Sunday, April 27, 2008
“The history of Zimbabwe has deep personal meaning for me and many activist of my generation. When Zimbabwe was liberated in 1980 and ZANU installed as the new governing party I was a young activist in the Eastern Cape. The liberation of Zimbabwe was a source of inspiration to me and many others - it inspired us to double our efforts to defeat apartheid. More importantly the wave of decolonisation that swept through Africa particularly the liberation of Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe proved to us that the enemy could be defeated. The liberation of Zimbabwe also dramatically altered the balance of power in the region and denied the then apartheid regime an erstwhile partner in the form of Ian Smith and opened a new front for the South African liberation movement.
…“Due to the historical ties between ZANU-PF and the South African liberation movement, COSATU instinctively is biased towards ZANU. The leadership of ZANU and FRELIMO defied the apartheid government by openly supporting the liberation movement. We owe our liberation to the sacrifices that were made by these governments. It is no secret that South Africa destabilised these countries and its western allies also ostracised these progressive governments. Zimbabwe paid a heavy price for supporting the liberation movement - sanctions, economic exclusion and sabotage, and direct military attacks. All these actions were taken to intimidate the leadership of these countries to withdraw their support for the ANC but admirably stood their ground. Against this background, I am jealous about the direction and future of Zimbabwe and the rest of the region.” Statement by Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of the South African trade union COSATU in 2001. COSATU is a close ally to the ruling ANC, which whom it fought along side in the liberation war of South Africa's black majority. In this fight, certain Southern African neighbours and liberation movements openly supported the ANC and COSATU, including Zimbabwe’s ZANU (led by president Robert Mugabe), Namibia’s SWAPO and Mozambique’s FRELIMO.
I am not a Zimbabwean and have never even been to the Motherland. Yet if ZANU-PF never has a democratic election, Africans should not press the issue. Democracy does not put food on the table or money in the bank, unless you are a candidate with a campaign chest. In fact, the democratic ideal gets used by Imperialists to suit their needs. After Haiti elected Aristide in democratic elections, America abducted him, and sent him into political exile in Central Africa. Nobody in America has raised much hell about that except Randall Robinson. America has overthrown republics from Mossadegh in 1956 Iran to Saddam Hussein in 2003 Irak.
Therefore, it is cowardly for Black people in America to join the fray against Mugabe and ZANU-PF, or to spectate from the sidelines. While we may pretend to have democracy in America, it comes without security, protection and guarantees which in reality keep us only a few steps and turns from an open police State. Blacks comprise 1/3rd of the prison population here. The drop out rate for our high schoolers is greater than the graduation rate. Our community suffers from epidemiological (disease) afflictions at a higher rate than white people. Many of us think we have it made because a burgeoning black middle class has escaped the ghetto and commutes in every Sunday to show off. But freedom and unity have always defined Blackness, at least in the context of Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah. Internationalist unity and liberation have been part of how we have defined the notion of Black Power.
Then, in 1980, when Zimbabweans obtained their freedom in a way that the rest of the African world has only dreamt of, any brother who had ever been stopped by a cop just because could feel the importance of this act. Any sister who had ever been humiliated by the white system or by a white man had to be proud of Zimbabwe. Any Black person who ever felt the claws of discrimination sink into his/her flesh, had to slake his or her thirst with this victory. From Garveyites to African Internationalists, if you had any kind of African warrior blood in you at all, no matter where you lived in the World, you had to be proud of what people accomplished in Zimbabwe. For African Americans and our vicarious sense of justice, ZANU’s victory over racist Rhodesia is still more potent and more relevant than any victory that we ever had in North America.
