments – was arrayed for battle. The Movement for Democratic Change was formed a few months before the 2000 referendum, to campaign for a ‘no’ vote. The coalition was diverse, containing, on the one hand, public sector workers trying to roll back the tide of Structural Adjustment; on the other, uncompromising free-marketeers such as Eddie Cross, the MDC secretary of economic affairs and a senior figure in the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, who was intent on privatising almost everything, including education.

The veterans reacted to the defeat of the constitutional proposals by launching land occupations in Masvingo province. This prompted a split in the ruling party. With Mugabe out of the country, the acting president, Joseph Msika, told the police to torch the new squatter shacks. This was consistent with Zanu-PF policy: in the early days, Mugabe had been praised as a ‘conciliator’ by the international community for ensuring the security and property of those whites who remained in Zimbabwe, and evicting black squatters. Two decades later the position had changed: the support of the whites was no longer so important to Mugabe, and he was under enormous pressure from the veterans. With much to gain from casting his lot in with the rural insurgency, he returned from his trip and announced that there would be no government evictions. As land occupations spread to every province – 800 farms were occupied at the height of the protests – the split in the government and party hierarchy deepened. Inevitable tension between the executive and the judiciary undermined the rule of law; the executive sacked a number of judges, replacing them with others more sympathetic to land reform, and enacted pro-squatter legislation.

‘Fast-track’ land reform was now underway. The types of land that would be acquired compulsorily were specified by the government: unused or underutilised land, land owned by absentees or people with several farms; land above a certain area (determined by region) and land contiguous with communal areas. The white owners of around 2900 commercial farms listed for compulsory acquisition and redistribution were given 90 days to move out. Government directives specified that ‘owners of farms marked for redistribution will be compensated for improvements made on the land, but not for the land itself, as this land was stolen from the original owners in the colonial era.’

The closing date for ‘fast-track’ land acquisition – August 2002 – came and went, but occupations continued unimpeded until mid-2003, and on a diminished scale for a year or so after that. Chiefs fought for land for their constituents and for themselves, and so did their counterparts in the state bureaucracy and the private sector. In Matabeleland, a minority of pro-MDC chiefs were sceptical of land reform, but later submitted claims. The black elite made a brazen land grab in direct contravention of the ‘one person, one farm’ policy, provoking a hue and cry in society at large and within the ruling party; the government set up a presidential commission to determine the facts. Crucially, in 2005 the government passed an amendment declaring all agricultural land to be state land. Land was seized from nearly 4000 white farmers and redistributed: 72,000 large farmers received 2.19 million hectares and 127,000 smallholders received 4.23 million hectares.

What land reform has meant or may come to mean for Zimbabwe’s economy is still hotly disputed. Recently there have been signs that scholarly opinion is shifting. A study by Ian Scoones of Sussex University’s Institute of Development Studies – in collaboration with the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape – challenges some of the conventional wisdom in media and academic circles within and beyond Zimbabwe. The problem with this wisdom is that certain highly destructive aspects of reform – coercion; corruption and incompetence; cronyism in the redistribution of land; lack of funds and an absence of agricultural activity – have come to stand for the whole process. In particular, Scoones identifies five myths: that land reform has been a total failure; that its beneficiaries have been largely political cronies; that there is no new investment in the new settlements; that agriculture is in ruins; and that the rural economy has collapsed. Researchers at PLAAS have been quick to point out that over the past eight years small-scale farmers ‘have been particularly robust in weathering Zimbabwe’s political and economic turmoil, as well as drought’. Ben Cousins, the director of PLAAS and one of the most astute South African analysts of agrarian change – who had previously argued that the land reform would destroy agricultural production – now says that the future of Zimbabwe lies in providing small farmers with subsidies so that food security can be achieved. According to researchers at the African Institute for Agrarian Studies in Harare, new farms need to receive subsidised maize seed and fertiliser for a few seasons before achieving full production. Some might give up during this period, but not many – partly because the land tenure system doesn’t allow land sales; only land permits or leases can be acquired.

Zimbabwe has seen the greatest transfer of property in southern Africa since colonisation and it has all happened extremely rapidly. Eighty per cent of the 4000 white farmers were expropriated; most of them stayed in Zimbabwe. Redistribution revolutionised property-holding, adding more than a hundred thousand small owners to the base of the property pyramid. In social and economic – if not political – terms, this was a democratic revolution. But there was a heavy price to pay.

The first casualty was the rule of law, already tenuous by 1986. When international donors pressured the regime in the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2000 by suspending aid and loans – a boycott favoured by the MDC and the unions – the government simply fixed the result in its favour. In the violence that followed, more than a hundred people died, including six white farmers and 11 black farm labourers. Some of the violence was government-sponsored and most of it state-sanctioned. The judiciary was reshaped, local institutions in rural areas narrowly politicised, and laws were passed which granted local agencies the powers necessary to crush opponents of land reform. Denouncing his adversaries in the trade unions and NGOs as servants of the old white ruling class, Mugabe authorised the militias and state security agencies to hound down opposition, as repression and reform went hand in hand. In 2003, the leading independent newspaper, the Daily News, was shut down. While jubilant government supporters applauded the sweep of the revolution in agrarian areas, the opposition denounced the repression that accompanied it. Land reform had been ruthless, but in 2004, the violence began to abate. There was noticeably less violence surrounding the parliamentary elections of 2005.

In retrospect, it is striking how little turmoil accompanied this massive social change. The explanation lies in the participation of key rural figures in ad hoc but officially sanctioned land committees. When first introduced in 1996, these committees had mixed fortunes, some not functioning at all, others becoming instruments of this or that group of squatters. But a radical change occurred in 2000, when the committees were expanded to include centrally appointed security officials, ruling party representatives and local government personnel, as well as local veterans and traditional leaders. Charged with implementing fast-track land reform, these committees sidelined the old local administrative structures. They also had a national impact, since they reported to similarly constituted provincial committees, which in turn reported to the Ministry of Local Government. It was the infusion of veterans that gave the new semi-bureaucratic committees the edge over their wholly bureaucratic counterparts. Local committees usually comprised between 15 and 30 members. The veterans formed ‘base camps’ represented by ‘committees of seven’ which took the lead in identifying land for acquisition as well as finding prospective beneficiaries (mostly from veterans’ waiting lists and rosters in former ‘communal areas’). They also judged disputes, punished petty criminals and allocated farm equipment, seeds and so on. In a word, the committees co-ordinated everything, thus constituting new centres of power.

The second casualty of the reform was farm labourers. There were about 300,000 in all, around half of them part-time. Fast-track reform resulted in a massive displacement of these workers, who were traditionally drawn from migrant labour. Nearly a fifth came from neighbouring states and were regarded with suspicion by peasants in communal areas; even if they’d been born locally, they were often seen as foreigners and denied citizenship rights. Migrants and women (many employed as casual labour) were the weakest links in the rural mobilisation for land reform. Many were thought to have been encouraged by landowners to vote against the government’s constitutional proposals, and the anti-land-reform lobby certainly tried to organise farm workers, ostensibly to protect their jobs, but really to protect the white ownership of farms. When the workers rallied by the MDC, civil society activists and white farmers clashed with veteran-led occupiers, they came off badly. Occupiers held meetings to explain to workers what was at stake and eventually came themselves to distinguish between white farms, not only on the basis of size, proximity to communal areas, and the amount of unused land, but also on the basis of the farmer’s attitudes, particularly on race and towards his workers, and whether he had participated in the counter-insurgency during the independence struggle.

Some of the 150,000 full-time farm workers threw in their lot with the occupiers, though usually not on the farms where they had been employed. About 90,000 kept their jobs on sugar and tea estates, and on new or already established tobacco and horticulture farms. About 8000 were granted land, but most were denied it on the grounds that they or their elders had come from foreign countries, though some were given citizenship. Many went from steady employment to contract or casual work; many others were forced to supplement their meagre incomes through fishing, petty trading, theft and prostitution.

The best publicised casualties of the land reform movement were the urban poor who hoped to benefit from extending land invasions to urban areas. The veterans spearheaded occupations of urban residential land in 2000-1. Housing co-operatives and other associations followed their lead and set up ‘illegal’ residential or business sites. But the state feared that it would lose control over towns to the MDC if the land reform movement was allowed to spread and met these occupations with stiff repression, including Operation Restore Order/ Murambatsvina, a surprise military-style intervention in 2005 in which tens of thousands of families were evicted. Not surprisingly, those who opposed land reform in rural areas were the strongest critics of government efforts to stifle occupations in urban areas.

The final casualty was food production: Zimbabwe, once a food surplus country, is today deficient in both foreign exchange and food. In 2002-3, half the population depended on food aid: this was a drought year and the figures improved in 2004-5. The UN now estimates that nearly half the country’s 13.3 million inhabitants will once again be dependent on food aid in 2009, after another drought year. A million of these are poor, urban residents who can’t afford imported food. The rest are peasants, most of them hit by drought. Climate change is clearly a factor here, its role most obvious in marginal land: the communal areas worked by millions of small farmers. A 2002 World Food Programme study noted that there had been three droughts in Zimbabwe since 1982 and that the 2002 drought, which also affected several neighbouring countries in Southern Africa, was the worst in 20 years. The WFP estimated that 12.8 million people in the region would require assistance as a result of that drought and that in Zimbabwe alone, overall production would decline by 25 per cent, with cereal production down 57 per cent and maize, the staple in the diet of ordinary Zimbabweans, down by a devastating two-thirds.

