Military is complicit in Mugabe misrule

Statement of the Global Pan African Movement on the intervention in Zimbabwe

The Global Pan African Movement condemns the military intervention in Zimbabwe in no uncertain terms. The generals of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been part of the repressive government. The huge problems of Zimbabwe cannot be resolved by the same soldiers who have been partners with Mugabe in the past 37 years.

On November 14, the military of Zimbabwe seized the radio and television operations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, ZBC. By the morning of November 15 the world woke up to the news that the top officers of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) had intervened to place Mr. Robert Mugabe in custody. In the typical fashion of a coup d’etat, a military officer read a statement in the middle of the night  that the intervention was not a coup d’ etat but meant to protect President Mugabe. The army spokesperson Major General Sibusiso Busi Moyo claimed that the military were “only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country.”

“To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which, if not addressed, may result in violent conflict,” Maj-Gen Moyo said.

By the end of the day it was clear that some of the former ministers were arrested, Robert Mugabe was under arrest and his wife Grace Mugabe was supposed to have fled to Namibia. Grace Mugabe had become notorious for her profligate spending in the malls of global capital and she was appropriately called “Gucci Grace”.

The Global Pan African Movement condemns the military intervention in Zimbabwe in no uncertain terms. The generals of the ZDF have been part of the repressive government and the social problems of Zimbabwe cannot be resolved by the same soldiers who were partners with Mugabe in the past 37 years. This ‘realignment’ in the politics among the security and military intervention comes after 20 years of struggles by the working peoples to get a better quality of life. Organizing themselves in trade unions, neighborhood organizations, village assemblies, progressive teachers and other forms of self-defense, the working peoples have been battling for survival for years. These peoples had supported opposition formations, only to have the electoral process enveloped in violence, intimidation and the killing of opposition supporters. Vote rigging had been in the hands of the military and the intelligence organization called the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

The most blatant case of election theft was in 2008 when the opposition won the elections in the first round of the presidential elections. Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round but had to drop out of the second due to massive violence against his supporters. Tsvangirai escaped two car accidents. The leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had sanctioned electoral theft and brutality because they had succumbed to the rhetoric of Robert Mugabe that the opposition were stooges of Anglo-American imperialism. In 2013 the Mugabe government again won the elections after there had been manipulations by the SADC leaders to deceive the opposition that they should wait for reforms of the electoral system.

The language on anti-imperialism had been effective when Robert Mugabe and the party of liberation, ZANU-PF, were part of a genuine liberation process in the fight against the illegal minority white racist regime of Ian Smith. However, by 1997 when the military and security bureaucrats started to enrich itself at the expense of the people, the gap between rich and poor began to widen. There were strikes and demonstrations by the oppressed, especially war veterans. It was after these manifestations of opposition that the Mugabe government seized the land of the white commercial farmers. In the process of distributing the land, the generals and security officials were the principal beneficiaries. These recipients of the land had little or no experience in agriculture and exploited the poor farm workers in the same way as the former white commercial farmers. By every index of social and economic activity, the conditions of the majority of the people have deteriorated dramatically. There is over 95 per cent unemployment in Zimbabwe and over 5 million Zimbabweans have fled the country.

The government of Robert Mugabe acknowledged the severe economic conditions in the country but blamed the situation on western sanctions against Zimbabwe, despite exposing the truth of how his cronies siphoned over $15 billion from the mining of diamonds. Outside of Zimbabwe, the pro government intellectuals had mobilized support across Africa for Robert Mugabe on the grounds that British imperialism was planning military intervention in Zimbabwe. This support of pro-government intellectuals was meant to disarm those who opposed the exploitation that was intensifying in Zimbabwe by one of the most homophobic and sexist governments in Africa.

The government of Mugabe mounted a major international campaign to represent the ruling party ZANU-PF as being at the forefront of the progressive Pan African movement. Even within the progressive anti-imperialists there was the view that Mugabe’s government was being sanctioned because of the seizure of land. The discussions about imperialist sanctions could not explain why in the midst of the crisis, the government of Robert Mugabe chose the US currency as the currency of Zimbabwe. This was the highest form of subservience to US imperialism but those who were looting the country found it easier to use the currency of empire while the people were issued with useless bonds notes. The successes of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange was another indication of the amount of wealth that was circulating among the generals and political operatives.

