Monday, July 25, 2011

Belarus Under Siege: Joint Onslaught by U.S. and Russian Oligarchs

Is Belorussian regime change a naked lunch?  One thing is for certain: any kind of foreign-funded 'democracy' in Belarus will offer few table scraps for "the people" to enjoy.

Belarus Under Siege: Joint Onslaught by US and Russian Oligarchs
by Michele Brand
Published in Counterpunch
Weekend Edition July 8-10, 2011
Images and captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics
Addendum added July 27, 2011

click on image for details
On June 29 and 30, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Vilnius, Lithuania to participate in a meeting of the “Community of Democracies” and to visit one of the many US-funded international “tech camps.” These camps host “civil society” (i.e.opposition) activists from various nations whose governments the US doesn’t appreciate, and teach them internet and social network organizing skills to be used toward fostering, in official words, “democratic transition,” or more correctly, color revolutions and regime change. According to the AP, “Much of the democracy meeting’s opening day dealt with the new mechanics of protest, such as social media networks.” During her visit Clinton stated that “The United States has invested $50 million in supporting internet freedom and we’ve trained more than 5,000 activists worldwide.” This is of course in addition to the hundreds of millions that the US spends in other ways attempting to destabilize its enemies and to force “democratic transitions.”

The choice of Vilnius was not by chance: it lies 30 kilometers from the Belorussian border. This tech camp is hosting 85 activists from the region, “primarily from Belarus.” Belarus is currently being targeted by a concerted effort towards an orange revolution, financed and remote-controlled by the West. Simultaneously, the country is being subjected to a relatively new pressure from the East: certain Russian elements have apparently decided that Belarus and its profitable state-owned enterprises should belong to them, and are contributing in their own way to the effort to destabilize the government.

I’ve just returned to Paris from a second extended trip to Belarus. Western media faithfully relay the monstrous picture of Belarus that our governments want to convey, and so I’d like to report on the situation in this little-known country, and encourage others to visit it in order to experience for themselves the Belorussian culture, economy, hospitality and character. Among other visits I attended an international conference on the resistance to Nazi fascism, in Brest on June 22, the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. In a country which lost between a third and a quarter of its population during the war, the memory of the ravages of foreign attacks and the heroism of those who resisted it is very strong and alive. Located dangerously between Europe and Russia, entirely flat and endowed with few natural resources, Belarus has fought hard to build a successful independent state. It is not inclined to lose its sovereignty now.

President Lukashenko
The United States and other Western countries have been attacking the government of President Alexander Lukashenko ever since it refused to follow the path of the other ex-Soviet countries in the 1990s, which famously sold off the state-owned industries to oligarchs, destroyed the social protection system and allowed kleptocratic mafia capitalism to take over. Under Lukashenko, Belarus has developed gradually into a strong socially-oriented market economy with the highest growth rate in the CIS even during its current financial troubles (according to the CIS Interstate Statistical Committee, between January and April 2011 Belorussian industry grew 12.9% year-on-year), while still maintaining its free health care, job protection, social services, retirement programs, low unemployment, state-subsidized housing and utilities, and high level of education. This is one reason why the country is naturally in the line of fire of the West, whose bankrupt governments are now obsessively telling their citizens that “there is no alternative”: we must drastically decrease or kill pensions and other social programs, fire government employees, flexibilize the work force, privatize education, health care, infrastructure and everything possible, etc. etc. Located just next door to crisis-stricken Europe, Belarus is more than a thorn in its side; it is living proof that European and American neoliberal propaganda is only lies.

This seems to be one reason that the attacks against the Belorussian economic model and its government have recently gone into higher gear. Its economy is an isolated pocket of export-oriented production next to the Western economies of consumption. Belarus was the most highly industrialized area in the Soviet Union, manufacturing machines, petroleum and chemical products for the whole Soviet sphere and receiving its energy and raw materials from the East. 75% of the economy is exports; 80% is state-owned production, and there are many public-private partnerships. Smaller businesses are mainly private. The country has recently benefited from a good deal of foreign investment, for example from China, which has invested in infrastructure projects and with whom Belarus has a unique commercial credit swap program. GDP grew 7.6% in 2010. Signs of growth are to be seen everywhere, much more so than during my first visit to the country two years ago, and the skyline of Minsk is dotted with cranes.

Metro station train platform in Minsk
The first impression one has of Belarus is how clean it is -- there’s hardly a cigarette butt on the street -- and the second is the immense number of trees and parks in the cities. (The third might be, depending on whether one had presuppositions about the country being a late Soviet backwater, the modern cars, cell phones and cosmopolitan way of life of its citizens.) Belorussian cuisine is healthy and delicious; agricultural products are local, low-chemical and inexpensive. The food distribution system is not parasited by rapacious large private distributors. The tomatoes are actually red inside and have a real tomato flavor, not whitish inside and tasteless like in the West. The country’s Gini coefficient, measuring income equality, is excellent (29.7, much better than France or the US, or its neighbors Russia and Poland). The country is attracting immigrants from other CIS states who are fleeing their countries’ corruption, crime and drugs in favor of Belarus’ low crime, low unemployment, social services, clean streets and green cities.

Cathedral of Holy Spirit, Minsk, Belarus
These are some of the reasons that the government of President Lukashenko is genuinely popular among the majority of Belorussians, who naturally compare their society’s development over 20 years to that of their neighbors. And it is this popularity that poses a problem for the West and its desire for “democratic” regime change.

Western governments claim that the presidential election of last December 19 was fraudulent, and use this to justify their recent round of attacks. I have spoken with a number of international observers of that election who affirm that they saw no fraud or irregularities, and exit polls confirmed that the majority of Belorussians voted to reelect President Lukashenko. One such report can be read on Counterpunch. The CIS observers reported that they had witnessed a fair election, while the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], predictably, stated the opposite. The selective coverage of this election in Western media is astounding, and to understand the events I recommend this short documentary: “Ploshcha: Beating Glass with Iron” .

Pre-staged denunciation
For about a month before the election the major opposition candidates were spending more time calling on their supporters to protest in a central square in Minsk on the evening of the election, than on campaigning in a normal way by outlining their policies and calling on people to vote. On the evening of the election at around 7:00, before voting stations had closed and well before the results were announced, the opposition groups rallied in October Square in Minsk, the traditional place for demonstrations, flying the blue European flag and the red and white former Belorussian flag, symbol of the opposition. Then the presidential candidates called on their supporters to head to the central government building “and ask them to vacate the offices,” and led a crowd of around 7,000 to Independence Square, just in front of the Parliament. It should be said in passing that out of 1.3 million voters in Minsk, this is a small number. Opposition candidates proceeded to announce that they contested the election results and to proclaim they were forming a new government, the “government of rescue,” reading a printed statement clearly prepared in advance, before results were announced. The police did not interfere with the rally until a large group of well-prepared individuals forcibly tried to enter the Parliament building, using metal rods and shovels. It could have been worse: in the weeks before the election, Belorussian border authorities had seized a number of cargoes of metal rods, grenades, knives, guns, and explosives. The police intervened and prevented what was clearly an attempt at a coup d’état, following the pattern used in the “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. Opposition representatives later claimed that the attack on the Parliament was done by government provocateurs, but many of those arrested and / or filmed trying to break into the Parliament were identified as having relations with various opposition groups.

Riot police block demonstrators trying to storm the government building in the Belorussian capital, Minsk, late Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010.
The goal was apparently twofold: either seize power by occupying the buildings, or if not, at least get international media footage of combat between police and protesters, preferably with blood. Though there were no major injuries, the second goal was obtained since now Western governments and media call this a “violent crackdown” on an opposition rally, and accuse the government of breaching human rights. The hypocrisy of the West, who (with Russia) paid for the campaigns of much of the Belorussian opposition, and who try to foster a “democratic” transition by violently overturning a democratic electoral process, is extraordinary. As Counterpunch readers know well, the US has no lessons to give on human rights. I have directly experienced the way in which the US police protect the human rights of non-violent protesters, for example on April 16, 2000 in front of the Treasury building in Washington, when riot cops violently dispersed a group of non-violent activists sitting in the street to protest the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and a young man near me who couldn’t crawl away fast enough had 3 ribs broken by a riot cop’s bludgeon. It seems that the Belorussian police, given the destruction of government property and attempt to take over Parliament, were very restrained. The people still imprisoned after the events of December 19, including 3 ex-candidates, were convicted of participation in or instigation of the riot. Imagine the reaction if a similar event had taken place at the Capitol building.

G-20 police "crackdown" in PITTSBURGH, UNITED STATES, September, 2009: this image is a good reminder of how hypocrisy is one of the primary tools of empire.  Whereas the United States government is currently waging wars of aggression in at least six countries, it plans to oust a foreign head-of-state for "human rights violations" after police arrested participants of a pre-planned (and forceful) uprising at the federal government building in downtown Minsk.  Readers would be wise to ask of themselves what they imagine the official security response would be if a mob of foreign-funded "protesters" tried the same tactic in Washington D.C. 
Many of the ex-presidential candidates (there were 10 candidates in all) have well-documented relations with the West, which isn’t surprising given the millions that the US and Europe spend on “democratic transition” in the country. They generally call for privatization of state enterprises, liberalization of the economy and adhesion to NATO. A number of them have spent time studying regime change at the George C. Marshall Center European Center for Security Studies in Germany, a partnership between the US military (US European Command) and the German government, which, according to the US embassy in Minsk, hosts 25 Belorussians per year. Since 2001, the US has enacted a series of Belarus Democracy Acts, applying economic sanctions, visa blacklists and asset freezes on government-related people and companies, and providing tens of millions of dollars per year for the promotion of “democracy.”