To separate out the effect of drought and that of reform – and thus to understand how land reform has hit production – one needs first to distinguish between three groups of agricultural producer: local white farmers, who were the target of the land reform; peasants with farms in communal areas; and foreign corporations, whose large farms (except for small tracts of unused land) remain intact. Harry Oppenheimer, for example, lost most of his private land, but his firm, Anglo American, kept its sugar estates, which it then sold to Tongaat Hulett, a South African firm with 15,000 hectares in Zimbabwe. In a nutshell, white commercial farmers focused on export crops, whereas communal farmers were the major source of food security. The production of tobacco, hitherto the main source of foreign exchange, is concentrated in large-scale commercial farms; it has seen the most severe decline, almost entirely as a result of land reform. Maize and cotton are peasant crops and have not really been directly affected by land reform, but have suffered badly from prolonged drought – maize production was down by 90 per cent between 2000 and 2003. In contrast, the production of crops – sugar, tea, coffee – grown mainly by the large corporate plantations has remained steady.

Besides drought and reform, there is a third cause of declining production: the targeted donor boycott. Zimbabwe has been the target of Western sanctions twice in the last 50 years: once after UDI in 1965 (very ‘soft’ sanctions, which did not stop the country becoming the second most industrialised in sub-Saharan Africa by the mid-1970s) and again after Zimbabwe’s entry into the Congo war in August 1998. Zimbabwe’s involvement in the war was not well received in the West. Participants in the donor conference for Zimbabwe that year were decidedly lukewarm about committing funds. Britain announced a review of arms sales to Zimbabwe and, after the conference, again disclaimed any responsibility for funding land reform. The following year the IMF suspended lending to Zimbabwe, while the US and the UK decided to fund the labour movement, led by the ZCTU, first to oppose constitutional change and then to launch the MDC as a full-fledged opposition party. Its enemies have claimed that, by the late 1990s, the ZCTU was dependent on foreign sources for two-thirds of its income. Once ‘fast-track’ land reform began in 2000, the Western donor community shut the door on Zimbabwe.

The sanctions regime, led by the US and Britain, was elaborate, tested during the first Iraq war and then against Iran. In 2001 Jesse Helms, previously a supporter of UDI, sponsored the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery bill (another sponsor was Hillary Clinton) and it became law in December that year. Part of the act was a formal injunction on US 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’. In autumn 2001 the IMF had declared Zimbabwe ‘ineligible to use the general resources of the IMF’ and removed it from the list of countries that could borrow from its Poverty and Growth Facility. In 2002, it issued a formal declaration of non-co-operation with Zimbabwe and suspended all technical assistance. The US legislation also authorised Bush to fund ‘an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe’ and to allocate six million dollars for ‘democracy and governance programmes’. This was fighting talk, Cold War vintage. The normative language of sanctions focuses less on the issues that prompted them in the first place – Zimbabwe’s intervention in the Congo war and the introduction of fast-track reform – than on the need for ‘good governance’. In citing the absence of this as a reason for its imposition of sanctions in 2002, the EU violated Article 98 of the Cotonou Agreement, which requires that disputes between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU be resolved by the joint EU-ACP Council of Ministers.

Clearly, the old paradigm of sanctions – isolation – has given way to a more interventionist model, which combines punishment of the regime with subsidies for the opposition. So-called ‘smart’ sanctions are intended to target the government and its key supporters. In 2002, the US, Britain and the EU began freezing the assets of state officials and imposing travel bans. Only four days after the EU imposed sanctions, the US expanded the list of targeted individuals to include prominent businessmen and even church leaders, such as the pro-regime Anglican bishop, Nolbert Kunonga.

Nonetheless, sanctions mainly affect the lives of ordinary people. Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, wrote recently that the country’s foreign exchange reserves had declined from $830 million, representing three months’ import cover in 1996, to less than one month’s cover by 2006. Total foreign payments arrears increased from $109 million at the end of 1999 to $2.5 billion at the end of 2006. Foreign direct investment had shrunk from $444.3 million in 1998 to $50 million in 2006. Donor support, even to sectors vital to popular welfare, such as health and education, was at an all-time low. Danish support for the health sector, $29.7 million in 2000, was suspended. Swedish support for education was also suspended. The US issued travel warnings, blocked food aid during the heyday of land reform and opposed Zimbabwe’s application to the Global Fund to Fight Aids – the country has the fourth highest infection rate in the world. Though it was renewed in 2005, the Zimbabwe grant is meagre. Agriculture has been affected too: scale matters, but no one disputes that subsidies are vital for agriculture to be sustainable, and sanctions have made it more difficult to put a proper credit regime in place.

Despite the EU’s imposition of sanctions in the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2002, Mugabe polled 56.2 per cent of the vote against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC’s 42 per cent. There were widespread allegations of Zanu-PF violence and last-minute gerrymandering, with polling stations in urban areas – Tsvangirai’s electoral base – closing early and extra stations being set up in rural areas, where Mugabe’s support was assured. Nonetheless, it was clear that support for Zanu-PF was higher than in the pre-fast-track elections of 2000. Bush and Blair refused to recognise the outcome, but Namibia, Nigeria and the South African observer team, which had monitored the elections, concluded that the result was legitimate. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Africans could do little in the face of mounting Western pressure, from Britain especially: a three-member panel of Commonwealth countries – Australia, Nigeria and South Africa – was convened to consider the question of Zimbabwe. There were reports of intense pressure from Tony Blair on Thabo Mbeki. The panel suspended Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for a year. Zimbabwe withdrew from the organisation.

The experience of land reform in Zimbabwe has set alarm bells ringing in South Africa and all the former settler colonies where land shortage is still an issue. In South Africa especially, the upheaval and bitterness felt in Zimbabwe seems to suggest that the ‘Malaysian path’ to peaceful redistribution and development is not inevitable. An anxious South Africa and less powerful members of the Southern Africa Development Community tend to feel that sanctions, along with other destabilising policies pursued by the West against Zimbabwe, have only made matters worse. SADC states have long tried to reconcile the need to resist Western influence with the fact that they serve as a bridge between Africa and the wealthy Western economies, but South Africa’s non-confrontational policy vis-à-vis Mugabe – which Mbeki pursued despite mounting criticism from the ANC and the unions in South Africa – along with its provision of fuel and electricity to its northern neighbour, set it at odds with Western governments. South Africa and the SADC states describe their approach as one of ‘non- interference’, ‘stabilisation’ and ‘quiet diplomacy’, but the West sees it as a deliberate effort to undermine sanctions, and critics in South Africa – most recently Mandela – have found the Mbeki line much too conciliatory.

In 2007, SADC called for an end to sanctions against Zimbabwe and international support for a post-land-reform recovery programme, but earlier this year Western countries brought their influence to bear on key SADC members – Botswana and Zambia – to split the organisation. Ian Khama, the president of Botswana, went so far as to announce publicly that he would not recognise the results of the 2008 elections. The pressure on SADC came not only from Western countries, but from trade-union movements in the region, in particular Cosatu of South Africa, which has strong links with the ZCTU. Here is another striking aspect of the current Zimbabwe crisis: it is not just Western and pro- Western governments that have joined the sanctions regime, but many activists and intellectuals, for the most part progressives, have aligned themselves with distant or long-standing enemies in an effort to dislodge an authoritarian government clinging to power on the basis of historic grievances about the colonial theft of land. Symbolic of this was the refusal by Cosatu-affiliated unions to unload a cargo of Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe when the An Yue Jiang sailed into Durban in April.

The arguments, which are not new, turn on questions of nationalism and democracy, pitting champions of national sovereignty and state nationalism against advocates of civil society and internationalism. One group accuses the other of authoritarianism and self-righteous intolerance; it replies that its critics are wallowing in donor largesse. Nationalists speak of a historical racism that has merely migrated from government to civil society with the end of colonial rule, while civil society activists speak of an ‘exhausted’ nationalism, determined to feed on old injustices. This fierce disagreement is symptomatic of the deep divide between urban and rural Zimbabwe. Nationalists have been able to withstand civil society-based opposition, reinforced by Western sanctions, because they are supported by large numbers of peasants. The tussle between these groups has even greater poignancy in former settler colonies than it had a generation earlier in former colonies north of the Limpopo, for the simple reason that the central legacy of settler colonialism – the land question – remained unresolved and explosive after independence. Southern African leaders have tried, with some success, to put out the fires in Zimbabwe before they spread beyond its borders. It is worth noting that the agreement between Zanu-PF and the MDC signed in September and brokered by Mbeki accepts land redistribution as irreversible and registers disagreement only over how it was carried out; it also holds Britain responsible for compensating white farmers. In the wake of Mbeki’s resignation as president of South Africa it is vital that this agreement remains in place. Few doubt that this is the hour of reckoning for former settler colonies. The increasing number of land invasions in KwaZulu Natal, and the violence that has accompanied them, indicate that the clock is ticking.

