An analysis of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe

Amid some brief gunfire and a few explosions, military spokespeople in Zimbabwe declared last week that President Robert Mugabe and his wife were safely in custody while, they said, a layer of criminals around the president were hunted down and apprehended.

They found 10 million U.S. stashed in the home of the country’s finance minister, a political ally of the president’s wife. Military authorities were obliged to insist that despite appearances this was not a coup, lest diplomatic and economic sanctions be thrown upon Zimbabwe.

Wartime leader
Robert Mugabe had been Zimbabwe’s leader, either as prime minister or president since the fall of Rhodesia’s regime in 1980. A teacher before he became a politician, Mugabe founded ZANU, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, to struggle against British colonial rule. He served a decade in prison for his political activities before escaping.

ZANU, under his leadership, was one of the major players in the “chimurenga,” the people’s war against Rhodesia’s apartheid government. Mugabe came out of the bush to sign the Lancaster Agreement, which laid down the conditions under which the White minority government was dissolved and became prime minister when ZANU-PF won the 1980 election.

Back and forth
In a Facebook exchange with Black Agenda Report contributor Ann Garrison, David Van Wyk, a South African who lived more than a decade in Zimbabwe, described Mugabe as having swung from left to right and back and forth over almost 40 years.

“Anything to remain in power. That does not mean that he was all bad. In the early days his interventions in health and education were very progressive. His interventions on the land question came far too late. His indigenization program in mining also came too late…

“His first fifteen years he spent dancing to the tune of the West. That effectively deindustrialised the country and led to massive unemployment. The next fifteen years became very confused and possibly self-serving, taking decisions that he thought would keep him in power. He did not allow for new leadership to emerge within the ruling party or within ZANUPF.

“(Emmerson) Munangagwa (who is scheduled to formally assume Mugabe’s office any day now) is already 73 years old and one of the few remaining original ZANU leaders, but one of the least inspiring also. (Robert Mugabe’s wife) Grace also was bad news…”

No democratic development
In the same exchange, Black Agenda Report contributor Ajamu Baraka noted that although the Lancaster Accords, which were brokered by Henry Kissinger, severely limited the freedom of the new Zimbabwean government, ZANU-PF was under pressure from its allies in frontline countries and other liberation movements in the region to sign.

Errors were made, said Baraka as ZANU didn’t “…radicalize its structures, didn’t promote real democratic development beyond its own party.”

“Zimbabwe is not Cuba,” said Baraka, “but we will never know what it could have been because of the unique circumstances that it emerged from and the systematic efforts to undermine its evolution.”

He’s not kidding
Diplomatic hostility, a cynical and slanderous media campaign, and threats of economic sanction have characterized the West’s relations with Zimbabwe almost four decades now. U.S. government spokespeople like Susan Rice and Samantha Power have regularly and falsely accused its government of genocide and crimes against humanity.

WikiLeaks has published documents conclusively linking the Zimbabwean opposition lionized in the Western press to a river of Western money.

Zimbabwe also took part in the invasion of Congo, arrayed against the murderous forces of U.S. pit bull regimes of Rwanda and Angola, and more or less on the side of Tanzania and the Congolese government of Laurent Kabila.

Millions killed
Trouble was it seems nobody in that scrum was on the side of the Congolese people, and six million Congolese have died as their nation has been turned into vast free-fire and resource-extraction zones devoid of anything like civil society to provide roads, schools, health infrastructure or safety. The Zimbabwean army and some of the president’s cronies are thought to have lucrative mining and other interests in Congo to this day.

Last week’s crisis was precipitated, according to The Guardian, when Mugabe summoned Munangagwa – his comrade in the bush during the 1970s and long-designated heir-apparent to the presidential office – to be fired in person.

Munangagwa fled the country instead and consulted with the military, his political allies, and with South Africa, the regional power.

Apparently, the lights were all green. The troops moved. Robert Mugabe is out, and Munangagwa will formally assume office in the next few days.

Could be worse
Zimbabwe could be far worse off than it is. In the whole continent, only the governments of Eritrea and Zimbabwe have refused America’s AFRICOM, and of course Somalia and Libya have no central governments.

Mugabe is to be credited with keeping AFRICOM, its notorious solder-to-soldier relations and ubiquitous training, material and logistics support out of Zimbabwe.

Close to China
The Guardian depicts the Zimbabwean military as having broad and deep ties, an “all-weather friendship,” with China, which is making enormous investments throughout Africa. To the extent that this is true, we can expect the decades-old campaign to isolate and vilify Zimbabwe to continue, and aid to the parties of Western puppets to flow.

But as Ajamu Baraka said, Zimbabwe is not Cuba. It’s not even Venezuela, where popular organizations and the army itself stepped in to restore Hugo Chavez against an attempted right-wing coup.

Despite some progress, ZANU-PF seems to have failed to use its four decades of state power to organize the handoff to the masses of its people the power to run their own economy, their own country. The fruits of ZANU-PF’s successes and failures will be reaped by its people.

Bruce Dixon is managing editor of Contact him at 


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