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Longer, analytical article.  Zimbabwe 1997-2007: A democracy of diminished expectations

Summary & Comment: This paper ponders whether in the past decade of political and socio-economic crisis there is anything left of the hopes of a renewed democracy that were so evident at Zimbabwe’s beginning. It outlines a research agenda in six themes: Origins, Squashing, Self-destruction, Sovereignty, Donated Democracy. and Neighbours that traces democracy’s diminishment in Zimbabwe during the last decade. DN

Author: David Moore Date Written: 24 October 2007
Primary Category: Zimbabwe Document Origin: Seminar in Honour of Douglas Anglin
Secondary Category: -none- Source URL:
Key Words: Zimbabwe, democracy, expectations, political economy,

African Charter Article #13: Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of their country and to equal access of public services . (Click for full text...)

Printable Version
Zimbabwe 1997-2007: A democracy of diminished expectations or
 - Toward a political economy of renewal?

In mid October 2007 an American ‘expert’ on Zimbabwe told “politicians and businessmen seeking change in Zimbabwe” gathered at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London that “the USA had work to do to restore its poor image in Africa”. It could do so by “launching … a trust that would stimulate debate about a future, democratic, Zimbabwe”. Because “there are so many young people in Zimbabwe, a national agenda and a youth agenda would amount to roughly the same thing,” she said.

Over 70 percent of all Zimbabweans are under the age of 30 so any kind of lasting reform or economic revival is going to have to take a youth agenda as the national agenda and this means getting serious about job creation on a massive scale, thinking through how to address the fact that many Zimbabwean youth have now been socialised in a kind of political violence that does not translate well to a stable democracy down the road.[2]

Michelle Gavin, named an ‘American official’ in the Zimbabwean article’s title, but positioned in the text as an academic in the Council on Foreign Relations,[3] indicated inadvertently the relationship between ‘thin’ liberal democracy – voting every few years on whether or not one section of the political elite should replace another – and a thicker sort that would enable the gainful employment of millions of people as some sort of minimal result of a project and process with social justice at its core. This is the main theme of this paper. We are wondering if in the past decade of political and socio-economic crisis there is anything left of the hopes of a renewed democracy that were so evident at its beginning. We think hopes for either, and both, thin and thick forms of democracy are very dim at the present.

The long crisis in Zimbabwe has generated fundamental changes in the perspectives of oppositional (and even ruling party) actors and their regional and international counterparts regarding the nature of democracy in both its political and socio-economic senses. Compared to the mid-1990s there is a diminished sense of what can be achieved in either of these realms, and moreover the connections between them. In both left and right, among both economists and capitalists, and political scientists and actors there is an economism and a narrow politicism. The fact that the twain between them is meeting less and less means that there are even fewer chances of their linking and broadening.

This process is concomitant with international currents that are also narrow in their ‘neo-liberal’ economism, less confident than earlier in a liberal, constitutionalist, politics that is increasingly replaced by either an apparent muscular militarism or anodyne ‘governance-ism’, but sometimes flaring out in ephemeral if enthusiastic encouragements of ‘Orange Revolutions’ on the peripheries of important regional powers. These currents mesh with those in Zimbabwe as, inevitably, international and regional forces play in the game that has millions of Zimbabweans caught in its moves as they are further and further repressed and marginalised by both global and local curbs to their democratic desires (unless one believes that joining the global diasporas who send ‘revolutionary remittances’ home to increasingly dollarized economies is something to be heralded as ‘progress’[4]).

In the interregnum, ‘leftist’ political economy discourse has been either too narrowly focussed on land and mythologizing those who apparently re-possessed it,[5] or a structuralist/welfarist vision that either goes back to a Rhodesian type of developmental capitalist state or a too rose-tinted view on Zimbabwe of the 1980s. On the political side of the fence there are human-rights advocates who leave their rights off at the first generation, with constitutions, at the ballot-box, or with technocratic notions of ‘good governance’. How can these sides of the democratic question come back together, to when the ZCTU and the students seemed to see all these elements of democracy as intextricably intertwined and ineluctably marching forward?

How can Zimbabwe reach back to the most vibrant moments, and the analysis emanating therefrom, of similarly revolutionary moments in history, such as those of the French revolution, when it was clear to many that the freedom of a nation is the product to two elements: the equality which its laws create in the conditions and enjoyments of the citizens, and the fullest extension of their political rights. The second is no substitute for the first …,[6]  

but equally knowing that the first without the second can never be firmly entrenched and is too often implemented by a Leninist vanguard that quickly becomes a Stalinist or Maoist terror merging into a Brezhnevist bureaucracy, a Deng Xiapengist market-communism or a Putinist mafia[7] – or which loses any sense of purpose altogether, except that of maintaining power, as seems to be the Zimbabwean case.

This paper will present an historical analysis of this transition, and hopes to generate a political economy perspective that will serve to bring back some of the links between political and socio-economic democracy that have become severed in the past decade or more: since then, perspectives on the economy and the polity have both become narrowed in such a way that ideas about alternatives in the former have become more ‘liberal’ than ever in terms of the market alone, and in the latter notions of expansive participation have disappeared into the vapour while notions of the orderly transition of power – even within ZANU-PF alone! – have become paramount just as, ironically, without the strong participation of the ‘masses’ they become less and less possible as the spirals of conflict turn inward to ZANU-PF and even the MDC.[8]

The diminution of democracy in both spheres, held to in near equal weight (but in different realms) by local and international actors alike, means that new (or remodelled) forms of a combination of free-marketeerism and authoritarianism are most likely to arise in the new dispensation. The repression ZANU-PF has incorporated into the Zimbabwean body politic has left Zimbabwe ripe for a corporatist or neo-liberal rebuilding, instead of the ‘revolution’ some of its intellectual apologists have hoped for.

This would mean that those who thought the ‘land invasions’ heralded a radical new beginning for the millennium have actually worked towards a reinvention of a (Samuel) Huntingtonian dream: the new ZANU-PF will be able to implement an ‘order’ that will clamp down on democracy from below and implement a new market regime superimposed on a pliant peasantry, and that ‘politics’ will be reduced to the most basic mechanisms of ‘succession’ within one ruling party. State-led industrial development will be a non-starter as Zimbabwe returns to its pre-1940s status as a supplier of minerals to the world market, and perhaps some food and tobacco to the region: the class most likely to bring progressive political and economic change will remain miniscule, unlikely to grow from the degradations of both ESAP and the Murambatsvina moments[9] (both, ironically, excellent ways to destroy a working class, although ESAP is a better way to build up a bourgeoisie of sorts).

The current moment, however, still offers some space for elements of radical democratic restructuring. New theories – informed by the practice that informed the initial stages of a challenge to ZANU-PF rule: and new praxis will emerge – must arise to ensure that both the economy and the polity are democratised in the new Zimbabwe, and careful strategies must be devised to ensure that the possibilities do not get dispersed in the wind of minimal changes. The space for this is quickly disappearing, though – so much so that even the ‘minimalist’ hopes of a free and fair election in early 2008 are more and more unlikely (confirming the Carothers 2003 thesis[10], not to speak of Stephen Friedman’s pessimistic note[11] even before it is tested), unless the crucial regional actor(s) can agree on a method of ensuring, plainly and simply, free and fair elections.