In February of this year, citing the recent elections, the US State Department announced an increase of its “democracy assistance” to Belorussian civil society by 30% to $15 million for the year. In 2009, the National Endowment for Democracy gave $2.7 million to finance Belorussian “independent” media, civil society (promoting “democratic ideas and values... and a market economy”), NGOs and political groups. A Wikileaks cable (VILNIUS 000732, dated June 12, 2005) confirmed money smuggling into Belarus on the part of USAID contractors, though such proof is hardly necessary. Also in February, the EU, individual European countries, Canada and the US put together a “war chest” of 87 million euros aiming toward regime change in Belarus. With so much money being offered to anyone who wants a job as an activist, it’s not hard to find takers. Youth who run into trouble are offered free education in the West. There is evidence that many of those who partook in the violent acts of the night of December 19th were paid for their participation, by either Western or Russian elements.

Freedom House and CEPA (Center for European Policy Analysis): two of the primary policy drivers behind U.S.-sponsored regime change in Belarus.  On March 29, 2011, CEPA published an unequivocal foreign policy recommendation for the U.S., stating in clear language that it is preferable for Belarus to undergo an "Egypt-style" or "Tunisian-style" uprising "from below."  In late-June, 2011, CEPA partnered with Freedom House to publish an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, publicly airing the earlier proposals.  And since July 9th, both organizations have officially partnered together in a "working group on Belarus," a forum which will undoubtedly dictate which levers to pull, and when. 
For the West is not the only source of financing, nor of interventionist pressure. One of the most important ex-candidates was financed by the Russians. While Western pressure is a known quantity in Belarus, Russian attempts at destabilization are relatively new. Russian oligarchs have been ogling the profitable Belorussian state enterprises, and since the government has historically refused to sell them, the Russian kleptocracy has begun to try to topple Lukashenko. The Russian media have begun a concerted campaign against the Belorussian government, airing pro-opposition documentaries and indulging in smearing and misinformation. Russian operatives are now making inroads; on the Minsk-Moscow highway, my Belorussian friend pointed out the expensive Russian cars with tinted black windows heading into Minsk. Russian oil prices have risen sharply -- 30% in January -- and the price of natural gas imported from Russia has quadrupled in four years. Although the economy has diversified since independence, it is still reliant on importing energy and raw materials for its production. The hike in energy and commodity prices has had a harsh impact in Belarus, where the cost of energy now makes up 78 cents of every dollar of goods produced. High commodity prices explain the trade deficit despite strong industrial and export growth.

In January of this year, at the same time that the Russians severely raised oil prices, Belarus was subjected to a major speculative attack on its currency. The Russians control 37% of the country’s banking sector, and according to analysts in Minsk, early this year Russian banks started to sell off their Belorussian rubles. In January, 50 times more foreign currency was bought with Belorussian rubles than in December, and that pattern continued in February and March. This sparked the effect desired: inflation of 33% in the first half of the year, general panic and a run on the bank where people tried to convert their Belorussian rubles into dollars or gold. The central bank was obliged to devalue the Belorussian ruble by 36%. The government has not printed currency, contrary to some media reports. The speculative attacks have not been covered in the news; Ria Novosti for example typically stated that “the Belorussian ruble collapsed in the first five months of the year as the result of a large trade deficit, generous wage increases and loans granted by the government ahead of the December 2010 presidential elections, which spurred strong demand for foreign currency.” But the trade deficit is not new and would not itself spark a currency collapse, while wage increases or loans would not logically provoke a demand for foreign currency.

According to Minsk residents, the main problem this Spring has not been a lack of products on the shelves, as one reads in the West, but rising prices, a shortage of foreign currency and hoarding, which has somewhat disrupted the supply chain. When I was there in mid-late June, the shelves were fully stocked, the stores and markets were full of shoppers and there were no lines at gas stations, contrary to what Western media have been reporting. Inflation is apparently stabilizing now. Protests on the Western borders by cross-border traders have been widely covered by Western media who are seeking signs of unrest, but who rarely show that the traffic of cheap Belorussian products and gasoline for sale at a profit in the West is a practice that is harmful for the Belorussian economy, especially in the context of the current economic difficulties. This is why the government recently limited such border crossings to once every 5 days (formerly traders would often go 5 times per day) and to limit the products that can be individually exported. The scarcity of foreign currency explains the late payment of bills to the Russian electricity supplier (which demands payment in dollars), prompting it to temporarily halt delivery of electricity to Belarus a number of times recently. This strong-arming, reported extensively in the international press, is more bark than bite since Russia only provides around 12% of Belorussian electricity and there have been no blackouts.

Because of the spiraling Belorussian ruble, the government has had to seek foreign loans. It has appealed to the IMF for a loan of $8 billion, though the IMF replied on June 13 that a loan would come with the usual strings attached -- structural adjustment programs, privatizations, a freeze on salaries, letting the Belorussian ruble float, etc. The IMF admonishes the government that it has not yet enacted similar conditions that were set with the last loan it received in 2009 during the world financial crisis; for example, a government agency to oversee privatizations was created but no privatizations carried out. On the other hand, it was rarely reported that the IMF also hailed measures by Belarus' government to end the country's financial crisis, for example raising interest rates and supporting the unemployed and poor.

Whether the country will get an IMF loan or not, the traditional refusal to privatize is now ending, since the country was granted a $3 billion emergency loan from the Russian-controlled Eurasian Economic Community, which also had strings attached for the privatization of $7.5 billion of state enterprises over 3 years. This is part of what the Russian oligarchs have been working toward. The first disbursement of this loan, $800 million, was released on June 21, putting an end to the immediate financial problems. However, the Russians may not be getting the cheap deals they had wanted, nor will they necessarily be the beneficiaries of the privatizations. The actual sales and IPOs are in negotiation, and President Lukashenko has been very clear that by Belorussian law, privatizations of state enterprises must follow strict conditions. On June 17, he stated, “The conditions have been spelt out: the company should develop, it should not be closed, the workers' pay should increase each year, they should be protected socially and, most importantly, the company should be modernized. That is, if you come and buy it, you should invest in its development.”

On June 30, Venezuela, with whom Belarus has close economic and diplomatic ties (among other agreements, Venezuela has provided oil to Belarus), announced its interest in acquiring shares in Belorussian state companies. Analysts in Minsk say that the country is reorienting itself away from Russia and toward China. An IPO on foreign stock exchanges of a minority stake in the huge state potash and fertilizer company, Belaruskali, is in preparation, and the national gas pipeline will most likely be sold to Gazprom. Other state enterprises are on the block, and the future is unknown; but President Lukashenko stated recently that “I would like to give you firm assurances that we will not accept risky experiments or an unacceptable lowering of living standards. We will continue implementing a Belorussian economic model, which has proved to be stable under different and complex circumstances for over 15 years.”

The targeted three: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe (L), Belarus' Alexandr Lukashenko (Center), and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (R). 
The economy seems to be showing signs of stabilizing now. Despite the recent financial troubles, Belarus’ debt remains at an impressively low level: including the recent loan, public debt will not exceed 45% of GDP, including both domestic and foreign public debt. The foreign debt ceiling is 25% of GDP. The government has reported a slight trade surplus of $116 million in May, apparently because of import restrictions enacted this Spring. The finance ministry has recently lowered its 2011 GDP growth forecast to 4.5% and the World Bank has recently lowered it to 2.5%; at even 2.5%, the economy is clearly resisting. The World Bank added that the Belorussian economic model isn’t viable; rather it should be more concerned with the US model of credit-based consumption and skyrocketing foreign debt.

In June, coinciding with these financial problems, Western governments returned to the attack, as though to take advantage of the momentum to destabilize the Belorussian government. On June 14, President Obama renewed and reinforced US sanctions against the country, declaring a “national emergency” (that is, for the US, not Belarus) and citing, incredibly, “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” that Belarus constitutes. The only way in which he may be right is simply in that the success of the Belorussian economic model constitutes a threat to neoliberal dogma. On June 17, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “human rights violations” following the recent presidential election. On June 20, the European Union in their turn reinforced its sanctions against Belarus, adding companies and names to the blacklist (the Belorussian government has stated its intention to sue the initiators of the sanctions), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has reoriented its financing activities away from the government and toward “civil society.”

