Sunday, February 22, 2004
Zimwatch: Even the Communists agree...

The South African Communist Party undertook a fact finding mission recently to Zimbabwe and concluded that ZANU-PF was avoiding talks with its opposition, the MDC. As revolutionaries first and democrats second, the ANC assumed that a one-party post-colonial government representing all aspects of society ensured progress unless misgovernment or corruption diverted them from their ideological task. Then, oppositional (presumably counter-revolutionary) forces would emerge:

While land redistribution was "very central to consolidating the Zimbabwean independence struggle, a lawless, populist-inspired land grab by an elite in the inner circles of government is a cruel caricature of the kind of land reform that the rural poor of Zimbabwe (and South Africa) so desperately require", the SACP said.

"The 'fast-track' land reform in Zimbabwe has left hundreds of thousands of the poorest of farm workers displaced and without work," it said. The SACP said the ANC regarded the MDC as a creature of Zanu PF's "mistakes and stagnation".

ZANU-PF has demonstrated, like the Chinese in 1989 and the Mullarchy in 2004, that if a regime is willing to use violence to maintain power, the civil society and democratic protest are insufficient to propel regime change. The MDC has been unable to convert its electoral base or mass action into a movement that will overthrow Mugabe.

Mugabe celebrated his eightieth birthday yesterday and, after the obligatory reference to assassination (preserving his image as a paranoid Big Man), stated that he would retire by 85, coincidentally the age when his presidential term runs out. As the internal opposition in Zimbabwe has been unable to achieve this through the ballot box, only death, foreign pressure or a violent change of leadership/regime will dislodge Mugabe.

There is no indication that a successor regime in Zimbabwe would prove equal to the task. ZANU_PF is a broad church, and the moderate wing could be enticed into a national government with the MDC, but the kleptocratic elites, now extremist, would overthrow the constitutional facade to maintain power. The future of Zimbabwe may be the militarised dictatorship seen across the continent or, more happily, a ZANU-PF/MDC alliance.

(18.05, 22nd February 2004)


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