What ZANU did was better than vanquishing the Klan and the lynch mobs forever. ZANU like smashed and removed the racist government which provided cover for racist society. ZANU justified Black aspirations to be free from slavery and colonialism on thru the present system of neo-colonialism. This is what ZANU represents even to this hour, despite internal contradictions and its half-stepping domestic policies. Twenty-eight years down the road, the historic role that Zimbabwe has played in the security of Southern Africa outweighs the combined contribution of the world’s political systems to the abstraction we call democracy. Democracy doesn’t stop the pigs from gunning down Sean Bell on his wedding day; democracy doesn’t return the tax monies which for decades were gerrymandered by politicians cutting up the Black community. American democracy is racist, delusional, and ain’t gonna help us until we uplift Africa. Which doesn’t mean that we still don’t stop working for it. But we maintain a reasonable stance and take into consideration what it means for Africans.
Robert Mugabe leads the staunchest revolutionary state in African history. In fact, Zimbabwe stands ahead of Cuba in terms of its revolutionary accomplishments. ZANU defeated apartheid Rhodesia; it stepped up as a Frontline State providing freedom fighters with rear bases and other support for the fight against South African apartheid; Zimbabwe rendered assistance to FRELIMO against SADF and Renamo in Mozambique, and helped quell violence in Central Africa. Zimbabwe has been like a panther fighting on its back with all fours against Imperialism. Right now, it is running out of allies. Black Americans need to get moving in a way that shows unwavering support of the Zimbabwean masses. We need to defend the African land question and work for a way to settle this electoral crisis. We need to defeat the racist, colonial onslaught which seeks to undermine the government there. And we need to offer material support to ZANU-PF for its ongoing contributions towards African liberation.
Pamberi ne Chimurenga
Over the past 10 years, American and European governments cynically transformed Mugabe’s Zimbabwe into the West’s whipping boy in Africa, the state they love to hate, a country against which they can enforce tough sanctions to demonstrate their seriousness about standing up to ‘evil’. The West has imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, warned off foreign investors, denied Zimbabwean officials the right to travel freely around the world, demonised Mugabe as an ‘evil dictator’, discussed the idea of military action against Zimbabwe, and used moral and financial blackmail to cajole South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki to ‘deal with’ Mugabe. So says Brendan O’Neill, editor of spiked.
In a bourgeois democracy, the rights of any historically oppressed group will be preserved so long as they remain subject to ruling class requirements. The right-wing and its ne(gr)o-colonial constituency democratically ousted Julian Bond and Cynthia McKinney from Congress, venerable freedom fighters, right here in the USA. Don’t forget how the Florida state police stopped Black folks from voting in the 2000 election. Zimbabwean elections are far from our problems. So before Africans fall behind the White Left to demand Mugabe’s resignation, Mugabe’s machine gun presidency has served Africa far better than Bush, Clinton and the next White House bastard, too. So much as I admire Marvin X, his poem expresses a cynical, off-base sentiment for any genuine African Internationalist. Perhaps he continues to hold onto old grudges which have never been settled from the Sixties and Seventies; perhaps he has lost his compass in the heavy seas of Imperialism.
I also question Bill Fletcher’s thought process in The Black Commentator, since I hardly feel any form of inclusivity in his “we”, which is little more than the too-polite black-skinned wing of the White Left rather than the militant soul of the Black Liberation Movement. Portside, giving its stamp of approval by publishing the article, seems as racist as neo-liberalism can get; it’s not even going to admit that a Black Liberation Struggle continues inside Africa, let alone in the Ghetto. Bill Fletcher can publish his mild-mannered critique there because his self-flagellating national suicide is even more neo-colonial than Barack Obama’s. I am not that African American involved in any of his cotton candy discussions. I am the rabid pit bull keeping equivocators out of Yard. Bill Fletcher did not alone make the mistake of believing reports about ZAPU in the period prior to the negotiated settlement. G.C. Horne testifies for many of us, blogging, “Unlike some, I did not support Mugabe’s party - ZANU - back in the day but the opposing party, ZAPU. …ZANU was unique in that it was the only liberation movement not characterized as ‘Soviet-backed’ that emerged triumphant in the region. ZANU was backed by China and by Black Nationalists on these shores.” So history turned out differently than our expectations then. Thirty years later, time to get over it.