Paradoxically, however, this implausibility means that even minimal demands would be revolutionary because grabbed from the jaws of defeat (i.e. so many people are expecting so little from the present conjuncture that even a little bit of change – which would mean, in spite of the splitting of the opposition party, an MDC victory – may inspire a re-invoking of more radical change). If it does disappear, though, the potential for a progressive political economy of democracy, so apparent in the mid-1990s, will have been lost almost irretrievably. To understand how a form of democracy that pays equal attention to socio-economic and ‘civil’ dimensions can be thought of again, it is necessary to see how they have become unravelled in the past decade or so in Zimbabwe – in the context of their post-Cold War intertwining and separation (thickening and thinning) in Africa and wider afield.

What this paper will try to do is analyse the movements and counter-movements in Zimbabwe, its region, and the international system, towards and against a strong and ‘popular’ form of democracy that combines socio-economic and civil rights concerns equally, indeed that cannot conceive of them as separate. This paper will take an historical political economy approach, analysing the development of civil society (the unions, students, civic organisations, and even the ‘war veterans’) and more traditionally defined political movements since approximately 1990 in their relationships to the state, regional and international entities. Care will be taken to ‘mark’ significant shifts in the democratic discourse of these movements, organisations, agencies, parties, and state apparatuses in relation to the political economy of alterations in these relations, with a view to charting the diminishing expectations attributed to the term.

Finally, the paper will attempt to theorise ways in which the current conjuncture allows the means by which the content of the term may be deepened once again.

Thus we will try to assess the reasons for democracy’s diminishment and what might be the means for its remade. In so doing we are forced to reconsider the way in which ‘democracy’ has been constructed by all the actors – Zimbabwean and international – concerned with analysing Zimbabwe’s crisis and making it turn into opportunity instead of tragedy, if not farce. We will conclude that there have been serious misconceptions from all sides on the issue of ‘democratisation’ in Africa in the confused ‘post-structural adjustment’ age. Many of those are based in the illusion that underdeveloped societies simply need ‘freedom’ in the form of markets and liberal democracy to overcome their negative colonial and post-colonial legacies.

As Bill Freund has remarked in the context of South Africa, there are many who ‘find it convenient’ to stop – and start – history with the ‘happy ending’ of an ‘American discourse’ on (thin and liberal) democratization about Africa that fails ‘to engage with how things look and actually are there. ‘In order to be meaningful, discussions of democratic prospects in … Africa will require a real grasp of the historically generated and limited situation.’ This is the ‘dimension of the determined and the possible’ – of structure and agency – that is the stuff of which historically grounded politics is made.[12] And as Christopher Cramer comments, we should know by now that “laissez-faire economic policies have (n)ever been the bedrock of successful economic development and ‘catching up’ with those countries that industrialised earlier”[13], which is necessary, to some extent at least, to give democracy much social meaning.

All too often, political policies follow this ‘catch up via laissez-faire’ path, the maps being drafted in the advanced capitalist world. Theory and practice in both the political and economic dimensions (not that it is really possible to disentangle them in the first place: and this is arguably the root of the dilemma) must merge into a political economy of democratic development that accepts the challenge of a strong state – without falling into the trap into which ZANU-PF’s legacy has become: the laughing stock of any notion of an effective and democratic African state. As this legacy has become ever more deeply entrenched it is simultaneously more difficult and more necessary to replace it with radical new perspectives.

            In order to trace democracy’s diminishment – or at least a research agenda that would enable such a tracing – in Zimbabwe during the last decade, we will outline six themes as follows:

1)    Origins: Is there anything about the ‘birth’ of the first substantial political opposition to Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF that had within it the seeds of its diminishment?

2)    Squashing: By which strategies and tactics did ZANU-PF attempt to destroy the democratic forces in Zimbabwe? How successful has it been?

3)    Self-destruction: What were and are the problems with the opposition – including both ‘civil society’ and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)?

4)    Sovereignty: What is the effect of the ideology and practice of ‘sovereignty’ on democratic (and authoritarian) praxis in Zimbabwe?

5)    Donated Democracy: What are the consequences of ‘western’ assistance to Zimbabwean democratic forces? Were there special attributes to this process in

6)    Neighbours: How have South Africa and other African states contributed to the demise of democracy in Zimbabwe?      

Before this, however, it is may be wise to go back even further in history than a decade ago – especially given Gavin’s discussion of the role of youth above. In 1976 and 1977, the question of ‘youth’ was also seen by observers in the heartlands of empire, and their emergent partners in the periphery, as pertinent in the Zimbabwean struggle for liberation. Then, the leadership of the Zimbabwean African National Union felt threatened by a group of radical young guerrilla soldiers who had all but led the war from the time of Herbert Chitepo’s assassination in early 1975[14]. Then, as now, a prominent American thought that ‘youth’ was a big problem in Zimbabwe-to-be.

In late 1976, Dick Clark, Chair of the Senate sub-committee on African Affairs, sent notes on his ‘Africa Trip Impressions’ to Washington, noting that Zimbabwean youth were in dire need of scholarships in the United States. He telegrammed that it was imperative to: increase US educational assistance to Zimbabweans selected by liberation movements. Scholarships should be provided to all movements on an equal basis.

(Now only two of the four groups negotiating in Geneva [a conference of Zimbabwean nationalists and the Ian Smith regime in Geneva, set in motion by Henry Kissinger to assure a new leadership in Zimbabwe compatible with the interests of his state rather than that of its Cold War co-dependent] receive American scholarships. Ironically, it was Mugabe, the most “radical” of the delegates, who specifically requested that ZANU be included in this U.S. program).[15] 

Mugabe appeared to be working hard to gain American educations for the ‘Marxist’ soldiers over whom he was trying to gain control. Yet when he returned to the Mozambican front, wherein these youth were training, he and then Mozambican president Samora Machel – not a very old man either – agreed to put the leaders of these youth in Mozambican prisons, where they would remain until the 1980 elections for Zimbabwe.[16]

The Mugabe regime was only starting at this moment (some might say in hindsight that this was the beginning of the end), but it seems it has remained true to its origins today. Indeed, in the same news posting[17] as the words of wisdom from New York’s august foreign policy think-tank, one learns that Edison Hlatshwayo, secretary general of the Great Zimbabwe University students’ union in Masvingo, had been jailed for more than two weeks, with no access to his lawyers, following a meeting of the Zimbabwe Youth Forum at which he was arrested on charges of ‘malicious injury to property’ and assault.[18]

At about the same time, the entire student leadership at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo was in hiding from the Central Intelligence Organisation. They had sent Robert Mugabe a petition informing him that on October 12 2007 he would be “capping half-baked graduands at the 13th Graduation Ceremony”. This was because these students had “attended lectures for less than 30 percent of their stipulated learning time” due to his “government’s failure to address the multi-faceted socio-economic and political crisis bedevilling our beloved Zimbabwe”. They wrote that they were “gravely concerned by your governments’ treatment of student activists and human rights defenders.

Thousands of students are either expelled, suspended, arbitrarily arrested, detained tortured or killed for demanding better education.”[19] A few months before, two students who had been kidnapped by suspected Central Intelligence Organisation agents were found about two hundred kilometres outside of Bulawayo, “with severe bruises on their bodies following a night of torture at the hands of state security agents”. Trust Nhubu, one of the students, said this night of torture was the consequence of his speaking out at a public meeting about government corruption.[20]

If one adds to this the scores of university and polytechnical students who have been tortured, imprisoned and exiled in the past decade (and this does not mention the MDC members, trade unions and other civil society democrats) – and takes into account ZANU-PF’s concerted effort to create a corps of youth militia, known as the ‘Green Bombers’ one can see that the current ruling party is very much concerned with the question of youth. Recruiting a new generation to power, and keeping that generation within the boundaries set by those enjoying the status quo, is one aspect of the many contributing to the current crisis.