Bibliographical Note

Moyo, Sam & Paris Yeros (2005b), ‘Land Occupations and Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Towards the National Democratic Revolution’, in Reclaiming the Land, edited by Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros, London: Zed Books; Moyo, Sam and Paris Yeros (2007), ‘The Radicalised State: Zimbabwe’s Interrupted Revolution’, Review of African Political Economy, 111; Moyo, Sam & Paris Yeros (forthcoming), ‘After Zimbabwe: State, Nation and Region in Africa’, in S. Moyo, P. Yeros & J. Vadell (eds.), The National Question Today: The Crisis of Sovereignty in Africa, Asia and Latin America; Chambati, W. and S. Moyo, Fast Track Land Reform and the Political Economy of Farm Workers in Zimbabwe, Harare: AIAS Monograph Series, forthcoming For a critical point of view, see, Lloyd Sachikonye, “The Land is the Economy: Revisiting the Land Question,” African Security Review 14(3), 2005; and, Raftopoulos, Brian & Ian Phimister (2004), ‘Zimbabwe Now: The Political Economy of Crisis and Coercion’, Historical Materialism, 12: 4; Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya, Zimbabwe's Plunge - Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice, Merlin Press, 2002; Henry Bernstein, ‘Land reform in Southern Africa in World Historical Perspective,’ ROAPE 96, 2003

On the non-Zimbabwean debate on the land reform, see, http://www.lalr.org.za/news/a-new-start-for-zimbabwe-by-ian-scoones.html (accessed on 27 September, 2008); IRIN, “Small Scale Farming Seen As the Only Alternative to Food Insecurity,” 22 September 2008. For a contrary point of view, see, Henry Bernstein, ‘Land reform in Southern Africa in World Historical Perspective,’ Review of African Political Economy 96, 2003

On war veterans, see, Sadomba, W (2006) War veterans and the land occupation movement in Zimbabwe, forthcoming, Harare;

On climate change and the impact of drought, see, C.H. Matarira, J.M. Makadho, F.C. Mwamuka, "Zimbabwe: Climate Change Impacts on Maize Production and Adaptive Measures for the Agricultural Sector," Interim Report on Climate Change Country Studies, 1995, www.gcrio.org

On sanctions, see, Gregory Elich, ‘Zimbabwe Under Siege,’ Swans Commentary Zimbabwe Under Seige, http://www.swans.com/library/art8/elich004.html; Dr. Gideon Gono: How sanctions are ruining Zimbabwe, opinion piece, African Business, 2007.

On the debate among progressive intellectuals in Zimbabwe, see, Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros, ‘The Zimbabwe Question and the Two Lefts.’ Forthcoming in Historical Materialism, vol. 14, no. 4, 2007

[Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Departments of Anthropology, Political Science and International Affairs at Columbia University. He is from Uganda.]

 

Comments

Lessons of Zimbabwe discussion from LRB; Mamdani replies

London Review of Books
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/letters.html

Lessons of Zimbabwe

From Timothy Scarnecchia, Jocelyn Alexander and 33 others

For a number of scholars, Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘Lessons of Zimbabwe’ requires a further response, given Mamdani’s stature as a scholar and public intellectual (LRB, 4 December 2008). Some aspects of his argument are uncontroversial: there was a real demand for land redistribution – even the World Bank calling for it in the late 1990s as the best way forward in Zimbabwe – and some of the Western powers’ original pronouncements and actions were hypocritical. There is a real danger, however, in simplifying the lessons of Zimbabwe. It isn’t just a matter of stark ethnic dichotomies, the urban-rural divide, or the part played by ‘the West’.

One of the more difficult tasks for scholars working on Zimbabwe is to convince peers working on other areas of Africa to look more deeply at the crisis and not to be fooled by Mugabe’s rhetoric of imperialist victimisation. Mamdani has, unfortunately, fallen in with this rhetoric by characterising Zimbabwean history and politics as fundamentally a battle between what he sees as an urban-based opposition, supported by the West, and a peasant-based ruling party besieged by external forces. This flight of fantasy portrays Mugabe and his Zanu-PF cronies as heroes of a landless peasantry (which is how they see themselves) and the state – backed up by the paramilitary violence of war veterans and others – as the vanguard of a peasant revolution. We suggest that Mamdani acquaint himself with the large body of Zimbabwean scholarship, which is easily available, rather than selectively using the arguments of scholars such as Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros on land reform, and Gideon Gono, Mugabe’s Reserve Bank governor, as his source on sanctions. Citing Gono is rather like using Milton Obote’s writings as a source for conditions in Uganda in the 1960s and 1970s. A starting point for more informed scholarship is the recent Bulletin of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, found at http://concerned africascholars.org.

Mamdani’s portrayal of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics is insulting to those who continue to endure so much in their struggle to build a better Zimbabwe. He argues that urban trade unions have always been marginal to the nationalist movement because of their supposed ‘Ndebele leadership’, and that the current opposition follows in this ‘weak’ trade-union tradition as well as being in thrall to Western interests. What he doesn’t mention is the trade unions’ hard-fought battle against repression before and after 1980. There were many challenges to overcome, among which ethnic politics was hardly the most prominent. That leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai managed to reshape the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from what had been a pro-Zanu organisation into a viable political opposition by the early 1990s reflects an Africa-wide and Africa-based phenomenon that Mamdani apparently missed. By accepting Zanu-PF’s argument that the MDC is primarily limited to urban areas and is the product of the West, Mamdani’s account loses credibility.

Mamdani has also sugar-coated his portrayal of political violence in Zimbabwe. He fails even to mention that many ‘peasants’ in Shona-speaking Zanu-PF strongholds turned against Mugabe and major Zanu-PF leaders in the March 2008 elections. It was this reversal that sparked a new round of state-sponsored violence against the same Shona peasantry that Mamdani cites as the beneficiaries of Mugabe’s benevolent dictatorship. In addition, during the months preceding the run-off election (April-June 2008), food relief was denied to rural areas, leaving the World Food Programme and other groups to scramble to re-establish supply to the Zimbabwean peasantry Mamdani suggests are at the centre of Zanu-PF’s concern. Repressive legislation and actions by Zanu-PF activists are magically transformed by Mamdani into acts of generosity to outsiders. After noting discrimination against farm workers in gaining access to land on the grounds they or ‘their elders’ came from another country, Mamdani adds that ‘some were given citizenship.’ Yet he omits the fact that just before the 2002 presidential election the Zanu-PF government removed citizenship from many farm workers and other Zimbabweans whose parents or grandparents had non-Zimbabwean citizenship rights. The disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of perceived opposition supporters disappears in Mamdani’s analysis.

Mamdani’s contention that the West, not Mugabe and the Zanu-PF government, is responsible for the current crisis is as dangerous as it is wrong. By selectively citing instances over the past eight years when the West has cancelled donor funding, Mamdani gives the impression that the West has not been involved in sustaining life in Zimbabwe. The reality is that there are whole sections of the Zimbabwean population that the Zanu-PF leadership would rather punish with starvation than allow to support the opposition. ‘We would be better off with only six million people, with our own [ruling party] people who supported the liberation struggle,’ Didymus Mutasa, one of the key insiders in Zanu-PF, said in 2002, when drought again threatened to kill thousands of rural Zimbabweans. ‘We don’t want all these extra people.’ Western food aid has been a lifeline for ‘these extra people’ – when the state has allowed access.

Sanctions cannot excuse the callous disregard for human life Mugabe and his associates have shown, dating back to the Gukurahundi between 1983 and 1986 (which Mamdani glosses over as a brief bout of violence following from the tension between Zanu-PF and the ‘Ndebele unions’ in 1986), or the repeated land seizures which have been going on since the 1980s, the forced removals, violent reprisals, and the withholding of food aid. Furthermore, Mamdani’s suggestion that the fall in direct investment in Zimbabwe is the result of sanctions is dishonest. There are no sanctions against direct investment in Zimbabwe, as shown by Anglo American’s willingness to invest $400 million in Zimbabwe during the summer of 2008 to protect access to platinum mines. There have been large investments from South Africa, India and China, as Mugabe has bartered away the nation’s resources for short-term interests. It is the kleptocracy and violence fostered by Mugabe and Co that has scared off other investors, not sanctions.

At a time when thousands of people in Zimbabwe are threatened by a cholera epidemic – in part at least as a consequence of Zanu-PF’s decision to replace MDC municipal officials with Zanu-PF ‘urban governors’ – and international donors are scrambling to help deal with the collapse of the health sector and widespread hunger, intellectuals such as Mamdani should display more responsibility and less posturing in their attempts to draw meaningful lessons from Zimbabwe.

Jocelyn Alexander, Linacre College, Oxford
Andrea Arrington, University of Arkansas
Michael Bratton, Michigan State University
Bill Derman, Michigan State University
William J. Dewey, The University of Tennessee
Matthew Engelke, London School of Economics
Linda Freeman, Carleton University
Petina Gappah, Zimbabwean writer and lawyer
Kenneth Good, RMIT University Melbourne
David Gordon, Bowdoin College
Amanda Hammar, Nordic Africa Institute
David McDermott Hughes, Rutgers University
Diana Jeater, University of the West of England
Tony King, University of the West of England
Bill Kinsey, University of Zimbabwe
Norma Kriger, Cornell University
Todd Leedy, University of Florida
JoAnn McGregor, University College London
Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Showers Mawowa, University of KwaZulu Natal
David Maxwell, Keele University
Donald Mead, Michigan State University
John Metzler, Michigan State University
David Moore, University of Johannesburg
Shylock Muyengwa, University of Florida
Blair Rutherford, Carleton University
John S. Saul, York University
Richard Saunders, York University
Timothy Scarnecchia, Kent State University, Ohio
Anne Schneller, Michigan State University
Marja Spierenburg, Vrije University of Amsterdam
Colin Stoneman, JSAS Editorial Coordinator
Blessing-Miles Tendi, Oxford University
Wendy Urban-Mead, Bard College
Elaine Windrich, Stanford University

***

From Gavin Kitching

Mahmood Mamdani skates over a number of issues. First, why did Mugabe and the nationalists not opt for a much bigger ‘Kenya-style’ land reform package at their independence negotiations? Several civil servants involved in the process have said they could have got it. Why did they accept the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ clause at all?