And “civil society” hasn’t missed the opportunity provided by US tech camps and the recent financial troubles. Since the beginning of June, there has been a new movement on the part of various opposition groups in Belarus, calling itself “revolution through social networks.” They have taken to weekly protests in the central streets organized on the internet or by twitter in which participants clap their hands, without banners or chanting. Since the violence of December 19th, protests have been prohibited in the central area of Minsk, though they are allowed in certain other areas of the city. Whatever one thinks of this prohibition, it is clear that these protests consist of the same pro-Western, well-financed groups with a new, high-tech face. According to Western media, the protests are being violently repressed and protesters arbitrarily arrested. According to Belorussian authorities, participants have been arrested because they were shouting profanities at police and pushing them. I unfortunately didn’t happen to see one of the protests while I was in Belarus recently, and can’t personally report more details about them. A number of videos of the protests are available on the web, and I’ve seen no violence in them, no raised billy clubs and no blood; one can see protesters being arrested but not what immediately preceded the arrests. If there were major police violence, one could be sure that images of it would be all over the web. Of course, the government should make images available showing that it is violent participants who are arrested, since the arrests only play into the protesters’ hands and give Western governments more fodder for sanctions. The number of participants is unclear from the videos, which are usually closely framed shots. One video claiming to show a clapping protest was clearly not one, as within the clapping crowd (probably an audience applauding an outdoors show) one can see the red and green Belorussian flag, which is never used by those who protest the government -- they fly the former red and white national flag as well as the European blue one.

Western-backed OTPOR! clone, Zubr (bison)
I did speak to people, including youth, about the protests. One young man, when he learned that I was from the US, said to me, “Flashmob! Fun!” giving me the thumbs up. For him, it was clearly more of a fun public gathering with drums, stomping and clapping, than a real political statement. Another young man told me, “When I read Western media, I wonder, is this my country? Am I in a war zone?” What is clear in the videos is that the crowd is well-off. Belorussian participants in Clinton’s tech camp said as much; according to the AP, they “described the active opposition as largely limited to students and educated citizens. The movement needs the support of working class people, said the activists.” Clearly, the Belorussian working class has reasons not to support the current movements: they are generally satisfied with the policies of President Lukashenko. If the movements are limited to the Western-oriented elite, Western or Russian financed operatives, and youth wanting to have a street party, then they have no future, no matter how many millions the US and others throw at them.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul
On July 6, the US House renewed the Belarus Democracy Act, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, chairman of the Helsinki Commission. During the debate, Rep. Ron Paul denounced it. He said:
“I rise in opposition to the Belarus Democracy Act reauthorization. This title of this bill would have amused George Orwell, as it is in fact a US regime-change bill. Where does the United States Congress derive the moral or legal authority to determine which political parties or organizations in Belarus -- or anywhere else -- are to be US-funded and which are to be destabilized? How can anyone argue that US support for regime-change in Belarus is somehow promoting democracy? We pick the parties who are to be supported and funded and somehow this is supposed to reflect the will of the Belorussian people? How would Americans feel if the tables were turned and a powerful foreign country demanded that only a political party it selected and funded could legitimately reflect the will of the American people? I would like to know how many millions of taxpayer dollars the US government has wasted trying to overthrow the government in Belarus. I would like to know how much money has been squandered by US government-funded front organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and others.... It is the arrogance of our foreign policy establishment that leads to this kind of schizophrenic legislation, where we demand that the rest of the world bend to the will of US foreign policy and we call it democracy. We wonder why we are no longer loved and admired overseas. Finally, I strongly object to the sanctions that this legislation imposes on Belarus. We must keep in mind that sanctions and blockades of foreign countries are considered acts of war. Do we need to continue war-like actions against yet another country? Can we afford it? [...] We have no constitutional authority to intervene in the wholly domestic affairs of Belarus or any other sovereign nation.”
I can only agree wholeheartedly, and wish the government and the people of Belarus courage in their resistance to the current attacks, and success in protecting their independence. At the international conference in Brest on the resistance to Nazism, participants described again and again the heroic courage and strength of the Belorussian people during the war years under the invasion coming from the West. Belorussians will need to continue to draw on that strong character for some time to come, as the attacks are not yet finished, but they have proven they are up to the fight.
Michèle Brand is an independent journalist and researcher originally from the US, living in Paris. She can be reached at 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Zimbabwe's Defiance of Neo-Colonialism in the Age of "Democracy Promotion" (2007)

The Battle Over Zimbabwe's Future
By Gregory Elich
April 13, 2007
Originally published in
Images and captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics

Amid heightened tension, an all pervading crisis is afflicting Zimbabwe. The economy is close to collapse, the standard of living has plummeted, and the political scene is marred by recent violence. To hear Western leaders tell it, it is Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who has brought this state of affairs upon his nation through economic mismanagement and repression, and what would have been an otherwise prosperous country is instead on the edge of ruin. The U.S. and Great Britain trade barbs with Zimbabwe, and relations are perhaps at their lowest point, with pressure mounting in the U.S. and Great Britain for harsher measures.

Robert Mugabe
There are many in the West who have joined the chorus denouncing the Mugabe government and call for its replacement with a “democratic government.” The hostile reaction against Zimbabwe is not surprising when one considers that the flood of news reports is notable for its uniformity and lack of context. A single message is repeated in the media. The ruling party, the Zimbabwean African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), rules through undemocratic means, we are told, while the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) enjoys wide support and is kept from power through repression. Western leaders seek only to promote democracy and prosperity in the region. This is the popular image in the Western press, and few question its veracity. How information is formulated, including what does not get reported, demonstrates some of the ways perception is managed and support for policy objectives is generated.

The beating of several MDC members while in police custody following their arrest triggered the latest upsurge of condemnation of the Zimbabwean government. MDC supporters were arrested merely for holding an innocuous prayer meeting, we were told, and the government’s resort to violence was unprovoked. 

The “prayer meeting” was in fact a demonstration that was part of the MDC-led Save Zimbabwe Campaign’s month-long “defiance” campaign. By calling the demonstration a “prayer meeting,” organizers hoped to get around the government’s four-month ban on demonstrations that had been instituted after a rally the month before resulted in running battles between the police and crowds of MDC supporters. The “prayer meeting” tag was also useful for managing Western perception. (1)

Troubles began on the morning of March 11 when a handful of demonstrators were arrested as they headed to the rally site. At around noon, a group of MDC supporters attacked three unarmed police officers. One officer managed to escape, but the other two were beaten and suffered serious head injuries.

During the next hour several more demonstrators were arrested as they attempted to enter the rally site, including Arthur Mutambara, leader of one faction of the MDC. A while later, MDC gangs at a shopping center hurled rocks at a bus, smashing its windows, and then attempted set an army vehicle afire. (2)

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
Despite a determined effort by the police, more than a thousand demonstrators did make it to the rally. When Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of a second MDC faction, arrived with his arms raised in the air, the crowd responded noisily. According to an MDC supporter, “the situation was getting heated” after police attempted to keep Tsvangirai apart from the crowd. “Tsvangirai and the police were arguing, and we were carrying on singing and shouting, louder and louder. In all there were only about thirty police and there were more than one thousand – we were too many for them. They could not control what was happening.” Police lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd and Tsvangirai and other MDC officials were hustled into two police cars and driven away. (3)

Demonstrators responded by throwing rocks and tear gas canisters at the police, while some in the crowd used slingshots to fire metal bolts. The crowd advanced, as the police fired 19 warning volleys in the air without effect. At this point, one officer aimed his rifle at a demonstrator and shot him dead. “Then everything became worse,” recalled an MDC supporter. “We went on the rampage and we did not even fear for our lives. There was a lot of action” as demonstrators “threw punches.” Chased by the crowd, the police ran to their pickup trucks, but not all of the officers were lucky enough to escape. “About six or eight of them were left with us,” said the MDC supporter. “As they ran some of them dropped their batons so we picked up their discarded sticks and used them to beat” them. “The police were badly beaten,” after which the crowd “left the police on the side of the road and ran away.” (4)

Meanwhile, MDC supporters elsewhere in Harare overturned a commuter omnibus and later stopped a kombi (commuter van). After looting the luggage, they doused the vehicle with gasoline and set it afire. A number of cars were stoned and one was overturned. (5) 

Demonstrators who had been taken into custody and were brought to police stations in Avondale and Harare Central were treated with respect. A different fate awaited those taken to the Machipisa station, where detainees were ordered to lay down in the courtyard, whereupon they were kicked and beaten with clubs for about an hour. It is not entirely clear who administered the beatings, and at least one report suggests that it was not police but either a commando group or a pro-government militia that was responsible. (6)

Western governments and media wasted no time in condemning the government of Zimbabwe. The beatings were severe, and several individuals suffered broken bones. Western critics ignored MDC violence and singled out the government for sole blame, making the most of the incident’s propaganda value.

Faced with a barrage of criticism by its Western detractors, Zimbabwe badly mishandled the situation. That no attempt was made to investigate the beatings only fueled the anti-Zimbabwe campaign and handed the opposition a catalyzing issue. The government’s inaction contrasted with the period of the run up to the March 2005 parliamentary election, when President Mugabe declared a policy of “zero tolerance” for political violence, during which members of both parties were arrested for such acts.

It was clear by its behavior that the government of Zimbabwe felt threatened, as it had reason to. Years of sanctions and Western meddling, coupled with an increasingly truculent opposition, had indeed menaced ZANU-PF’s ability to govern the nation. Western intervention followed well-established patterns. Soften the target nation with sanctions and cripple the economy. Blame the resulting economic disaster on government “economic mismanagement,” in order to build support for the opposition. Fund the opposition party and press, as well as anti-government NGO’s, to tilt the democratic process in a direction favorable to Western interests. If the opposition lacks sufficient support to come to power through democratic means, then encourage and sponsor “regime change” through mass action, as in Yugoslavia, Georgia and the Ukraine.

