New World Order Turns Against an Old Friend
Another media beat-up is underway throughout the West and there is a new kid on the chopping block Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe.
Opposition to Mugabe has become increasingly vocal in the past few months since the president and his ruling ZANU-PF party lost a referendum on a new constitution on 13th February which set out conditions for the compulsory purchase of white-owned land. Tensions both within the country and with the UK government have escalated. Groups of blacks belonging to the War Veterans’ Association have been squatting in and around 700 white-owned farms and violence erupted in the capital Harare on 1st April during an opposition-led demonstration.
Mugabe, who is now 76-years-old, came to power in 1980 when Great Britain signed the Lancaster House Agreement giving independence to the former colony of Southern Rhodesia. Unlike most other post-colonial states the newly independent Zimbabwe allowed its large number of white farmers to continue owning and farming the country’s fertile land a policy which was hailed at the time for its rational approach to economic realities. Anyway, as white-ruled Rhodesia had never pursued the fiercely racialist policies of apartheid South Africa it was hoped that land transfers to the black population would gradually take place over time and by consent.
But that was back then in the Cold War days. Then Western anti-apartheid campaigners alternately praised Mugabe’s moderation as a sign of statesmanship and chided him for not meeting black aspirations quickly enough. Mugabe’s rhetoric of Socialism was never implemented to the self-destructive extent that more radical African states like Mozambique or Ethiopia achieved.
Land redistribution, let alone collectivisation, never occurred in any serious manner. 7 million blacks still scratch a living with 20,000 whites owning the most fertile agricultural land. The most contentious part of the February referendum was the clause to set in place the compulsory expropriation of this land. There was much unfavourable publicity about the referendum and predictions that the results would be falsified. However, on the day, 54% (697,754) voted against the new constitution and 578,219 for a surprising outcome.
Despite the direst predictions the government made no attempt to hide or dispute the results which, never the less, present certain peculiarities. For one thing, there were over 36,000 spoilt ballots always a useful tool for unfavourable votes to be disqualified. And, it is difficult to see why so many poor Zimbabweans could have voted against receiving land from the state however disenchanted they may have been with the government in other ways. Western media had focussed so much on speculation about cheating by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party that little attention was paid to why it actually allowed itself to lose, or how the anti-Mugabe vote was mobilised.
After years of squabbling and inactivity, an active opposition movement has emerged in Zimbabwe. Led by former trade union leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change has all the trappings of a Western-sponsored political party including a close relationship with the US International Republican Institute (IRI) which can always be relied upon to promote the engines of the new globalism under the guise of backing new democrats. Mr. Tsvangirai was interviewed by London’s Sunday Telegraph on 26th March "unpacking computer boxes in a new office." It all seems very familiar to those of us who have followed the fortunes of western-sponsored political parties in Eastern Europe and then carried on watching the fate of economies and peoples after western-sponsored "reformers" achieve power.
Text-only printable version of this article
Christine Stone practised at the English Bar as a lawyer specializing in crime and civil liberties before setting up the British Helsinki Human Rights Group with a number of academic and journalist colleagues in 1992. She has written for a number of publications including The Spectator and Wall Street Journal on Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Her column now appears Thursdays on Antiwar.com.
Archived Antiwar.com articles by Christine Stone
New World Order Turns Against an Old Friend
is on Everyone’s Mind
Sad Tale of Croatian Independence
the Next Balkan Flashpoint
Thoughts on the Killings in Armenia – Who did it and Why?
The Movement for Democratic Change works closely with the white farmers which has caused some black Zimbabweans pain, particularly the spectacle of their old colonial master Ian Smith having the last laugh. But back in Britain, the attacks on Mugabe have struck a deep chord in certain sections of the British public. Large numbers of middle-class whites never reconciled themselves to handing over power to the indigenous populations of Africa. Because white farmers continued to live and work in Zimbabwe there is a strong connection broken in other places with the Motherland. In the pages of newspapers like The Daily Telegraph elderly colonels in quiet English market towns feel that with the demonization of Mugabe their time has finally come. It comes as no surprise to learn that the Telegraph is one of the most forthright critics of Mugabe even running a piece on 26th March suggesting (in the manner of Moscow’s notorious Soviet era Serbsky Institute) that the president was ‘mad’. The British Conservative Party is the loudest in complaint, demanding that Zimbabwe be expelled from the Commonwealth.
But the Right is not making the running. As over Yugoslavia, the Right in Britain is simply echoing the line laid down by the New Labour government of Tony Blair.