Second, Mamdani is silent about the very poor economic performance that got Zimbabwe into the hands of the ‘structural adjusters’ in the first place.

Third, land reform programmes that put large farms into the hands of peasants always lead to reductions in marketed surpluses at first (they did in Kenya), because small farmers’ first priority is to feed their families. Reforms need to be enacted gradually, with as much help as possible to the new smaller-scale producers.

Fourth, I doubt very much whether it makes sense to distinguish the effects of chaotic reform from the effects of drought. Large farms usually have the means to protect themselves from drought, small farmers generally don’t – or not without a lot of help.

Mamdani’s account understates the incompetence of the Zanu-PF government as a factor in Zimbabwe’s economic decline since 1980. Zimbabwe’s land needed to be decolonised, there is no doubt about that. It should have been a priority for the nationalists even before they took power. Thereafter, the aim should have been to maintain and increase exports – and thus foreign exchange earnings from other sources, including inedible cash crops – while reform was brought to bear on food-producing land as quickly as possible. Attention could then have been turned to ‘cash crop’ land. Zanu-PF could, and should, have sought international aid funding to do all this once it was clear the British were not prepared to meet their original commitments.

Mugabe has never, from day one, exercised power with any real regard for the welfare of his people. And that is why he should be got rid of.

Gavin Kitching
University of New South Wales, Sydney

Mahmood Mamdani replies

Returns in the 2008 election suggest that Zimbabwe is a deeply divided society. This is so whether you go by the official count or that of the government. I have argued that this split has three fault lines: urban-rural, ethnic and class. R.W. Johnson (Letters, 18 December 2008) and Timothy Scarnecchia et al disagree, but they have not offered a satisfactory alternative explanation. Instead, they suggest, apparently in unison, that the splits in Zimbabwean society are a result of the machinations of those in power – ‘Mugabe and his cronies’ – who wish to hang on to it at all costs.

In a utopian variation on this argument, Gavin Kitching gives a blueprint of policies that ‘should have been’ followed: he assumes that the will of rulers translates into policies, with no intervening factors, internal or external, historical or contemporary, acting as checks and constraints. Terence Ranger (18 December) concludes that whereas ‘Mugabe’s policy may be an inspiration to those in South Africa who want to redress gross inequalities in landholding . . . it should also be a warning of how not to go about it.’ This is the same verdict I heard in Kampala in 1980 on Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians: he should not have done it this way! My object is not to propose the ‘fast-track reforms’ as a model of land redistribution for South Africa, but to sound a warning about the kind of demagoguery that is likely to follow, should those in power continue to ignore historically just demands.

I do not question that Mugabe and Co desire to hang on to power – at considerable cost – but I do argue that this single fact cannot explain their ability to do so. Nor can fear or intimidation by itself explain why so many who have no power – almost half the Zimbabwean electorate – would vote for the regime. This is not just a split between state and society, as critics of my article suggest, but a case of a society itself being deeply divided.

In my article I identified two divisive issues in particular. The primary issue, in a predominantly rural society just emerging from the settler colonial era, was the land question. The second – whose importance is bound to grow in the aftermath of land redistribution – is the freedom to organise independently of the regime.

The government responded to the exercise of that freedom with a mixture of repression and incorporation. Critics of my article focus only on the former. Repression – especially of trade unions and civil society organisations – has been very marked in the urban areas. A far more nuanced relationship developed between the regime and the war veterans’ organisation, partly because of its historical links to the liberation struggle, and partly because it straddled the two major divisions, between state and society and urban and rural.

The explanation for the fast-track reforms of 2000-3 does not lie in the machinations of government, as these letters suggest, but in the success of the veterans’ mobilisation. The regime’s response evolved as the organisation grew: as I explain in the article, the same government that was initially showered with plaudits for using force to evict squatters was later condemned for using force to redistribute land. I do not believe the official embrace and co-option of the veterans’ organisation can be explained as a conspiracy; the debate on how to respond culminated in a split at the highest levels of power.

Scarnecchia et al dismiss the destructive impact of Western countries, both as drivers of sanctions and as powerful opponents of any regional effort to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis. Let me recall that the sanctions predated fast-track reforms: they were a response to Zimbabwe’s involvement in the Congo war. As early as November 2001, Jack Straw as foreign secretary publicly boasted of building coalitions against Zimbabwe. There were reports of British threats to withhold budgetary support – some claimed even food aid – from Malawi and Mozambique as the Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) opened in Blantyre, Malawi on 14 January 2002. During the summit, the Tanzanian president, Benjamin Mkapa, said Baroness Amos, who was then parliamentary under-secretary for foreign affairs, had urged him in a phone call not to support Zimbabwe; when that failed, he said, Straw phoned and attempted to bully him. In 2007, the SADC called for an end to sanctions and for international support for a post-land reform recovery programme. In 2008, Western countries managed to bring their influence to bear on key SADC members – Botswana and Zambia – to split the SADC.

I am not suggesting that there is a single explanation of Zimbabwe’s rapidly accelerating economic crisis: the causes of the crisis are complex and multiple. My critics seem to think that the economic crisis is explained either by the regime’s repression and incompetence or by the draconian sanctions set in place by the West. The fact is that neither one nor the other on its own, but both – and other factors, including recurring drought – underlie the crisis.

My disagreement with Johnson, Scarnecchia et al is both political and methodological. They seem to imagine only two options: either to romanticise Mugabe as a liberation hero or to demonise him as a post-liberation despot. I have suggested that these caricatures overlap for one reason: the liberation struggle against settler colonialism did not end with the guerrilla war and political independence in 1980, but continued through the fast-track reforms. In any case, the regime that championed land reform is the same regime that unleashes repression against anyone who dares to organise independently of it. Scarnecchia et al cannot fail to see this, but apparently they refuse to accept it; whence their insistence on an either/or conclusion, and their tendency to scour all scholarship for a hidden agenda: is the author for or against Mugabe? Actually, that is beside the point.

Focused on Mugabe and eager to defend the opposition, they seek to portray my article as a piece of pro-regime writing, whereas it aims to free the debate about Zimbabwe from the narrow confines of a regime-opposition polemic by understanding Mugabe’s survival as part of a far bigger picture: that of land reform and the historic struggles which underpin it – struggles that Mugabe and Zanu-PF championed in the liberation era, opposed during the period of structural adjustment and ‘reconciliation’, and turned to their advantage when faced with an effective opposition.

Britain's mythical `sanctions' on Zimbabwe

The Times (UK), 22 December

Companies blacklisted in US for allegedly backing Mugabe operate freely in UK

Tristan McConnell, Jonathan Clayton in Johannesburg and Dominic Kennedy

Businessmen who have been accused by the US Treasury of financially supporting the Mugabe regime are operating freely in Britain, in spite of Gordon Brown's declaration that "enough is enough" in Zimbabwe. Of 21 companies put on a US blacklist by President Bush last month, 14 are based in Britain, two in the Isle of Man, one in Jersey and one in the British Virgin Islands. The other three are based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Florida and Zimbabwe itself. Top of the list of alleged Mugabe cronies now under sanction by the US Treasury is the British-based businessman John Bredenkamp. Mr Mugabe and his henchmen use a number of ploys to stay in power and live in luxury as their countrymen suffer. In this they are said to receive the help of white businessmen, several with British passports, and a number of London-based companies. The foreign currency that these men bring into the country allows top Zanu PF figures to buy hard currency at the official rate - way below the currency's true worth - and earn small fortunes. "They basically buy real money with worthless Zimbabwean dollars. That way they can buy a car for what an ordinary person would use to fill a tank with petrol," an insider said.

The operations of some British or British-owned companies have also caused concern. It was reported this year that Foreign Office officials were worried that the Zimbabwean subsidiary of the London-based Standard Chartered Bank was violating European Union sanctions. According to inside sources, the Foreign Office asked the Treasury to make "discreet inquiries" as to whether Standard Chartered loans to the Zimbabwean Government breached the sanctions. Standard Chartered Zimbabwe is a subsidiary of Standard Chartered Plc of Britain. A Foreign Office official was quoted as saying: "I'm still nervous about the position of other [British-owned] banks [in Zimbabwe], and in particular Standard Chartered." Britain has failed to take action against individuals and companies while calling for Mr Mugabe to go. By contrast, the US Treasury last month named four financier "cronies" - Mr Bredenkamp, Muller Conrad "Billy" Rautenbach, Nalinee Joy Taveesin and Mahmood Awang Kechik - of Mr Mugabe and put them on a blacklist, freezing their US assets and banning American citizens from doing business with them.

The list, issued by America's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), was rounded off by the 21, mainly British-based, businesses. "The financial and logistical support they have provided to the regime has enabled Robert Mugabe to pursue policies that seriously undermine democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe," the US Treasury said. Mr Bredenkamp has been granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain, and operates some of his businesses from an office in Berkshire. Mr Bredenkamp, 68, was born in Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, and is one of the coterie of "Rhodies", or white Rhodesians with British connections, whose influence has grown under Mr Mugabe. The US Treasury calls him "a well-known Mugabe insider involved in various business activities, including tobacco trading, grey-market arms trading and trafficking, equity investments, oil distribution, tourism, sports management, and diamond extraction".