The West began to apply significant pressure on Zimbabwe late in 2001. In September of that year, the IMF declared Zimbabwe ineligible to use its general resources, and three months later President George W. Bush signed into law the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001. The law directed the U.S. Treasury Department to instruct U.S. members of international financial institutions to oppose and vote against any extension of any loan, credit or guarantee to Zimbabwe. The law also authorized President Bush to directly fund opposition media as well as “democracy and governance programs,” a euphemism for organizations opposed to the government. (7)

Time to reconsider Senator Russ Feingold.  It was Democratic Senator Feingold (with Republican Bill Frist) that first introduced the Zimbabwe regime change bill, officially called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001.  The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Jesse Helms, was signed into law by then-President Bush on December 21, 2001.    
Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney had this to say on the House floor, in response to the legislation against Zimbabwe: "When we get right down to it, this legislation is nothing more than a formal declaration of United States complicity in a program to maintain white-skin privilege. We can call it an `incentives' bill, but that does not change its essential 'sanctions' nature. It is racist and against the interests of the masses of Zimbabweans. In the long-run the Zimbabwe Democracy Act will work against the United States having a mutually beneficial relationship with Africa."
Western financial restrictions made it nearly impossible for Zimbabwe to engage in normal international trade. External balance of payments support was eliminated and nearly all external lines of credit were obstructed. “The current wave of declared and undeclared sanctions is negatively affecting the image of the country, thereby distorting how financial markets assess the risk profile of Zimbabwe,” pointed out Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono. “As a result, Zimbabwean companies are finding it extremely difficult to access offshore lines of credit because of the perceived country risk.” Zimbabwean companies are therefore compelled to deal “with their international suppliers strictly on a cash up front basis, with very minimal credit terms.” If companies are fortunate enough to secure external financing, it is generally only at very high interest rates. “A vicious circle has thus evolved since the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe. The resultant decline in economic activity emanating from the sanctions has given rise to rising external payment arrears, and high country risk, which in turn, has adverse effects on economic activity.” (8)

It was not only the U.S that was using its influence to hamper Zimbabwe’s economy. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw revealed that he was “building coalitions” against Zimbabwe, and he stated that Great Britain would “oppose any access by Zimbabwe to international financial institutions.” (9) British officials threatened to eliminate financial assistance to southern African nations unless they imposed sanctions on their neighbor. President Benjamin Mkapa complained that African Commonwealth members had “endured a bombardment for an alliance against Mugabe.” (10)

The World Bank and IMF played an important role in the economic sabotage of Zimbabwe’s economy, and sought to dissuade others from extending financial credit to Zimbabwe. According to one source in Zimbabwe, “Our contacts in various countries have indicated that these institutions are using all sorts of tactics to cow all those who are keen to assist Zimbabwe.” (11)

For a nation that had to import 100 percent of its oil, 40 percent of its electricity and most of its spare parts, Zimbabwe was highly vulnerable to being cut off from access to foreign exchange. Any modern economy must rely on international financial institutions in order to transact normal trade. But Western nations had largely disrupted Zimbabwe’s ability to do so, and the result was immediate and dire. The supply of oil fell sharply, and periodically ran out entirely. It became increasingly difficult to muster the foreign currency to maintain an adequate level of imported electricity, and the nation was frequently beset by black outs. The shortage of oil and electricity in turn severely hobbled industrial production, as did the inability to import raw materials and spare parts. Business after business closed down and the unemployment rate soared above 70 percent. Inflation raged, driving incomes in real terms to a point so low that people struggled just to survive. (12)

U.S., British and Western European governments sought to exploit the resulting discontent by bankrolling the opposition MDC, supplying it with tens of millions of dollars. But passage of a law in Zimbabwe making it illegal for political parties to receive funding from abroad forced both the MDC and its Western backers to be more circumspect about their relationship. The West had reason to feel that it was not getting its money’s worth, as the MDC’s electoral performance was generally disappointing. Although the party could count on substantial support in urban areas, the more populous rural areas stood solidly behind the ZANU-PF government. There was little appeal for the rural population in the MDC’s program, which called for near total privatization of state owned firms and government services and a return to neoliberal economic policy. The ZANU-PF government, on the other hand, had done away with the land ownership pattern inherited from apartheid Rhodesia, with its extreme concentration of land and wealth in the hands of a relatively few white commercial farmers. The MDC’s adherence to neoliberal principles, on the other hand, posed the potential risk of a reversal of the land reform process, in whole or in part. 

Left to its own merits, the MDC would have little prospect of coming to power through electoral means in the foreseeable future. The option of bringing down the government through non-democratic means therefore has considerable appeal for the opposition and Western governments. As early as 2000, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a rally, “What we would like to tell Mugabe is please go peacefully. If you don’t want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently.” (13) The MDC has since that time periodically organized mass actions against the government, including one that Tsvangirai dubbed “the final push.”

Tsvangirai had at one point even contacted a Montreal-based public relations firm led by a former Israeli intelligence official, believing that the company would have contacts with the CIA. Disturbed by Tsvangirai’s requests, the firm taped their final two meetings. The first tape, in which Tsvangirai was more explicit, proved to be inaudible due to nearby construction work, but the public relations firm did warn the Zimbabwean government and the second tape was sent as evidence. Tsvangirai was more careful with his words at the second of the recorded meetings, and it was therefore not entirely clear whether he was seeking the assassination of President Mugabe, as the public relations firm claimed, or a coup d’etat. Tsvangirai talked of the “elimination” of President Mugabe, and worried that the army would take over instead of him in the ensuing “chaos.” Tsvangirai went to trial on charges of treason over the case, but was found not guilty. The tapes were fairly incriminating but not specific enough, and the charge of treason carried the prospect of the death penalty. Furthermore the prosecution’s case was not particularly well prepared. Despite all that, the most charitable view of the content of the tape was that at a minimum Tsvangirai planned to come to power through extra-legal means. (14) 

The opposition eventually split over the issue of whether or not to even participate in the electoral process. The MDC was trounced in the last election, partly due to the Tsvangirai faction’s decision to boycott the process and partly due to lukewarm public support for the party. Tsvangirai met with Western officials following the election, after which he announced that the way forward for the opposition would be “an era of democratic mass confrontation with the dictatorship - an era of non-violent mass resistance.” (15) Power was to be seized through “mass confrontation,” which in reality would be neither democratic nor non-violent. Washington and London dreamed of another “color revolution,” such as the one that had overthrown the government in the Ukraine, and the installation in power of a compliant leader eager to take orders.

Washington's fingerprints: financing and organizing "strategic nonviolent resistance" is an integral component of Washington-backed regime change, and the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) in Boston is the theoretical core.  In February 2002, AEI consultants Robert Helvey (above) and Joshua Paulson met with Zimbabwean opposition groups (including MDC leadership) on at least two occasions in neighboring South Africa and Botswana.  These meetings were sponsored by the International Republican Institute, a de facto arm of the U.S. government.
On January 9 of this year, both factions of the MDC met with U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell, who urged them to unite. Soon thereafter, the MDC launched its “defiance campaign,” marked by a series of demonstrations and sporadic acts of violence, including the knifing of a police officer. By the time of the March 11 “prayer meeting,” the political atmosphere had become highly charged. (16) By relentlessly roiling the political waters, the U.S. and Great Britain had created an intensely contested political culture in Zimbabwe, and it was no secret that the aim was to topple the government. In such circumstances, political passions had reached the point where patience with the MDC and its efforts to bring down the government had worn thin. 

Arthur Mutambara
Encouraged by the unreserved backing it was receiving in the West since the beatings at Machipisa station, the MDC stepped up its efforts. Arthur Mutambara announced that the MDC was “in the final stages of the final push,” and planned to continue with the defiance campaign. “We are talking about rebellion, war.” (17) This was followed by a flurry of violent acts. A police station in Harare was fire bombed, causing serious facial injuries to two policewomen. The demonstration at the funeral of the slain MDC demonstrator turned violent, and MDC supporters battled with police for several hours. A passenger train passing through a Harare suburb was fire bombed, causing five injuries, and the next day another police station, this time in Mutare, was the target of a gasoline bomb. By the end of a three-week period, the tenth target was bombed, a business owned by a former ZANU-PF member of Parliament. (18) The West’s high dudgeon over the issue of violence was nowhere to be seen and the incidents went without comment. After two gasoline tankers were bombed, a sweep by police nabbed 35 MDC suspects along with more than 50 explosives and two dozen detonators. It was said that the explosives were of the same type as those used against the passenger train. (19) Western media, silent on the wave of bombings, castigated the government of Zimbabwe for the arrests, and falsely asserted that Tsvangirai had been arrested in the sweep. 