Then, Horne’s criticism of Fletcher’s stance offers more clarity, saying, “Some of us justly wonder why Zimbabwe is targeted when, as we speak, Paul Biya of Cameroon…is seeking to change the Constitution to make himself President-for-Life: where’s the outcry? Neighboring Nigeria had elections a scant year ago that make those of Zimbabwe seem a model of democracy by comparison: where’s the outcry? The human rights situation in Swaziland makes Zimbabwe seem like Finland by way of comparison: where’s the outcry. Omar Bongo of Gabon has served in office much, much longer than Mugabe, has repressed unions, opposition parties--and has close connections with the U.S. besides: where’s the outcry? “…[s]uch a situation reeks of racism, of course and may account for the lack of outcry on Zimbabwe that Fletcher perceives within Black America,” Horne observes.
Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF remain giants in the African Liberation Struggle. Unless you’ve been in an uprising or a rebellion (I’ve led at least one right here in North America) do not marginalize his contribution to Black Political Power thru the security of Southern Africa. Let me tell you what I kno from heart, which makes Mugabe relevant beyond his sins and pitfalls around the democratic process.
The Real Danger to Zimbabweans
Let’s be straight clear from the gate, Zimbabwe’s twilight zone is shared by all of Africa. The 400% inflation is not something manufactured by Mugabe’s tenure in office, his party’s policies or anything other than the relationship of Africa to Imperialism. Zimbabwe’s efforts to stop the war in Central Africa drained millions from her economy, something which Imperialism conveniently fails to remember. That’s why anybody who knows anything about International Finance Capitalism, the IMF/World Bank or Zimbabwe’s relationship to HJ Heinz Corporation, might take the Jamaica Gleaner article (I provided the link) and wipe the anterior aspect of their anatomy with it.
Zimbabwe’s entire history has been at the sacrifice of her own selfish interests for the security of Southern Africa. The fact that she did build a strong economy in the 1980s - while fighting wars on multiple fronts - testifies to the determination and principled stance of the African masses. Zimbabwe’s importance to African freedom far surpasses any inexpert handling of its transitory relations with white farmers or fumbled election results.
Given the warnings by Imperialism, Zimbabwe may soon have to face a period of destabilization similar to what Africans underwent in Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Mozambique, Uganda, South-Central Los Angeles, Jena, and other hotspots of the Motherland. It is at this juncture that Bill Fletcher’s criticisms of ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe lose any maturity, clarity or credibility, given the historical background of that political force and its protracted relationship to what may be termed the African Liberation Struggle. African democracy and development lag fifty years behind America. No outcry for democracy pealed from America during the colonial period. Nobody screamed for Africa to have a vote. Africans need material development and freedom from Imperialism. The two values which a liberated Zimbabwe has preserved over 30 years or so include a fighting spirit and economic stability.
Destabilizing Southern Africa has been a long term goal of Imperialism. Those who can stretch their minds back to that instant of Zimbabwean independence may also recall how the reactionaries ridiculed even the name Zimbabwe, threatening everything possible to bring down the revolution. US ideologues defended white settlers there as tho they had sprung from African soil. When America sent mercenaries to destabilize Angola, Ronald Reagan called Jonas Savimbi a freedom fighter. Joshua Nkomo did his dirt in Zimbabwe. Events may have been more nuanced than that, in someone’s delusion. Reactionaries destroyed the Soviet Union; they intend on eroding any gains in Southern Africa.
Southern Africa Battlefronts
During the 1970s liberation war, ZANU waged armed struggle against the Rhodesian settlers’ Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) because the racist, unprincipled British colonial government washed its hands of the situation, anticipating the UDI to become Rhodesia’s Isandhlwana. Treating the settler issue in Southern Africa as tho white people were autochthonous, Imperialism supposed the UDI had a principled starting point for solving the land question. At the same time, ZANU assisted their FRELIMO comrades in Mozambique against Portuguese colonialism. Portugal had lost control of the situation, simultaneously having to wage warfare on three African battle fronts, and struggling to preserve a democracy at home. Portugal itself soon became a formal fascist government under Salazar, deploying NATO weapons and the most insidious black operations against poor African peasants. In Return to the Source, Amilcar Cabral documents how the small PAIGC anti-colonial movement confronted this vicious spectacle in Guinea-Bissau, capturing NATO-issued munitions that Portugal had used against villagers.