If we return to history, we will see that this is nothing new: except that in the mid-1970s, youthful radicals had a not insignificant degree of control over the means of force. A couple of months before Dick Clark was approached by Robert Mugabe with cap in hand, another member of the global diplomatic class was conversing with Mugabe’s contender for power as leader of the bifurcated (indeed, almost multiply fractured) in Gaborone. On 29 September 1976, the British Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth, Ted Rowlands, reported back to London (copied to Pretoria, Washington, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, the UK Mission at the UN in New York, and saved at ‘Info Saving’ in Maputo) on his conversation with Joshua Nkomo, leader of the Zimbabwean African People’s Union, the latter having decided it was no longer wise to negotiate with Ian Smith.

These men were discussing the possibility of the many factions within the Zimbabwean nationalist movement coming together as a united front for the upcoming conference in Geneva. Here is Rowlands’ recollection of Nkomo’s perspective on the relationship between Mugabe and ZANU’s ‘youth’ at that time:

Nkomo told me this afternoon that he believed he had almost reached agreement with Mugabe that ZAPU and ZANU would set themselves up as a unified delegation for the conference. Nkomo would invite the bishop to join them and, given the opportunities now opening up, he supposed the Bishop would probably accept. However, the ZAPU/ZANU arrangement was not yet completed because Mugabe was quote controlled by the young men unquote in Mozamibique. He and [JZ] Moyo had gone to Maputo to talk to them. If Mugabe then agreed to join Nkomo, we might take it that he had the backing of the young men (ie the freedom fighters).[21]

In fact, the ‘young men’ who ‘controlled’ Robert Mugabe had proposed the idea of the Patriotic Front to the frontline states’ leaders who demanded that they declare allegiance to one leader or another. Nkomo is making the ‘young men’ out to be a problem – probably because they had not been happy when he was negotiating with Smith in late 1975 while they were trying to restart the war of liberation. This is not important to the point being made here, however: this being that ‘youth’ were a category of clear importance because they were the ‘freedom fighters’ with arms, motivations unsullied by their elders’ accretion of petty disputes, and with – momentarily at least – the support of powerful regional actors (i.e. Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania, and Samora Machel, in his first years as Mozambique’s president). But (even) with this power, the notion of ‘danger’ was clearly tagged to them – ideological radicalism being a part of that.

The possibilities of today’s generation of youth managing to present that sort of a threat are limited. And in the end, their predecessors lost some elements of the coalition of powerful allies and were disposed of summarily. The lesson is clear, though: part of Robert Mugabe’s inability to ‘let go’ comes from his inability to gain the support of Zimbabwe’s politically engaged youth. And part of his success in not letting go rests in his facility with the use of force and consummate alliances to suppress this most important component of pro-democratic forces. Then, as now, however, the lessons meted out to youth are not to those presenting a real threat to his power (except in as much as he perceived and perceives them as shock troops for other adults).

Then, as now, one has to look for other components of leadership struggles and how democratic impulses and processes are incorporated or eliminated from them, to gauge the progress of the gradual expansion of participation in polity and economy in Zimbabwe. For the purposes of this paper, the last ten years is sufficient for that task (although this period of time barely scratches the surface of Zimbabwe’s longue durée of democratic advances and retreats[22]). We proceed to analyse the categories we have developed, aware that research is only in the earliest of stages – taken up as it is by election analysis and/or the other end of the first-generation – second generation extreme, those constituted by a particular form of ‘the land is the economy and the economy is the land’ discourse.[23]


The ‘opposition’ – by this we mean a combination of ‘civil society’ and party-political forces (and indeed the fusion was almost complete from day one[24]) – arose in Zimbabwe in a context of the increased inequalities (consistent with the catalyzed emergence of a finance-capital driven ‘bourgeoisie’[25]) created with the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes. The Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Union and students gained critical consciousness and demonstrable strength from the mid-1980s through this ESAP period. The long Public Service strike of 1996, bringing civil servants in with the ZCTU, may have indicated the peak of worker militancy.[26] As a new generation of professional petty-bourgeois actors with ideologies ranging from liberal to Trotskyist[27] converged with this, a class and generational conjuncture allowed for the beginning of oppositional forces.

However, another ‘civil society’ group – on the ‘other side’ of civil society (if civil society is not just defined by its ‘civility’ but by its structures of self-organisation and its relationship simultaneously inside and outside of politics[28] – arose concurrently with this, on the ‘other side’ of civil society. In the eighties, after a small ‘demob’ payment which was often dispersed quickly, the war veterans established a ‘welfare organization’, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) by 1987, of which Mugabe was the patron. It soon lobbied for a pension programme, the War Victims’ Compensation Fund, to pay veterans for injuries sustained in the liberation war. By 1995, Dr. Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi, who had trained in Poland while with ZIPRA, gained favour with veterans by widening the programme beyond the “privileged few” who were accessing it at first.[29] He signed the papers certifying many false injuries, and became director of ZNLWVA.

When the extensive fraud involved in these claims was revealed, the ‘war vets’ lost legitimacy in society at large and Mugabe suspended the scheme in March 1997. As one ZNLWVA member – a key player in ZIPA in 1975-1977 – put it, war vets were “the laughing stock” of Zimbabwe.[30] When the ZNLWVA waged a wide campaign of demonstrations to revive the deal, Mugabe promised in April to answer to claims on a case-by-case basis, but refused to meet the association. By May, the demonstrations were becoming more violent.

This process followed the year in which the ZCTU allowed striking civil servants, who had almost paralysed the nation in 1996, to join it. It was casting its net widely, and indeed, the possibility of an alliance between the ZNLWVA and the working class was possible: Hunzvi and Morgan Tsvangirai made an agreement that the ZCTU would support the war veterans’ claims – but the cost would not be passed on to the workers.[31] At this time, the possibility of the ‘war vets’’ claim for a large pension, regardless of injuries, was widely discussed. One high-level Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation manager told this interviewer that he understood that the World Bank would pay the pension in order to ease the strain on an ESAP friendly client state.[32]

The question of land reform was debated at the highest levels, indeed a commission of inquiry was struck, reporting to retired general (but power behind the scenes) Solomon Mujuru regularly – to be met by negative comments that ‘this cannot be afforded now’.[33] Hunzvi organized a demonstration at the Heroes’ Day celebration, which drowned out Mugabe’s speech with their drums and chants.[34] The minister of Labour and Welfare was almost forced off the road by a group of veterans. Then, Mugabe sent cabinet ministers to provinces to meet ZNLWVA member to discuss grievances. They were often held hostage and then sent away. A July 1997 protest disrupted a Zimbabwean/African-American business conference.