ZCTU receives heavy U.S. financing
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a general strike to be held on April 3-4, and the MDC and its Western backers held high hopes that the strike would degenerate into such chaos that the nation would become ungovernable. Relations between the MDC and ZCTU are closely intertwined, and indeed it was the ZCTU that launched the MDC. Tsvangirai was at one time the leader of the trade union organization and in its early years, the MDC used the ZCTU’s offices and facilities. So cozy is the relationship that it is probable that the strike was in fact an MDC initiative. The opposition regarded the strike as part of its larger strategic plan. “You are going to see more of these actions coming,” warned MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa. (20) Expectations, however, were to be disappointed when the strike fizzled as businesses continued to operate as normal.  

Internal pressure on the government of Zimbabwe was combined with external threats. The U.S. and Great Britain were once again urging African nations to pressure Zimbabwe. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that African nations should impose sanctions. Western leaders arrogantly lectured African leaders in a demeaning manner, trying to dictate to them how to act, and treated them as if they were mere servants to do the West’s bidding. When the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met to discuss regional matters, the subject of Zimbabwe was high on the agenda. Western political leaders and media did not hide their expectation that Zimbabwe’s neighbors would choose the occasion to join the Western campaign.

Instead, the SADC issued a firm rebuff to the West. The statement issued by the organization pointed out that “free and fair democratic presidential elections were held in 2002 in Zimbabwe,” and the SADC “reaffirmed its solidarity with the government and people of Zimbabwe.” South African President Thabo Mbeki would work to facilitate dialogue between the government and the opposition. In a clear message to the Western powers, the SADC appealed to Great Britain to “honor its compensation obligations with regard to land reform,” and called for “the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe.” (21) Zimbabwe’s neighbors knew that Western sanctions had inflicted severe harm on the economy and had in large part turned the political environment into a fight to the death that only encouraged violence. If what was wanted was a reduction in violence and political passions, then that could best be achieved by removing sanctions and allowing the economy to recover.

Christopher Dell
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell spurned the appeal a few days later by saying that the U.S. would not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe. “It’s simply not going to happen.” (22) The U.S. and Great Britain liked to point to the targeted sanctions against selected officials in Zimbabwe, which consisted of restrictions on travel and financial transactions abroad, claiming that such sanctions could not affect the economy of the entire nation. That claim was disingenuous, leaving out as it did the substantial efforts to block Zimbabwe’s access to foreign currency and international trade. “They use the term targeted sanctions,” observed Zimbabwean information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, “yet any company that deals with Zimbabwe – they have been threatened; ordered not to deal with Zimbabwe. External financial institutions and banks have been told not to deal with Zimbabwe…so that the country does not have foreign currency. These targeted sanctions are a smoke screen.” (23)

Further measures are in the works. In addition to current sanctions, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “it’s really a matter of looking at what else we might do with the international community, and part of that effort is to work with states in the region to get them to increase the pressure” on Zimbabwe. (24) This was confirmed by U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey when he said, “There’s always other tools in the toolbox, though, and I certainly expect we’ll look at those.” (25)

One of the "tools" in the Western-backed regime change toolbox is the "branding" or "selling" of sponsored political parties or opposition movements; a process which, in essence, makes pushing regime change exactly like a Cola Cola advertising campaign.  In Serbia, for example, the symbol of resistance to Milosevic in 2000 was the clenched fist.  Zimbabwe, however, offers the open hand...
...a style of branding which...
The Western destabilization campaign coupled interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe with sanctions. In addition to aid and advice to the MDC, funding is provided to media and NGO’s in support of the opposition. Due to the illegality under Zimbabwean law of many of their actions, the U.S. and Great Britain have generally avoided spelling out too many specifics. But the aim is clear, as indicated by the U.S. State Department: the strategy is “to maintain pressure on the Mugabe regime” and “to strengthen democratic forces,” that is, the MDC. The campaign against Zimbabwe is international in scope, and “the United States emphasized international cooperation and coordination. U.S. officials engaged multilaterally and bilaterally to expand international support of sanctions against government and ruling officials.” The U.S. also sponsors “public events” inside Zimbabwe, which are intended to “discredit” the government’s claim that sanctions are harming the economy, and to shift blame for economic decline onto the government. The U.S. provides what it vaguely refers to as “support” to the political opposition, and which in fact is quite extensive. (26)

...can be found...
Training has been provided to some opposition members of Parliament, as well as to “selected democratically oriented organizations.” The United States also directly funds “a number of civil society organizations” (NGO’s) and provides them “with training and technical assistance to help them advocate to the parliament on issues of national significance.” In other words, so-called civil society organizations are being paid and trained to influence legislation in an amenable manner for Western interests. Opposition media are generously funded in order to “fortify” their efforts to swing public support to the opposition. Nearly a third of a million dollars was given to the U.S. Solidarity Center to establish a program “to assist trade unions in Zimbabwe to become more accountable and responsive to their members.” (27) It would be more accurate to say that the intent was to encourage trade unions to become “more accountable and responsive” to Western interests. Affiliated with the AFL-CIO, Solidarity Center receives funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department, and it often acts as an extension of U.S. foreign policy. (28) Among the myriad organizations involved in Zimbabwe on behalf of U.S. interests are Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the National Republican Institute, and a host of others.  

The interventionist liberal-left in the West has jumped on the bandwagon of support for Bush and Blair’s campaign to topple the government of Zimbabwe. But critics who call for a Western-imposed “transition process” in Zimbabwe forget that the nation already has a transition process -- an election which is scheduled for next year. No amount of imperial posturing can change the fact that it is only the people of Zimbabwe that have the right to choose their government -- not the U.S. and Great Britain. The Zimbabwean people made their choice in the last presidential and parliamentary elections, both of which were deemed free and fair by African observers on the ground. Predictably, the U.S. and Great Britain, having no election observers, condemned the elections from afar as fraudulent even before they took place in a blatant attempt to discredit election outcomes that every poll had foretold. Western condemnation was prompted by the uncomfortable realization that a different outcome could not be imposed, no matter how many tens of millions of dollars were pumped into the coffers of the opposition.

If the Western-funded MDC has been incapable of coming up with a program that would appeal to a majority of voters, it is because the party has preferred to focus its attention on policies that would benefit Western corporate interests. For the Western liberal-left to call for the U.S. to “mediate” in a transition process is nothing less than a demand for U.S. meddling to initiate a coup to remove the legally elected government of Zimbabwe. There is something unseemly in the attitude that the U.S. and Great Britain have the right to dictate the fate of other nations and to determine who shall hold power, and that it is the duty of activists to support imperial domination.

If the police in Zimbabwe have acted harshly at times, it is because Western interference has created a life or death struggle for survival in Zimbabwe. That the U.S. and Great Britain are using every means possible to effect regime change and to encourage the opposition to bring down the government through mass action can only have resulted in a deeply polarized society. The government of Zimbabwe is cognizant of previous Western-backed campaigns that successfully removed the governments of Yugoslavia, Georgia and the Ukraine and installed compliant puppets in their place. Zimbabwe is vigilant against Western attempts to incite opposition supporters to bring about a violent change of government.

It is dismaying that so many would call for U.S. and British intervention in the affairs of a sovereign nation. It was British colonialism that stole the land from the African people and introduced the horrors of the apartheid system in Rhodesia. Over the decades of colonial rule, the British government expropriated untold billions of dollars from the land, labor and resources while depopulating the rich farmland regions and herding those expelled from their homes into the most barren areas. Is it not ironic that the U.S. and Great Britain condemn government violence in Zimbabwe when they have done so much to create the circumstances that almost guarantee such an outcome? Is it not relevant that the West has fostered myriad acts of violence by the opposition? And what could be stranger than for the U.S. and Great Britain to act as self-appointed moral authorities on the subject of violence and democracy as they crush Iraq and Afghanistan under the boot of occupation? Whatever acts of violence may have taken place in Zimbabwe pale in comparison to the vast numbers of victims of Western firepower in Iraq. If the U.S. and Great Britain are as committed to peace, democracy and the rule of law as they claim to be, then let them leave Iraq now, without delay.

Western liberal-left critics demand more meddling by the U.S. and Great Britain in the affairs of Zimbabwe, under the delusion that Western-imposed regime change would be a “democratic”act. It is only corporate and elite interests that would be served, for Zimbabwe’s crime in the eyes of Washington is that it jettisoned the ruinous structural adjustment program several years ago, rejected the neoliberal economic model and redistributed land on a more equitable basis. It is not lack of democracy in Zimbabwe that worries Western elites; it is the fact that democracy has produced a government that those in the halls of power in Washington and London wish to remove. What the West wants is to overturn democracy in Zimbabwe and impose a government of its choosing. Zimbabwe, to its credit, has refused to bend to intense pressure and remains committed to the course it has charted, in which the economy is geared to the interests of its own people, not that of Western corporate interests.

“Zimbabwe is a strategic country for the United States because events in Zimbabwe have a significant impact on the entire region,” points out USAID. (29) Indeed, President Mugabe says that the struggle Zimbabwe has embarked upon is nothing less than Africa’s second liberation. The continent, having freed itself from direct colonial rule, has yet to free itself of economic domination. In Namibia and South Africa, the formal end of apartheid rule has done nothing to undo the concentration of land in the hands of the wealthy white few, while millions of black peasants remain without land. Throughout Africa, the neoliberal economic model has crippled prospects for development. Zimbabwe’s example, were it allowed to flourish unhindered, might threaten to set an example that would make an indelible continent-wide impression. Conversely, the U.S. and Great Britain hope that a defeated Zimbabwe would send a signal that resistance to Western economic domination is futile. There is much that rides on the outcome of Zimbabwe’s struggle against its imperial enemies -- perhaps the fate of Africa itself.

