[DEBATE] : Zimbabwe: talking up a revolution
hypercube at telkomsa.net
Fri Mar 23 21:16:10 GMT 2007
This article, just like the ones that it criticises, does not mention the
ZCTU stayaway called for 3rd and 4th April (Tuesday and Wednesday of Easter
Week) and its associated demands, at all.
So really it is a case of one smart-Aleck (Chandler) taking pot-shots at a
bunch of people who to a fairly large extent are trying to grandstand around
in front of a strike call in which they had no part, and at the same time to
hide it from view.
The strike call and demands came in the ZCTU "communique" of 24th February,
in other words one month ago. Not only are the demands clear - I hope you
have them by now - but also the stayaway tactic is projected forward as
being a three-monthly drumbeat until the demands are met.
Chandler has gone galloping off after the MDC in exactly the fashion that
they want him to. It makes no difference whether he is praising them or
slagging them off (and by the way he omits to mention that Gift Tandare died
on March 11th). What matters to these self-publicists and literary
gladiators, including this Chandler, is that they have taken the spotlight
away from a serious piece of action by the ZCTU.
Whether the action will succeed or not we can't say yet. In my opinion the
communique has had a big effect already, but it is going to be difficult to
follow right through, of course. It will help if people pay attention and
don't get into some other argy-bargy like this Chandler has done.
Discussions I have had with various people lead me to believe that the
Imperialists are determined to isolate the ZCTU and deny it the solidarity
of the MDC. There is a spurious argument you hear, time and again, that goes
something like: "We can't let the regime say that ZCTU and MDC are the same
thing" (and therefore we can't come out in support). Somebody is feeding
people this hogwash.
Only today, at last, during Arthur Mutambara's remarks at the COSATU House
seminar, did any MDC person say (as he did) "we back the strike" (on 3-4
April). Let's see if the media report it, shall we?
Meanwhile, somebody ought to tell Mr Chandler about the general strike in
Zimbabwe on 3-4 April.
From: debate-bounces at lists.kabissa.org
[mailto:debate-bounces at lists.kabissa.org]On Behalf Of Russell Grinker
Sent: 23 March 2007 08:48 PM
To: 'debate: SA discussion list '
Subject: [DEBATE] : Zimbabwe: talking up a revolution
Thursday 22 March 2007
Zimbabwe: talking up a revolution
Western governments are using the myth of a strong internal opposition to
Mugabe's regime to conceal their own weakness.
Recent media coverage of events in Zimbabwe suggests that popular opposition
to Mugabe's regime is on the rise and that Mugabe is only holding on to
power through the use of media censorship and police repression. The sense
of popular resistance and repression seems to have been captured by the
worldwide coverage of the injuries received by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), when dozens of opposition leaders
were beaten by security forces on their way to a prayer rally two weeks ago.
The Independent's special correspondent declares that Mugabe 'is preparing
to declare a state of emergency to try to keep control of the country' and
quotes an MDC youth organiser declaring that 'the revolution has begun' (1).
The Observer's Andrew Meldrum (reporting from Johannesburg) goes further,
arguing that 'an unofficial state of emergency has been imposed on
Zimbabwe'. The feature is headlined '"Emergency law" on streets as Mugabe
bids to cling on'. Yet the picture of mass protest, with the caption that it
'shows how much support the MDC could mass', is from 2005 (2).
Where Western journalists see revolution, it appears that on the ground in
Zimbabwe the picture is more one of disillusionment and resignation. David
Coltart, an MDC MP and Zimbabwe shadow justice minister, doubts whether the
opposition could mobilise large-scale protests: 'For all the publicity of
the past week, the fact remains that the opposition hasn't been able to
mobilise tens of thousands of people which is partly to do with fear, partly
to do with divisions in the opposition and partly to do with a shocking lack
of information for ordinary people about what is going on.' (3)
Rather than mobilising the masses, the leadership of the MDC are calling on
the ruling Zanu-PF party to lead reform and hope that international pressure
might persuade Mugabe to enter a power-sharing agreement (4). Not only are
the opposition divided and lacking popular credibility, even the ruling
Zanu-PF party has lost much of its legitimacy and relies on Mugabe as its
figurehead. According to Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African
Society: 'The party is so divided, it's difficult to see who could remove
the old man.' It's clear that Dowden thinks that the loose talk of
revolution in the press has little relation to Zimbabwean reality: 'I don't
think things have changed so dramatically that you can talk about the
government being toppled.' (5)
Western states are happy to patronise the MDC opposition and have been
pressurising Zimbabwe's neighbours to condemn the regime yet, despite the
talk of the imposition of a state of emergency, there has been no
international outcry to match that which followed Mugabe's policy of forced
land seizures in 1990. The Independent argues that 'Britain will try high
risk diplomacy' to deal with Mugabe. This refers to demands by Tony Blair
and the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, that the Human Rights Council
of the United Nations sends a team of investigators into Zimbabwe to gather
evidence on the ground about the brutality of Mugabe's regime (6). This is
not 'high risk diplomacy'. This is no risk diplomacy.
In fact, the general consensus is that Britain can do very little and that
inaction is the best approach. Even the Observer editorialises that: 'Our
verbal attacks have made him stronger.' (7) Margaret Beckett would seem to
agree that British meddling would make things worse: 'I am sorry to say that
in many parts of Africa, Mugabe is viewed as a kind of hero of the
revolution, and if it comes to a choice between the hero of the revolution
and the colonial oppressor, they know whose side to be on.' (8)
Even the most radical interventionist voices seem muted. David Aaronovitch
has been reduced to appealing to the moral conscience of his former activist
colleague, Aziz Pahad, now the deputy foreign minister of South Africa.
Aaronovitch isn't calling for Britain or the US to intervene but for the
South African government to help in the 'liberation' of Zimbabweans (9). The
unease of liberal commentators is matched by the lack of public protest,
best illustrated when around ten people staged a non-violent sit-in protest
at the Zimbabwean embassy in London on Wednesday (10).
Rather than international outcry, there is an embarrassing silence over
Zimbabwe. It appears that the UK and other Western governments feel much
happier helping African states than condemning them. A lot has changed since
the international outcry against the land seizures of the early 1990s. In
the late 1980s and early 1990s, despite the diplomatic outcry, little
practical action was expected of Western states beyond diplomatic isolation,
trade sanctions and select travel bans.
Today, when Western states have signed up to a more interventionist
framework of 'the responsibility to protect', and waged war for 'regime
change', governments have less freedom to practice the rhetorical
condemnations of 'ethical foreign policy'. Even rhetorical condemnation is
embarrassing for governments such as the US and the UK. Not, as Margaret
Beckett argues, because this may help Mugabe's anti-imperialist reputation
but because the question is then raised of what action the government will
take to follow up on the rhetoric. It is partly in response to this
embarrassment that Western leaders are keen to talk up the strength of the
opposition forces within Zimbabwe and the role of neighbouring states.
David Chandler is professor of international relations in the Centre for the
Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster. His latest book is
Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building (buy this book from Amazon
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