As the legendary Field Marshal Samora Machel took leadership rein over FRELIMO fighters in Mozambique, the UDI increasingly sent Renamo to destabilize Tete Province to the effect that ZANU guerillas (ZANLA) had to simultaneously fight Renamo and the Rhodesian Selous Scouts to defend rear bases provided to them by FRELIMO. It is necessary to give some background on the grave conditions dictating political circumstances in Southern Africa. The counterinsurgency group Renamo was formed under Rhodesia’s murdering racist Selous Scouts, infiltrating Mozambique’s Tete Province to terrorize peasants and strip material support away from FRELIMO and ZANU. After the Ian Smith UDI apartheid-regime collapsed before ZANLA freedom fighters, Renamo was then transferred to the SADF command. So now how did Renamo function? Choppered in from Malawi by South African Defense Forces, Renamo terrorists invaded villages, destroyed food stores, killed livestock, mined fields, raped women, and mutilated people by hacking off hands, feet, lips, buttocks, whatever. Renamo had no self-led objectives of its own until after the death of Samora Machel, when the international community cried out against their very existence. Suddenly, the South African regime began selecting counterinsurgents for leadership.
Now while the American newspapers had always published ZAPU’s impressive press releases, which reported ZANU’s battlefield successes as its own, ZAPU therefore had little leverage during the negotiated settlement. After the power transfer, Nkomo’s ZAPU took to the field and created more problems for Harare than they ever had for Salisbury. Southern Africa promised to dissolve into a hot mess as Renamo continued to destabilize Mozambique’s remote areas. Savimbi’s UNITA stirred carnage in Angola, eventually inviting the racist, apartheid SADF to invade Cuito-Cuanavale. Both UNITA and ZAPU were Chinese-backed and made for havoc. China has been destabilizing Africa since the death of Mao.Nevertheless, ZANU-PF maintained the tradition of destroying Renamo inside of Mozambique years later, as a gesture of revolutionary unity. Yet Renamo had the last cruel laugh. The SADF clandestinely brought down a Soviet aircraft carrying Samora Machel in 1986, killing the revolutionary leader inside South African territory on his return from a critical tri-partite summit in Tanzania, held to solve the Renamo problem.
ZANU Fights Ongoing Genocidal Imperialism
ZAPU had not played the vicious, counterrevolutionary role of Renamo or UNITA, but it had played a devil’s advocacy in Zimbabwe’s internal development, until it merged with ZANU in 1987. Imperialism’s all racist invective has infected black people in America against anything in Africa. I kno professors from Zimbabwe who hate Mugabe. They will side with anybody to depose him. During the 70s liberation war, Joshua Nkomo sat on his thumbs until ZANU came to power. After the negotiated settlement and up until he was ousted from the cabinet, Nkomo-led ZAPU’s contention for power had delayed the political stabilization process. This state of affairs grinded thru the 1980s, and prevented Zimbabwe from contributing a greater share towards assisting Angola’s hard, uphill fight against the combined military forces of UNITA, alongside South Africa and Southwest Africa. Angola led this war against the invasion on its territory, with the military assistance of Cuba, adding liberation forces from AZAPO, PAC-A, ANC and the Namibian liberation movement, SWAPO. Imperialism has made a huge issue of ZANU-PF’s desire to make settlers unass land they have historically stolen from Africans, and turn it over to war vets. Imperialism must not be given any legitimate claims to Africa. Concomitantly, the US congress has passed laws to return land taken from Cuban exiles following the Revolution led by Fidel and Che. If crackers can have it both ways, so can ZANU-PF.
