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News ::
06 Jul 2003

By Monica Moorehead
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the July 10, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Monica Moorehead

On June 25, President George W. Bush spoke at a U.S.-Africa Business
Summit in Washington, D.C. Among other proposals, he called for the
removal of Robert Mugabe and Charles Taylor, the presidents of Zimbabwe and Liberia respectively. Bush made these remarks before an audience that included African leaders as well as business executives and investors.

The day before, an opinion piece written by Secretary of State Colin
Powell had appeared in the New York Times. It was a denunciation of
President Robert Mugabe. Powell labeled Mugabe a "tyrant." He blamed him for Zimbabwe's 300-percent inflation rate, 70-percent unemployment, food shortages and much more.

Powell wrote in part: "South Africa and other African countries are
increasingly concerned and active on Zimbabwe, but they can and should play a stronger and more sustained role that fully reflects the urgency of Zimbabwe's crisis. ...

"With [Mugabe] gone, with a transitional government in place and with a date fixed for new elections, Zimbabweans of all descriptions would ... come together to begin the process of rebuilding their country. If this happened, the United States would be quick to pledge generous assistance to the restoration of Zimbabwe's political and economic institutions even before the election."

This was but another effort by the Bush administration to bribe African leaders with millions of dollars in aid--but only if they defy international law by interfering in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.

Bush's speech and Powell's op-ed piece were timed to appear just one
week before Bush was to embark on a trip to several sub-Saharan African countries.

Bush will visit South Africa, the most industrialized country on the
continent, which borders Zimbabwe. On June 16, the Washington Post wrote a vile opinion piece suggesting that President Thabo Mbeki turn off the electricity that South Africa provides to Zimbabwe, interfering in the two countries' relations.

Former political prisoner and the first Black South African president, Nelson Mandela, has announced that he will refuse to meet with Bush due to the U.S. war on Iraq. The African National Congress and other groups plan to hold protests against Bush during his visit there.

Why is the government of Zimbabwe front and center on the radar screens of U.S. imperialism, its British junior partner and the rest of the European Union?


In the mid-1880s, a very important conference took place in Berlin.
Various European capitalists gathered to map out a strategy to carve up Africa among themselves so as to steal its vast mineral resources and enslave the indigenous peoples.

Their goal was clear: expand their colonial empires and markets in order to make more profits.

In 1888, British capitalist Cecil Rhodes and his business partner,
Charles Rudd, got the blessings of the British monarchy for a conspiracy to steal Matebeleland, Mashonaland and other surrounding territories that would come to be known as Rhodesia.

These territories were targeted because of their abundance of minerals, especially gold. In 1890, white mercenaries invaded these territories. This bloody invasion laid the basis for thousands of British white settlers to take over the land. In fact, each white settler was promised 6,000 acres and claims to the gold.

In 1898, an armed resistance emerged against the British South Africa
Co., owned by Rhodes and Rudd. This was the first Chimurenga, or first stage of the liberation struggle. The rebellion was carried out by a number of African nations in a united front.

The indigenous populations were no match for the advanced weaponry of
these invaders. They were systematically forced off the lands of their ancestors and herded like cattle onto the most isolated, barren lands, known as native reserves. Others languished in semi-slavery conditions on private white farms.

The 1898 Native Reserves Order in Council immediately legalized the
theft of 15 million acres of the most arable lands by the European
colonizers. The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 formalized the separation of land belonging to Africans and the settlers.

The population in 1930 was 1.1 million Black people and 50,000 whites--or more than 20 Black people for every white settler. But the land was divided up this way: native reserves, 29 million acres; European areas, 49 million acres.

In 1965, the white minority regime of Ian Smith unilaterally declared
independence from Britain. In the same year, the second Chimurenga, or second stage of the national liberation struggle, was launched as the Zimbabwe African People's Union and the Zimbabwe African National Union joined to form the Patriotic Front. Robert Mugabe was the leader of ZANU and Joshua Nkomo the leader of ZAPU.

Fearing that the growing guerrilla struggle could eventually bring about a socialist revolution, the military wing of Smith's regime, known as the Rhodesian Front, initiated negotiations in London with the Patriotic Front and the British government. These negotiations produced the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979 and helped to lay the basis for the 1980 Constitution of the newly established government of Zimbabwe.