The fateful meeting was held in August. Reliable sources say that veterans held retired Air Force Marshall Josiah Tungamirai hostage for this meeting, while others say that Didymus Mutasa, then Speaker of the House, the most important ZANU-PF leader in Manicaland, and a nationalist stalwart since the 1950s ‘seminars’ at Guy Clutton-Brock’s Cold Comfort Farm was held too. Agrarian political economist Sam Moyo said in an Integrated Regional Information Network interview that the meeting was held, “more or less at gunpoint.”[35] There is no doubt that the ‘negotiators’ were allowed into State House by the Presidential Guard, so at some level members of the security apparatus acceded to the meeting. In any case, the negotiators were promised Z$50,000 (then about US$5,000) as a once off payment, and a monthly pension of Z$2,000 (then about US$200: it was increased to Z$5,000 in 2001, but of course high inflation had eaten much of that away).

The total cost, unbudgeted, was Z$4.5 billion. The war vets also demanded that land be redistributed according the promises of the past, and that they would get twenty per cent of that. The agreement was gazetted in parliament in September. In November, it was announced in parliament that 1,471 farms would be taken, recompensed as decided by the state. The Zimbabwean dollar lost seventy-five per cent of its value and Zimbabwe started on its downward spiral. By early 1998 an international donor conference was called to see if a workable reform plan could be hammered out. At the same time, the war vets – perhaps in conjunction with the security apparatus of the state (that is, the Central Intelligence Organisation), but in any case with a see-saw relationship with it – began a small campaign of land invasions.

Just as the ‘wovits’[36] were exercising their power, the civil society groups who joined together to challenge the constitution enabling the continuation of one man in power were encouraged by overseas funding.[37] Whether or not this was coincidental, the possibility of an alliance between a working class organization and something that could have become a peasant based organization was foiled at this moment, and the unions became – temporarily at least – enmeshed in a project much more amenable to liberalism. With the failure of the Donors’ Conference in 1998 – due, one participant recalls, to the contradiction between the ZANU-PF’s state-based approach and the donors’ and civil society groups’ push for a less statist tack, and ZANU-PF’s refusal to accept the latter idea[38] – the ruling party was left with very few options on the land issue on which it was increasingly tying its fate, and Mugabe’s source of partners dwindled even further.

When the Movement for Democratic Change was formed September 11, 1999 – after a ‘workers conference’ in February that started the party ball rolling – the possibilities of a worker-peasant alliance were less than ever before. When (admittedly progressive) white farmers joined and actively assisted the MDC, the ire of ZANU-PF’s old guard must have increased exponentially. And of course, any sign of foreign assistance would lead to accusations of imperialist puppetry. Paranoid tendencies were reinforced by reality. The early 2000 constitutional referendum results (ZANU-PF’s first effective electoral defeat) were seen, as one war vet put it, as a “clarion call” signaling the intent of the “imperialists and running dogs”[39] the war vets were ready to ratchet up their commitment to work hand in hand with the state to take more farms than the few between 1998 and then.

The question arising out of this moment is: was there something about the class and organisational nature of the original moment of the ‘opposition’s’ formation that had within it the seeds of diminishment? Was there any chance that the organised workers, the professionals, the independent bourgeoisie, the human and socio-economy rights oriented components of civil society could have made alliances with the war vets and some segments of ZANU-PF to have eliminated the opportunity of the war vets and the state forming a potent alliance that would be based on coercion for anyone but its core? What about the peasants and chiefs: wooed (and coerced, but not as much as the urban ones) assiduously by Mugabe; but not enough by the MDC or dono[40]rs.

Hindsight does not change what has eventuated, of course, but trying to discover why some alliances formed and other did not might allow one to see what ones could be reformed and even transformed.

Squashing …

(a) Politics

When on examines the reports of the many human rights abuse monitoring agencies concerning themselves with Zimbabwe, one sees the clever use of ‘low intensity’ violence by the ruling party and its state apparatuses in efforts to stave off their losses of power.[41] More (internationally) visible manifestations of violence encompass June 2005’s Operation Murambatsvina to the ‘March 11’ (2007) attacks on the ‘Save Zimbabwe Campaign’ marchers, which included the death of youth organiser Gift Tandare, MDC Mk. I leader Morgan Tsvangirai suffering the infliction of huge gashes on his head, and severe beatings to MDC activists Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh among many others, they being the beginning of an increase in repression over the next few months resulting in the Human Rights Watch documenting “49 hospitalizations and more than 175 lesser medical treatments resulting from politically motivated assaults by security forces [including] six gunshot wounds – one of them fatal” in April and May 2007.[42]

This is a by now predictable pattern: in the months before an expected election ZANU-PF responds with increasing violence to the activities of opposition forces (there is an election due sometime in early 2008, which due to early 2007 constitutional amendments will be a combined presidential and parliamentary election). Then, during the election itself, much cheating will take place during the voting and the counting.[43] The MDC will contest the results in the courts. This will take a long time. There will be much discussion about whether or not the opposition will participate in new sets of elections, leading to pressure within. The infiltrated Central Intelligence Organisation members will report back every word. As well, in the lead-up to the new elections, regional powers will be engaged in much debate about how to make the elections ‘free and fair’.

The ruling party seems able to combine sheer, but carefully distributed, sticks of violence with the carrots of electoral opportunity – only to grab the latter away as the opposition comes near to eating more than a few of them.

In the meantime, opposition strategies get tied in knots trying to keep up with the ruling party’s tactics. Indeed, the MDC split over whether or not to participate in Senate elections in 2005. While factional politics rules, debate about socio-economic issues subsides. Personality and ethnic politics fills the vacuum.

The question is, how (and why) does ZANU-PF (and Mugabe) do it? It is striven with division itself – indeed this is one reason why Mugabe does not leave, given that he fears après moi, la deluge as the party’s factions would self-destruct even more than now is the case[44] (but one could argue that if ZANU-PF was forced to face opposition in a free and fair contest it might be forced to do some intense house-cleaning, so Mugabe’s intransigence is not really helpful). Now, it seems that the ruling party is in a balance between two factions – the Solomon Mujuru (whose wife Joice is the vice-president, so ostensibly but by no means certainly is next in line) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (some of whose supporters suffering expulsion when found to be ‘plotting’ in advance of the 2004 party congress) groups seem equally weighted, with one side or the other seemingly closer to succession in rotation – but the allegiance of other smaller groups with characteristics ranging from ethnicity to ‘generation’ (including participation or not in the war of liberation) and policy preference (there being indications of differences of opinions over the issue of productivity on farms) is never clear.[45]

In the midst of such uncertainty, even more pretenders climb onto the stage: recently one of them was discovered to have consulted on his chances for leadership with a nganga who proclaimed herself a discoverer of oil. When Mugabe discovered this, he was infuriated and threatened to fire the cabinet minister.

A certain amount of desperation accounts for ZANU-PF’s hanging on past a modicum of decency. Many of its members fear a truth and justice commission, which would open the wounds of gukurahundi and possibly an open exploration of its history going back to the nether regions of the liberation war (including Chitepo’s and Tongogara’s assassination and death by car accident, and the fraudulent charges of ‘rebellion’ against the vashandi and the Gumbo-Hamadzaripi challenge). Many others are so tied to Mugabe and the inner circles by networks of corruption that they can see only ill-fortune if a new ruling party came to power.

