Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Global Democracy Train Finds Zimbabwe a Barrier

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column, Sunday,  June 29 / 08

Zack Gross

The national election which has just taken place in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe had a foregone outcome. 

President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country for twenty-eight years after winning an armed struggle against a white supremacy regime, will force himself once again upon his people. 

While we was once extremely popular in his country and around the world, as a “saviour” for his nation, he now holds onto power by intimidation and rigged elections, while the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and others try to find a way to unseat him.

Zimbabwe, in recent years, has become an abjectly poor country with an inflation rate currently of three million percent.  Mugabe has taken away the land of his white farming class, who were a large part of Zimbabwe’s economy, in favour of giving land to demobilized soldiers who are his greatest support but not productive in a modern, capitalist sense. 

Many people have left the country – both white and black - out of fear for their lives or due to loss of livelihood.  Recently, anti-foreign riots broke out in South Africa because the thousands of Zimbabwean black refugees living there are accused of taking jobs from the poor in that country.

While leaders around the world, from George Bush to Nelson Mandela, speak out against Mugabe and his tactics – Mandela called the Zimbabwean situation “a tragic failure of leadership” – Mugabe answers back, saying that he is fighting against a global colonial system that is led by countries such as Great Britain that have dominated Southern Africa in the past and wish to do so again. 

Mugabe, who is in his mid-80s, has agreed to talk with the Zimbabwean opposition after his electoral victory is complete, but it is expected that he is preparing for the transition of his supporters into power, rather than making way for democracy.

A worldwide move to replace dictatorship and rigged elections has been practiced on an almost industrial scale since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. 

From Eastern Europe and the Middle East, to Asia and Africa, the “march” of democracy has captured the imaginations of the disenfranchised and those watching from afar. 

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is not an isolated case, but rather a noticeably difficult one.  In this particular case, and in similar situations in Ukraine, Georgia and even Lebanon, it is a battle between the spread of liberal democracy and global capital, and the nationalism and control to which an old generation of leaders cling.

The freedom train chugging around the world is made up of opposition groups, often trained and financed by Western interests (but still legitimately wanting freedom) who use the exposing of rigged elections and civil oppression as a way of discrediting and ultimately replacing their governments. 

In the case of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia earlier this decade, Victor Yushchenko and Mikael Sakashvili respectively rode to power on the public’s standing up to authorities after questionable election results.  Whipping up the crowds with placards, rock music and putting themselves “on the line” were often young people who’d been trained and funded by democracy promoting foundations linked to the US political system and freedom promoters such as US billionaire George Soros.

This strategy works very well when the people in power are not quite prepared to go to war against their own people.  In other countries such as Russia, Belarus and, obviously now, Zimbabwe, the authorities will hang onto power with as much force as it takes.

 While the West may want regime change in Zimbabwe, they are not prepared to allow the carnage of a civil war in order to achieve it.

Robert Mugabe won’t give up power, he says, because that would be giving in to the forces of colonialism and imperialism. 

Of course, few people have any understanding of, or patience for, that kind of rhetoric today.  As well, it would seem evident that his people are abjectly poor because he refuses to allow them to be part of the system that dominates economic life and that assigns Africans a little bit to live on – not nearly enough, but at least not nothing. 

The world that Mugabe shuns (and that shuns Mugabe) is dominated by capital.  Corporations and their political representatives seem to make the decisions while the rest of the world benefits, in relative terms, or copes. 

While some African leaders, such as South African statesmen Mandela and Desmond Tutu and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan use their “political capital” to call the West to account and fight for aid, debt relief and fairer trade regulations, Mugabe turns his country into a police state.  He doesn’t want to be part of the political or economic games played out globally, but what he is left with, in “victory
,” is nothing.


Zack Gross is program coordinator at the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of 38 international development organizations active in our province.
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