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

By:
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).



[xl]

 
The thorny issue of Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth[xli] is already an international issue which threatened to split the Commonwealth on racial lines. The major cause of the Zimbabwean crisis, land reform, already involves the British government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Commonwealth and the African Union. The economic situation has been aggravated by economic sanctions by the European Union (EU), the USA, the rest of the donor community, the IMF and the World Bank. Therefore, the international community, rather than being just observers, some are actual players who have even initiated moves that have impacted on the Zimbabwean situation in most cases negatively.
 
For example, some Nordic countries like Denmark have already closed their embassies in Zimbabwe and have stopped economic cooperation and aid even to non-governmental organizations. Even international gay organizations took an anti Mugabe stance with Peter Tatchell, a British national, on the front line.[xlii] The British government has been at the center of the Zimbabwean land question for over one hundred years, and yet, the former British ambassador to Zimbabwe (Sir Brian Donnelly) was the most outspoken member of the diplomatic community especially on Zimbabwe’s land reform. His statements greatly shaped British, EU, Australian and American policy on Zimbabwe. He was obviously not a neutral player, and yet his voice was very influential not only to the British audience, but to most of the western world.  It is also not clear why, at a time when Tony Blair and his Commission for Africa and the G8 were campaigning for debt cancellation for poor African countries, why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded that Zimbabwe pays up it’s debt of close to US$300 million, knowing very well that such payment, like the Shakespearian Shylock’s demand for a “pound of flesh”, would most certainly bleed Zimbabwe’s economy to death?     


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Wrongly Focused Initiatives
 So far, conflict transformation in Zimbabwe has focused on talks between the ruling party, ZANU PF, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC. Besides the informal “talks about talks”, this inter-party dialogue has not yielded any fruits.[xliii] Sometimes the talks have been personalized and that they should be between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. And, because the two refuse to find any common ground on which to initiate talks, meaningful dialogue has not taken place. If the Zimbabwean political impasse has to be broken, there is a need to widen the dialogue, to go beyond Mugabe and Tsvangirai, beyond ZANU PF and the MDC, and to hold a national dialogue that includes all other stakeholders. 
 A 2004 international survey on political opinion in Zimbabwe concluded that too much focus on Mugabe has done more harm than good to the forces of change.[xliv] The Zimbabwean crisis emanates from the bitter moods of Zimbabwean society, and to resolve it there is need for a national dialogue, not just between Mugabe and Tsvangirai or between ZANU PF and the MDC.  There is also a need to widen the discourse beyond mere regime change and to include issues such as economic recovery, post – conflict reconstruction, south – south cooperation and regional security, issues which the forces of change have been ignoring with reference to Zimbabwe, and which Mugabe has capitalized on. 
It does not help Zimbabwe for the forces of change to appear to be led by Western countries such as Britain and the United States at a time when Western sponsored mercenaries are haunting the continent,[xlv]

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View Comments
Slyvester
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'.

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

Sak
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

Flor
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.

Silva
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.

Agita
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.

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

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