Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Land, Sovereignty: Zimbabwe's Enduring Legacy

Land, Sovereignty Zimbabwe's Enduring Legacy

Zimbabwe must be a sovereign republic in which the sovereign nation pursues its own destiny, totally unshackled by any fetters or constraints.

The sovereign Zimbabwean people must, acting through their own freely chosen representatives in Parliament, be free and fully vested with the power to exercise dominion over resources from time to time as the need arises, they must be free to re-order the social, political and economic institutions and structures; and be free to shape their own destiny, as a nation, without having to pander to any racial, ethnic, tribal, religious, social and other interests or differences.

The safety and survival of the republic must be the sacred trust of the Zimbabwean nation, not the pawn in the hands of mercenaries and other alien adventurers and agents. We are irrevocably committed to the position that the Zimbabwean people, by whose blood and sacrifice colonialism was exorcised from the land, must themselves be the perpetual guarantors of sovereignty in the face of all challenges, domestic or foreign.

Liberation and the process leading thereto must, once agreed, be irrevocable and irreversible. We know no other way of ensuring this than strict adherence to the principle that the people and their forces who have toppled minority rule must be entrusted with the task of ensuring that colonialism, under whatever guise, will not return to plague the nation once again.

— Cde Joshua Nkomo, Joint President of the Patriotic Front, responding to Lord Carrington, British Foreign Secretary’s opening remarks at the Lancaster House negotiations on September 10 1979.

By Dr Obediah Mazombwe

FROM the earliest African uprisings against imperialist domination in Zimbabwe at the end of the 20th century, the First Chimurenga, to the nationalist armed struggle, the Second Chimurenga, to the Lancaster House negotiations, right through to Zimbabwe’s land reform programme, the Third Chimurenga, and now during Election 2008, "land and sovereignty" have remained the two core issues and driving forces of the people’s revolution against foreign domination.

This fact is easily lost to young "born free" urban Zimbabweans, thanks to the West’s "soft power", exercised through their control of the global media. There are also some adults who experienced colonial oppression and deprivation but, who, for their own various reasons have deliberately chosen to ignore or trivialise the centrality of land and sovereignty to our very being as a nation.

Whilst some have done so for purely self-serving reasons, others have capitulated in the face of the relentless pressure that Anglo-Americans have exerted on Zimbabwe to become more accommodating of Western interests, even when these clash with their own.

The West’s desire to exercise sovereign dominion over African peoples, their land and its resources, for purposes of enhancing their own well-being, is the major single driving force for their engagement with Africa. Otherwise they would not have bothered with the "dark continent" in the past, and they would not bother now.

We need to understand that the talk by Western establishments about humanitarian and civilising expeditions, evangelising missions to Africa are sheer hypocrisy. The push for, and the acceptance of, the abolishment of slavery, and the grudging acceptance that Africans are just as human as themselves, are mere safety valves of a guilty conscience.

And the preoccupation with Africa’s technological and economic development, human rights, democracy, rule of law, are, at best, areas that the West has been compelled to move into, in their own interest, by circumstances on the ground; at worst, as is true in the case of Zimbabwe, they are mere camouflage for various forms of the grand imperialist hegemonic project.

The urge to dominate, control and exploit therefore remains the leading single major organising factor in the West’s engagement with Africa, all else is incidental, afterthought and instrumental. This urge to totally dominate us is, consequently, the greatest threat to Africa’s quest for total liberation, control of its God-given resources, and their development for the benefit of its peoples.

The decision by Zanu-PF to make land and sovereignty core themes in its election manifesto for the 2008 harmonised elections should therefore be expected and should not come as a surprise to anybody. The two issues are a natural development in the unfolding Zimbabwean revolution as aptly conceptualised by the founding Zimbabwean nationalists like Joshua Nkomo and others. They are not a "Mugabe trick" to win elections.

The land issue was such a critical one that the Lancaster House negotiations for the independence of Zimbabwe almost collapsed over that issue. At one point, the then President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, also a key outside player in the negotiations, issued a telling press statement on the stalemated negotiations. The late Ariston Chambati, a participant at the negotiations, captured the substance of that statement:

"Mwalimu said land was a very important issue to any future Government of Zimbabwe. The question holding the talks now was British refusal to accept PF’s demands that Britain should guarantee provision of sufficient funds for paying fair compensation to settlers whose land would be taken for redistribution to the people.

"The President said the PF are not prepared to tax Zimbabwe for the sake of paying compensation for land to be taken over by a future Government of Zimbabwe."

Mwalimu said the British, who raised the land issue, do not want to accept PF’s demands for adequate funds and instead "are pleading poverty".

He said they (the British) were mixing issues instead of solving the land issue. They were talking about providing technical assistance in rural development. He said he wondered why they (the British) were able to provide funds to independent Kenya for land compensation purposes but were now denying the PF similar facilities.

