Zimbabwe Election Déjà Vu
By Netfa Freeman
March 28 2008
African people let's wake up.
Just as they did three years ago detractors of Zimbabwe's governing party ZANU PF and President Robert Mugabe are already forecasting that the election in Zimbabwe is rigged, even though it has not happened yet. All of the propaganda machines are in motion to plant misgivings about any outcome that announces victory for Mugabe.
One Mary Ndlovu, a Zimbabwean "human rights" activist has been feverishly providing anti-Mugabe articles and analyses to set the stage for whatever happens. In one published by Pambazuka News she supports her prediction with a diatribe of misinformation and over simplifications asserting, "there is no minutest possibility of a 'free and fair' election. Those observers from SADC who boast that it can still be so are only destroying their own credibility."
Logic dictates that such thinking by an African places their faith in and aligns them more with the neo-colonizers, the United States and European Union, led by Britain than with Africa embodied in this case by entities like Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and the African Union mission (AU).
As it is today, so it was in 2005 when Zimbabwe held elections for seats in parliament. The US, EU, the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a slew of Western beholden "civil society" or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Britain all cried foul prior to the election and grasped for anything that could remotely be called evidence of rigging. While painting their movement as something popular in Zimbabwe, these so-called social justice NGOs/ "civil society" advocates keep claiming their agenda and that of imperialism are not one and the same.
Never mind their rabid contempt for Mugabe mirrors in words and deeds that of officials from the US State Department or the British government. One will never hear them address the point of former Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs, Chester Crocker when he said in a testimony to the US Senate "To separate the Zimbabwean people from ZANU-PF we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you senators have the stomach for what you have to do." [Democracy Now!, April 1st, 2005]
This not only proved that the sinister intent of US imperialism has been to destabilize Zimbabwe, it also indicates that they believe the government of ZANU-PF is a popular one. Elections in spring 2005 had also reflected the will of the Zimbabwean people and those results were confirmed so by observers from the SADC, the AU, and others like the US based December 12th Movement who were not afraid to speak truth to power.
It should be pointed out that although the MDC had lodged unsubstantiated claims of fraud back then, their ballot counters signed off on the results from each polling station. They later admitted publicly that elections were not rigged. "In first signs of yet another possible split within the opposition party, (Isaac) Matongo (3rd highest ranking MDC leader) publicly acknowledged that the MDC had no grassroots support and that was the major reason the opposition party was losing elections." [Daily Mirror, February 5th, 2006]
So why are ZANU-PF and Mugabe detractors so insistent in repeating over and again the lie that Zimbabwe elections are fraudulent?
On Tuesday I was interviewed about Zimbabwe on The Breakfast Club, a Kingston Jamaica radio talk show, and the fellow guest, Prof. Richard Hull at NYU made the baseless claim that Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential election was fraudulent.
I couldn't be surprised. Because it was barely disclosed, it would be hardly surprising if Hull were unaware that the renowned NAACP has a report bearing witness that those elections too were free and fair. Like the parliamentary elections of 2005, Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential elections were certified by SADC, the Union of African States, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and more.
Prof. Hull also believes Zimbabwe should revert back to depending on its cash crops like tobacco and exotic flowers as a way to get much needed foreign currency. But people cannot eat tobacco, flowers or currency. A Pan-Africanist realizes that the cash crop set up is what keeps us away from using our land to produce for our needs. It is under that neo-colonial set up that unfair trade persists and why the masses of African people continue to suffer.
However, the arrogant and shameless measures of imperialism to affect the outcome in Zimbabwe this Saturday should not be underestimated. They've wanted Mugabe out at least for the last ten years. Those who think that the British and US governments confine their contempt for an independent country and its leaders to public denunciations and lip service are wallowing in the height of folly. If this were the case they would have simply needed only to talk negatively about Saddam Hussein and not invade Iraq, or orchestrate a coup against Kwame Nkrumah, or assassinate Patrice Lumumba, or bomb Libya.
Some Western media pundits have been dangerously forecasting for the last month or so that Zimbabwe elections hold in store the same intense and fatal violence we saw in Kenya. Even though Pan-African Parliament's observer mission, now on the ground in Zimbabwe, has said that the current environment in the country is conducive to free and fair elections. "After what Africa witnessed in Kenya, we are encouraged by the pre-poll situation in Zimbabwe... The mood is good and it brings hope to the continent that we are moving in the right direction" [BuaNews, March 25, 2008]
Those making such comparisons between Zimbabwe and Kenya are playing on the already tarnished image of democracy in Africa and want to prevent the public from asking the hard questions and doing thorough investigations when all is said and done. However, unlike Kenya, there is already motive and prior conviction for African people to more than suspect interference by the iron fist and velvet glove of imperialism in Zimbabwe. Some were surprised when, on April 5th 2007 the US State Department admitted to sponsoring opposition in Zimbabwe but allowances for this policy had already been written into the text of the US' hypocritical Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2000, aka ZIDERA.
This is why when the imperialist beholden "civil society activists" speak or write about the leading figures opposing Mugabe these figures seem almost surreal. They speak of Morgan Tsvangirai and his faction of the MDC as if he is not the same person who plotted an assassination of Zimbabwe's president as a prelude to a coup; as if it is not unusual for Tsvangirai to be flanked by young thugs from urban areas who just over a year ago went on a terrorizing spree around the country fire bombing buses, kombis, police dormitories, and attacking citizens and police in the streets. All of that was part of imperialism's modus operandi to make Zimbabwe ungovernable. One won't hear the "civil society activist" mention these things. If they mention Archbishop Pius Ncube, a vocal critic of Mugabe, one can be excused for not realizing from them that Ncube is a discredited amoral who has shamelessly advocated for the British and their allies (imperialism) to invade Zimbabwe in order to "remove Mugabe by force".
Likewise when this imperialist beholden "civil society" speak or write about Robert Mugabe, one might never understand from them that he was against the Lancaster House Agreement that tied the hands of the ZANU PF government from reclaiming the land from white settlers; that the 1989 conditions and constraints that led to Zimbabwe's acceptance of loans and the Economic Structural Adjustment Program of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund were largely due to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and felt by all countries trying to pursue an independent path. You will never hear from them that Mugabe spearheaded the abolishment of said Economic Structural Adjustment Program, something done nowhere else in Africa. One would think a land reform program like none seen since the days of Sekou Ture in Guinea or Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, was not under the leadership of Mugabe; or that there is nothing positive in the new law he signed that mandates majority ownership of all businesses to "indigenous" Zimbabweans.
Such a listing of facts by an African (person of African descent) is often belittled as a one-sided and romantic worship of an old liberation fighter, turned tyrant. However, when these things are completely omitted, then a bias befitting of a racist Western perspective is the result. No one thinks criticism should not be placed where criticism is due. However, the usual suspect detractors more often list the symptoms of economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US, EU and Britain making no attribution to the sanctions. They keep peddling the lie that the sanctions are "smart" sanctions, targeting only certain Zimbabwe officials.
Could they be totally ignorant to what Brandon Stone has been able to assess in his well-documented paper, An Investigation of Zimbabwe's Different Path?
Stone reveals "the results of the sanctions were severe, as foreign trade plummeted towards near zero, and "foreign direct investment in Zimbabwe plunged by over 99 percent." Inflation soared, and the lack of foreign exchange devastated Zimbabwe's manufacturing sector, causing unemployment to rise to over 70 percent. These factors - the external campaign by great powers to cripple Zimbabwe's economy - are rarely discussed by Western academics or journalists, who instead portray the crisis in Zimbabwe solely as the result of the land reform, or Mugabe's mismanagement."
The intensely biased propaganda campaign has been no less damaging. One example can be seen when comparing Guinea and Zimbabwe which both have a head of state who has been in power since early-mid 80's; Lansana Conte in Guinea and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Conte, however became leader through a military coup following the death of the democratically elected Pan-Africanist President Sekou Ture. Mugabe on the other hand was democratically elected after earning his place as a freedom fighter in the struggle against British settler colonialism. But only Mugabe receives a heavy degree of patented denunciations for being "in power too long".
Further, a year ago both Guinea and Zimbabwe experienced some internal unrest but again not equal consideration by the media or these "civil society activists". As part of the aforementioned terrorizing spree in Zimbabwe by opposition thugs, the MDC disguised a protest as a prayer vigil during a temporary ban on demonstrations.
When an out numbered group of police --who are rarely armed with guns-- were attacked by the mob they were provoked into killing one of them, the police still received a brutal beating and had to flee. The incident earned a flurry of attention from the international media that spun its coverage as a Mugabe crackdown on dissent completely omitting the actions of the mob. The imperialist governments and "civil society activists" all chimed in unison with condemnations of Mugabe and ZANU PF.
However, the brutal and unprovoked attack by Conte, which occurred roughly at the same time, went relatively unnoticed. Advancing on a crowd with tanks, Conte's forces sprayed a mass demonstration of thousands with rapid-fire automatic weapons killing just fewer than 200 people. The same benevolent Western governments and their NGO agents uttered hardly a critical murmur.
Now after 8 years of sanctions against Zimbabwe the election outcome is uncertain. The intended affect of "making the economy scream" as Crocker put it has transpired. Whether or not sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe react the way imperialism wants remains to be seen. As African people we should hope not.
At this juncture the question should not be whether or not Mugabe stays in office but whether or not an imperialist beholden opposition could ever bring resolution to Zimbabwe's problems. The answer should be obvious. And if the people do hold strong and see through the designs and machination of imperialism by once again voting in Mugabe, we must still be wary of how imperialism and its agents will react. And we must understand that as goes Zimbabwe, so goes Africa and her Diaspora.
Only fools sleep in a burning house and only bigger fools watch while arsonist burn.
Netfa Freeman is currently the director of the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists at the Institute for Policy Studies. Freeman is a longtime activist in the Pan-African and international human rights movements and is also a co-producer/co-host for Voices With Vision, WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit: Zimbabwe Watch