The Labour government has been certainly unusually abusive towards Mugabe, while holding back from joining in with the colonels’ and the Conservative Party’s more extreme demands. The Foreign Office’s minister for the region, Peter Hain, used to be Britain’s most high-profile antiapartheid activist famed, among other things, for his campaigns to stop the South African cricket team playing in Britain. In those days Hain was a young Liberal somewhere to the left of the ‘new’ Labour Party indeed happy in a recent BBC interview to let the description "to the Left of Trotsky" pass with a genial smile. Then, in the 1980s, he defected to Labour from the Liberals as they moved back to the centre-left and joined the still anti-nuclear and anti-EU Labour well before it was reborn under Tony Blair. Since then he has cut his hair, put on a suit and is now the classic example of the poacher turned gamekeeper.
Hain demands, too, that Mugabe remove the squatters from the farms and step down. He is ‘outraged’ that the Zimbabwean police should have opened the British diplomatic bag last month to examine its contents without saying that the said ‘bag’ was a 7 ton consignment of telecommunications security equipment. The British claimed that this cargo was intended to upgrade the technology in the High Commission (embassy) in Harare but the Zimbabweans could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
To some of us who have followed events in former Communist countries like Albania, Slovakia and Belarus the plot is surprisingly similar: demonize the country in question, ideally through caricaturing its leader as a mad autocrat; emphasize corruption and cronyism at every turn, even though it is occurring everywhere else in the region not least among friendly regimes; introduce and finance a new, thrusting and English-speaking media-friendly opposition which has few roots in the country proper. Then when critics point out that there is a plot to unseat the government accuse them of being unhinged conspiracy theorists.
WHY HAS MUGABWE ATTRACTED HATRED TO POINT THAT MANY ZIMBAWEANS SUSPECT SUCH A PLOT?
To answer this question we need to go back to 1997. Bill Clinton has been elected to a second term in office and the foreign policy pundits in the White House and State Department are not just concentrating on Russia and the Balkans. Sub-Saharan Africa contains some of the world’s richest deposits of minerals and gemstones. However, access and exploitation of these riches is hampered by corrupt and autocratic leaders like Mobutu Seke Sesu in Zaire. Mobutu’s role in providing a buffer against Communism in the region is regarded as obsolete with the end of the Cold War. Now is the time to put in place leaders who will be more sympathetic to Western business interests.
A smalltime opponent of Mobutu and old chum of Che Guevara, Laurent Kabila, appeared in the bush and began to foment an uprising which resulted in Mobutu’s fall in May 1997. Kabila came to power heralded by Albright and co. as a new type of leader for Africa. Remember this was the age of the "African Renaissance." Hot on his heels came the Western mining companies keen to put their snouts in the trough, among them American Mineral Fields from Hope, Arkansas Bill Clinton’s birthplace.
But Kabila was not to be America’s poodle. The American and Canadian mining companies found themselves empty-handed, frozen out with no contracts signed. At the same time, the new president refused to name a date for the holding of elections. Never can anyone, even in the fickle world of American diplomacy, have fallen out of favour so quickly. The Herald Tribune reported on 20th May 1998 that " while the Clinton administration set out to cultivate Mr. Kabila he has proved to be a rigid and intolerant autocrat." A year after his accession to power Kabila was fighting to keep his job.
Rebel activity against the Kabila government started in the east of Zaire where large numbers of Hutu refugees had fled Rwanda after the genocide against the minority Tutus in 1994 had been reversed by the Tutsi Patriotic Front and its Ugandan allies. Both the new strongman of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, a distinguished graduate of Fort Leavenworth, and Uganda’s President Musaveni, were favourites of Washington despite their own Marxist pasts and anti-democratic records hardly mentioned in the establishment press (unlike Kabila’s murky record).
Opponents of President Musaveni of Uganda were also reported to be operating in eastern Zaire, now Democratic Congo, in the areas into which Hutus had fled. To counteract the threats both Rwanda and Uganda started to attack eastern Zaire with, it was assumed, the eventual aim of bringing down Kabila. Both Uganda and Rwanda were perceived as being the US’s client states in the region. By August 1998 war had effectively broken out between Zaire and Uganda and Rwanda.
Kabila needed allies against his well-armed adversaries. He gained support from a regional organization, the Southern Africa Development Community including Angola and Namibia. But his most effective ally turned out to be Robert Mubabe of Zimbabwe. The entry of the Zimbabwean army and air-force into the war turned the tide in Kabila’s favour and guaranteed his survival. As a reward, Zimbabwe gained a foothold in the lucrative mineral and gemstone industries of Zaire and Billy Rautenbach, a close associate of Mugabe, was put in charge of the state mineral company Gecamines
Needless to say, the war proved a drain on the country’s resources. But many of Zimbabwe’s economic problems had already come with its membership of organizations like the IMF, which, according to many African commentators have impoverished people far more than all the local croneys and corrupt politicians put together. According to some regional experts, IMF policies in Kenya, for example, have led to the collapse of country’s textile industry due to dumping from outside. Economic growth has stagnated and unemployment is at around 50%. In Mozambique cashew processing plants were closed under a World-Bank imposed edict forcing the government to lift protection of the local industry. "We are tied to the policies of international organizations. If we want to be funded we have to continue the reforms" said a member of the leading Frelimo party.
