December 16th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The meaning of Christmas

CANBERRA OBSERVED Parliamentary stampede tramples freedoms

EUTHANASIA Palliative care remains the true solution

FOREIGN AFFAIRS The more Zimbabwe changes, the more it stays the same

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Putting the 'fair' back in the fair go for farmers

OPINION The new Reformation: How Christians found themselves on the 'wrong' side of history

PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIETY Why Marxists will not engage with opponents

ECONOMICS Kim Beazley rides in as a white knight for the TPP

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Mergers could give unions a striking profile

MUSIC Sounds like ...: A vain search for meaning

CINEMA Casablanca: Contender for the 'perfect film'

BOOK REVIEW Australia behind the scenes in WWII

BOOK REVIEW Political sparks at the 'Friendly' Games

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The more Zimbabwe changes, the more it stays the same

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 16, 2017

The overthrow of Zimbabwe’s tyrannical dictator, Robert Mugabe, is the result of a power struggle within the ZANU PF political party, not the restoration of democracy in this troubled country.

ZANU PF is the party which Mugabe used to control Zimbabwe, in conjunction with the country’s military forces.

Morgan Tsvangirai

Until shortly before his overthrow, the 93-year-old Mugabe ran the country with an iron fist through his Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, ZANU PF, and the Zimbabwe National Army, which was based on the pre-independence guerilla force and is closely aligned with the controlling political party.

A month before his ouster, Mugabe unilaterally removed Mnangagwa from his post as vice-president, apparently at the instigation of Mugabe’s young wife Grace, who wanted to become vice-president herself, with right of succession to Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, an ally of Mugabe since the independence struggle, and known as “the Crocodile”, was the enforcer of the Mugabe regime, responsible for the suppression of human rights, attacks on white farmers, and confiscatory taxes on foreign businesses.

After being replaced as vice-president, Mnangagwa fled to South Africa, apparently in fear of his life and to plot his return to power.

The military and ZANU PF demanded that Mugabe reverse the promotion of his wife, but Mugabe refused.

Army coup

The army then seized power, and forced Mugabe to resign as President. ZANU PF organised the street demonstrations that called for, and then celebrated, Mugabe’s overthrow.

Emmerson Mnangagwa then flew back from South Africa to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, where he was immediately installed as the country’s new president, declaring that democracy had been restored in Zimbabwe.

In fact, it has not been restored.

The restoration of democracy could only be said to have happened when Mugabe’s long-time opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, is allowed to return from exile and re-establish his political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and when political parties based on the minority tribal groups in Zimbabwe are able to operate freely and participate in national life.

Zimbabwe is a country which comprises a number of African tribal groups, principally the Shona, and secondly, the Ndebele. These two groups together comprise over 90 per cent of the African population.

Mugabe’s power was based on his control of the largest tribal group, the Shona, but Morgan Tsvangirai is also a Shona.

Tsvangirai’s power base was not the ZANU PF, but the Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions.

The eldest of nine children, Tsvangirai left school while a teenager to help support his parents. He left school early to seek work and in 1974 took work at a mine. Mugabe would later take to calling Tsvangirai “ignoramus” because of his humble background and lack of education.

After working as plant foreman at the Bindura Nickel Mine for 10 years, he rose through the union ranks and in 1988 he was elected secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

As Zimbabwe’s economy declined and workers’ living standards plummeted in the 1990s, the ZCTU took an increasingly political role. When Mugabe tried to raise income tax to pay pensions for veterans of the 1970s war of independence, a ZCTU-organised nationwide strike forced him to back down.

In apparent revenge for his part in defeating Robert Mugabe and the war veterans, a group of men burst into Tsvangirai’s office, hit him on the head with a metal bar and attempted to throw him out of his 10th floor office window. It was the first of a number of attempts by Mugabe and his cronies to assassinate Tsvangirai.

It would come to be a foretaste of the war veterans’ campaign of violence ahead of elections in 2000 and 2002, which led to the deaths of more than 100 opposition supporters.

Tsvangirai formed the Movement for Democratic Change in 2000, and stood for election against Mugabe in 2008. He won the most votes but, according to official results, not enough to win outright. Before the second round was held in June that year, Mugabe’s security forces carried out a campaign of violence against opposition supporters, and Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew.

Mugabe was declared the winner.

Tsvangirai stood against President Mugabe in 2013 but lost in a landslide. Tsvangirai said the result was rigged.

It is clear that Morgan Tsvangirai is the voice of democratic Zimbabwe, not the newly appointed President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been at Mugabe’s right hand for the past 40 years.

The minority tribal group, the Ndebele, were an integral part of the pro-independence struggle, but have been totally marginalised since Mugabe took office.

Their leaders, including Joshua Nkomo and Bishop Abel Muzorewa, have been completely excluded from public life in post-independence Zimbabwe.

Western nations that have long been concerned about human rights in Zimbabwe, should require genuine democratic change before lifting sanctions on the regime.

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