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Home >> Politics
The Politics of Bitterness: Understanding the Zimbabwean Political Crisis, 1980-2005

Norman Mlambo (Ph.D.)

Dr Norman Mlambo is Head of the Peace, Security and Governance Unit at Africa Institute of South Africa. He is also the editor of the book: Violent Conflicts, Fragile Peace: Perspectives on Africa’s Security Problems” (March 2007, Adonis & Abbey Publishers).

, and has even prayed to God for Mugabe’s death. In August 2005, the Anglican Church even decided to put its Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga on trial, to answer political charges based on allegations by political activists aligned to the MDC. Fortunately the Church appointed Malawian judge, James Kalaile, refused to hear the case.[xxvii] There is clearly a need for the church in Zimbabwe to regain the moral high ground by advocating for dialogue rather than joining one side of the political fray.

Another mistake by the church has been the call for sanctions against Zimbabwe, a call led by Roman Catholic bishops.[xxviii] This has reduced the availability of food, medicines and petroleum products, starving the Zimbabwean masses in the process. In Africa, hunger seldom triggers democratic uprisings. Often, hunger drives Africans back to the land[xxix] where they can practice survival of the fittest tactics. No wonder why a 2004 international political survey[xxx] found that 60 percent of Zimbabweans had lost interest in political change between 1999 and 2004, they were too busy trying to survive under sanctions.
The Roman Catholic bishops certainly got the sanctions issue on Zimbabwe wrong and this disqualifies them from playing the role of peace broker. In any case, the majority of Zimbabwean Christians are not Catholics, most follow the emerging Pentecostal churches such as the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA), Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), Johanne Masowe, Guta ra Jehovha (GRJ), Zion City Church (ZCC), and the United Church of Christ (UCC). There are also a lot of Methodist and Anglican Church followers, and very few of them are in favour of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

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The Media as Weapons of Mass Deception
The media is not simply observing and recording events as they unfold in Zimbabwe, the media is at the center of the Zimbabwean crisis.[xxxii] The state controlled media has done all it can to rubbish the opposition, the international community and all dissenting voices. On the other hand, the private media and sections of the international media including the South African media have laboured to present Mugabe as the devil incarnate. The situation is so bad that on any significant event that happens in Zimbabwe, one can closely forecast what the main news providers would say. Add to that the alleged harassment and torture of journalists by state security agents in Zimbabwe and the fabrication of stories by the private and international media, and it is clear that the media has become the psychological warfare department of the Zimbabwean crisis.
The media in Zimbabwe is so much polarized and divided along the same political fault lines that separate Zimbabwean society. Every media organization in Zimbabwe is either pro Mugabe or anti Mugabe. There is no neutral ground despite the many pretensions by some that they are independent, and this includes regional and international media organizations especially the South African media. Every activity in Zimbabwe is interpreted by the “independent” media as a Mugabe activity, as if the 12 million ordinary men, women children and the aged of Zimbabwe have no individual existence of their own.

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View Comments
Date:Feb 13, 2013
There's another potiilcal compass on t'internet that is even simpler. The two axes are very similar to yours but are labelled differently. The horizontal is for economic' and the vertical is for 'social' and the values range between authoritarian' and libertarian'.

Date:Jan 31, 2013
You saved me a lot of hsasle just now.

Date:Jan 31, 2013
Hello BiancaJennifer Yeo Gilmore told me about your awesome fuensairdr idea for Zimbabwe with the mini photo shoots- I would love to see if our schedules could workout so that we could participate. We will be traveling a lot in September but our little boy turns 1 yr on Sept 3 (Fri) and I would LOVE to commemorate this milestone with a professional portrait session. Please let me know if you have a session in late Aug or very early Sept.My email is Thank you so muchGabrielle Rysenga