Thus ZANU-PF’s holding on to power well beyond its sell-by date is in and of itself detrimental to the democratic process: as the party rots, the wider process gets even worse. When and if the 18th amendment (passed in the Zimbabwean parliament in August 2007) to the constitution comes into play, the party may well implode. This amendment states that if the president dies or retires, parliament (made up mostly of ZANU-PF members) will form an electoral college to nominate a new one: the previous dispensation called for a country-wide election within ninety days. Still, however, it is likely that Mugabe will balk at the possibility of open fighting to take his position. It is clear that ZANU-PF’s lack of succession policy is in itself a drawback to democratic procedures: this too probably goes back in history to the mid-1975s, when Mugabe climbed to the top during a very tension-ridden conjuncture. He, and only he, can read the entrails correctly, it seems. Such a situation is reminiscent of feudalism.


(b) … the economy

There are some scholars who say that ‘Africa works’ for its leaders through an almost deliberate economic disenfranchisement process.[46] Poor and illiterate peasants are reliant on their chiefs for patronage, and the chain goes upward to the politicians in power whose links are stronger with external forces than with their own. This particular social formation is ‘extraverted’ too, so most economic and political chains are oriented to the outside of local political economies in a relationship which is beneficial for the élites embedded in global networks.[47] In this perspective, Zimbabwe now, with its hyper-inflation, starving peasants on the land they ‘reclaimed’ which is now at the beck and call of warlords big and small, its parallel currency market that enriches those with access to foreign exchange at the official rate (so it can be traded at its real value around the corner, creating instant billionaires), its best and brightest forced overseas for reasons of repression and sheer economic compulsion, its hordes of goods available for party supporters in the midst of starvation for perhaps a quarter of the population, and its arbitrary price-cutting, is just becoming what ‘Africa’ always has been.

Its small niche of Weberian and capitalist rationality began to disappear as soon as majority rule arrived: it was speeded up when the biggest patronage deal of all was signed with the war vets in late 1997, and when they started invading the commercial farms it tipped over and died. We are not comfortable with this theory, given its culturalist and even racist overtones and undertones. It is better to conceive of the economic mess as the result of the deals made between the political leadership proper with ‘interest groups’ such as the war vets,[48] combined with a theory of ‘primitive accumulation with a (racial) twist’ that sees the emergence of an African bourgeoisie in the context in which private property rights (at the double root of capitalist transformation – the other being proletarianisation) have been racially demarcated since the colonial interlude.[49]

Now they are finally being transferred to over 130,000 small African farmers, so this theory would go. The construction of a new bourgeoisie and the replacement of one system of tenure with another are not easy processes, and indeed happen behind the backs of most of their protagonists (aside from the fact that many people are making enormous amounts of money and many, many more starve and are brutally repressed). In the meantime, though, the state can and does destroy its class enemies economically as well as politically: one wonders if the legislation passed to ensure that all economic enterprises are majority owned by ‘historically disenfranchised’ Zimbabweans will do anything to create the bourgeoisie that modernisation theory dreams about.

It is unlikely, but the notion of ‘progress’ should not be dispensed in its entirety. In the meantime, though, it looks as if the democratic component of the bourgeois revolution – which came in the heartlands of capitalism with the bourgeoisie fighting against feudal restrictions and workers simultaneously fighting for its civil and socio-economic rights (which expanded in tandem as a victory in one realm led to more in the other) – is not developing in Zimbabwe as it ‘should’. The process of primitive accumulation never happens in the same way – and of course in many cases it fails completely, creating frozen articulations of modes of production with the many morbid symptoms of long interregnums, of which Gramsci was so aware as fascism closed in on his world.[50]  

Opposition’s Self-Destruction

As noted above, the MDC has split into two factions over the issue of whether or not to run in the Senate elections, one led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the other by former student leader and scientist Arthur Mutambara.[51] The roots, however, are in conflict between former secretary-general Welshman Ncube and a supposed ‘kitchen cabinet’ around Morgan Tsvangirai. This conflict may have roots in tribal divisions as well as in how this ‘kitchen cabinet’ failed to follow constitutional rules about the participation of all executive committee members in important decisions. Indeed, Tsvangirai over-ruled a vote on whether or not the Senate elections should be entered, and misinformed the press about this.[52]

A meeting in early 2006 clarified that:  
the division in the MDC had solidified and the split in the party would be formalised at the forthcoming congresses of the different factions. … the senate issue, that provided the pretext for the party divide, was not in itself the fundamental cause of the problems in the MDC. It was merely the site on which the different factions fought out long-standing problems of organisation, structure, accountability and strategy within the party.

At the mediation meeting held in October 2005 to try to resolve the party crisis there was a consensus amongst the leadership that the senate issue was a ‘tactical difference’ and ‘a symptom of a disease.’ In the discussions that ensued at this meeting the issues raised centred around the problem of the parallel structure, the ‘mafia kitchen cabinet’, the growth of youth violence, attacks on the authority of the President, conflict and competition between the offices of the Presidency and the Secretary General with the resulting lack of implementation of party programmes, Tsvangirai’s perception of the  ‘destructive’ effects of President Mbeki’s mediation efforts, infiltration by the regime’s Central Intelligence Organisation, and the perception that the division over the senate was based on tribal affiliation in the party.

There was, of course, different emphasis on which problems had proved to be most destructive, with Tsvangirai stressing the undermining effects of the Secretary General’s office and arguing that the ‘consensus leadership’ at the top was not the most effective way to confront an authoritarian regime. Alternately, Ncube and three other members of the top six concentrated on the destructive effects of the ‘kitchen cabinet’ and the parallel structure on the elected structures of the party.[53]  

By mid-2007, after months, the two factions had come to an agreement about how to remarry, dividing Senate seats up proportionately, and setting seats to be contested. According to Mutambara, however, Morgan Tsvangirai decided the deal would not stand.[54] Public opinion seems solidly behind the original faction of the party. It would seem, however, that internal democratic processes have diminished considerably.  

Sovereignty and Donated Democracy

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, sovereignty may be the last fig-leaf of emperors of ‘quasi-states’[55] with very few remaining clothes. Mugabe uses the rhetoric of sovereignty unrelentingly. It seems to have some resonance with his peers in equally nearly naked states, although it is hard to judge whether the people of these states are as patriotic as their leaders would like. There is no doubt, though, that such rhetoric is full of hypocrisy and serves mostly to justify tarring opposition with the brush of ‘imperialist puppets’ and to make every effort to stop foreign funding of human rights and democracy promotion.

As Timothy Scarnecchia’s archival work has shown, however, Mugabe has long known the need for foreign funding and other sorts of assistance: in a discussion in the early days of nationalism with an American consular official in Salisbury he said that no African nationalist party could do without foreign funding: the question was to “ride the tiger without ending up inside”.[56] As Moore has found in the British National Archives, the British Ariel Foundation funded Mrs. Sarah Mugabe’s stay in London in the late 1960s.[57] When the British Home Secretary decided that her time was up, on the 8th of June 1970 Robert Mugabe sent a telegram and a handwritten letter from Salisbury’s prisons note directly to Prime Minister Harold Wilson asking that she be allowed to stay.

The letter ends thus:
“May I request, Sir, that you personally exercise your mind on the case I have placed before you so that justice is done to my wife and myself”. The post-script read: “I regret that the consequence of my writing this letter to you will inevitably be a surcharge on you, Sir.” Mrs. Mugabe wrote a few too. The Ariel Foundation lobbied on her behalf (she was employed by the foundation at one time; as was she at the Africa Centre): it was so effective that 389 MPs signed a petition on her behalf, and she was allowed to stay.[58] The point of this archival evidence is to indicate that the party that was devoted to ‘liberating ourselves’ was in fact dependent to a great degree on well-meaning foreigners and indeed the British state.[59] So it would hardly be surprising that the new generation of opposition would utilize such support too, given that the contemporary state is hardly more well-disposed to the idea of a vibrant opposition than was Ian Smith’s.