The ability to turn off the tap, so to speak, means that the political interests that lie behind organizations like the IMF can make or break governments. This is what many observers in Zimbabwe think is happening to them. According to George Charamba, Mugabwe’s spokesman "Any deals we make they break and the British High Commissioner has personally stopped the IMF from supporting us." The government also claims that Britain is behind the country’s fuel shortage.
But cutting the links between Zimbabwe and Zaire is only one of the things on the minds of politicians and businessmen in the West. The land issue is of paramount importance too. In the last few years major global investors like George Soros have been diverting more and more capital into farming and agricultural production. Soros holds 29% of Cresud a farming and agricultural company operating in Argentina. According to the Financial Times: "Cresud’s growth may herald the eclipse of Argentina’s old family-owned farms by bigger land holdings under professional management. Many of the people we buy from are traditional farming and ranching families. They have the land but no capital to invest in modernizing production."
Soros is now very active in Africa. He was instrumental in setting up Africaonline a major internet provider in sub-Saharan Africa. He also owns a large minority stake in Plantation & General a company dealing in, among other things, agricultural production which is run by Nick Roditi and chaired by Rupert Pennant Rea. Roditi a former fund manager for Soros ,was born in Rhodesia. The company is committed to invest in more agribusiness ventures in Africa.
Tony Blair’s Science Minister is Lord Sainsbury, the mega-rich donor of £2 million to the prime Minister’s party coffers and a major shareholder in his family’s hugely profitable grocery chain, Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s farming and product interests extend deep into Africa where it produces food for export to British kitchens not for the dirt poor natives, who have been chased off good land in Kenya to make way for export-orientated produce.
The last thing such people want is small plots of land cultivated by what are mainly subsistence farmers. To make it possible for Zimbabwean peasants to receive land the government would have to break up the large commercial farms. Although these smallholders might sell off their land to the highest bidder it is equally possible that they might dig their heels in and refuse. Land means far more to a poor African than it does to a European. Such people might hang on and spoil the party.
But, what if the large farms could be bought from their present white owners? In their own way the Zimbabwean white farmers are a stubborn lot. After all, they remained in a country ravaged by civil war in dangerous circumstances. There is little likelihood that they would sell up easily. But they might find themselves forced out.
The British government has put in place contingency plans to evacuate the c.20,000 white farmers and their families to Great Britain should the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorate. Even those without them have been promised British passports. This fulsome gesture is in stark contrast to the former British government’s attitude to Hong Kong Chinese residents who wanted to come to Britain with the Chinese takeover of the colony. It also comes at a time when a debate is raging about the number of immigrants arriving in the country.
The British have demanded that Harare pay compensation to white farmers for confiscation of their land. But it is also said that the Lancaster House Agreement places such compensation firmly in the hands of the British government. Chased out by the Zimbabwean authorities or provocateurs (no one will bother to find out the difference) the whites can expect financial recompense from the British government while their fertile farms are bought at knock-down prices by the agribusinesses from the ‘new’ government in Harare.
One of the more trivial aspects of this story has been Robert Mugabe’s repeated attacks on those who he claims are homosexuals at the heart of the British government. The president is an outspoken opponent of homosexuality having banned gay pride style gatherings in Zimbabwe. During a visit to London last year he was embarrassed by the antics of Britain’s leading gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell who tried to drag him out of his official car. Needless to say, unlike protestors against China’s Jiang Zemin in the same London streets just weeks before the anti-Mugabe protestors got kid gloves treatment from the New Establishment.
But Tatchell and his gay friends are the last thing Mugabe has to worry about. Greater forces are working against him. I never thought I would end up defending Robert Mugabe but the motives of his opponents have nothing to do with fostering the well-being of the poor black African majority in Zimbabwe. Old Leftists like Robert Mugabe and Slobodan Milosevic are the only people resisting the New Left’s drive for global hegemony that seeks to devour us all. A cussed old Leftie like Mugabe is more likely to be a stumbling block to the unholy alliance of New Left and New Capital than the conservative parties who parrot its line without understanding the consequences for them if the New World Order is created.
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