Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking to a large crowd at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit during the MLK Conference, April 5, 2008. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Zimbabwe to Hold National Elections Despite Continuing Western Sanctions
ZANU-PF and opposition parties campaign for new constitution and positions within government
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
On March 16, the Southern African state of Zimbabwe is scheduled vote on whether to accept or reject a draft constitution which is the product of four years of collaboration between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties. Later in July, national presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in order to form a new government inside this country which gained its independence from British colonial settlers in 1980.
Zimbabwe is still facing sanctions by Britain, the United States, the European Union and their allies. The sanctions were designed to isolate the ruling ZANU-PF party headed by President Robert Mugabe, which launched a comprehensive land redistribution program in 2000 that seized the most productive farms and turned them over to the African masses.
In recent years, a national reconciliation process has led to the lessening of tensions inside the country. The establishment of a Global Political Agreement and a coalition government since 2008 has resulted in broad-based discussions and the formulation of a draft constitutional document.
Millions are expected to vote on the draft that will ostensibly solidify the national reconciliation process. President Mugabe and other leading governmental officials have appealed to the citizens of the mineral-rich state to maintain the peace throughout the campaigning and election period.
During the lead up to the land redistribution program, the imperialist states imposed draconian sanctions and financed the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC later split into two factions with one headed by Arthur Mutambara and the other by Tsvangirai.
The country underwent years of destabilization efforts by the opposition forces. These political developments along with the land seizures provided a rationale for the governments in Washington, London and throughout Europe to impose and maintain an economic blockade on the country.
Propaganda against the land reform program was spread widely within the corporate media throughout the world. Allegations of corruption and inefficiency in implementing land reform were designed to discredit the policies of ZANU-PF under President Mugabe.
Yet several studies conducted by western researchers and journalists, including Prof. Ian Scoones of the Institute of Development Studies in Britain, suggested that the land redistribution policy had taken large-scale acreage under the control of a small number of white settler agricultural businessmen and broken them up creating tens of thousands of African small farmers who have increased production and raised incomes.
In addition to the increase in agricultural production, Zimbabwe has made significant new discoveries in the diamond and gold industries. To sabotage the renewal of the sanction-riddled economy, the imperialist states attempted to prevent Zimbabwe from marketing its diamonds internationally.
A campaign launched by the government with the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional organization, defeated these attempt to place a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds. Over the last few weeks additional gold resources have been discovered inside the country as well.
Another strategic resource that exists in abundance in Zimbabwe is platinum. Along with neighboring South Africa, this region of Africa encompasses over 80 percent of the world’s known sources of this mineral.
In addition to land redistribution, the government in Zimbabwe is implementing what it calls the indigenization of the mining industries. The objective of this policy to transfer the ownership of mining corporations to Zimbabweans so that the revenue generated can be reinvested into the national development of the country.
Western Observers Not Welcome During Elections
To minimize the imperialist intervention into the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, a leading official announced on February 23 that the countries which have been attempting to undermine the independence process in the country will not be allowed monitor the upcoming elections. Despite the creation of a government of national unity, a global political agreement and the scheduling of elections, the western states have maintained sanctions against the country.
In an article published by the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail it reported that only observers from the Southern African region will be allowed to monitor the upcoming elections. The statement was made by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, a longtime member of the ZANU-PF party.
Mujuru asked “Why should we be monitored by other countries outside the Southern African Development Community (SADC) when we are a sovereign state? Let us be wary of foreign interference in our internal politics.” (Sunday Mail, February 24)
The Vice-President went on to stress that “Some countries, particularly those which have imposed illegal sanctions on us, wish to pursue their interest at our expense by imposing themselves on our national election processes so as to influence the outcome in their favor.”
She emphasized that “As Zimbabweans, we have demonstrated our unity in diversity as we relentlessly pursued the Constitution-making process in the last few years. There is therefore, no reason why we cannot demonstrate our maturity, our sense of patriotism and our unity of purpose by conducting the forthcoming referendum on March 16 and harmonized elections thereafter in a peaceful environment.”
Alliance with the People’s Republic of China Enhanced
The ruling ZANU-PF party has maintained a long relationship with the People’s Republic China (PRC) that extends back to the days of the national liberation war of the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to the support Zimbabwe received from the SADC regional states during the worse period of the sanctions-regime against the country, the PRC has also played an important role both economically and politically in alliance with the Mugabe government.
This alliance has opened up a new chapter with the signing of three bilateral agreements in the fields of information communication, agriculture and transport. A delegation from China headed by the Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, signed the agreements with Zimbabwean officials led by Vice President Mujuru and Finance Minister Tendai Biti.
Deming told Mujuru that China wants to further build upon its economic relations with Zimbabwe. “The Chinese President will next month attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in South Africa, a clear indication that the Asian country values Africa.” (Sunday Mail, February 24)
The signing of these new agreements are building upon existing projects which include the Sino-Zimbabwe Cement factory in Gweru and Anjin Diamonds that is developing the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Also the state-owned Chinese company Shandong Taishan Sunlight Group is planning to invest up to $US2 billion to develop coal mines, coal-bed methane extraction and other power projects located in the western province of the country.
The former Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Xin Shunkang, reported during 2012 that trade between Zimbabwe and China had increased by 100 percent to $US800 million over a two year period. To help facilitate further growth, the China Development Bank is planning to invest $10 billion over the next five years in the Southern African state.
A Chinese corporation Sinotex is currently developing a $US 500 million cotton production project in partnership with more than 300,000 rural farmers.
These agreements will contribute towards resolving what the African Development Bank says is the need for Zimbabwe to invest $US14 billion into projects that will enhance its infrastructural capacity.