This situation of former freedom fighters becoming erstwhile capitalists and repressive is not unique to Zimbabwe. All across the continent of Africa, from Algeria to Mozambique and from Eritrea to South Africa, the leaders of liberation movements lost legitimacy as they gave up the search for the solutions to the problems of hunger, unemployment, poor health and grinding exploitation. The late Tajudeen Abdul Raheem noted that the longer the liberation leaders remained in power the more they became oppressors. This was the case with Mugabe. After being in power over 37 years the leaders believed that they could take other people’s life with impunity.

The working peoples had been repressed by the same military that is now claiming to come to the rescue of ordinary people. The top generals who orchestrated the intervention are the same enforcers who had looted the Democratic Republic of the Congo along with the family of Kabila. It was the same military brass who oversaw Operation Murambatsvina (Shona for Operation Drive Out Trash), also referred to as Operation Restore Order, began as a crackdown against illegal trading and illegal housing in May 2005. This operation left hundreds of thousands of urban dwellers homeless in the middle of the cold Zimbabwean winter. Later when diamonds were found in Eastern Zimbabwe, the same generals were the beneficiaries of the mining of diamonds.

In 2016 President Mugabe complained the country had lost $15 billion dollars that should have gone to the treasury. Opposition parties and student unions retorted that it was incredulous that President Robert Mugabe was unaware that the nation was losing billions of dollars worth of diamonds through looting. The opposition said that if $15 billion worth of diamonds was pillaged under Mugabe’s watch, then he should be impeached for failing to do his job.

Where there is fabulous plunder as was going on in Zimbabwe there was bound to be competition between branches of the Zimbabwean capitalist class. This competition took the form of a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF political party. One group around the wife of Robert Mugabe called the G40 had been gaining the upper hand against the faction of the repressors led by General Chiwenga and Emmerson Mnangagwa.  Since independence in 1980 one of the ways of dealing with rivals was through car accidents or other forms of political assassination. Generals of the Zimbabwe military from the time of Josiah Tongagara to General Mujuru understood the experiences of political assassination. Thus when the former Vice President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired in the week of November 4 2017 he quickly fled the country. He was very aware of the multiple unexplained deaths of prominent Zimbabweans.

Former Vice President Mnangagwa had been associated with all phases of repression since Operation Gukurahundi soon after independence. This paramilitary operation that killed over 20,000 in Matabeleland.  There is still a need for the truth about this mass killing. In the past year Mnangagwa has been locked in a life and death struggle with those elements who had surrounded Grace Mugabe. Grace Mugabe had aligned herself with a group that was associated with Dr. Jonathan Moyo. Over twelve years ago, it was the same Jonathan Moyo who had termed ZANU-PF a shelf party. Moyo, who initiated many of the repressive laws in the period of the land invasions, 2000 to 2003, had this to say of the leader of the ‘shelf party’: “Mugabe has publicly demonstrated his leadership incapacity to make way for an able and dynamic successor by succumbing to manipulative tribal pressure from a clique in his party”

It was this same Moyo who was now aligned against his former sponsor Emerson Mnangagwa. When Mnangagwa was fired in early November, all he and his allies in the military could think of was the fire that consumed General Mujuru.

In order to save themselves from the legacy of political assassinations, the generals intervened and placed Robert Mugabe under house arrest.

The Global Pan African Movement is of the view that the SADC Organ on Peace and Security must demobilize the military in Zimbabwe and establish a transitional arrangement so that all the other political forces in Zimbabwe can participate in the political process without fear of intimidation. A group of nonpartisan Zimbabweans have proposed a National Transitional Authority to take over the running of the country until “fair” elections can be held.

The African Union has stated clearly that it does not condone military interventions. Though the military has claimed that this was not a coup, it is clearly a coup. The peoples of Zimbabwe need the space for reconstruction and for the stolen wealth to be returned to the country. When the military took over they resorted to playing the songs of revolution on the radio. These songs from an era of struggle are now being mobilized to justify militarism.

On Monday, November 13 when General Chiwenga made a statement to the nation he stated that “drastic action would be taken immediately to stop counter-revolutionaries from sliding Zimbabwe back into colonisation.” This is simply manipulation of the anti-colonial sentiments of progressive Pan Africanists everywhere and decent citizens must join in the call for a genuine process of political change in Zimbabwe. The African Union has the responsibility to ensure that generals do not continue the repression in Zimbabwe. Emmerson Mnangagwa must not be allowed to continue the looting and plunder of the society in collaboration with the generals. Progressive Pan Africanists need to study the lessons of the manipulation of the ideals of Pan Africanism in this moment when there is a major push for the emancipation of Africa.

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