Recognising the impossibility of ‘liberation ourselves’ in a dependent social formation, however, doe not mean the contradictions thereof cannot be recognised too. The dialectic of democracy emerging between state and society is inevitably ‘distorted’ by interventions, be they benign or malignant in intent.[60] Thus one must ask if the enthusiasm of democracy exporters should not be lessened somewhat. Perhaps it should be that efforts are made to separate state from civil society more carefully, as fraught a distinction as that is. However, when it is clear that imperialist states – even though their ‘agents’ are relatively autonomous and more like Peace Corps activists than Cold War-blooded realpolitikers and indeed have to fight with the latter in order to advance their radically democratic agenda – are supporting supposedly ‘civil society’ groups that are inextricably involved in ‘politics’, there is no doubt that the lessons of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American should be heeded.  


The question of sovereignty also arises here. But surely, a minimalist move by the most powerful country in the continent to guarantee the simple act of a free and fair election (á la SADC’s Mauritius accord of August 2004) would be a breach of statist ‘sovereignty’ that would enable the real sovereignty of Zimbabweans to be enabled. Sovereignty and power, then, could be utilised in ways that would strengthen democracy rather than diminish it. Again, the interactions of states with states and regional elements of civil society (the strong interventions of the Congress of South African Trade Unions are noted here) are crucial and complex.  


At the close of the third election since 2000 stolen by the ruling party, Moore and Tapera Kapuya wrote a short article advancing the idea that there should be a careful joining of parliamentary and street-style politics.[61] While that article was being written Operation Murambatsvina was instigated, partially at least in response to government perceptions that some sort of urban insurrection was underway. We would not retreat from our recognition that democracy is always won through struggle, but we would caution against adventurism fueled by enthusiastic exporters of 1960s American-style student revolution – the ultimate end of which would be far from the dreams of the Students for a Democratic Society or any notion of social justice.

Lives lost for the cause of a form of ‘libertarianism’ that is closer to the freedom advocated by Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand are not worth their moments of ephemeral exhultation: lives lost in pursuit of aims closer to those in which certain elements of ‘freedom’ are voluntarily foresworn for the public interest are not easier to handle in the short term, so it takes much planning to forestall them – but they are worth much more. Theory and practice must rest on the difference.

*David Moore is a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Economic History
  and Development Studies & at Carleton University, (Visiting) Institute of Political

[1] This paper was presented at African Studies Association meeting October 18 2007. There, it was presented as a paper co-authored by Moore and Brian Raftopoulos, now Research Director for the Solidarity Peace Trust. This paper is the result of three meetings, two long telephone calls and may email Messages of the two of us, but the actual written document is Moore’s (Raftopoulos was in the midst of putting together a report for the SPT when this draft was written). This paper is meant to be a first draft of a paper in preparation for a special edition of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, so should be considered very tentative and not necessarily as endorsed by Raftopoulos.

[2] Trevor Grundy, “US officials warn against ‘anyone but Mugabe’ approach: His rule cannot persist indefinitely”, The Zimbabwean, Oct 11, 2007.

[3] Thus the close relationship between ‘think-tanks’ and the American state is known intuitively by reporters on Zimbabwean affairs.

[4] John S. Saul, ‘Of Revolutions and Remittances: Paul Nugent’s Africa Since Independence,’ forthcoming in Review of African Political Economy. Saul’s encapsulation of the state of class formation at the decolonization moment in Africa, elaborating on Nugent’s, is not much different now, it would seem. This would not encourage much hope for social democracy in the present.

so weak was the internal articulation of any class forces likely to be “progressive” (read: developmental) in either socialist or capitalist terms that the continent’s unhappy fate, to the present, was sealed: not so much “socialism or capitalism” as “neither socialism nor capitalism,” in any meaningfully transformative sense …

[5] See Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros’s introduction and chapter on Zimbabwe in their Reclaiming the Land: The Resurgence of Rural Movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America, London: Zed Books, pp. 67-101, wherein they condemn their ‘opponents’ on the left such as Raftopoulos for their post-modernist and bourgeois flirtation with questions of identity and liberal democracy. For critiques and, then their responses, see David Moore, “Marxism and Marxist Intellectuals in Schizophrenic Zimbabwe: How Many Rights for Zimbabwe’s Left? A Comment,” Historical Materialism, 12, 4, December 2004, pp. 405-425; Brian Raftopoulos, ‘The Zimbabwean Crisis and the Challenges for the Left’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 32, 2, June 2006, pp. 203-219; David Moore, “‘Intellectuals” Interpreting Zimbabwe’s Primitive Accumulation: Progress to Market Civilisation?’ Safundi, 8, 2, April 2007, pp. 199-222; Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros, ‘The Radicalised State: Zimbabwe’s Interrupted Revolution,’ Review of African Political Economy, March 2007; Moyo and Yeros, ‘The Zimbabwe Question and the Two Lefts’, Historical Materialism, forthcoming, 15, 4, December 2007, wherein they attempt to take on Bond, Moore and Raftopoulos for being less than enthusiastic for the recent Zimbabwean ‘revolution’ and too friendly towards the opposition.

[6] Filippo Buonarroti, Conspiration pour l’égalité, dite de Babeuf (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1957), p. 33, paraphrased in John Dunn, Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy, London: Atlantic Books, 2005, p. 125.

[7] Dunn spends much of the rest of Setting the People Free explaining how and why American style ‘egoism’ won out over the Babeufian ideas of ‘equality’, and how in the context of growth extreme economic inequalities can be allowed and even celebrated (especially in the USA) but in the end seems to conclude that the market is ‘not simply equality’s enemy, as Babeuf and Buonarroti confidently supposed’. Rather, it has ‘settled with growing resolution on a single political form and a particular image of society’ grounded on ‘the claim to recognize the ways in which humans are equal and to protect them equally in living as they choose’ (p. 137). Much of his book is a lament for the loss of the impetus for equality yet simultaneously a celebration of the ‘hegemony of the order of egoism’ (p. 155) and a certainty that those with egalitarian bents are more likely to push for democracy than egoists. The point would seem to be, in places such as Zimbabwe as people struggle, through a ‘stumbling, myopic blend of quarrelling and shared exploration of the inescapable issue of how to sustain everyday lives together as agreeably as possible … in the space that history and their enemies leave open to them’ towards democracy – and where the ‘enemy’ is within, in the form of the ruling party – how to create the political forms that combine democracy and forms of economic development that do not benefit only one class, or go out of the country altogether.

[8] On the MDC split, see Brian Raftopoulos, ‘Reflections on Opposition Politics in Zimbabwe: The Politics of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’, Raftopoulos and Karin Alexander, eds., Reflections on Democratic Politics in Zimbabwe, Cape Town: Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, 2006, pp. 7-29.

[9] See David Moore, ‘Coercion, Consent, Context: Operation Murambatsvina and ZANU-PF’s Illusory Quest for Hegemony’, Maurice Vambe, ed., Zimbabwe: The Hidden Dimensions of Operation Murambatsvina, Harare: Weaver Press, in press.