Mr Bredenkamp's spokesman issued a point-by-point denial, saying: "Breco [a company he controls] does not trade in tobacco. At 'free' auctions, it purchases tobacco from the producers and adds value through cigarette manufacturing. Mr Bredenkamp is a passive investor in ACS, an accredited agent to major Western defence and aerospace companies who are regulated by their own governments. ACS does not operate, therefore, in the grey market. "Alongside the likes of Shell and BP, who have major networks of petrol retail outlets in Zimbabwe, Breco supplies petroleum products, purchased from the State Oil Company by law, to a mere five retail outlets. It also has a small bulk fuel distribution business whose clients include Unicef. Mr Bredenkamp has never been involved in the exploration or extraction of diamonds."

In 1993 Mr Bredenkamp made an estimated $100 million selling his Casalee tobacco company, and set up Breco, a private equity group now on the US blacklist. His spokesman said: "Mr Bredenkamp recently received notification from the US Treasury that he was on the OFAC list. He wishes to make it clear that he is challenging that decision on the grounds that it is based on erroneous information." Mr Bredenkamp strongly disputes any suggestion he gives the regime funds to help Mr Mugabe to cling to power. His spokesman said: "Just because he is a Zimbabwean and is based in Zimbabwe and has a business in Zimbabwe does not mean he provides the Zanu PF regime with funds. He employs around 1,500 people in his businesses in Zimbabwe - their remuneration supports approximately 6,000 people. Is he meant to quit and put all these people out of work?"

The former England spin bowler Phil Edmonds is chairman of the Central African Mining and Exploration Company (CAMEC), of which the blacklisted Mr Rautenbach is a shareholder. CAMEC announced its acquisition of an interest in platinum assets in Zimbabwe in April. As a result, CAMEC inherited an agreement between Lefever, the company it acquired, to lend $100 million to the Zimbabwean Government as an advance against future dividends. "CAMEC is conscious of its responsibility to protect the welfare of its employees in Zimbawe," the company told The Times, "and has invested considerable sums in housing, education and medical projects, not to mention long-term employment opportunities." It said it had delayed bringing its platinum project into production "until the political situation is stabilised and the platinum price recovers".

The banks Barclays and Standard Chartered, listed on the London Stock Exchange, have faced criticism over their subsidiaries operating bank accounts for Mr Mugabe's close aides. To do so is not illegal, but critics question the morality of it. Standard Chartered said: "We have a long-term commitment to the welfare of our 860 staff, their extended families who depend on them and for our many thousands of customers who rely on our services. Standard Chartered Group makes no money in Zimbabwe. We comply with all US, UK and EU sanctions. We have been consistently clear on the morality of keeping our operation open. It's quite clearly morally the right thing to do." Barclays said: "Barclays Bank Zimbabwe is not opening branches and, in fact, Barclays is not making any new investment in Zimbabwe. Revenue generated in the country is used only to maintain day-to-day operations, pay staff and keep the bank running ... Barclays is fully compliant with EU sanctions relating to Zimbabwe." Neither Standard Chartered nor Barclays have been blacklisted by the US Treasury.

A fortnight ago Mr Brown launched his toughest attack on Zimbabwe. "We must stand together to defend human rights and democracy, to say firmly to Mugabe that enough is enough," he said. However, Britain's sanctions regime against Zimbabwe is much narrower in scope than America's. It consists largely of Zimbabwean politicians and public figures, none with any serious stake in the British economy. Asked what action Britain would take against Mr Bredenkamp, a spokesman for HM Treasury told The Times: "We are considering a range of measures with EU partners in response to the continuing impasse in Zimbabwe, including further targeted measures. Announcing these prematurely would be ineffective."

On the US blacklist: John Bredenkamp "A close ally of Mugabe’s", according to the US Treasury. It lists the following entities, owned or controlled by him: Alpha International (Private) Ltd; Breco (Asia Pacific) Ltd, also Breco (Eastern Europe) Ltd, (SA) Ltd, (UK) Ltd, Breco Group, Breco International, Breco Nominees Ltd, Breco Services Ltd; Corybantes Ltd; Echo Delta Holdings Ltd; Kababankola Mining Company; Masters Int Ltd; Masters Int Inc; Piedmont (UK) Ltd; Raceview Enterprises; Scottlee Holdings (Pvt) Ltd; Scottlee Resorts; Timpani Ltd; and Tremalt Ltd; Muller Conrad Rautenbach (aka Billy Rautenback) Zimbabwean businessman "with close ties to the regime". Supported Zanu PF individuals during the conflict with the Democratic Republic of Congo and "provided logistical support" for mining projects that "benefit a small number of corrupt senior officials". One entity designated is owned by him - Ridgepoint Overseas Developments Ltd; Nalinee Taveesin A Thai businesswoman who has organised "a number of financial, real-estate and gem-related transactions" for Grace Mugabe and others on the US blacklist; Mahmood Awang Kechik A Malaysian urologist. Alleged to have used his clinic to hide the destination of medical equipment coming into the country. Also implicated in schemes to "generate wealth for these regime officials" and the Zimbabwe Government.

Tsvangirai opposes military invasion of Zimbabwe

Tsvangirai opposes military invasion

December 21, 2008

By Geoffrey Nyarota

THE president of the Movement for Democracy (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, has distanced himself from any proposed military invasion of Zimbabwe by foreign troops.

Tsvangirai says not only would such a move be impractical; it would be inconsistent with the MDC’s principles of achieving democratic change in Zimbabwe . He also said that to launch a military invasion of Zimbabwe would be to play right into the hands of President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said this in an interview in his temporary home in the Botswana capital, Gaborone. Tsvangirai’s home for now is a well-guarded but sparsely furnished guest-house in an exclusive part of the Botswana capital. The huge living room of the house is virtually empty except for a coffee table and three straight-backed chairs.

Tsvangirai’s hosts appear to have been more concerned about their guest’s security than his creature comforts. A black Mercedes Benz sedan is parked outside.

“I am aware of the frustration that people now have with Robert Mugabe,” he said. “I will be the last person, however, to ask for his removal through unorthodox means. I do not subscribe to any method that is not democratic. We should ask Mugabe to respect the will of the people.

“To launch a military invasion of Zimbabwe would be to play right into his hands. He wants to become a martyr. He loves martyrdom. In any case, removing a president through unconstitutional means could produce a disastrous situation such as we have witnessed in Iraq .”

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched an attack on Mugabe early this month and called for the deployment of foreign troops to intervene in Zimbabwe to end a worsening humanitarian crisis. He said Mugabe should be investigated for crimes against humanity.

“If no troops are available, then the AU must allow the United Nations to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect, to take over control of the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera,” Odinga said, endorsing the calls by several world leaders for action on Zimbabwe

Tsvangirai spoke strongly in opposing the prospect of any such foreign invasion of Zimbabwe in a bid to dislodge Mugabe from power.

“While I don’t define the foreign policies of foreign governments, whatever they do must be in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe ,” he said. “We cannot achieve our national goals through an international invasion.”

In another interview, Phandu Skelemani , Botswana ’s foreign minister and a relentless critic of the Mugabe government, said his country strongly opposed any foreign invasion of Zimbabwe .

“We object to any initiative to take President Mugabe out by force,” Skelemani said. “Every Zimbabwean would see foreign troops as invaders of their country.

“I do not think the army of Zimbabwe would remain in their barracks in the face of a foreign invasion. The problem with an invasion is that innocent civilians would be killed.”

Skelemani said the government of Botswana was, therefore, totally opposed to any military invasion of Zimbabwe .

“We also don’t agree with any sanctions that have the potential to hurt the people of Zimbabwe ,” he said.

Tsvangirai said allegations by Mugabe that the MDC was a violent party and that some of its members were receiving military training in Botswana were nothing but a red herring. He said Mugabe merely sought to divert attention from the serious problems inside Zimbabwe by raising issues that were totally without basis.

“We have discussed these allegations with the Botswana officials and their official attitude is that the allegations must be verified through SADC protocols. The problem is not that the allegations are being made; it is why they are being made.”

Tsvangirai said the political momentum that had been built during the run-up to the March 29 elections had been lost during the wave of violence following the election, ahead of the June 27 election re-run.

“While we won the elections there was no transfer of power. What we need now is a national and international challenge or movement against Mugabe,” he said.

“The nucleus of the movement must be national but with international support. But there must be cohesion and unity among the internal forces campaigning against Mugabe. We must sort out all issues that divide us and must sing with one voice.

“We will continue to fight the Mugabe dictatorship using democratic means. But dictators do not usually go on the basis of persuasion or negotiation.

“Now they are accusing Botswana of training militias for the MDC because they want Botswana to back off from its support for the MDC. President Khama has stated clearly that his country is not training any MDC people.”

Tsvangirai responded to criticism of his extended stay outside Zimbabwe at a time when there was a growing chorus of calls for him to return to Harare. He said he agreed with this sentiment in principle. He could not be pinned down on when exactly he could be expected back in Zimbabwe .

He said his failure to return was for practical reasons.

“My passport expired more than three weeks ago,” he said. “It expired during the SADC summit in Sandton. I used the expired document to travel to France , Senegal , Morocco and Botswana . All these countries are sympathetic to my plight and did not demand a passport.