Date:Jan 21, 2013
China's role in Africa would be just business no coontiidns. Completely amoral and utterly typical of China Big Business generally and other nations.I am not China Bashing China and other countries are aided and abetted by totally self-interested and corrupt business interests such as Goldman Sachs and others. Many of these American companies are quite happy to take part in the most revolting exploitation of other human beings.China's coal industry is amonst the most dangerous in the world envromental destruction in China is extreme. China may have some poor people (yes I know the statistics better than most) but she is not a developing nation. I believe tha as long as Chinese investments and co-operative endeavours in Africa are carried out in a fair and mutually benificial manner then there will be no problem. This has a political dimension. Just as Gadaffi effectively stole the oil wealth of his people and enriched himself like Saddam Hussein Robert Mugabe and many other despote dictatorial regimes in Africa then there is a problem.It is difficult to do business with wicked regimes they plunder the wealth of their nations enrich theselvesChina is not on its own here. Many other nations have behaved in a totally wicked and disgusting way. The US UK and Australia included. China is no different and as in most things far more efficient patient farsighted and intelligent. They usually are.Their regular and morally bankrupt use of the UN veto effectively prevents the efforts of responsible nations to try and prevent egregious human rights abuses.China has no morality and is prepared to support grossly evil human rights abusers to get what it wants.The money they spend generally does not benefit the people oh sure some roads might get built but the wealth is locked down by regimes like Mugabes or the Sudanese.This is a complex issue it is not a succes story. China is pursuing its national interest (setting aside any consideration of the legitimacy of its leadership)nations have a right to do this. US companies have ruthlessly exploited for example South American countries overturned rightful governments (like Savador Allende's september 11 1971)Africa generally does NOT benefit much from FOREIGN AID even when freely given and not tied aid. It benefits less from Investment by other countries China is as ruthless in getting what it wants as any other nation possible more so as their leader said just business no coontiidns even the evil rightist capitalist roaders now seem to have some limits these days and try until vetoed by China to prevent for example arms sales to people like Gadafi adn the Sudanese genocidal regime. (Oh I'm fully aware the US has had a disgusting record here for example giving the Indonesian regime a list of many many thousand people for extermnination when Soeharto came to power and giving them the go-ahead to invade Timor)The difference is for this writer that the deaths and suffering of people matter be they China's coal miners China's AIDS victims China's war dead at the hands of a wicked Japanese army of occupation the incredible suffereing meted out to the victims of Ishis Unit 731 the American poor victims of oppression the Soviet pipeline disaster of 1982 caused by CIA sabotaged software (yes yes I know they ain't seen nothing yet)China has an opportunity like no other the world has seen. I am completely against their government but I give them 101% for vision patience far sightedness. The US and the West has not a snowflakes chance in hell of not being comprehensively beaten on every front that matters the have truly and completely bought the rope that they will be hung with I doubt they will even get off meaningful retalisation if it ever came to it but it won't. They have been comprehensively and totally outplayed aided and abetted by their own greed and a large number of useful idiots. China will have the resources of Africa sewn up locked down and the African's will not significantly benefit their resources will be sold offshore all the key indicators of national well being will not change significantly until there are governments in Africa that spend the money on education and health nothing will change.The South Africans totally mismanaged the economic transition when the ANC came to power it is totally improbable almost inconceivable that the African countries which are very badly governed (Ghana Nigeria & Kenya probably the better ones in indices of human well being) will be able to manage their resources and the billions they are paid for it by China very well.Personally I believe that people risking their lives in dangerous work should be paid more than a dollar an hour any idea what happens when they try and protest about terrible or unsafe coontiidns in Africa (and China for that matter)? I do.

Date:Nov 20, 2012
I've been searching arnuod on progressive sites like Common Dreams and Rabble and it's really despairing to see Mugabe apologist perspectives so vigorously defended. There aren't actually many of them but the know that what they believe is right they are relentless and they are vocal. In some cases I think they are simply trying to play devil's advocate (which I think is horribly misguided in this case) but some of them especially Marxist- Leninists and probably Trotskyites still see Mugabe as a hero of some kind. As if "left-wing" strongmen can't be as evil as those of the right-wing persuasion. That is if Mugabe's left credentials are even still in tact which I would suggest they are not and have not been for a long time.Of course it doesn't help that there are some who say colonial rule should never have ended. That's not true either and it just eggs the Mugabe apologists on. It would be nice if we could have discussions where we focus on what Zimbabwe needs right now.

Date:Nov 20, 2012
As far as Zizek is concerned rmemeber that heas a Slovene academic personally experienced the early stages of Yugoslavia's implosion and that the entire war has a significant impact on his political writings. In 1995 he offered this astute summation of what happened: not primordial ethnic barbarism but "the survival of the old power structure(the communist bureaucracy the federal army) in Serbia and Montenegro: it succeeded in prolonging its domination by putting on nationalist clothes." (Zizek "Caught in Another's Dream in Bosnia").I am always wary of exact comparisons but there is a recognisably similar and macabre rebranding ofm power going in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has been rotten for a long time - he was guilty of a genocide in the early 80s - and as time has moved on so his contempt for legitimacy has grown. It is this mutation of power - "l'e9tat c'est moi" - which lies at the heart of Zimbabwe's crisis. In many ways this is why there is a doctrine of liberal interventionism. Whether or not Zizek identifies with it is perhaps besides the point: if solidarity is the defining value of the left then this is something which needs to be front and centre.

Date:Sep 10, 2011
What an awesome way to eplxian this-now I know everything!

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