The Lancaster agreement was supposed to address the redistribution of
the land stolen by the colonialists. But it fell way short. The document stated that the land was to be acquired on a willing-seller, willing-buyer basis. This was to be applied during the first 10 years of independence. But it never really happened.

Britain had pledged to fund the resettlement plan as a maneuver to
insure that provisions for compulsory acquisition without compensation would not become an official part of the 1980 Constitution. Therefore, the Zimbabwean government was not in a position to pressure the white settlers to give up the most arable lands for sale. The lands offered to the government were of the poorest quality.

Because of a "fair market price" clause, the new government did not have adequate funds to buy out the white farmers. So, after seven years of independence, only 40,000 out of 162,000 Black peasants who applied had been resettled.

Under the law, the Mugabe government had to wait 10 years before it
could add any amendments on the compulsory acquisition of property,
including land. In 1992, the Land Acquisition Bill was drafted; it
mainly targeted for acquisition large-scale commercial farmland. This
would be redistributed to the majority of landless Black war veterans
living on the worst communal lands or reserves.

This bill passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament. The bill stated that it was the responsibility of the British government to pay compensation to the whites for the land repossession.

Britain had pledged 44 million pounds to the resettlement program. In
1997, when the Labor Party came into power in Britain with a new, more conservative leader, Tony Blair, the British government cut off the funding, claiming that the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe was using it to resettle governmental officials on the land. London never refers to the fact that Ian Smith, former leader of the white government of Rhodesia, still owns 10,000 acres in Zimbabwe, as do other former white officials.

Finally, in 1997, Mugabe supported the direct confiscation of the lands initiated by the Zimbabwean peasants. The number of commercial farming families, most of them white, had dropped from 4,660 in 1998 to 2,900 by the summer of 2002, according to the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Many of them then bought land very cheap in Mozambique, where a white-led mercenary army had devastated the country.

As of December 2001, over 360,000 African families had been relocated on the land. The fact that the Zimbabwean farmers and peasants are carrying out their own land reform is at the heart of the imperialist attacks and racist demonization of Mugabe.

In 1980 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had imposed structural adjustment programs on Zimbabwe as a condition of its receiving any loans. They demanded that government social spending be kept at a bare minimum.

Instead of moving forward as an independent, self-sufficient country,
Zimba bwe was being transformed into an exporting country. This meant
mass starvation for the Zimbabwean people and super-profits for the
white commercial farmers who grew cash crops like tobacco.

By 1999, Zimbabwe had openly rebelled against the policies of the World Bank and IMF. In 1999 it was declared in default and its loans were terminated. Recently, the IMF and World Bank revoked Zimbabwe's

The land crisis is not confined to Zimbabwe. It exists in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and other countries of Africa. It is rooted in the deep-seated legacy of colonial theft and plunder. The U.S. and British imperialists want to bring a halt to the agrarian revolution in Zimbabwe to prevent a people's takeover of land there and in other countries.


The imperialists are also targeting Zimbabwe for the role its armed
forces played in the crisis that unfolded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998. After the fall of CIA puppet Mobutu Sese Seko, the
government of Congo was led by Laurent Kabila, who openly denounced
imperialist intervention in his country and the region. Kabila asked the Southern African Development Community for military assistance to help repel an invasion by Uganda and Rwanda that had the backing of the United States and Britain.

The SADC sent troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia to assist the
Congo. Kabila was eventually assassinated in January 2000, however.

Bush and Blair want to make an example of Zimbabwe for some of the same reasons they are hostile to Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Palestine,
Venezuela, the Phillippines and Cuba. No country is allowed to defy
them. It is all about endless war for U.S. empire in order to re-carve up the world for profits on behalf of big business.

Mugabe was once viewed as a "model" African leader--until the land
confiscations took center stage.

Robert Mugabe is a nationalist who aspires to see the development of an indigenous property-owning class inside Zimbabwe. Revolutionary
socialists do not necessarily support Mugabe's policies, but defend his open rebellion against imperialism. The anti-imperialist movement, especially in the United States, has a responsibility to demand reparations for the people of Zimbabwe who are fighting to complete their national liberation, which means freeing their economy from colonialist and imperialist penetration.

[Sources for this article include South Africa Independent Media Center and the Southern African Development Community website.]

- END -

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