“There is no doubt about my intention to go back to Zimbabwe . But I cannot travel back on an expired passport. The only way I can travel back to Harare in the circumstances would be through an unauthorized entry, perhaps as a border jumper.”

Tsvangirai said he had raised the issue of his expired passport with Mugabe himself.

“I said to him, ‘You want to entrust me with national authority as Prime Minister, when you cannot trust me with a passport.’”

In response to a question about a statement by him during a recent radio interview that Mugabe’s behaviour rendered it difficult to work with him, Tsvangirai said while it was difficult to work with Zanu-PF it was not altogether impossible.

“I can work with Zanu-PF,” the MDC leader said. “The problem is I have no counterpart in the party because Mugabe has become an erratic old man who is not conscious of his obligations under the Global Political Agreement which we signed on September 15. It’s now difficult to work with Zanu-PF but it’s not impossible.

“Zanu-PF has become like the apartheid regime of South Africa , which continued to kill people while negotiating with Nelson Mandela. Mugabe has an obligation to uphold the rule of law. The agreement that we signed says the security organs must uphold the rule of law.

“The socio-economic situation in the country will show Mugabe that he cannot go on like this forever. He will soon realise that he has reached a dead end.

“Take the police, for example. Every one of them is suffering like everyone else. Mugabe enjoys their obedience, but not their loyalty. Patronage has its limitations.”

Tsvangirai said even if Constitutional Amendment Number 19 was adopted, that was no guarantee that the MDC would participate in a coalition government.

“In any case, the formation of a new government is itself not a panacea to the problems that Zimbabweans are facing,” he said. “A possible panacea is that Zanu-PF must accept that the MDC won the elections back in March.

“The MDC must have a leading voice in the coalition government. We will not enter the coalition government to maintain the existing status quo. As MDC we are talking about an equitable sharing of power but as far as Zanu-PF is concerned, the whole question revolves around a power retention arrangement. There are a number of other outstanding issues to be agreed on apart from the Amendment Bill.”

Tsvangirai reacted angrily to a question about the alleged existence of a so-called “Kitchen Cabinet” within the leadership of the MDC. He dismissed it as a term created by people who wanted to undermine the leadership of the MDC.

“My style of leadership is that there is collective discussion of issues and collective ownership of decisions. The MDC has a standing committee of people elected by the party’s congress.

“The decision that I should boycott the presidential election re-run in June and the decision that the MDC should participate in negotiations with Zanu-PF were both collective decisions.

He said nobody could prove that he had taken individual decisions or that the so-called Kitchen Cabinet had imposed any decisions on the MDC.

Meanwhile, Botswana ’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe has dismissed as mere speculation recent reports, including in the Zimbabwe Times, which stated the the Botswana embassy in Harare was closing.

“It is certainly not true that we are closing the embassy,” Pelokgale Seloma said in an interview in Francistown . “What happened is that we put our office furniture and equipment on auction.

“It is government policy that embassies dispose of furniture and other items every five years. In fact, the sale of furniture in Harare was long overdue. So we held an auction on Saturday, December 6, after placing an advertisement in the press.”

He said the auction had been held at a time of tension between Gaborone and Harare and people concluded that the embassy was closing.

“I don’t think we would ever close the embassy,” he said. “Our focus in Harare now is to ensure that relations between our two nations remain good. At some stage there was talk that we were about to introduce visas for Zimbabweans.

“I said we can’t do that because there are so many Zimbabweans entering Botswana and we don’t want to appear as if we are restricting them. It has never been our intention to close the embassy.

“The government of Botswana has adopted its policy on Zimbabwe not because it wants to fight Zimbabwe . We feel that as neighbours we should be free to give advice. The advice that we give to the government of Zimbabwe is genuine.

“We hope our brothers realise that we are not doing this out of malice.”

Seloma’s visit to Francistown coincided with a heavy influx of Zimbabweans in town for their Christmas shopping.

ACAS Bulletin 80: Special Issue on the Zimbabwe Crisis

The Association of Concerned African Scholars (ACAS) is proud to publish
a new series of timely essays tackling the ongoing political crisis in
Zimbabwe.

Edited by Timothy Scarnecchia and Wendy Urban-Mead, the ten analyses presented delve deep behind the headlines to expose the deeper realities of this protracted issue.

‘Our last Special Issue on the Zimbabwe Elections came out two weeks before
the June 27th run-off presidential election. This was before opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC announced his decision not to contest the run-off election because of the extreme violence used against the MDC candidates, supporters, and alleged supporters,’ writes Scarnecchia and Urban-Mead.

‘This issue of the ACAS bulletin is concerned with the aftermath of the
elections of 2008, offering analysis of the outcome of the parliamentary
election results of the March elections, the ways in which the political
violence during May and June have fundamentally altered the possibility of a
non-violent political dispensation in Zimbabwe, and, perhaps of most current
interest for readers, the unfolding of “power sharing” negotiations that began with the September 11, 2008 signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Mugabe’s ZANU(PF), Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, and a smaller splinter group led by Arthur Mutambara, (the MDC-M).’

ACAS Bulletin N°80 - Winter 2008
Special Issue on Zimbabwe (II)
http://concernedafricascholars.org/

Table of Contents

Introduction: Special Issue on Zimbabwe 2
Tim Scarnecchia (Kent State University)
Wendy Urban-Mead (Bard College)

A Tale of Two Elections: Zimbabwe at the Polls in 2008
Jocelyn Alexander (University of Oxford)
Blessing-Miles Tendi (University of Oxford)

Waiting for Power-sharing: A False Promise?
Norma Kriger (University of KwaZulu/Natal)

The Glass Fortress: Zimbabwe’s Cyber-Guerrilla Warfare
Clapperton Mavhunga (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Reflections on Displacement in Zimbabwe
Amanda Hammar (Nordic Africa Institute)

Zimbabweans Living in the South African Border-Zone: Negotiating, Suffering,
and Surviving
Blair Rutherford (Carleton University)

Anti-Imperialism and Schizophrenic revolutionaries in Zimbabwe
Tamuka Chirimambowa

The Zimbabwean Working Peoples: Between a Political Rock and an Economic Hard
Place
Horace G. Campbell (Syracuse University)

Zimbabwe: Failing Better?
David Moore (University of Johannesburg)

Review: Heidi Holland’s Dinner with Mugabe
Sean Jacobs (University of Michigan)

Editorial: In the Shadow of Gukurahundi
Timothy Scarnecchia (Kent State University)

Mamdani, Mugabe and the African scholarly community

Mamdani, Mugabe and the African scholarly community
The Africanisation of exploitation

By Horace Campbell (2008-12-18)

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/52845

Concerned scholars should revitalise their opposition to Zimbabwe’s Mugabe regime, writes Horace Campbell. While being against any form of opportunistic, external intervention in the country, Campbell argues that scholars must come to offer an effective challenge to ZANU-PF’s persistent retreat into spurious anti-imperialist discourse. Heavily critical of writers like Mahmood Mamdani for echoing ZANU-PF’s claims around the effects of economic sanctions levied against Zimbabwe, Campbell argues that blocking international payments would prove a far more efficacious means of tackling Mugabe’s misappropriation of funds.
It was most apt that on the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights a group of 200 scholars at the 12th congress of CODESRIA expressed their concern over the threats of military intervention in Zimbabwe. The scholars pointed to the detrimental effects of military intervention, noting that:

‘Military interventions exacerbate political and socio-economic crises and internal differences with profoundly detrimental and destructive regional implications. We recognize that threats of military intervention come from imperialist powers, and also through their African proxies.’

These scholars were signaling their opposition to the vocal calls for the removal of Robert Mugabe by the Secretary of State of the United States and by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and the Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, had earlier raised the call for the removal of Robert Mugabe by the force of arms.

This scholar joins with African people everywhere who welcome the alertness of our colleagues against foreign military intervention. I also welcome their concern for the appalling situation in Zimbabwe.

It is important that the Mugabe government and the spokespersons for ZANU-PF do not consider the statement by scholars as an endorsement for the appalling tragedy that has befallen the Zimbabwean poor and exploited. After all, these CODESRIA scholars termed what is happening in Zimbabwe ‘a nightmare’.

This was in the same week that President Mugabe argued that the imperialists were planning a military invasion and that the cholera outbreak had been based on biological warfare against Zimbabwe. The Minister of Information went further and in a statement in the Herald newspaper the minister claimed:

‘The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is a serious biological chemical war force, a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British. Cholera is a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they invade the country.’

This claim by Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was an insult to the intelligence of humans everywhere in so far as cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by unsanitary conditions. The key to prevention of the disease is simple: clean water.

It is because of the simple nature of the cure that the response of the Zimbabwe government to the death of more than 1,000 persons is one more callous response to the exploitation and brutal oppression of the Zimbabwean working peoples. Biological warfare is a serious matter not to be used for games of crying ‘wolf’. One world figure is already leaving the stage with the record of this kind of crying wolf in Iraq.

While this writer will oppose any form of external military intervention by imperialists, it is important that concerned and progressive scholars oppose the crude anti-imperialism of the Zimbabwean political leadership under Mugabe. This writer awaits equal concern from my colleagues over the gender violence, repression of trade union leaders, wanton destruction of lives by the Mugabe government and the brutal repression of ordinary citizens.

