Imperialism continues the economic strangulation of Zimbabwe

Despite reforms and overtures to the West, sanctions continue

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia look on during his inauguration ceremony in 2018. | Photo: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Amid power outages, fuel shortages and currency devaluation, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe is attempting bring economic stability to the Southern African state.

With the inauguration of a Second Republic in 2018 under the leadership of Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ruling party, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to attract investment to the country through the downsizing of the civil service and the control of prices.

There have been several attempts to appeal to Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States, to lift the draconian sanctions which have been in place since the radical land reform process began in 2000. Since this time period, the western imperialist states have funded an opposition party, so-called civil society organizations along with a massive targeted propaganda campaign waged by corporate and government media outlets aimed at the overthrow of the ZANU-PF government, the liberation-movement-turned-political-party which fought for the national independence of the country from European settler-colonialism during the 1960s and 1970s.

At present, there are efforts by President Mnangagwa to ameliorate the impact of the sanctions which have caused consternation for the majority of the people in the country. Nonetheless, these policy shifts have not resulted in any actual improvement in the economic relations with the industrialized western regimes.

Although the imperialist states utilized the redistribution of land policy enacted under the previous government of President Robert Mugabe as their principal reason for imposing sanctions against Zimbabwe, the confiscation of the farms which had been stolen from the African people under colonialism was more than justified.

During the time of the negotiations for national independence in 1979, both Britain and the U.S. had pledged to facilitate land reform through the compensation of white agribusiness owners who dominated the country for nearly a century. The Zimbabwe people did not willingly hand over their land to the European settlers. The transfer was carried out through a series of military operations by the British and the fraudulent pseudo-legal measures which were enacted without the consent of the African people.

The First Chimurenga (people’s war) was carried out to prevent the conquering of the African people’s societies and kingdoms by the British colonialists in the latter 19th century. After failing to prevail, the resistance to colonialism would continue taking on various forms of petitioning, protests, strikes and the eventual protracted armed struggle (the Second Chimurenga) which forced the collapse of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) government of Ian Smith. The Smith government decided to discuss and agree to the holding of non-racial democratic elections in 1980, which led to the ascendancy of the liberation movements as the main state actors.

What must never be forgotten, and that which is never mentioned by the western corporate and governmental media agencies, is that at the time of independence in 1980, both the demands of the liberation movements for transferal of land back to the majority population and the ostensible understanding related to the participation by the West were essential in the process of genuine national reconciliation. Successive British and U.S. administrations under Labor, Conservative, Democratic and Republican control never made good on the resources needed to resolve the land question amicably in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

The current crisis and the continued betrayal of imperialism

Since 1980, there has been the lingering need for economic sustainability. Zimbabwe is largely an agricultural state with tremendous natural resources wealth including diamonds, platinum and other strategic minerals.

Yet the refusal of the imperialist states, which continue to control global finance, trading markets and the overall terms of international relations between the underdeveloped and developed regions of the world to relinquish their grip on Zimbabwe has effectively quashed the economic initiatives attempted by President Mnangagwa since he took office in November 2017. There has been an internationally-supervised election in July 2018 where ZANU-PF renewed its dominance over the parliamentary and administrative structures of the country.

Nonetheless, a May 22 article published by Bloomberg says: “The economy is in its most dire state since 2008, when inflation surged to an estimated 500 billion percent. Medicines, fuel and foreign currency are in short supply, prices of basic goods such as bread are surging and the International Monetary Fund has forecast the first economic contraction in 11 years. And many of the investment projects announced by the government haven’t progressed beyond the memorandum of understanding or feasibility stage.”

In response to the sharp rise in fuel prices, the government has lowered the rate of tax charged on purchases by consumers. The Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) has also slashed the cost of public transportation by 50 percent as well as introducing a cashless payment system where funds are collected electronically.

Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Monica Mutsvangwa told the state-run Zimbabwe Herald in relationship to the ZUPCO changes that: “It resolved that an electronic ticketing system be introduced to increase revenue collection and service efficiency and that the options to either import finished buses and/or knocked down kits for assembling locally be speedily concluded. Cabinet also mandated the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development together with the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and other related key stakeholders to assiduously work on revamping the country’s urban mass transport system, beginning with Harare and Bulawayo.”

News reports have surfaced over the last few weeks suggesting that the Zimbabwe government has offered white farmers who were displaced during the land reform process after 2000 (the Third Chimurenga) a compensation package. President Mnangagwa has spoken directly to the government’s policy on this important question which has proven quite controversial domestically and internationally.

Mnangagwa said in an interview with the Sunday Mail, another state-operated newspaper, that the compensation offers are aimed at assisting older farmers who were under financial duress and will not cover all 4,000 agribusiness owners who had land expropriated.

The president said: “We are looking at old white farmers as we make payment. We don’t pay compensation to those who are fit. Our constitution bids us to pay for improvements on land. We do not pay for land because no one brought land to Zimbabwe. When we feel we do not have resources, no one compels us to do anything.”

Zimbabwe situation and African liberation

This year’s commemorations of Africa Day (Africa Liberation Day) on May 25, which represents the 56th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), comes at a time when the continent is facing enormous challenges related to economic reconstruction and political unification. The plight of Zimbabwe must be viewed within the broader regional struggle between imperialism and the formerly colonized territories of the world, including Africa.

Discussions related to the creation of an African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a major step towards reconstruction after centuries of enslavement, colonization and neo-colonialism which has underdeveloped the region for the benefit of the imperialist centers of the West. Consequently, any genuine program to forge unity and development based on African interests cannot ignore the continuing role of the West in undermining continental efforts to gain economic independence and comprehensive sovereignty.

The material resources of the continent have to be harnessed for African development. Such an approach will be dependent upon the empowerment of the majority population of workers, farmers and youth. Capitalism is at the root of underdevelopment and therefore socialism provides the only viable alternative to the ongoing dependency on imperialism.

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