Western complicity in Mugabe’s regime

July 1, 2008

LEE SUSTAR'S analysis of the political crisis facing Zimbabwe is spot-on ("Mugabe's murderous crackdown").

However, in addition to the reasons Sustar cites that explain why the deeply unpopular Mugabe regime remains in power--historic support (both financial and political) from African neighbors; cozy relations with Russia and China--Sustar leaves one obvious reason for the durability of Mugabe and his ruling clique unexplored.

During a recent broadcast of National Public Radio's Marketplace program, a report aired that exposed the complicity of some of Britain's largest private financial institutions, like Barclays of London, in the continued ZANU-PF stranglehold over everyday life in Zimbabwe.

According to the report, Barclays operates a banking house in Harare that makes direct loans to members of Mugabe's inner circle, thereby providing a vital lifeline for the regime in the form of hard currency. Characteristically, and wrongly, Barclays claims that if it shut down operations in Zimbabwe, the catastrophic economic crisis facing ordinary Zimbabweans would worsen, since "several thousand" Zimbabweans maintain accounts there.

While Western powers continue to talk tough about "respect for democratic processes" in Zimbabwe, they turn a blind eye to financiers and powerbrokers in their own countries that continue to conduct extremely lucrative business with one of the most odious governments on the African continent.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (demonstrating just how far New Labour has lurched to the right) managed to issue only a limpid statement urging British firms that do business with Mugabe's regime to "reconsider" their dealings.

As Sustar points out, the movement for real democratic reforms will continue in Zimbabwe, despite bloody repression. Socialists in the West must demonstrate solidarity with the democracy activists in Zimbabwe by continuing to expose and condemn the complicity of Western firms and the governments that cover for them at every turn.
James Fiorentino, Amherst, Mass.

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