A small anti-colonial fighting formation, ZANU-PF was poor, like all the African liberation movements, but it successfully fought wars on multiple fronts. Under Mugabe’s leadership ZANU-PF unselfishly assisted black revolutionary struggle in Mozambique and Azania. After coming to power, only Zimbabwe and Tanzania consistently helped Mozambique fight against the SADF-guided Renamo counter insurgency.Carrying out an outstanding policy under difficult circumstances, ZANU-PF did not allow its 1981 arrangement with HJ Heinz to derail its responsibility to the Black Revolution. Having cut the best deal for itself despite the fears of many onlookers, Zimbabwe at one time had the strongest economy in black Africa. It led many Third World countries in food exports and food surpluses when other African countries were importing maize, soy and other goods. Heinz’s Zimbabwe agricultural sector outperformed all its other overseas holdings combined, look up the portfolio. However, the Imperialists have steadily eroded those gains. Imperialist violence on Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (the “former” Frontline States) has led to the desertification of Southern Africa, and climate change. Neither South Africa, the ANC’s Jacob Zuma nor Nelson Mandela carry the historical leadership mantel in Southern Africa. Only one republic is ideologically strong enuf to provide security in the region over the long term; even if its democratic style seems suspect. Hands down, that country is Zimbabwe, under Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF leadership.
Neither Angola nor Namibia will leave Zimbabwe whistling in the dark should the “shoot-to-kill” SA pres Zuma formulate a policy which backstabs Harare after supporting ANC’s struggle against apartheid rule. Zuma may be that stupid and treacherous, risking his neck in Soweto. If the Congressional Black Caucus steps up to the plate by intervening in this affair, hopefully, the African street will violently oppose all such betrayals. The African Union will respect the Southern Africa Development Community to solve this issue, and Zimbabwe will determine its own future. But even with his hands tied, Robert Mugabe is a giant. When the Imperialists destabilized Central Africa, Zimbabwe was one country that moved decisively to stabilize the situation. However, the forces of Imperialism militated against immediate success during that period, playing the ambitions of its client states (Zambia, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) against African interests. How people interpret this period informs us point about who is who and what is what in Africa, and America.
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe has contributed far greater revolutionary sustenance to African liberation than Kwame Nkrumah ever dreamt, tho we studiously uphold Nkrumah’s thought. Portside can call its Ivy League fact checkers or anybody else to do the research. Maybe they can prove me wrong because, like I sed, these are things I kno from heart, not from having just read the Jamaica Gleaner. Malcolm X once sed something to the effect that if the white man says north, I’m going south. And when it comes to Africa and Africans, I heed his advice. You won’t catch me behaving like a white man’s nigger! I kno better. Besides, nobody can make up my mind on Africa. I do it myself.
http://raceandhisto ry.com/selfnews/ viewnews. cgi?newsid120937 4454,66886, .shtml
Hands off Zimbabwe, Kaunda tells Brown
From Augustine Hwata in LUSAKA, Zambia
Monday, April 28, 2008
BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown is not qualified to comment on challenges facing Zimbabwe, let alone to call for more sanctions, founding Zambian president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has said. Dr Kaunda told Zambia's Post newspaper at the weekend that Brown lacked proper background information regarding Zimbabwe's problems and was not helpful towards finding a lasting solution to the current situation."It is sad for Prime Minister Brown to say what he said about the Zimbabwe situation," Dr Kaunda said while delivering a speech as a special guest to recipients of recognition awards from Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Embassy here last week.
"Brown does not understand what he is talking about. It is a sad thing that he said that (calling for more sanctions against Zimbabwe)," said the former president. Dr Kaunda said he had wanted to inform Brown on how the challenges facing Zimbabwe came about before the British premier had even replaced Tony Blair, but failed to get that opportunity.Dr Kaunda was at one time determined to travel to Britain to meet Brown, but did not do so on the advice of his doctors.
The former Zambian president, who turns 84 today, said Brown and the West should leave Zimbabwe alone so that it solves its own challenges, especially the political tension between Zanu-PF and the opposition. "I think people in Zimbabwe are trying to find a way out of their own problems by talking of a government of national unity."He urged the West to discard the belief that they were the best to prescribe solutions for Africa's problems. "As usual, they want to tell what they think is right for us."