At the same time that the statement of concern was being signed human rights activists were calling on the Zimbabwean government to account for the whereabouts of Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP). Mukoko is only one of the more than 20 known human rights activists who have disappeared in the past six weeks. Mukoko’s 15 year-old child saw his mother being abducted from their home.

We must raise our collective voices against such kidnapping and abduction while opposing any imperialist plans for a military invasion of Zimbabwe. One question that immediately came to mind after reading the CODESRIA statement was whether our colleagues have become blind to the suffering of ordinary people in their struggle against the latest and more complex phase of imperialism in Africa.

MUGABE AND THE EXPLOITATION OF ANTI-RACIST AND ANTI-IMPERIALIST SENTIMENTS

The Zimbabwe government is very aware of the anti-imperialist and anti-racist sentiments among oppressed peoples and thus has deployed a range of propagandists inside and outside of the country in a bid to link every problem in Zimbabwe to international sanctions by the EU and USA. Anti-imperialists in the USA cite the Zimbabwe Reconstruction and Development Act – passed by the US Congress in 2001 – as being a source of economic woe for poor Zimbabweans. While the scholars at the congress of CODESRIA hardly resorted to the same kind of praise for Mugabe as their counterparts writing in the special issue of Black Scholar, there is not enough evidence that there was sufficient attention paid to the gross violation of basic rights. If this debate did occur at the CODESRIA congress it was not reflected in the statement.

One of the key entrepreneurs of the Zimbabwe regime, John Bredenkamp, commands considerable experience in manipulating the question of sanctions for the enrichment of those in power, both in the time of Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe. Bredenkamp started on his way to fortune by breaking sanctions for Ian Smith. Bredenkamp has been involved in the politics and economics of looting southern Africa and is one of the key props of the ZANU-PF regime. His plundering activities also tie him to the political and financial leaders in South Africa who are being probed by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to the £100 million in bribes to ensure the sale of weapons to the South African government. This author is calling on members of the CODESRIA network to reveal their research findings on John Bredenkamp, Muller Conrad Rautenbach (a.k.a. Billy Rautenbach) and to recommend the arrest and charge of those involved in looting Zimbabwe and southern Africa. Both Bredenkamp and Billy Rautenbach (of the white settler forces) featured in the orgy of looting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and established long term business relationships with ZANU-PF’s leaders. John Bredenkamp had matured in the art of manipulation while aligned with Ian Smith. He exulted in this dual service to imperialism and to African nationalists with the leadership of ZANU-PF, and his expertise has been placed at the service of the crude accumulators within the South Africa’s ANC.

Instead of oversimplifying imperialist threats in Zimbabwe, those who want to see the demilitarisation of Africa must aggressively support the exposure of the arms deals that have linked Bredenkamp and Fana Hlongwane across the politics of repression in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The British arms manufacturer British Aerospace (Bae) has been involved with Bredenkamp and Hlongwane in Africa, along with corrupt elements in the Middle East. There have been calls for BAe to be prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the USA. Such an investigation would have potentially seismic consequences for military contractors and arms manufacturers and would provide another means of opposing Western militarism in Africa.

BLAMING ZIMBABWE’S PROBLEMS ON ZIDERA

The convergence of fraud, corruption and cover-ups in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Britain render simplistic conceptions of imperialism less than useful for those who want to see peaceful change in Zimbabwe. The Mugabe government blames all of its problems on the economic war launched by the USA and Britain. For the Mugabe regime, at the core of this economic war are the targeted sanctions against Mugabe’s top lieutenants under its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), passed by the Bush administration in 2001.

What has been clear from the hundreds of millions of dollars of investments by British, Chinese, Malaysian, South African and other capitalists in the Zimbabwe economy since 2003 is that the problems in Zimbabwe have not been caused by an economic war against the country. Even when facing pressure from the British government, Anglo-American indicated its willingness in 2008 to invest an additional US$400 million to continue its control of platinum mines in Zimbabwe. What has been most remarkable has been the ways in which the dictatorship in Zimbabwe has destroyed the rights of workers in the mining sector in order to facilitate and welcome foreign capitalists in the diamond and mining sectors. Whole villages are being laid to waste in order to support and welcome external diamond mining interests.

If human rights activists and committed scholars were to expose the linkages between ZANU-PF arms dealers John Bredenkamp and Fana Hlongwane along with the wider linkages to international capital, then it would be clear that it is quite an oversimplification to argue that ZIDERA is at the centre of Zimbabwe’s problems. Bredenkamp had been schooled from the Smith era to blame everything on sanctions while beating the sanctions with the help of apartheid South Africa. In the present period Bredenkamp is an ally of the ANC, ZANU-PF and British imperialist arms manufacturers like BAe all at the same time. It is also important for African scholars to join the call to the South African President Kgalema Motlanthe for an arms deal judicial commission, in order to bring to the attention of the wider public the dealings of individuals such as Fana Hlongwane.

Scholars, while alerting the world against foreign military invasion, must examine the conduct of the Zimbabwe military and especially those ordering Mugabe to remain in supreme control.

It is in the interest of concerned scholars everywhere to understand the conditions of farm labourers and mine workers in Zimbabwe. What was not expected was for Professor Mahmood Mamdani to use his scholarly knowledge to repeat ZANU-PF’s sham argument that economic sanctions have aggravated the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. While the nationalists have been crude in their fawning over the ‘revolutionary’ credentials of Robert Mugabe, Mahmood Mamdani used his considerable international reputation to line up support for the Mugabe regime in a lengthy review published in the London Review of Books.

IS THERE A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION GOING ON IN ZIMBABWE?

From the outset Mamdani located himself as a victim of forced expulsion, identifying the forced expulsion of the Asians in Uganda with the expropriation of the white setter farmers in Zimbabwe. In the process, Mamdani compared Robert Mugabe to Idi Amin of Uganda. Mamdani went on to explain the popularity of Amin’s economic war against Asians and used the word ‘popularity’ in his characterisation of the current ZANU-PF leadership. Very few would doubt the ‘popularity’ of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa in the period of the anti-colonial struggles, but in the past fifteen years Mugabe has turned the victories of the people into a never ending nightmare of murders, killings, forced removal and brutal oppression. Idi Amin remains popular in West Africa, just as Mugabe is popular in West Africa and other parts of the world where there is not a full understanding of the real tragedy of what is going on in Zimbabwe. Idi Amin, like Robert Mugabe, is popular outside of his own country for the wrong reasons.

Mahmood Mamdani as a Ugandan is very aware of the extent to which the British government supported elements within the Amin dictatorship while using the British media to revile Africans in general, and Idi Amin in particular. Amin (who was promoted by the British and the Israelis in the military coup of January 1971) was useful as a propaganda tool for imperialism. As a scholar who has written extensively on Uganda and on the politics of fascism, Mahmood Mamdani is very aware of the role that Bob Astles played as an agent of US and British imperialism in eastern Africa. Bob Astles (ally and confidant of Idi Amin from 1966 to 1979) had been implicated in the scandals involving looted gold from the Congo in the 1960s and survived with Amin as a key confidant, until he left for Britain when it became clear that the Tanzanian military invasion of Uganda would succeed. Mahmood Mamdani had returned to Uganda in 1979 in the military train of the Tanzanian military and political forces. This was a case where Mamdani recognised that it required regional African intervention to rid Africa of the manipulation of the British and the brutal genocidal politics of Idi Amin.

Contrary to his research on the Ugandan dictatorship, Mamdani’s research skills seem underused while elaborating on the ‘Lessons of Zimbabwe’. Professor Mamdani has maintained that, ‘In social and economic – if not political – terms, this was a democratic revolution. But there was a heavy price to pay.’

This line of the ‘democratic revolution’ emanated from the Newtonian concepts of hierarchy that had been internalised by some who have called themselves Marxists. During the period of the Soviet Union, this discourse was used to support so-called revolutionaries such as Mengistu, the butcher of Ethiopia. Is it by chance that Mengistu has found his refuge in Zimbabwe?

Under this ‘democratic revolutionary stage’, African capitalists had to accumulate so that there would be a maturation of capitalism in Africa. Walter Rodney refuted this ‘stages’ theory in his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In that study Rodney established the reality that there was a link between the development of capitalism in Europe and the forms of plunder, looting and genocide in Africa. Capitalism in Africa had been implanted in a very different form, and all over the continent those who supported capitalism have used the formulation of the ‘democratic revolution’ to support black capitalists. This is nowhere more evident than in South Africa, where the communist party, as one component of the tripartite alliance, has used this formulation to silence itself in the face of the crudest and fastest rate of accumulation by a fledgling capitalist class in recent history.

In his elaboration of ‘the heavy price to pay’ for this democratic revolution in Zimbabwe, Mamdani noted the impact on: (a) ’the rule of law’; (b) Farm labourers; (c) The urban poor; and d) Food production.

What was most contradictory about Mamdani’s line of argument is that while he recognises the impact of the policies of the Mugabe government on the urban poor and farm workers, he expends a great deal of his analysis on a critique of the absence of donor support for the people of Zimbabwe. Before the era of neoliberalism and the pseudo-humanitarianism of the so-called international non-governmental structure, these donors would have been called imperialists and there would have been a call for the government of Zimbabwe to use its resources to provide clean water, sanitation and healthcare for its people. Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF have selectively implemented a home grown neoliberal agenda to enrich one of the crudest of the capitalist classes in Africa while depending on international imperialist agencies to provide social services for the people. Mamdani overlooks the fact that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange has been posting the most profitable gains under the Mugabe regime.