[10] Thomas Carothers, ‘The End of the Transition Paradigm,’ Journal of Democracy, 13, 1, January 2003).

[11] Stephen Friedman, ‘An Unfinished Agenda: Incomplete Democratic Transitions with Special Reference to South Africa,’ Paper Presented at International Political Science Association Plenary ‘What Have We learned From Three Decades of Transition?’ Durban, July 2003; wherein he says:

The spread of formal democracy has also been accompanied by increasing social inequality both within and between countries … [F]or the poor … the capacity to use the democratic system to shape the decisions which determine lives and choices – remains elusive. Since it is highly unlikely that the poor have freely endorsed the widening of the gap between them and the wealthy, it seems fair to conclude that the wave of democratisation … has failed to provide many of its new beneficiaries with a means to translate their preferences into outcomes enacted by elected authorities and implemented by democratic states.

[12] Bill Freund, ‘The Weight of History: Prospects for Democratisation in South Africa’, Jonathan Hyslop, ed., African Democracy in the Era of Globalisation. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, p. 434, cited in David Moore, ‘The Weight of History, a Broad Sense of the Possible: Economic History, Development Studies, Political Economy and Bill Freund,’ African Studies, Lance van Siddert and David Moover, eds., sp. issue, “Festschrift for Bill Freund”, 65, 1 (July 2006), pp. 9-10.

[13] ‘The Sense that War Makes’, Open Democracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/war_sense_3970.jsp, October 5, 2006. See his Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing, London: Hurst and Co., 2006.

[14] See Luise White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Text and Politics in Zimbabwe, Bloomington, Cape Town and Harare: Indiana University Press, Double Storey, and Weaver, 2003.

[15] Dick Clark, ‘Memorandum for the Record: Africa Trip Impressions,’ November 27, 1976, National Security Archives, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. A few months earlier he had written ‘American Policy Towards Southern Africa under a New Administration’, which has been reprinted in Issue: A Journal of Opinion, 10, 1/2, September 1980.

[16] By the looks of the British archives, it may have cost the British state £15 million pounds in interest free loans in order to assure Michel’s co-operation in such endeavors. Moore has not had time to investigate this archival trail fully, however, so such an assertion must remain only that. For an early look at this ‘movement’ and its demise, see David Moore ‘Democracy, Violence and Identity in the Zimbabwean War of National Liberation: Reflections from the Realms of Dissent,’ Canadian Journal of African Studies, 29, 3, December 1995, pp. 375-402.

[17] Bill Sparks in Toronto must be commended for his admirable marshalling and e-broadcasting of Zimbabwean news, from which most of the news items in this paper are culled. For those not on his list, he can be contacted at william.sparks@rogers.com.

[18] SW Radio, ‘Student’s Health Deteriorates As He Enters Second Week in Custody’, 10 October 2007.

[19] Nqobizitha Khumalo, “Students in hiding over harshly worded petition to Mugabe,” Zim Online, 10 October 2007.

[20] Menzi Sibanda, “Two university students abducted and tortured”, Zim Online, 24 April 2007.

[21] 29 Sept 1976, Telno 697, Minister of State, From Gaborone to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, incl. Pretoria, Washington, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, UKMIS, Maputo. ‘Your telegram No. 185 and 186’, National Archives, London. Nkomo was probably deliberately misleading Rowlands, given that the ZIPA cadres were unequivocally in favour of unity and indeed may have been the first to propose the idea when the frontline state leaders were asking them to declare allegiance to one leader or another in preparation for Kissinger’s iniative. They refused to do so, saying they wanted a united front that Smith could not divide and rule at the conference. Nkomo, however, knew that they had been critical of him for negotiating with Smith in the aftermath of ZANU-PF’s expulsion from Zambia after the Chitepo assassination and the failed détente exercise of late 1974 and early 1975. Indeed, ZAPU leaders blamed the ZIPA leaders and Tanzania for flare-ups in the training camps, and pulled out of ZIPA earlier in 1976. Nkomo was planting the seeds of distrust in the international diplomat’s mind about the young men’s ‘control’ over Mugabe.

[22] David Moore, ‘Zimbabwe’s Triple Crisis: Primitive Accumulation, Nation-State Formation and Democratisation in the Age of Neo-Liberal Globalisation,’ African Studies Quarterly, 7, (2003), 35-47.

[23] David Moore, ‘Is the Land the Economy and the Economy the Land? Primitive Accumulation in Zimbabwe,’ Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19, 2, July 2001, pp. 253-266.

[24] See David Moore, ‘Contesting Civil Society in Zimbabwe’s Interregna’, Research Report for the Centre for Civil Society, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Durban, December 2006, paper under review.

[25] Patrick Bond, Uneven Zimbabwe: A Study of Finance, Development, and Underdevelopment. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998. For the effects of structural adjustment, see Pádraig Carmody, Tearing the Social Fabric: Neoliberalism, Deindustrialisation andthe Crisis of Governance in Zimbabwe, Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2001, and Peter Gibbon, ed., Structural Adjustment and the Working Poor in Zimbabwe, Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1995.

[26] See Brian Raftopoulos, ‘The Labour Movement and the Emergence of Opposition Politics in Zimbabwe’, Brian Raftopoulos and Lloyd Sachikonye, eds. Strking Back: The Labour Movement and the Post-Colonial State in Zimbabwe 1980-2000, Harare: Weaver Press, 2001.

[27] Some ‘veterans’ of the university left speak of the emergence in the late 1980s of the International Socialist Organisation with the arrival of Rehad Desai. He came in to Zimbabwe with his father, a South African Pan-Africanist Congress member invited by the Mugabe régime from London. This organization gave leftists a perspective that could explain the demise of the Soviet Union with the end of the Cold War: it was a ‘deformed bureaucratic workers’ state’ or some variation that had failed, not socialism. Welshman Ncube (now second-in-command of the break-away faction of the Movement for Democratic Change) a law student at the time, recalls engaging in arguments with Marxists vigorously – and “demolishing them every time” (Interview, Harare, August 2004: Ncube was then secretary-general of the MDC while Morgan Tsvangirai was President). It is also important to note that with the development of the Zimbabwean Council of Church’s social justice wing, the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation office, in response to the economic crisis, another cohort of university graduates could be incorporated into an ‘opposition’: e.g. Deprose Muchena and Tawanda Mutasah, who became founding members of the National Constitutional Assemble. For details see Sarah Rich Dorman, Sara Rich Dorman, ‘NGOs and the Constitutional Debate in Zimbabwe: from Inclusion to Exclusion’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 29, 4, December 2003, pp. 845-863.

[28] The paragraphs below come from Moore, ‘Contesting Civil Societies …’. One should note that Antonio Gramsci, the Marxist most cited in civil society discourse, is notoriously vague on when civil and political society separate and/or meet. No wonder that Althusser thought that all the instances in society wherein ideology was formed and contested were ‘ideological state apparatuses’.

[29] Charehwachaguma Chirombowe, “Only Hunzvi understood Bob’s psyche”, Zimbabwe Independent (October 7 2005).

[30] Interview, Crispin Matawire, Mazoe, February 2005. As will be discussed later, Matawire’s role as a ‘farm invader’ in the events of 2000 contrasts with some of his colleagues from ZIPA, who started up their own organization to counter the ruling party-ZLWVA alliance.

[31] In an interview (August 2004) Tsvangirai agreed that this agreement had been made, but said that he did not think that Hunzvi would have kept his side of the bargain.