Gregory Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit


  1. “More Arrests, Tension Rises,” UN Integrated Regional Information Network, March 12, 2007.
  2. Cesar Zvayi, “It’s the MDC: See, Hear, Say No Evil,” The Herald (Harare), March 15, 2007. “Man Shot Dead as MDC Thugs Attack Police,” The Herald (Harare), March 12, 2007.
  3. “Eyewitness: Harare’s Brutal Clash,” BBC News, March 13, 2007.
  4. David Samuriwo, “Deal Decisively with Security Threat,” The Herald (Harare), March 16, 2007. “Eyewitness: Harare’s Brutal Clash,” BBC News, March 13, 2007.
  5. David Samuriwo, “Deal Decisively with Security Threat,” The Herald (Harare), March 16, 2007.
  6. Sarah Huddleston and Dumisani Muleya, “Mugabe’s Henchmen Unleash Torture Fury,” Business Day (Johannesburg), March 15, 2007.
  7. “IMF Declares Zimbabwe Ineligible to Use IMF Resources, IMF Press Release, September 25, 2001. “Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001,” Public Law 107-99 – Dec. 21, 2001.
  8. Gideon Gono, “An Analysis of the Socio-Economic Impact of Sanctions Against Zimbabwe: Supplement 7 of the Fourth Quarter 2005 Monetary Policy Review Statement, January 24, 2006.
  9. “Stop Talking and Start Acting Against Mugabe, Say Tories,” Daily Telegraph (London), March 15, 2002. “Zimbabwe Steering Towards Sanctions,” Afrol News, November 30, 2001.
  10. Peter O’Connor, “Zimbabwe Decision Reveals Deep Rift,” Associated Press, March 5, 2002.
  11. “Standoff Against Zimbabwe Taken to Extreme Levels,” The Herald (Harare), December 12, 2002.
  12. For a detailed account of Western sanctions and the effect on the economy of Zimbabwe, see: Gregory Elich, Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit, Llumina Press, Ft. Lauderdale, 2006.
  13. Grant Ferrett, “Opposition Warning to Mugabe,” BBC News, September 30, 2000.
  14. For a detailed account of the case, see: Gregory Elich, Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit, Llumina Press, Ft. Lauderdale, 2006.
  15. Tony Hawkins, “Mugabe’s Real Election Victory: An Opposition Split Down the Middle,” Financial Times (London), November 30, 2005.
  16. Caesar Zvayi, “It’s the MDC: See, Hear, Say No Evil,” The Herald (Harare), March 15, 2007.
  17. Jam Raath, “Mugabe Arms Police as Opposition Prepares ‘Final Push’ to Oust Him,” The Times (London), March 17, 2007.
  18. “Harare Base Fire-Bombed, Two Cops Suffer Serious Facial Injuries,” Real Time Traders, March 15, 2007. “Slain Activist Buried Away from Public View,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting (London), March 21, 2007. “Sakubva Police Station Bombed,” The Herald (Harare), March 24, 2007. “Zim Train Petrol-Bombed,” News24 (Johannesburg), March 24, 2007. “Wholesaler Bombed,” The Herald (Harare), April 2, 2007.
  19. “Police Nab 35 MDC Activists, Confiscate Arms, Explosives,” The Herald (Harare), March 29, 2007. “Petrol Bomber Arrested,” The Herald (Harare), March 28, 2007. “Seven Petrol Bombers in Court,” The Herald (Harare), March 30, 2007.
  20. Craig Timberg, “Few Honor Strike in Zimbabwe,” Washington Post, April 4, 2007.
  21. “Communique from the 2007 Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government Held in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania 28th to 29th March 2007,” SADC.
  22. Ndimyake Mwakalyelye, “US Ambassador Rebuffs Southern African Call to Lift Zimbabwe Sanctions,” Voice of America, April 4, 2007.
  23. Tendai Maphosa, “Sanctions May be Key to Political Reform in Zimbabwe,” Voice of America, April 5, 2007.
  24. Daily Press Briefing, Sean McCormack, Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, March 30, 2007.
  25. Stephen Kaufman, “Additional Sanctions Possible, State Department Says,” U.S. Department of State, March 14, 2007.
  26. “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2006,” U.S. Department of State, April 5, 2007.
  27. “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2003-2004,” U.S. Department of State, May 17, 2004.
  28. Alexandra Silver, “Soft Power: Democracy-Promotion and U.S. NGOs,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 17, 2006.
  29. “USAID/Zimbabwe Annual Report, FY 2005,” U.S. Agency for International Development, July 16, 2005.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Africa in the Crosshairs: How Zimbabwe Became Targeted for U.S. Regime Change (2007)

British imperialist Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) strides the African continent, "from Cape to Cairo."  The following article takes a look at Zimbabwe, formerly Southern Rhodesia, the land Cecil Rhodes conquered for the British Empire in the late-nineteenth century.

Zimbabwe Ambassador: Africa Shows How Globalization Equals Imperialism
The LaRouche Show (March 3, 2007)
Originally published in Executive Intelligence Review
March 23, 2007
Additional images and captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics

Dr. Machivenyika Mapuranga
Dr. Machivenyika J. Mapuranga is the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the United States. He was a guest on The  LaRouche Show, an Internet radio program, on March 3. The show airs on Saturdays from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, at The host was Marcia Merry Baker, and interviewers were Larry  Freeman of EIR, and Paul Mourino and Summer Shields of the LaRouche Youth Movement. The following transcript is slightly abridged.

Freeman:  I’m very glad to have my friend Dr. Mapuranga on this show. You’re the first ambassador to appear on The LaRouche Show, so you may start a new trend in our coverage here in the United States, and around the world. Mr. Ambassador, the American public is fairly ignorant of history in general, even our own, but they really have very, very little understanding of the history of the formation of African nations, and their fight against imperialism. Zimbabwe is the youngest, or maybe the second-youngest nation in Africa, having achieved its independence in 1980, and I was wondering if you could give our listeners a history of its intense struggle against the colonialist force. 

Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes. Thank you very much for this invitation to participate in this program. And I am flattered that I’m the first ambassador to participate in this very important forum. 

Now, concerning Zimbabwe: It used to be called Rhodesia, because it was colonized by Cecil John Rhodes, a man who used to be the Prime Minister in the Cape province of South Africa. And he’s the one who organized an army to invade Zimbabwe, and conquer it, so that it became part of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Empire. 

Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia, then, was in a unique position, largely because of the known mineral resources, as well as the very temperate climate. If you go through the public record office at Kew Gardens in London, where the Colonial Office papers are kept, you see that Rhodesia and South Africa are referred to as “white man’s country.” The term referred to the white highlands of Kenya, Rhodesia, and South Africa, as well as Australia and New Zealand.  

That colonial policy of “white man’s country,” actually rested on two pillars, the first one being what you might call demographic change, meaning that the white authorities had as their major agenda, to redress the population ratio between the indigenous folks, and the incoming white settlers. In the case of Zimbabwe, for example, in 1894, the British South Africa Company, which was administering that territory, reported that for every one white man, there were 19,000 natives. But by the time that we had the peak of white settlement, during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which was comprised of what is now Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, that ratio had been altered to 1:13.  From 1:19,000, to 1:13!  And in the case of South Africa, when the Dutch East India Company first arrived, they were reporting that the ratio between them and the natives was something like 1 white man, to 27,000 natives. But, as we speak now, the ratio is 1:10. 

In all these countries that were labelled “white man’s country,” that was part of the policy: to reduce the population ratio between the whites and the natives.
The second pillar of that policy was land-alienation. In all these countries, there was a deliberate policy to alienate vast tracts of land for settlement by the white immigrants, and the native population was herded—in Zimbabwe there were “native reserves”; in South Africa, they were called bantustans. By the time that we in Zimbabwe gained our independence, in 1980, 75% of our arable land was in white hands, and the indigenous folks had only 25% of the land. 

This week we will be celebrating the independence of Ghana, the first country to win independence south of the Sahara. In all these countries, it did not take an armed struggle. There were just negotiations, and maybe after a few demonstrations, and strikes, and so forth, they were granted their independence. Except, of course, in the case of Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau. These were Portuguese colonies, but Portugal was saying, “They are not colonies—this is Portugal, overseas, and therefore inseparable from Portugal.” And so the people of Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau were forced to embark on a protracted armed struggle, before they won their liberation. 

Ian Smith
Now, in the case of Zimbabwe, the leader of the white population there, a gentleman known as Ian Smith, had sworn that there would be no democracy in Zimbabwe for 1,000 years, and this is why—because there were no democratic avenues for achievement of our human rights—the Africans had to form a liberation army, and win their independence after 14 years of bitter struggle. 

So, basically, that is the situation that confronted the first democratically elected government, in 1980, and these were elections organized and supervised by the British governor there. The British had restored their sovereignty over the territory, because the settler population had rebelled against the British Crown, since the British were insisting that the franchise had to be extended to the natives, and there was resistance, and therefore, they [the white settler population] declared independence unilaterally, in 1965, to ward off any possibility of a democratic dispensation. 

