Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Imperialism and the Politics of Economic Sanctions, From Zimbabwe and Beyond

Imperialism and the Politics of Economic Sanctions, From Zimbabwe and Beyond

African nation targeted by Security Council while western powers engage in endless war and global impoverishment

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

News Analysis

On June 23 the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to condemn the government and political leadership of the Southern African nation of Zimbabwe. This action came in succession with a number of other news reports related to charges made by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Tsvangirai (MDC-T) headed by Morgan Tsvangirai.

On June 22 it was reported that a group of supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriot Front Party (ZANU-PF) attacked a MDC-T campaign rally. As a result of this alleged incident, coupled with other reports of some 80 opposition supporters killed, many more beaten and displaced and the charging with treason of the MDC-T Secretary-General, the opposition party has withdrawn from participating in the scheduled June 27 run-off elections.

In response to these allegations by the MDC-T and the reports carried by various news agencies around the world, the western nations who have already imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, such as the United States, Britain, Australia and the European Union (EU), demanded the convening of a Security Council meeting on the internal situation in Zimbabwe where efforts were made by the leading imperialist countries occupying seats on the Security Council demanded the recognition of the pro-western opposition MDC-T party as the "legitimate" government of Zimbabwe.

This effort was defeated by others on the Council with a milder resolution passed decrying the alleged acts of violence carried out by the ZANU-PF government and questioning the free and fair character of the electoral process in Zimbabwe. These actions by the United Nations Security Council has received widespread coverage over the British Broadcasting Corporation news service as well as the corporate media as a whole.

The resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council states that: "The Security Council condemns the campaign of violence against the political opposition ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections scheduled for June 27, which has resulted in the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including women and children."

The resolution goes on to say that: "The Security Council regrets that the campaign of violence and the restrictions on the political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on 27 June. The Council further considers that, to be legitimate, any government of Zimbabwe must take account of the interests of all its citizens. The Council notes that the results of the 29 March 2008 elections must be respected."

It is quite a contradiction that this resolution has been cited by the corporate media throughout the world as a turning point in the relationship between the Government of Zimbabwe and the international community when reference is made to the legitimacy of the outcome of the March 29 elections which the opposition MDC-T has condemned as unfair and rigged.

The resolution also, in its second from last paragraph, makes reference to the re-certification of the non-governmental humanitarian organizations operating inside the country, but never addresses the allegations made by the ZANU-PF Government that some of these agencies had interfered in the electoral process in support of the opposition western-backed MDC-T party.

In the previous paragraph, the resolution calls for the cooperation of the ZANU-PF Government in efforts launched by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the appointed chief mediator for Zimbabwe, South African President Thabo Mbeki, but what is not recognized is the ongoing dialogue between both Presidents Mbeki and Mugabe. Mbeki recently visited Zimbabwe to discuss the current situation inside country with both the Government as well as the opposition.

The resolution does not appear to call for additional economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. The country has already been subjected to sanctions by the United States, Britain, Australia and the European Union. Over the last several months the supporters of the western-backed opposition MDC-T has called upon the Republic of South Africa to turn against its neighbor and to assist the imperialist states in their stated aims of regime change in Zimbabwe.

Despite the announcement on June 22 by the corporate media that the MDC-T leader had withdrawn from the June 27 poll, an official letter of resignation was not released to the press until June 24. Tsvangirai in this lengthy letter, which reads more like a list of repeated allegations that have been made against the Government through the western-allied press agencies, he outlines his reasons for withdrawing from the elections.

Some of the reasons given include the purported failure of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to announce a winner in the March 29 poll. However, according to the Zimbabwe Constitution, if no candidate wins a 51% majority, then a run-off election in required. The MDC-T leadership during the immediate aftermath of the elections on March 29, announced on numerous occasions that it had won the elections prior to the release of any official results.

The MDC-T initially said that it had won in excess of 60% of the results in the presidential poll. Later MDC-T Secretary-General Tendai Beti, stated in a press conference broadcast live over the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television that the party had won 50.3% of the presidential vote, and this also was prior to the release of any official results. Even if the MDC-T party had won 50.3%, it is still not enough to be declared as a victor in the presidential poll.