President Nyerere said the PF do not object to the idea of compensation, provided Britain guarantees provision of adequate funds for the purpose.

He said the PF want to be quite honest on the land issue and if they can get British guarantees of adequate funds, they would be prepared to continue discussing implementation of the constitutional proposals already agreed upon by all parties to the talks.

So crucial was the land issue to the Patriotic Front that they only agreed to continue with the talks after receiving guarantees regarding compensation. The PF issued the following statement on October 19 1979:

"We have now obtained assurance that depending on a successful outcome of the conference, Britain, the United States of America and other countries will participate in a multinational financial donor effort to assist in land, agriculture and economic development programmes.

"These assurances go a long way in allaying the great concerns we have over the land question arising from the great need our people have for land and our commitment to satisfy that need when in government."

It is common knowledge that the West has since reneged on those assurances, and the rest is history.

Also remarkable in the above PF statement read by Cde Nkomo is the assertion that the liberation armed forces that toppled minority rule "must be entrusted with the task of ensuring thar colonialism, under whatever guise, will not return to plague the nation". That statement is very pertinent in the current circumstances.

Some Zimbabwean Western media and their local surrogates have sneered at statements made in the past by the former ZDF Commander and ZRP Commissioner, Cdes Zvinavashe and Chihuri respectively, and more recently by the ZDF Commander, Constantine Chiwenga, to the effect that they will not pay any allegiance to a non-revolutionary, Western-backed government in Zimbabwe.

These statements have been deliberately misconstrued to imply that the armed forces have said they will pay allegiance only to a President Mugabe led-government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It must be stated frankly and with all due respect, that President Robert Mugabe is a mortal and will pass on in his own time. The issues of our land and sovereignty are our birthright and that of our children and their children.

Early in the armed struggle for Zimbabwe, long before the British-sponsored MDC was conceived, ANC freedom fighters based at Mgagao Military Camp in Tanzania submitted a memorandum to the OAU Liberation Committee. In it they were critical of the three members of the leadership, namely Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, and James Chikerema, whom they saw as divorced from the realities of the struggle.

In reference to President Mugabe, they wrote the following: "An Executive Member who has been outstanding is Robert Mugabe. He has demonstrated this by defying the rigours of guerrilla life in the jungles of Mozambique.

Since we respect him most, in all our dealings with the ANC leadership, he is the only person who can act as middleman. We will not accept any direct discussions with any of the three leading members of the ANC we have described above. We can only talk through Robert Mugabe to them."

Our armed forces are charged with the responsibility of protecting that birthright. In the current circumstances, where these rights and national values are under a clear and very present threat, it is not only correct, but also obligatory, for our armed forces to make their position clear, for the benefit of all stakeholders. There is nothing sinister about that, and such statements should continue to be made without reservations or apology.

Having said the above, I clearly risk being labelled as one that wishes to return to "the politics of racial hatred", one who advocates for an isolationalist stance for Zimbabwe within the international community, one who is blind to the rampant corruption, "human rights abuses", "poor governance" and "non-adherence to the rule of law" in our midst.

That is not the case. I am merely for putting all our current polemics and the major polarities that characterise our current politics in their correct political and historical perspective. There is great need for us to get our priorities right.

Zimbabwe should remain prepared to engage any nation in the world, for mutual benefit, as long as this is on the basis of the equality of all nations in the UN, and the equality of all humanity as created by the one Creator.

This is what our erstwhile enslavers and colonisers in the West are not yet prepared to do. It is not just President Mugabe and Zanu-PF that have noted this. The African Union, in refusing to be hurried into signing trade deals with the European Union, has made the same point. President Wade of Senegal, in defending Africa’s decision to turn from Europe to China, has made the same point.

Wade reiterates the now very well known two truths about Western policy on investment in Africa. First all their deals must be heavily tilted in favour of Western multinational companies. The trick is to sneak on poor collapsing African economies, offer them "lucrative" investment deals to resuscitate their economies.

Before they realise it, the poor country is duped into signing off huge chunks of their natural resources heritage and finds itself in a huge pitfall, very difficult to climb out of. Ask Zambia.

Secondly, the West will stay away from any deals that substantively develop African infrastructure and have the potential to enable the countries to wrestle themselves free of the economic hostage relationship they have with Western economies. It has been like that since time immemorial to our current times.

King Leopold of Belgium would not bother to convert into hydropower stations the numerous rapids along the Congo River in his l’Etat Independent du Congo as it sharply falls in its final 200km lap to the Pacific. Such power-generating infrastructure would have the capacity to satisfy most of Central and Southern Africa’s power needs.