Dr Kaunda said calls by Brown for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe were misplaced and do little to solve the problems."Embargoing the defence forces is not the solution at all," said Dr Kaunda, adding that he wondered why the shipment of arms from China was being blocked when the order was placed last year.It was unfortunate that the consignment was now being linked to the post-election period and a stalemate over the result of the presidential election. Meanwhile, Zambian farmer and boxing promoter Mr Gevan Mumba has thrown his weight behind President Mugabe and the land reform programme.
Mr Mumba said Africans had a right to work on their land. "I own more than 80 hectares of prime land in the Mufulira area and have two streams that pass through my plot. I produce crops and feel empowered that I have something to call my own," he said. Unlike Zimbabwe, Mumba said Zambia does not have much pressure on land because it had a bigger geographical area and vast open areas against fewer people who wanted to farm.
"We are lucky that there is land available to Zambians who need it, unlike in Zimbabwe where the whites had most of the good areas. Because land is important, Britain, which does not have as much land, was pained when President Mugabe took some farms from their white relatives to redistribute to his people. "I know for sure that Britain and America want (Cde) Mugabe to go and replace him in office with someone they can control over Zimbabwe's land. The same thing happened in Iraq when Saddam (Hussein) was killed for his oil," Mr Mumba said.
http://www.herald. co.zw/inside. aspx?sectid= 33392&cat= 1
‘Zimbabwe will never be colony again’
By Sydney Kawadza
Friday, April 18, 2008
CHILDREN have a right to inherit a free and sovereign country and elders should not let them down by dropping their guard against imperialists, President Mugabe has said. Speaking at a Children’s Party hosted by the First Family during the annual commemorations of the 28th Anniversary of Independence at the City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday, President Mugabe said imperialist forces were finding their way into society to cause division among the people of Zimbabwe. "(They) are trying to divide our people to create a weak society, a state of weakness to impose neo-colonial rule in our country," he said.
Cde Mugabe said as long as he was still alive, he would not let the British or their Western allies colonise Zimbabwe again. “As long as I am still on this earth, as long as I am still breathing, the country shall never be a colony again. Never shall this country be a British colony again," he said.Cde Mugabe urged the children in the country to grow up knowing that the country has a history that led to the freedom enjoyed by all the people today.
"We want you to grow and develop in an environment of freedom (but) you should develop by knowing your history. Knowing your country’s past would also help you knowing its future. "You must also know the history of the struggle. Freedom did not come on a silver plate. Zimbabwe was once usurped by imperialists who seized it like robbers, but we got it back and we are proud to be Zimbabweans, not Rhodesians, Africans, not British. "We have our own cultures. We can borrow from other cultures, but not British. We must remain black and be proud to be black and hence our children should inherit a culture of being proud to be African," he said.
President Mugabe said Zimbabwean children should learn to inherit and develop good characters from their elders."You should show friendship, love for the poor and work to unite the people. You should also inherit from those with the right knowledge, correct skills that will help you to be better people and get an education to grow in terms of conduct and character," he said. President Mugabe said children should know that they do not have to start as leaders but should learn to follow others before they could become good leaders. "We want to see good leaders who would inherit Zimbabwe and ensure fair distribution of the country’s resources among the people. Good leaders must have good character, knowledge and good ideology.
"Move in circles of well-behaved people, respect your elders, your Government and be able to distinguish what is wrong or right so that you can also be distinguished from others. "If you develop a bad character, you would be damned and you would also be damned as a person, but a good character cannot be developed in a day. It should be developed in your homes and schools," he said. President Mugabe urged the children to shun bad company and develop good habits that can be built into a good character. “You should develop a good habit, a good habit that would develop into a good character for a good destiny," he said.
The party is an annual event held a day before the country’s independence celebrations and attended by children from the country’s 10 provinces.Traditional dancers, poets and local musical groups entertained the gathering.The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, led a number of dignitaries who graced the occasion including Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Obert Matshalaga, Information and Publicity Deputy Minister Cde Bright Matonga, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and many others.
When whites have their way
Whoever wins in the Zimbabwe election, the land question remains the burning for the whole of southern Africa,
Avers Gamal Nkrumah
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe embarrassed and confounded the forecasters. Not least was the shock of the vulnerability of a supposedly invincible African potentate. He was presumed to be the clear front-runner in the parliamentary and presidential polls of 29 March. Conventional wisdom holds that Mugabe should have won hands down. Is he not an African dictator and his wishes are his people's commands? How can the West reconcile the contrasting images of Mugabe the tyrant, with the leader who is contemplating bowing out gracefully? The transfer of power in Zimbabwe promises to be a most delicate matter.
The unedifying spectacle of an African potentate pleading for a re- run of the presidential poll, conceding his party's defeat in the parliamentary poll defies the tarnished image portrayed by Mugabe in the Western media. Mugabe is no monster.
Yes, in the following weeks he will be obliged to face a reality test of his own. He is nothing if not stubborn. And, in spite of his age, 85, he is a sprightly octogenarian. He has a steely will. He cares deeply and personally about the plight of the landless peasants of Zimbabwe whose forebearers were dispossessed of their land.
Enemies of Mugabe could not hope for a greater gift, but that is simply at first glance. His detractors cannot say that he is a rogue behaving badly and determined to stop democracy from overrunning his benighted land. And, not only did the opposition claim that he lost, but they also claimed that he rigged the vote. Yet, his party has emerged as the first party in power in all Africa to question the results of the National Electoral Commission and to charge it for undercounting votes cast for Mugabe. This twist of fortunes for a president is unprecedented in African politics.
It remains true that Zimbabwean voters were torn between two presidential candidates -- Mugabe and the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai. Yes, the MDC leader appears to have the upper hand at the moment, thanks to the deplorable state of the Zimbabwean economy that has been in a state of siege because of the biting British and international sanctions.
Whoever wins, Zimbabwean politics will continue to be bedeviled by the land question. This is not to say that things will stay much the same if and when Mugabe steps down from power. Land redistribution will remain an overriding worry.
"This is our soil and the soil must never go back to the whites," Mugabe was quoted as saying in the Zimbabwean Herald. Indeed, on Tuesday, the paper confirmed the government accusation that in certain constituencies there were 5,000 votes less for Mugabe. His supporters sounded the alarm bells. Zimbabwean police promptly arrested five electoral officials.
Democratisation in Zimbabwe can play into the hands of Western powers and this is what concerns Mugabe's supporters the most. These reservations are widely shared across the continent. Tsvangirai travelled to neighbouring South Africa to meet with the new leader of the governing African National Congress Jacob Zuma and to plot how to "remove the white-knuckle grip of Mugabe." Zuma, who in the past had criticised the courteous manner in which South African President Thabo Mbeki had dealt with Mugabe, had previously declared that he would adopt a tougher stance with respect to Mugabe.
If he wins Tsvangirai will have to come to grips with a complex challenge that relates to the image of Zimbabwe on the African continent. The country remained for decades a symbol of African struggle against European settler colonialism. True, that image has been eroded somewhat in the past few years, primarily because of bad publicity in the Western media. However, he will have to deal with the country's sense of itself as a virtuous nation, and this very self-image is inextricably intertwined with land reform. There is no road back.
There is plenty of time for mistakes and meltdowns. Tsvangirai is portrayed in the Western media as benevolent and well-intentioned, and that he may well be. If in fact he wins outright, he will have a tricky balancing act. He will be beholden to the West for its many years of trying to incapacitate Mugabe, and will be expecting a pay- off. He will also be watched carefully by critics who will be fast to accuse him of being a stooge of Western interests. And all the time, there is the precarious economy looming over his shoulder, casting a shadow on all attempts to strike out in a new, more positive direction.
He may well find himself pushed towards the autocratic, paranoid style of governance which the West so loudly accused Mugabe of. Contrary to appearances, Tsvangirai's predicament is the mirror image of Mugabe's. Mugabe is in office, but no longer in power. Tsvangirai is in power but not yet in office. Making a good fist of this role is surely a demanding test for Tsvangirai.