Other allegations made in the MDC-T leader's letter of withdrawal claims that: "The violence currently obtaining in this country which has resulted in numerous deaths, destruction of homes, displacement of various people and injuries to people is something that is clearly in the public domain. As of today, the country has recorded at least 86 deaths, 10,000 homes destoyed, 200,000 people displaced and 10,000 people injured."

These figures have been staunchly refuted by the ZANU-PF Government. There are no specific references cited by Tsvangirai that would substantiate that the Zimbabwe Government has recorded such figures, particularly those which claim that hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes and that some 10,000 have been injured at the aegis of the ruling party.

Another significant reason given by the opposition leader is that the President "came out on National television encouraging his party members to conduct a war-like campaign." This statement flows from the western imperialist position that the ZANU-PF Government does not constitute a legitimate entity and therefore has no right to protect and secure its political independence and territorial sovereignty. This position is being advanced amid increasing calls by imperialist allied interests that the internationally-recognized ZANU-PF Government be overthrown.

The sixth reason cited by the MDC-T leader for his withdrawal from the poll is the lack of access to the state media. However, the corporate media in the region and throughout the world has waged a consistent campaign of disinformation and villification against the ZANU-PF Government and President Robert Mugabe.

Opposition figures are given prime coverage daily over the BBC and other western media outlets which have widespread audiences throughout the globe. All allegations made against the ZANU-PF Government by the MDC-T are treated as gospel and are never questioned or scrutinized. In other words, the MDC-T, as far as the western media is concerned, will never tell a lie. This unscientific and biased coverage has created an atmosphere both inside and outside of Zimbabwe which is not conducive to the political well-being of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

The seventh reason cited by the MDC-T leader is that opposition rallies have been deliberatly broken up by ZANU-PF militants. The Zimbabwe Government has denied these allegations and has emphatically stated that the MDC-T are making up these stories to spread doubt about the fairness of the elections and to bring into question the overall political legitimacy of the state. The western-allied media has never reported on any act of violence or violation of the law committed by the MDC-T.

Finally, the MDC-T leader alleges that there has been massive disenfranchisement of voters as a result of the displacement of many people throughout the country. However, in the last paragraphs, the western-backed leader states that: "We accordingly urge you to abide by your mandate clearly spelt out in our constitution and in particular ensure that a proper environment conducive for the holding of an efficient, free, fair, and transparent election is held in the shortest period of time possible. It is only in that kind of an election that my party and I will participate in."

Consequently, the opposition leader seeks to set the terms for the MDC-T's participation in the presidential run-off elections. His claims of crimes and acts of intimidation are never challenged by the corporate-controlled press. In creating these negative images about the situation in Zimbabwe, the country will continue to be a major target of the imperialist countries for political and economic destabilization.

The Political Imperatives Behind Economic Sanctions

This recent use of economic sanctions by the western imperialist countries and their allies have been exclusively directed towards countries in the so-called Third World where governments have taken a political and economic direction that is often at variance with the foreign policy imperatives of the United States, the UK as well as the EU.

Hence the targeting of Iran, Somalia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Palestine, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, where either the governments of these states or significant political elements within them, have been identified by the United States and its allies as being threats to their power and prestige.

Whereas between the post World War II period and the 1990s, when anti-colonial and pan-african forces advocated the imposition of sanctions against settler regimes, in the 21st century the imperialists are attempting to tighten the grips on any independent government or movement that has the potential of creating it own social agenda for the future.

During the period between the 1960s and the early 1990s, the racist apartheid regimes in southern Africa were subjected to calls by those both inside and outside the respective countries for disinvestment of various types of portfolios and public funds. Corporations were identified as the major investors in Rhodesia, the former Portuguese colonies as well as South Africa and Namibia. The framing of the national liberation struggle as an international movement to not only end national domination of the colonial territories but to also provide a mechanism for greater solidarity to develop between those in the Global South and the industrialized capitalist states.

Sanctions that have been implemented against the DPRK for their efforts in the nuclear arena never explains why the nation is still a threat to the United States. The ongoing decades-long embargo on revolutionary Cuba is never justified. The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan supposedly derives from the so-called "war on terrorism", however, the hostilities began with media villification and economic sanctions.

Western imperialist states have called for stronger economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. Moreover, these calls for a further isolation of this Southern African nation also includes proposals for direct military intervention. In an article published by Reuters on June 24, a former British official asserted that their should be a military intervention into Zimbabwe.