All the king had a mind for was shipping thousands upon thousands of Congolese ivory and rubber for Europe’s development, savagely killing thousands, and chopping off the arms of further thousands of Congolese men, women, and children in the process.

Here at home the much talked about Zambezi Water Project for watering Matabeleland has had no takers in the West, even when President Mugabe was still "a good boy". Ask Dabengwa.

The truth of the matter, now conceded even by independent-minded Anglo-American think-tanks, is that the West has no real interest in the development of Africa outside the framework of its own geo-politico-economic interests. The West make it clear that they will not support countries like Zimbabwe, which insist on controlling all their natural resources and empowering its indigenous population.

The West has directed the Bretton Woods institutions — the World Bank and the IMF — to do the same. Zimbabwe went out of its way to put right its account with the IMF a couple of years ago, at a great cost to its people, but the IMF was not interested.

For the West the preferred option on Zimbabwe is to install a puppet government. The second option, which is already in operation is to wring out every ounce of economic life Zimbabwe might still have until the country drops dead. For good measure they will set its nationals against one another, before retiring to the sidelines to watch the drama unfold, then move in for the final onslaught.

It might be quite understandable for Morgan Tsvangirai to imagine that his MDC can resuscitate the economy and put it on the path to recovery on the basis of some US$10 billion injection from his Western allies. I do not think the man knows any better.

What is mind-boggling is how a person of Simba Makoni’s calibre and experience can imagine that he can "get Zimbabwe working again" under a plan that essentially begins and ends simply by re-engaging the West, in the circumstances detailed above.

All the other good things Dr Makoni promises to do, have been promised by everybody else gunning for political power. The question is how he will achieve them in the circumstances, given Zimbabwe’s history with colonialism and neo-colonialism.

Asked how the Makoni virtual group will fund its economic recovery programme, "strategist" Dr Nkosana Moyo glibly responded that Zimbabwe still enjoyed a lot of "global goodwill". That shows you the depth and seriousness of the Makoni bid for the presidency!

The truth of the matter is that Zimbabwe, and indeed Africa, cannot overcome poverty for the generality of its people at the back of Western aid and assistance. The necessary goodwill on the part of the country’s erstwhile colonisers simply does not exist.

Zimbabwe should pursue reciprocal good relations with all countries, and should ask and receive assistance from friends. However, such assistance cannot constitute the backbone of our economic recovery and development strategy.

Zimbabwe has no alternative but to proceed by way of "endogenous development". We must, to the greatest extent possible depend on our own resources, first to ensure that we can feed ourselves, second to have surplus for export, and third to embark on a broad- based national industrialisation programme, over which we cannot be held to ransom by other external forces.

It will be a long arduous road to development, certainly spanning generations, but it is definitely a more certain road. It is particularly difficult in this modern world that is undergoing globalisation. But in order to preserve our sovereignty we must follow that route.

In our circumstances, therefore, the longer difficult road is certainly more viable than magical "five" or "10" year development plans, and empty grandstanding slogans to "make poverty history". We need unconventional solutions to the very intricate predicament we find ourselves in.

Fortunately, and as I have observed above, a more competitive environment is taking shape in the marketplace of ideas on the global arrangements that are adequate for the stage of development we find ourselves at.

It is in this context that we find the agrarian revolution that Zimbabwe has embarked on under the leadership of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, and constituting the major plank of the party’s campaign platform, proffering the only viable long-lasting solution to our problems advanced so far in the ongoing election campaign. What the other parties and formations seek is mere temporary relief, at great national cost.

The bid for the presidency by Simba Makoni has been referred to as "bizarre". We think it is more sinister than that. Remarkably the "business class" that is said to constitute his main support base is constituted by people who amassed their wealth hugely on the back of Zanu-PF’s revolutionary indigenous empowerment policies, some of them used their Zanu-PF influenced appointments to literally embezzle their way to the wealth they sit on now. Corruption!

It seems the same class now want Zanu-PF to jettison the very policies that enabled them to amass their wealth. They would rather capitulate to international capital, and protect their wealth from sanctions through "re-engagement", rather than persist with the revolution that seeks to empower the generality of the Zimbabwean people.

It is such people, and anybody else who would care to join him, that Simba Makoni is inviting into a "National Authority" to govern this country. Who will this motley undefined group be responsible to? To Simba Makoni and Ibbo Mandaza? This is not a bizarre project. It is intended to throw the revolution into disarray. It is Tshombeist. It is opportunist.

Let us continue with the fight against corruption. Let us continue with empowerment of our people — they will provide the solutions. Let us retain our land, we will overcome the challenges that our agrarian revolution faces now. As our founding fathers, Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe insist, let us remain a sovereign people!

1 comment:

Paul Pescador said...

Dear Pan African New Wire
I am working on a documentary about African Migration. I am very interested in using the image from this post. Please email me at Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Paul Pescador