At the end of the war [for independence, in 1980], there was a peace conference at Lancaster House in London. There had been a deadlock over the question of land—the African nationalists were saying, “No, we cannot buy land from the white farmers, to distribute to landless blacks, because the land had not been bought in the first place from our ancestors. It was merely grabbed, as booty, conquered booty.”  So at the end of the conference, the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher of the Conservative Party, promised that the British government would help fund a land-reform program, to ensure a more equitable redistribution of land. And indeed, Thatcher put some funds into the project, to kick-start it, but as you probably know, in 1995, the Conservative Party was booted out of office, and Tony Blair and the “New” Labour Party came in. And the sad part of it was that a letter was written to the government of Zimbabwe, to say that the New Labour Party is not beholden to the promises made by the Conservative Party; and the British government stopped funding the land reform program, and the government in Harare in Zimbabwe was constrained to [ask] Parliament to pass enabling legislation, to empower the government to procure land for redistribution to the landless.

Freeman:  Yes, I want to follow up with that. But I would add to your earlier comments, that Cecil Rhodes is identified as the number one staunchest supporter of the British Empire, for example, by Carroll Quigley in his book The Anglo-American Establishment.  So, you’d only be able to describe the people around Cecil Rhodes as the most hard-core imperialists, and that is who President [Robert] Mugabe, and the Zimbabwean people, were essentially fighting against, for 14 or 15 years of very intense guerrilla warfare. 

On this question of the land, it was in 2000, that President Mugabe started to redress this land injustice, because I believe you had something like 4,500 white, British Rhodesian farmers controlling 70% of the prime agricultural land. And this was supposed to be, as you said, after the Lancaster House meeting, turned over to about 12 million black Zimbabweans. But it wasn’t. So, President Mugabe started to take the land, and give it back to the people, and this caused one of the biggest confrontations that Zimbabwe had with the world. A lot of attacks on President Mugabe came from this. 

Could you describe to us how this came about, and how the distribution took place? 

Lancaster House meeting
Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes. As I was saying, the enabling legislation was passed, the Land Appropriation Act, and even the Constitution had to be amended to enable the government to appropriate land legally for redistribution, in order to redress this imbalance inherited from the colonial regime. 

But here I wish to say that when that happened, that was really 20 years after independence, because for the first ten years, the government’s hands were tied. The Lancaster House agreement stipulated that in order to maintain the “confidence” of the white farmers, who were the bastion of the agro-based economy of the country, that there should be no forcible land appropriations for the first ten years. This was called an “entrenched clause” in the Constitution. The other “entrenched clause” being that, for ten years, there had to be 20 seats reserved for the white population in the Parliament. These would not be subject to contest by the indigenous population. Again, it was meant as a “confidence-building” measure. 

But after the ten years had elapsed, still there was no progress on the front of land reform, because the principle that had been agreed to, and the government was meticulously following the agreement, was that of willing seller and willing buyer, meaning that the government was precluded from seizing land. The market forces should play out in this area: If there were willing sellers, and willing buyers, this imbalance would be redressed with the passage of time. 

So, another 15, almost 20 years passed, and very little progress was made, using the principle of “willing seller, willing buyer.”  Incidentally, this was also the principle that was enshrined in the resolution of the Namibia problem. When Namibia gained its independence in 1990, they also adopted that principle, and recently the government of Namibia has declared that this principle has failed to redress this imbalance in land ownership, and the government has now started to appropriate land, through the passage of laws. And South Africa also has just discovered that the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle does not work, and last year, the government made its first appropriation of a white farm for redistribution to the landless. 

But when this started, and we started to seize land for redistribution, we earned the wrath of the British government, and they persuaded their allies, including the United States, to impose sanctions on the Zimbabwean government. These sanctions are in two parts: First, there is an executive order which was passed by the President here, which lists Zimbabwean leaders who are barred from entering the United States. And we have a similar list of leaders who cannot go into the European Union. 

But that one does not really hurt. What really hurts is the second part of the sanctions package, and I’m referring, in the case of the United States, to the 2001 Act by Congress which instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct all American executive directors of the Bretton Woods institutions—i.e., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund [IMF]—wherever they may be, even in the private sector, to bar Zimbabwean access to capital, to credit, and to oppose any debt relief measures being extended to Zimbabwe. This has really had a very adverse effect on the Zimbabwean economy. 

Without the imprimatur of the IMF, you cannot raise any loans abroad, especially in the Western world. And so, Zimbabwe, since 2001, has been completely starved of foreign credit, and this has impinged adversely on the economy. The economy right now is in the doldrums, and we would want the people of the United States to ask Congress to reconsider. Because this is a blunt instrument, which is affecting the children, the women, everybody in Zimbabwe, in terms of a shrinking economy. People are not able to find employment. And I’m told we have the highest inflationary rate at the moment. 

That just goes to show that when you have an economy which is deeply embedded in the old imperial economy, it is very vulnerable. In the case of Zimbabwe, it has been proven beyond doubt that what Marcia [Baker] was talking about—imperialism being equal to globalization—this is a classic case of a Third World country, inheriting an economy that was fashioned by the imperial power, and is an integral part of that of the imperial power, and is unable to extricate itself from that, and therefore being in a very vulnerable situation indeed.

Mourino:  I’d like to let you know we’ve been studying the question of the Anglo-American establishment as a historical phenomenon. Most people in our generation don’t recognize who the British really are, or what they have done. When people think of Cecil Rhodes, they think of this great scholarship [the Rhodes scholarship] that you could get if you are the right person, in the right place. 

We are revisiting that material now around him, because these particular political networks are now showing up as major backers behind the return of Al Gore. Could you speak a little bit about this character’s role in Africa? 

Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes. Cecil John Rhodes was an invalid who could not stand the cold clime, the weather, of Britain, and he migrated to South Africa, where the climate was warm, and got involved in the mining. He formed the British South Africa Company, and got involved in the mining of diamonds, in Kimberley and other places. And in no time at all, he had become the richest and therefore, the most powerful man in South Africa. He even became the Prime Minister of the largest state there, what was known then as the Cape province. 

Kimberley diamond mine, South Africa, where Cecil Rhodes first made his fortune.
He said that the greatest thing that could happen to anybody in the world, was to have been born British. And he said his life ambition was to spread Her Majesty’s domains, from Cape to Cairo—that’s the phrase he used.  “From Cape to Cairo.”  And South Africa hadn’t been secured for the British. He organized an invasion force—he called it the Pioneer Column—which crossed the Limpopo River, which was then the border of South Africa, to invade the lands to the north. He managed the British Empire up to what is now known as Zimbabwe, and Zambia, across the Zambesi River, and Malawi, which he called Nyasaland. So, Southern Rhodesia, that is Zimbabwe, Northern Rhodesia—which is Zambia now—and Nyasaland. Eventually these three territories formed what was known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. 

And just six years after the invasion and occupation of Zimbabwe, there was a nationwide insurgency, and he personally came to supervise the war against the insurgency. He managed to talk with some of the tribal chiefs, and leaders, and eventually, the insurgency was defeated. And he wrote in his testament that he would want to be buried in this magnificent land, which was named after him, Rhodesia. And to this day, his tomb is there, at the great Motopo Hills. He called it the “world’s view.”  He said, there’s no place that is as beautiful as this in the entire world, and I want to be buried here. And he was indeed buried there. 

And even after independence, we elected to respect his wishes. We do not commit what amounts to sacrilege—we let the dead sleep in total rest. So, even as we speak now, Cecil John Rhodes is buried in Zimbabwe. . . .


Shields:  Dr. Mapuranga, most university students would find it shocking, that, with the liberation of these African nations, nearly at the end of the 20th Century, you would have a continuation of the same type of imperial policies that ravished much of the planet, especially centered in Britain—that you would have a continuation of that today, in the guise of globalization. In your own opinion, is globalization a continuation of this same sort of policy? 

I also wanted to bring up the case of both Bush and Cheney, and the obvious subversion of the political atmosphere, which you may or may not comment on, and secondly, the case of Al Gore, and the promotion of the global warming as an intended goal of deindustrialization of a planet, which is already deindustrialized.

Dr. Mapuranga:  Zimbabwe’s experience is indeed the African experience. I know that globalization is being used to denote this process that has been happening in maybe in the last 10-15 years, as a result of the enormous advances that have been made in transport and communications, the Internet and so forth; but one could indeed say, as an African, that when you consider the fact that my country, Zimbabwe, had never had any what you might call relations with Europe, since Cecil John Rhodes came, one would say that being integrated into the British Empire—and losing one’s sovereignty—would classify that kind of action as possibly a globalization process. 

I know that this argument has been made, even with respect to the discovery of the New World, and its integration into part of the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, and the Portuguese Empire, and that these territories, which had their own civilizations, in their own rights, have now become part of the European world—that also has, in some cases, been referred to as the origins of globalization. 

But in the case of Africa, I would say that, yes, indeed, after independence, Africans did discover that their economies were appendages of the economies of their imperial masters. The Mozambiqan economy, the Angolan economy, discovered that at the time of independence, they were just adjuncts, or appendages, of the Portuguese economy, and they were also part of the multinational, or transnational, corporation domain of power, and influence.  
And therefore, that the concept of national sovereignty, was really circumscribed by the fact that, economically, even though they now had their own flag, and national anthem, economically they found themselves still dependent on their former colonial masters.
Largely, because we are talking of pre-industrial economies here, economies that were fashioned to provide raw materials, and primary products, to feed the industries in the metropolitan, or imperial, countries. So, to this day—and I’m talking of Africa south of the Sahara, and that I know very well—we’re talking of a whole subcontinent that is still in its pre-industrial phase. We still have to go through an industrial revolution! And what is happening now, with this thrust for globalization and liberalization, is that we have very weak economies here that are entirely based on agriculture, with very little, and in some countries, no industry at all, and the traditional role is still continuing—that of providing cheap material for the factories, and industries, of Europe, and maybe North America. It is quite easy to see that globalization here tends to solidify this situation of economic subservience and dependency.
Because, you cannot have equality, and competition, between industrialized giants, and agricultural, peasant economies. 
I had not looked at Al Gore as an advocate of deindustrialization. I would have thought that those who make the final decisions, particularly in the World Trade Organization—and I’m thinking here of the Doha Round and so forth—they would take cognizance of the fact that those countries that are still trading in primary commodities, in raw materials, without any value added to them, because they are in a pre-industrial age, that they would be given special consideration to allow them to industrialize, even using the traditional forms of energy that are being blamed for the greenhouse effect, and therefore, for global warming. But if there’s not going to be any special consideration given to these countries, then it is unfair. Because how are they going to industrialize? 

It’s like someone who has already industrialized, saying, “Please, you cannot use these traditional forms of fuel, because they are polluting the atmosphere. You have to look for other forms of fuel for your industrialization.”  I think that is basically unfair.  

There has to be a special understanding, or dispensation there. This is what I wanted to say in my initial reaction to the question posed.


Freeman:  You touched on this question of the role of these global financial institutions, including the IMF. The IMF tried to force the Zimbabwe economy, I believe, to accept economic structural adjustment programs in 1990, which was a mere ten years after independence, and this was a policy for the trade liberalization, globalization, attempted privatization of state industry. By the end of the 1990s, the Zimbabwe government refused to carry out this structural adjustment program, and was, as the ambassador said, severely penalized, with a shortage of credit, and complete isolation. Could you tell us a little bit about how these globalfinancial institutions can destroy and isolate an economy? That, I think, is part of this globalization policy today.

Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes. The unfortunate thing about the IMF is that they seem to believe that they have the panacea to the economic woes of the developing countries. The IMF seems to have just one prescription for whatever the disease may be. Basically, the major element in an IMF structural adjustment program is that the government must cut down on expenditure, in the social sphere—education, health, and housing, and so forth, in order to reduce government expenditure, and therefore to be able to service debt, and hopefully have whatever is left over for reinvestment for economic growth. 

But, the problem is that Africa is the most backward in terms of education, health, housing, and other social services, and the economists of development have emphasized the importance of the human factor in development. If you do not have an educated and healthy population, it’s not easy to undertake national development at all. In Zimbabwe, for a long time we ignored the dictates of the IMF, and we spent a lot on education and health, to the extent that Zimbabwe today, with 91% literacy, has the highest literacy rate in Africa. I want you to check that out with the UNESCO and the UNDP. At the time of independence, we had only one university; we now have 13 universities, within two decades. There is tremendous expansion even in primary and tertiary education as well. 

But where does this lead us? You, Mr. Freeman, referred to the Zimbabwean dealings with the IMF, because it was only last year that Zimbabwe paid all that it owed the IMF, under the General Resources Account. Zimbabwe does not owe a single dollar now under this General Resources Account; but we still owe money under a different account, I think it is called the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility—we still owe there something to the tune of $120 million. But the point is that this matter has been politicized. And this is where people have been accusing the IMF, and to some extent the World Bank, of having become political tools for those that have the controlling vote in those institutions. 

Because as it happened last year—and I personally was there in the meeting—all the governors, except those from Britain and the United States, voted to say that Zimbabwe had acquitted itself of the original cause that led to the suspension of its voting rights in the IMF, and therefore, there was a recommendation by the managing director of the IMF and his staff, that Zimbabwe should get back its rights. But this was vetoed by the governor from the United States, and the governor from the United Kingdom. A few other governors from Europe abstained. But the vast majority voted in favor of the restoration of voting rights. 

But in the IMF you have a weighted voting system. Not every country’s vote has the same weight, as is the case in the General Assembly of the United Nations. There, it’s one country, one vote. But in the IMF, there are the “Big Boys”: If you take the United States, for example, the governor’s vote is worth that of maybe seven or eight countries. So, because of that, that recommendation to restore Zimbabwe’s voting rights was stymied, or vetoed. 

Since the post-WWII period, the United States has been the only country in the world with effective IMF veto power, able to despotically manage world economic policy, which is exactly how the body was intended to function.
The point now, is that the IMF is not just doing what it was traditionally meant to do: in other words, to give budgetary support to those who need it. They have waded into the area of policy. They actually dictate now to the recipients, or applicants for loans, what policies they should pursue, what economic policies they should pursue, and of course, one of them being to open up, to liberalize, and you can see that when you have a country that is trying to create rudimentary industry, a country that is in incipient industrialization, you open up, and your young industry is not protected from competition from the already industrialized, that really leads to deindustrialization. 

And unfortunately, this is what is happening in Africa now. The little industry that has emerged is under threat of total dismantlement, as a result of liberalization, and globalization, and the doctrine that is preached by the IMF

Mourino:  I guess you’d say we, as Americans, are dealing with a double-edged problem. We’re trying to reindustrialize our own domestic economy, while at the same time making a foreign policy that corresponds to that perspective for us and our neighbors. And in the recent period, we’re running into a problem, especially on the campuses, in really understanding globalization, but even more specifically, the role that the Commonwealth plays in global, political international affairs. And also, how this overlaps with certain British educational systems. Because a lot of the people that carry out the policy of globalization, or deindustrialization, tend to come out of some of these specific British educational institutions, like the London School of Economics. 

So, I wonder if you could give us a perspective on how you deal with this from Zimbabwe, and that way, in our organizing, we can have a fresh idea of what we’re looking at

Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes. Well, the Commonwealth really used to be the British Empire, and at one point it was called the British Commonwealth, until the emergence of republics in Africa. They started to question why they should continue to be referred to as part of the British Commonwealth, when in fact they had their own national anthems, their own flags, presumably their own sovereignty. So the “British” was dropped. It’s now just referred to as “the Commonwealth.”  

"Nanny" of the Commonwealth
Originally, the mother of the Commonwealth—that is Great Britain, the United Kingdom—used to use the Commonwealth to give economic assistance to members of the Commonwealth, but I was surprised when I attended the last meeting of the Commonwealth in Brisbane, in 2002. They have now changed the remit, or the mandate, of the Commonwealth. There’s very little by way of economic assistance now. They are now using what they call the principle of comparative advantage, they are saying that matters pertaining to economic andfinancial assistance, should be referred to the Bretton Woods institutions, and the Commonwealth must do what it does best, or “better,” and that is to ensure that there is democracy, human rights, the rule of law, in the countries that are members of the Commonwealth. 

There’s nothing wrong with that, because all the members agreed to that document—it is called the Harare Declaration—setting out the political values that the Commonwealth members have to uphold. And they all agreed, in their sovereignty. But in practice, it seems as though that document from time to time is actually used to advance the political interests of the United Kingdom! And it has also been demonstrated that, even in cases where there is blatant transgression of the values of that document—for example, when an elected government in Pakistan was overthrown by a military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf—the British government was expected [by the rest of the Commonwealth] to react with an imposition of sanctions, and expulsion, and so forth. And that didn’t happen. 

To this day, the government in Pakistan is regarded as a great ally in the war against terror by Britain and the United States, even though there is no democracy there. So, some Commonwealth counties, particularly those in Africa, were beginning to question this as a manifestation of double standards. 

So, the Commonwealth really has very little now, by way of economic and political solidarity. Countries vote at the United Nations according to their own dictates, not as a Commonwealth bloc. The safeguarding of the English language appears to be the major concern now of the Commonwealth, in the same sense that the French have what they called Francophonie, to maintain the heritage of the French colonial language in Africa, and elsewhere in the world. But I don’t think myself that the Commonwealth now is really a force to reckon with, in world politics, particularly in terms of voting patterns at the United Nations or elsewhere. 

Freeman:  Do you have a statement you’d like to make to the American people, since your country has been so much vilified by the press, for standing up for its own sovereignty? 

Dr. Mapuranga:  Yes, I would like to say that in my travels in the United States, I see that there is a vast reservoir of goodwill from the people of the United States, for Africa, and for my country. The only problem is with Capitol Hill, and the White House. I hope the Americans can persuade their legislators and their leaders that a small country in Africa called Zimbabwe is not a threat to the United States of America, not at all, and does not deserve these sanctions that were imposed to redress a colonial inheritance, particularly in the form of the land apportionment in that country.