According to the Reuters article: "A former British minister for Africa said today that South Africa should cut power supplies to Zimbabwe, and African peacekeepers backed by the EU and [the] United Nations should be ready to go in and restore order." British former Africa envoy "Peter Hain...said it would also be essential to give Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe immunity from prosecution."

Immunity from prosecution? Why should the legtimately elected and recognized head-of-state seek immunity when the settler-colonialists were not prosecuted for the deaths of thousands of Africans during colonialism and the war of national liberation. Those who conspired and carried out the theft of land and valuable mineral resources with the cooperation of other colonial powers and the multi-national corporations based in their countries, have never been indicted or brought up on trial. Yet these same imperialist elements are now calling for the removal and imprisonment of the forces that organized and fought the independence wars of the late 20th century.

The utilization of sports, which is very much a part of the culture in Southern Africa, is coming to the fore as an element in the intensification of the efforts to overthrow the government in Zimbabwe. In an article published in the South African Mail & Guardian on June 24, it says that: "Britain said on Tuesday that Zimbabwe's planned cricket tour of England next year would be 'unwelcome' given the situation in the country. The government also said it had 'serious concerns' about Zimbabwe paticipating in the Twenty20 World Cup in England in 2009."

Also the same Mail & Guardian article points to the Republic of South Africa's Cricket Union which stated that it had suspended its domestic agreements with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. "Cricket South Africa's decision is hugely significant, says David Morgan, the president-elect of the International Cricket Council (ICC). "Clearly they will want something done. They're very influential in terms of Southern African cricket and Zimbabwe is part of that."

The Crucial Role of SADC and the AU States

What will be important in the western imperialist attempts to topple the government in Zimbabwe, is the response of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries and the African Union (AU). Both SADC and the AU are significant because the African Union is now chaired by the president of Tanzania. Zimbabwe will need the ongoing cooperation with both the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique.

President Mbeki has consistently refused to impose an energy and transport blockade against Zimbabwe. Although it appeared that forces aligned with the new African National Congress (ANC) ruling party leadership, such as the major players within the trade unions and the orgaized left, were unable to distinguish between the actions taken to curb the impact of sanctions and efforts aimed at curtailing democratic rights, have since maintained a similar policy as the previous leadership. A statement by the ANC on June 24 expressed concern over the reports of violence in Zimbabwe, but recognized the problems inside the country and its relationship to the international community as a direct outgrowth of the anti-colonial struggle.

The ANC statement on Zimbabwe says that: "It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabwean themselves. Nothing that has happened in recent months has persuaded us to revise that view. A lasting solution has to be led by the Zimbabweans and any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis."

The other crucial player will be the Republic of Mozambique whose history has been intertwined with that of Zimbabwe. During the war of liberation, Mozambique served as a rear base for the ZANU-PF guerrilla forces of the African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). After the acquisition of national independence in Zimbabwe in 1980, the apartheid-backed Movement of National Resistance (MNR) carried out a campaign of disruption and destabilization in Mozambique.

By the late 1980s, Zimbabwe would place 10,000 of its own troops along the Beira Corridor in order for trade routes to remain open for both Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the latter of which is landlocked and depends on both the ports at Beira as well as those located inside the Republic of South Africa, which at the time, was still under the racist regime of settler-colonialism.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has expressed its continuing commitment to uphold the values of the national liberation struggle as well as the consitution of the country. In the June 25 issue of the Herald it states that: "A senior Zimbabwe Defence Forces officer has urged people to vote wisely on Friday (June 27) by choosing President Mugabe who carries the values and interests of the country.

"Speaking at a pass out parade of 131 graduates from the Airforce of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Prison Services at the Field Airforce Base in Chegutu recently, Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena said the ZDF was ready to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"He said the country could not develop without land reform.
'Land comes first before all else, and that all else grows from and off the land. As defence forces, this is the one asset that we should defend, that which not only defines the Zimbabwean personality and defines sovereignty but also an asset that has a direct bearing on the fortunes and prosperity for our immediate empowerment,' he said."

If the people of Zimbabwe maintain their commitment to the struggle to guard their national sovereignty, then this will inevitably be the decisive factor in combating the continuing interference in its internal affairs by the former colonial and other imperialist states.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. PANW articles have been published in many news outlets and websites throughout the globe.

No comments: