Zimbabwe has been neck-deep in a political and economic crisis following in the wake of a Sept. 15 power-sharing agreement between the major political parties. The ruling ZANU-PF and the Western-backed opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been deadlocked over how ministries in a new national unity government would be allocated between the parties, with the highly coveted security ministries at the center of the dispute.
As a result of the impasse, President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party have continued to lead the country and are now talking of forming a government without the MDC.
Western powers have relentlessly tried to topple Mugabe because of ZANU-PF’s land redistribution campaign favoring the impoverished local population over rich, white settlers. To that end, they have used the political stalemate to keep devastating sanctions in place. Zimbabwe has spiraled ever deeper into a humanitarian crisis, with shortages of food, water, and other essentials, off the charts inflation, and a complete collapse of the health care system. Unpaid wages have resulted in clashes between soldiers and the government.
The incidence of cholera has been on the rise since August, and is now turning into a deadly epidemic. According to the United Nations, 9,900 cases have been reported, including 389 deaths. The onset of the rainy season will be conducive to the spread of the disease, and with several hospitals closed, Zimbabwe could be facing tens of thousands of deaths in the absence of immediate aid.
The MDC, which had been offered the finance ministry, called for the lifting of sanctions when the power-sharing deal was first struck, and continues now to make vague calls for humanitarian aid. However, Pinocchio has not yet slipped Giuseppe’s strings, and the MDC still dances to the tune of its puppeteers. Western powers have balked at ending their ruinous policies towards Zimbabwe, uninterested in alleviating the immediate suffering of the Zimbabwean people.
Imperialists uncompromising on ZANU-PF ouster
During Thanksgiving week, a renewed flurry of diplomatic activity to end this impasse took place yielding little progress. ZANU-PF blocked a negotiating team made up of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and former South African First Lady Gra?a Machel; the MDC called for South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki to step down as chief negotiator.
An inconclusive meeting of southern African nations has further complicated the process, with South Africa and others threatening their own sanctions. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, is now calling for African Union mediation.
An agreement to resolve the standoff looks more and more remote because of the irreconcilable differences between the two forces. The MDC wants a Western-backed, South-African-style government; the ZANU-PF is oriented toward strengthening ties with other developing nations, particularly China, for domestic development.
The ZANU-PF’s orientation is unacceptable to Washington and its allies, who want to take the pole position controlling Zimbabwe’s mineral resources. For the West and the MDC, the only acceptable deal is one that marginalizes both Mugabe and ZANU-PF, and ultimately positions the MDC to secure political dominance over the country.
The crippling impact of U.S.- and British-backed sanctions cannot be dismissed. They do not target individual members of the Zimbabwean government, but are rather coordinated efforts by the Washington and London to leave Zimbabwe financially isolated and starved of foreign investments.
Despite its historic roots in the colonial liberation struggle, the ZANU-PF is a capitalist party. It has been at odds with imperialism for siding with the landless and impoverished peasantry; however, sections of the party act only to enrich themselves. Economic mismanagement and corruption have compounded the downward economic spiral. The major capitalist powers now hope sanctions will deal a death blow to ZANU-PF at the expense of the Zimbabwean people.
Western governments slapped sanctions on Iraq that killed 1.5 million people, weakening the Iraqi government and setting the stage for the installation of pro-U.S. forces. Their tactics toward Zimbabwe share similar objectives: Since 2000, imperialist-imposed sanctions have impoverished Zimbabwe’s people under the Mugabe-led government. The goal has been to artificially boost support for the MDC, whose ascension to power would usher in policies friendlier to foreign interests.
Whatever the shortcomings of the ZANU-PF government, the U.S.- and British-led destabilization campaign has been the main culprit behind Zimbabwe’s woes. The very capitalist powers that engineered the present economic and political crisis cannot possibly play any progressive role in bringing it to an end. The people of Zimbabwe are the only ones who can sort out the present conflict, and must be free to do so without imperialist manipulation and pressure. Hands off Zimbabwe!