[32] Interview, Harare, January 1997.

[33] Interview with member of this committee who wishes to remain anonymous: July 2007, Zimbabwe.

[34] The list of ZNLWVA events following is borrowed from Chirombowe, “Only Hunzvi …” 2005, although many of them have been confirmed by other sources.

[35] Integrated Regional Information Network, “Interview with Land Expert Sam Moyo”, August 14, 2001.

[36] This is what Peter Godwin calls the ‘war veterans’ in his When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, New York: Little, Brown, 2007: he claims this is the way the two words are pronounced commonly in Zimbabwe. Mark Gevisser’s review, ‘The Dispossessed,’ New York Times Sunday Book Review, June 17, 2007, however, says this is the disparaging word for the war vets used by some whites. ‘The effect’, says Gevisser, ‘is to render them beastly, and given the inebriated thuggery Godwin observes, this is not inappropriate. Abuse, unquestionably, dehumanizes its perpetrators’.

[37] Rich Dorman, ‘NGOs and …’, p. 848.

[38] Telephonic interview, Rose Marie Depp, September 2007. Depp was a representative of the United States Agency for International Development at the time, in extensive contact with the emerging opposition. It should also be noted that Zimbabwe angered ‘the west’ at this time by siding with Laurent Désiré Kabila when the ‘second rebellion’ started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thus stymieing Ugandan and Rwandan plans.

[39] Interview with Crispin Matawire, a leader of land invasions in Concession, March 2005. He was known as David ‘JV’ Todhlana during the war of liberation. He was a key influence in the formation of ZIPA in 1975 and 1976.  Dzinashe Machingura, a.k.a. Wilfred Mhanda, the ideological leader of the vashandi, took a different route in 2000 by forming the Zimbabwe Liberators’ Platform in opposition to the ZANU-PF-allied war vets.

[40] One opposition activist approached his USAID funders with the idea of really working with the traditional authorities, but he was told it was better to work with the ‘future’, i.e. the urban dwellers. Interview, Harare, August 2005.

[41] E.g., the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in October 2007 calculated that 547 people were the victims of human rights violations in August, while 1,219 cases were reported in July 2007: Carole Gombakomba, ‘Zimbabwe Rights Groups Concerned about Abuses Ahead of the Elections’, Voice of America, October 8, 2007. Zimbabwe is clearly not Darfur, but it seems as if this ‘careful’ meting out of repression does means Zimbabwe is not quite the international approbate Sudan is! Of course, Sudan’s oil and its strategic positioning vis a vis the elusive Al Quedian threat give it a specificity allowing leeway in the realm of human rights abuses.

[42] Human Rights Watch, Bashing Dissent: Escalating Violence and State Repression in Zimbabwe, 16, 6(A), May 2007, p. 9.

[43] See e.g. Patrick Bond and David Moore, ‘Zimbabwe: Elections, despondency and civil society’s responsibility,’ Pambazuka News, 201, April 7, 2005, www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=27627

[44] David Moore, ‘“When I am a Century Old:” Why Robert Mugabe Won’t Go,’ Roger Southall & Henning Melber, eds., Legacies of Power: Leadership Change and Former Presidents in Africa. Cape Town and Uppsala, HSRC Press and Nordic Africa Institute, 2005, pp. 120-150.

[45] Dumisani Muleya, ‘Mujuru has destroyed his own succession’, Zimbabwe Independent, March 3 2007.

[46] Patrick Chabal and Jean-Paul Daloz, Africa Works: The Instrumentalization of Disorder, Oxford: James Currey, 1999.

[47] Jean-François Bayart, ‘Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion’, African Affairs, 99, 395, April 2000, pp. 217-67.

[48] Norma Kriger, Guerrilla Veterans in Post-War Zimbabwe: Symbolic and Violent Politics, 1980–1987 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

[49] David Moore, “‘Intellectuals” Interpreting …’, ‘Zimbabwe’s Triple Crisis …’, ‘Is the Land the Economy?’, and also: ‘Marxism and Marxist Intellectuals in Schizophrenic Zimbabwe: How Many Rights for Zimbabwe’s Left? A Comment,’ Historical Materialism, 12, 4, December 2004, pp. 405-425, ‘The Second Age of the Third World: From Primitive Accumulation to Public Goods?’ Third World Quarterly, 25, 1, February 2004, pp. 87-109, ‘Africa: The Black Hole at the Middle of Empire?’ Rethinking Marxism, 13, ¾, Fall-Winter 2001, pp. 100-118, ‘Zimbabwe: Twists on the Tale of Primitive Accumulation,’ Malinda Smith, ed. Globalizing Africa, Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003, pp. 247-269. Rob Davies has criticised this idea in his ‘Memories of Underdevelopment: a Personal Interpretation of Zimbabwe’s Economic Decline,’ Raftopoulos, Brian; Savage, Tyrone, eds.  Injustice and Political Reconciliation, Cape Town: Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, pp. 19-42, and Moore has attempted a response in his “‘Intellectuals” Interpreting …’.

‘Neo-liberal Globalisation and the Triple Crisis of ‘Modernisation’ in Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa,’ Third World Quarterly, 22, 6 (December 2001), 909-929..

[50] See on this Timothy Scarnecchia, ‘The “Fascist Cycle” in Zimbabwe, 2000–2005’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 32, 2, June 2006, pp. 222-237.

[51] “October 4 – Showdown at UZ Campus”, Moto, 81 (October 1989), pp. 14-17, for examples of Mutambara’s earlier discourse. In early 2006 Mutambara returned from a long exile – started with a Rhodes Fellowship that enabled his escape from a threatened existence in Zimbabwe – to lead the Ncube faction of the divided MDC.

[52] Raftopoulos, ‘Reflections …’, p. 19-22.

[53] Raftopoulos, ‘Reflections …’, p. 24.

[54] Telephonic interview, August 2007.

[55] Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

[56] Timothy Scarnecchia, ‘“Imperialist Stooge” versus “Communist Puppet”: Defining a Sellout

in Zimbabwean Nationalist Politics, 1961-1963’, ASA Annual Meeting, Boston, 31 October 2003.

[57] David Moore, ‘ZANU-PF and the Ghosts of Foreign Funding,’ Review of African Political Economy, 103, March 2005, pp. 156-162. Moore relied too much on a ‘spy-scandal’ book and web-site in the ROAPE article, and accepted their claims that the Ariel Foundation was a CIA front. In an August 2007 interview with the Ariel Foundation’s founder, Dennis Grennan, he discovered his mistake. In response to the query about the CIA funding, Grennan replied that the foundation did not need the CIA because it had some of the richest people in England and the United States funding it.

[58] Interview with Dennis Grennan, August 2007. Grennan hosted Mrs. Mugabe in his own home for so many years that ‘my children thought she was their sister’.

[59] The question is also raised: who facilitated Mugabe’s telegram and letter-writing to London from Salisbury Prison?

[60] This idea comes from Alex de Waal’s Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa, London: James Currey, 1997. As de Waal’s own political activities show, however, the idea of no intervention at all is a fantasy. It must be remembered nonetheless that interventions have consequential unintended effects.

[61] David Moore with Tapera Kapuya, ‘Zimbabwe’s Opposition Now: The Parliamentary Road or Mass Action on the Streets?’ Global Dialogue, 10, 2, August 2005, pp. 4-9.

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