WHAT WE THINK
March 22, 2002 | Page 3
ROBERT MUGABE proclaimed himself the leader of Zimbabwe this week after "winning" an election by means of force and fraud. But the government officials crying foul in Washington and London have zero credibility in their claims to support democracy in Zimbabwe and Africa--or anywhere else.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party was the leading force in the victorious liberation struggle against the white colonial regime 22 years ago. But workers' resistance to the free-market policies that he pursued in the early 1990s gave rise to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a former union leader.
To rebuild support recently, Mugabe encouraged peasants to occupy farms owned by whites--who are less than 2 percent of the population but own more than 70 percent of the land.
While land reform is urgently needed, this was a cynical stunt by someone who postponed action for 20 years to curry favor with the West. And while Mugabe claimed to be a defender of the poor, his ZANU-PF party passed laws stripping unions of their rights, while organizing thugs to repress its political opponents.
That's why workers in the cities--faced with joblessness of up to 70 percent--saw a vote for the MDC as a vote for democracy and against dictatorship.
But rather than build on the struggles of the workers who support the MDC, Tsvangirai has increasingly looked to London and Washington for support--and came out for IMF-style policies.
In fact, Britain and the U.S. recently blessed a rigged election in neighboring Zambia--because the "winner" backed the free-market policies that they demand.
Mugabe used Tsvangirai's ties to the West to posture as an opponent of imperialism. But now, he's trying to ingratiate himself with the West, by lifting price controls on food and utilities.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian and South African governments are trying to broker a deal that would keep Mugabe in power with some participation by the MDC--to avoid Western sanctions that could hurt the African economy.
Democracy in Zimbabwe won't be achieved through sanctions or deal making--but by the struggle of workers to defend their interests and fight for their rights.