Diagnosis / Wars on Africa / Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe (under construction,, a few preliminary links)

Recent development

"What is obtaining in the revolutionary Party is a direct result of the machinations of counter revolutionaries who have infiltrated the Party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within. It is saddening to see our revolution being hijacked by agents of our erstwhile enemies who are now at the brink of returning our country to foreign domination against which so many of our people perished. The famous slogan espoused by His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe: “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” is being seriously challenged by counter revolutionary infiltrators who are now effectively influencing the direction of the Party. - It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our beloved country Zimbabwe is definitely headed to becoming a neo-colony again." ‘In defence of the nation’s founding values, gains of independence’, Nov. 15, 2017, The Herald
 
 

Prism: 'Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, 30 Years after Independence, a class analysis', By David van Wyk (2010):

The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) is a petite bourgeois nationalist organisation that came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, after elections following the Lancaster House Agreement that was signed with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party Government in Britain. This agreement was signed at the height of Ronald Reagan’s mission to roll back history.

The petite bourgeois leaders of ZANU mobilised the peasantry in remote rural areas during the second Chimurenga (liberation war). The working class was effectively ignored during the struggle. After 1980, the nationalist petite bourgeoisie easily dismissed the peasantry, and avoided dealing with the land question for the first fifteen years. The petite bourgeoisie was satisfied with replacing the white settlers, stepping into their shoes and continuing to exploit and oppress both the Zimbabwean working class and the peasantry on behalf of international capital. The nationalist petite bourgeoisie, in the prophetic words of Franz Fanon, “discovered its historic mission: that of intermediary” for international capitalism.

Whereas Hitler was the hammer with which international capitalism crushed the working class in Europe, Ronald Reagan was the steamroller that global capitalism employed to destroy working class organisations globally. Robert Mugabe was a key figure in Reagan’s mission in the Southern African context. In the first instance Mugabe ruthlessly destroyed his Soviet Union supported opposition in Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) by unleashing the notorious Fifth Brigade on Matabeleland in 1984 during operation Gukurahundi. Once he destroyed any potential nationalist threat to his dominance he proceeded to destroy the left – including attacking the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

At the height of these repressive actions, Mugabe was the darling of the Commonwealth, The United Nations and the World Bank and the IMF. So much so that Mugabe’s Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero chaired the IMF/World Bank Development Committee. Naturally the West and global institutions and organisations kept silent about Mugabe’s brutality then, Interestingly he favoured the Pan Africanist Congress over the African National Congress at the time, because of the latter’s historic ties with ZAPU, after all Chris Hani was involved in the famous Wankie/Whange battle between ZAPUs armed wing ZIPRA and the Rhodesian army in the 1960s.

In the 1980s several MK cadres found themselves at the wrong end of Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Their historical association with Zipra, ZAPU’s liberation army earned them spells in detention and torture particularly in Bulawayo during 1984. Although the ANC had a branch and offices Avondale in Harare, MK had to operate from clandestine safe houses.

Mugabe introduced one of the most stringent economic structural adjustment programmes (ESAP) under direction of the IMF and the World Bank. This Economic Suffering for African People as locals jokingly called ESAP destroyed the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), most other parastatals and Zimbabwe’s food security. Zimbabwe borrowed massively at the outset, figuring that repayments -- which required 16% of export earnings in 1983 -- would “decline sharply until we estimate it will be about 4% within the next few years”.

The first loan ironically was to completely reconstruct Zimbabwe’s power facility at Whange, the Power I loan was the first Bank energy loan to Zimbabwe after Independence in 1980. The loan was to the Electricity Supply Commission (ESC), which was later incorporated into a national power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

The main lender, the World Bank, concurred: “The debt service ratios should begin to decline after 1984 even with large amounts of additional external borrowing”. This was the economic equivalent of a sucker-punch, for in reality, Zimbabwe's debt servicing spiraled up to an untenable 37% of export earnings by 1987.

Loan conditions quickly emerged. By 1985, the IMF was pressuring Mugabe to cut education spending and, in 1986, food subsidies fell to two-thirds of 1981 levels.
The two global agencies advised Zimbabwe to switch from food crops to cash crops in order to pay off astronomical IMF and World Bank loans. Suddenly Zimbabwe experienced food shortages for the first time, and electricity power cuts became a daily occurrence. This happened soon after the World Bank and IMF became responsible for the micro management of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. One wonders if the ANC leadership in South Africa knew of this historical fiasco north of Limpopo before they entered into the recent loan with the World Bank to construct the Medupe Power Plant in Limpopo. Interestingly, then in Zimbabwe, as now in South Africa, the World Bank advised that “Electricity to ZESAs consumers was “far too cheap.”

The IMF and the World Bank effectively led Zimbabwe into bankruptcy and economic self destruction through the agency of the ZANUPF petite bourgeoisie.

Ever since Mugabe’s unholy alliance with global capital the people of Zimbabwe has had to suffer the impositions of the IMF and the World Bank, including the dismantling of Zimbabwe’s nascent manufacturing sector – the collapse of David Whitehead textiles, the destruction of Supersonic, the end of Bata shoes, reversing gains in local content of Land Rover which had 75% local content in 1980 and the general collapse of the motor vehicle industry, particularly Peugot, Citroen and Ford, with tens of thousands of workers becoming unemployed in working class areas such as Willovale and Chitungwiza. The World Bank and IMF advised that Zimbabwe should concentrate on its competitive advantage – cash crop production.

The peasantry was ‘advised’ to switch from food crop production to cash crop production – droughts in the late 1980s left even the usually resilient Zimbabwean peasantry starving. Land reform in the form of land invasions was but a system of reward for military generals, so as to minimize the risk of military coups, and ZANUPF cronies.
 
Most recently Mugabe punished the working class in Harare for daring to vote against him by launching Operation Murambatsvina, “driving out the trash” by demolishing tens of thousands of houses in Harare’s working class townships.

It is against this background that workers and peasants should read Mugabe’s ‘land reform’ and his calls for economic indigenisation. Fanon noted that the nationalist petite bourgeoisie ‘constantly demands the nationalisation of the economy and of the trading sectors. This is because, from their point of view, nationalisation does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them nationalisation does not mean governing the state with regard to the ew social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage. To them, nationalisation quite simply means the transfer into native (petite bourgeois) hands those unfair advantages which are the legacy of the colonial period.” In other words the nationalist petite bourgeoisie models themselves on colonial settlers and when in power behaves as colonial settlers would towards the working class and the peasantry.

The nationalist middle class is too weak to address the questions of the national revolution and fears that the working class will drive the revolution in an uninterrupted way (Lenin) towards a permanent revolution (Trotsky) that will take matters to the logical conclusion of socialism. The national petite bourgeoisie and the weak national bourgeoisie therefore sell their souls to global capitalism, while mouthing the most radical slogans – they don red T-Shirts in township rallies on weekend and three piece suites during office hours, during ‘global conferences and at evening functions reassuring global capital of their loyalty while negotiating a piece of the cake for themselves.

Quoted reference: Fanon, F. 2001. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin.
 

A Critique of Wyk's Analysis

By Ineke Buskens (on Facebook, Nov 17, 2017))
 
What is missing here is the individual factor: Mugabe did not have needed to become what he did, like Zuma did not have to. So why did they fall and their countries with them? A class analysis like Van Wyk is a broad stroked painting. Yes the broad space is made visible, the factors of influence are made visible, but what actually happened and why has become invisible.
 
What is the explanatory space for the possibilities of other scenario's: what was the point of no return in Zimbabwe for instance. In order to get that, we need more fine grained work. Yes Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Patricie Lumumba were assasinated because they were incorruptible. Yes, John Perkins is right, his analysis explains what happened in Africa just as in Latin America and the ME (I am sure you read Confessions of an Economic Hitman?)
 
But, in order to bring about change and transformation, we need more insight into the personal dimension. It is persons that bring about change and class analysis can picture the margins and the impediments and the motivations for change (or lack of it) but does not give enough insight into a) the freedom individual actors have to create their reality (and that of others) and b) their motivations to fall in, with either the corrupting forces or to withstand them.
 
I am vested in change and there fore appreciate the analyses that present explanations that picture the moments of choice....for that you have to get the actual facts...the conversations...the persons, what is called the individual factor. (bad term).
 
- May I suggest you read The President's Keepers by Jacques Pauw? He is an investigative journalist who was the first to report on Apartheid South Africa's death squads, together with Max du Preez, whose progressive newspaper Vrye Weekblad was sued into bankruptcy by the government at the time. These were and are people with a thorough in-depth knowledge of the area (southern Africa) and their integrity is beyond dispute.
 
Of course there is merit to a class analysis against the background of the fight between capitalism and communism. Yes, Chris Hani (Communist) was assasinated, if not by the ANC itself than at least with its permission. South Africa may not have betrayed the Freedom Charter if he would have lived. Yes, during Apartheid, no South Africa plane would leave from any basis in southern Africa without CIA permission. Yes the CIA kept Apartheid longer in place in South Africa than it might have been, but there is also much more to the story than the fight between Capitalism and Communism.
 
Such class analysis is too blunt an instrument. My guess is, from what I have heard from friends and colleagues living in Zimbabwe and the Diaspora, that something very similar has been happening in Zimbabwe: addiction to wealth and power, corruption of the leader and the clique around the leader keeping him in power for their own purposes: the President's Keepers might very well also be the story of Zimbabwe. Many South Africans are watching carefully now and the fact that a breakthrough had to come from the army might not have been a surprise: there may not have been another way for the will of the people to have been heard and followed through.
 
- My criticism remains: too much weight given to ideological and structural factors. Too little fine grained consideration for what actually happened, between people for personal reasons. I met one of Mugabe's speech writers, from the early days. She loved his mind, he was one of the great independent thinkers then. He is not the man now he was then. I stand by my first reply: ...."because of the structural exploitation of the global south in this globalising economic dispensation that is grounded in savage capitalism, leaders like Mugabe have not been taken out by their own people earlier. It is not only the blood he has on his hands, but the manipulation of the political process. This coup is supported by the people, as I have heard it, the mandate of heaven has been revoked." Mugabe has been propped up, like Zuma has been propped up and at the same time, because they represent for many Africans: independence, dignity and freedom, they have been given too much space to do their harm.