Mamdani is wrong.

While the discussion about whether Zimbabwe is going through a ‘democratic’ revolution can be debated, Mamdani is wrong on numerous grounds. As a scholar who has written on genocide, it is curious why he left out the close relationship between the leaders of the Interahamwe and the Zimbabwean military in the DRC. Mugabe’s military trained those had committed genocide in Rwanda to fight for Laurent Kabila. He is simply wrong to use tribal formulations to describe the sharp class divide in Zimbabwe. It is here that the consistency of the donor language corresponds to the language of ethnic divisions in Zimbabwe. In describing the manipulation of Mugabe, Mamdani noted:

‘Very early on, the colonial bureaucracy had translated the ethnic mosaic of the country into an administrative map in such a way as to allow minimum co-operation and maximum competition between different ethnic groups and areas, ensuring among other things that labour for mining, manufacture and service was not recruited from areas where peasants were needed on large farms or plantations. These areas, as it happened, were mainly Shona and so, unsurprisingly, when the trade-union movement developed in Rhodesia, its leaders were mostly Ndebele, and had few links with the Shona leadership of the peasant-based liberation movement (Mugabe belongs to the Shona majority).’

What is this language of Shona majority? Is this not the old tribal discourse of the colonial anthropologists?

Mahmood Mamdani’s benign criticisms cannot disguise the reality that his submission has been represented as one component of the anti-imperialist intellectual support for the Mugabe regime. Despite the atrocities, killings and abductions of grassroots activists, Mamdani has managed to use the term ‘popularity’ in the same sentence while describing the current Zimbabwe leadership. Nowhere did this writer take note of the fact that this ‘popular’ government withheld the election results in March 2008 for over a month. Mamdani says there is a democratic revolution at a high price. Indeed at the price of democracy itself and in its most simple expression: the right to vote.

Writing this backhanded support for Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF as a review of a number of books on Zimbabwe, Mamdani was inordinately dependent on the scholarship of those from the Agrarian Institute for African Studies in Zimbabwe. The papers from this institute have been fulsome in their praise of the ‘land reform’ process in Zimbabwe. The authors of these papers supporting Mugabe were the very same ones claiming that the horrors of ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ (the operation to round up hundreds of thousands of citizens) were exaggerated by the Western media.

Neither Mamdani nor the scholars from CODESRIA have expressed their outrage in relation to the repression and forced removal of 750,000 people from Zimbabwe’s urban areas in 2005. If a white government had done this there would have been outrage. Current scholarly work on the displacement of Zimbabwean farm workers by Amanda Hammar will assist future scholarship focused on the reintegration of individuals scattered across Southern Africa. These citizens suffered from the xenophobic attacks against poor migrants in South Africa.

While merely recycling the scholarship of this agrarian institute, Mahmood Mamdani was careful to hedge his bets in noting that: ‘What land reform has meant or may come to mean for Zimbabwe’s economy is still hotly disputed.’

What is not in dispute is that the policies of the Mugabe government have destroyed the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. In our examination of the fast track land seizures in the book, Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation, we exposed the reality that an examination of land reform cannot be separated from water, seeds, fertilizers and most importantly, the labour that has worked on a piece of land. It is on the question of workers and labour where one would have expected Mamdani to have drawn on the scholarship of Brian Raftopoulos and Lloyd Sachikonye. It is not too late to recommend to Mahmood Mamdani two books that will shed light on the relationship between land and labour: Striking Back: The Labour Movement and the Post-Colonial State in Zimbabwe, 1980–2000, edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Lloyd Sachikonye; and Lloyd Sachikonye, The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after Land Reform in Zimbabwe.

IDI AMIN AND BOB ASTLES; ROBERT MUGABE AND JOHN BERDENKAMP

Qualifications on the disputed outcome of the ‘land reform’ by Mahmood Mamdani should not derail committed scholarship on what a democratic land reform process could yield in the new southern Africa when there is serious decolonisation instead of the Africanisation of exploitation. Mamdani’s analysis could not hide the reality that there is a capitalist class that is profiting from the misery and exploitation of the peoples of Zimbabwe. The present divide in Zimbabwe that is manipulated under ethnic terms cannot hide the opulence and disparity between those with power and the exploitation of millions, with hundreds dying of cholera. The billions of dollars being exported by those in the regime, along with the leadership of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, will only come to light when scholars, in general, and African scholars, in particular, support the UN Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative. African dictators from the Sudan to Equatorial Guinea and looters from Nigeria and Angola to Kenya want African scholars to be silent on the repatriation of stolen wealth. This writer opposes all sanctions against Zimbabwe (including ZIDERA) because sanctions do not work when there are experienced entrepreneurs such as John Bredenkamp and Billy Rautenbach in the service of ZANU-PF. What is far more important is a full analysis of Gideon Gono’s exportation of money at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. As a scholars in universities with the space and resources to do research, it is our collective duty in the context of an Obama administration to call on the US Justice Department to prosecute those of the British firm BAe who have been involved in corruption and fraud in southern Africa.

Additionally, African scholars and progressives must pressure the Obama administration to use the resources of the Treasury Department of the Office of Foreign Assets Control to democratise the information on the billions of dollars being stolen from Africa, and in this case, southern Africa.

As in the case of Idi Amin, imperialism can be very selective in releasing the information of the theft and export of capital by the Mugabe leadership. In the past month the Treasury Department of the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control slapped further sanctions on John Bredenkamp.

There is need for concerted research and exposure of the continued role of elements such as Bredenkamp and the alliance with those in the South African government who are profiting from the misery and exploitation of the Zimbabwean people. Is it by accident that the same forces aligned with Bredenkamp also supported the ‘quiet diplomacy’ of Thabo Mbeki? The countries of the European Union are also complicit in the looting of Zimbabwe. Decent individuals in Europe and concerned African scholars must pressure the democratic forces in Belgium to call on the Belgian Central Bank to expose the amounts of money being exported by Gideon Gono on behalf of Robert Mugabe and the dictatorship. The international banking system now relies on a network administered by Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) based at La Hulpe outside Brussels. SWIFT links 7,800 financial institutions in 205 countries, including Zimbabwe’s banks, and processes about US$6 trillions’ worth of transactions each day. Although owned by banks, SWIFT specifically falls under the control of central banks and, in particular, the control of the Belgian Central Bank. Instead of speculating on whether the Mugabe regime is exporting US$9 or US$15 billion every year, the exposure of the head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is far more important than talks of removing Mugabe by force. Blocking international payments is far quicker and more effective than trade or other sanctions. This strategy can also be reversed as soon as its objectives are reached, without permanent damage to the economy or its infrastructure.

COMMITTED SCHOLARS SHOULD BE OUTRAGED AT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ZIMBABWE

People are being killed and brutalised. Homophobia and virginity tests reflect the most extreme forms of patriarchy and deformed masculinity in Zimbabwe. The women who bear the brunt of this oppression have called for international solidarity. Under the leadership of the group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), these brave fighters have exposed those who mobilise sophisticated post-modernists and anti-imperialist discourse to support Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwean workers are being assaulted every day and it is the task of concerned African scholars to defend the rights of organised and unorganised Zimbabwean workers alike.

Unfortunately for Mamdani this article defending Mugabe came out at a time when there was news of the health emergency and the more than 1,000 who have died from cholera. Already, spokespersons for the Mugabe dictatorship have begun to use the writing of Mahmood Mamdani to give legitimacy to their anti-imperialist rhetoric. Mahmood Mamdani opposed the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda. This author opposed the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda on the grounds that it was racist. Mahmood Mamdani has recognised that after the removal of Idi Amin the top Asian capitalists returned to Uganda. In order to ensure that imperialism and the white settlers are not the beneficiaries of the quagmire and nightmare in Zimbabwe, there is a need to explore new agricultural techniques rooted in the experiences of farm workers to develop cooperatives as a means of breaking the domination of the new black capitalists. It was the democratic right of the Zimbabwean people to reclaim the lands seized by British colonialists, but progressive scholars must oppose all forms of exploitation, whether black or white.

At this time, this author supports the Zimbabwean farm labourers and opposes both the settler capitalist classes in Zimbabwe and their African allies seeking to continue the exploitation of the country’s workers, poor peasants and traders.

Western imperialism understands the delicacy of the balance of forces in Zimbabwe. It is for this reason that the West is pressuring neoliberal elements in the MDC to join a government of national unity with the same group that has killed over 20,000 Zimbabweans and expelled over 750,000 urban dwellers from their places of shelter. The recent scholarship on Zimbabwe offers one avenue for those who want to interrogate the links between ZANU-PF and the immense suffering of the country’s (as reflected in the Special Bulletin of the Association of Concerned African Scholars)[1]. Mamdani is correct to draw attention to the influence of neoliberal forces such as Eddie Cross within the MDC, but neoliberalism is dead and the governments of western Europe and the USA are busy nationalising banks without democratic control and accountability. Zimbabweans who want transformation must oppose the neoliberal forces within the MDC to ensure that the suffering of working people does not continue after the ultimate departure of Robert Mugabe.

There is nothing democratic or revolutionary about what is going on in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF. African scholars and progressive forces must use all of their resources to support producers as they seek new forms of emancipatory politics in the face of the global capitalist crisis. Africans, like decent humans in all parts of the planet, want to live in dignity and with basic rights.

* Horace Campbell is a member of the African Studies Association and the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

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