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What's Really Going On in Zimbabwe

Mugabe Gets the Milosevic Treatment

by STEPHEN GOWANS

Arthur Mutambara, the leader of one faction of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC, and one of the principals in the Save Zimbabwe Campaign that’s at the centre of a storm of controversy over the Mugabe government’s crackdown on opposition, boasted a year ago that he was "going to remove Robert Mugabe, I promise you, with every tool at my disposal." (1)

Educated at Oxford, the former management consultant with McKinsey & Co. was asked in early 2006 whether "his plans might include a Ukrainian-style mass mobilization of opponents of Mugabe’s regime." (2)

"We’re going to use every tool we can get to dislodge this regime," he replied. "We’re not going to rule out or in anything the sky’s the limit." (3)

Last year Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of an opposing MDC faction, and eight of his colleagues, were thrown out of Zambia after attending a meeting arranged by the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, with representatives of Freedom House, a US ruling class organization that promotes regime change in countries that aren’t sufficiently committed to free markets, free trade and free enterprise. (4)

Funded by the billionaire speculator George Soros, USAID, the US State Department and the US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (whose mission has been summed up as doing overtly what the CIA used to do covertly), Freedom House champions the rights of journalists, union leaders and democracy activists to organize openly to bring down governments whose economic policies are against the profit-making interests of US bankers, investors and corporations.

Headed by Wall St. investment banker Peter Ackerman, who produced a 2002 documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, a follow-up to A Force More Powerful, which celebrates the ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, Freedom House features a rogues’ gallery of US ruling class activists on its board of directors: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Forbes, among others.

The campaign to replace Mugabe with the neo-liberal standard bearers of the MDC is rotten with connections to the overthrow of Milosevic. Dell, the US ambassador, prides himself on being one of the architects of Milosevic’s ouster. (5) He held a senior diplomatic post in Kosovo when Milosevic was driven out of office in a US-UK engineered uprising.

Dell’s mission, it would seem, is to be as provocative as possible, sparing no effort to tarnish the image of the Mugabe government. In early November 2005, Dell declared that "neither drought nor sanctions are at the root of Zimbabwe’s decline," an implausible conclusion given that drought has impaired economic performance in neighboring countries, and that sanctions bar Zimbabwe from access to economic and humanitarian aid, while disrupting trade and investment. "The Zimbabwe government’s own gross mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis," Dell charged. (6)

When not disparaging Mugabe’s government, Dell can be counted on to be doling out largesse to the opposition (US$1 million, according to one source, to get the Save Zimbabwe Campaign off the ground earlier this year. (7))

Responding to Dell’s call for the opposition to unite, Mutambara has declared his new unity of purpose with MDC opponent, Tsvangirai. "Our core business," he announced, after violent clashes with the police earlier this month, "is to drive Mugabe out of town. There is no going back. We are working together against Robert Mugabe and his surrogates." (8)

While Mutambara is certainly working with Tsvangirai to drive Mugabe out of town, what he doesn’t explain is what he wants to replace Mugabe with. The opposition, and the powerful Western governments that back it, make it seem as if they’re offended by Mugabe’s qualities as a leader, not his policies, and that their aim is to restore good governance, not to impose their own program on Zimbabwe.

We should be clear about what the MDC is and what its policies are. While the word "democratic" in the opposition’s Movement for Democratic Change moniker evokes pleasant feelings, the party’s policies are rooted in the neo-liberal ideology of the Western ruling class. That is, the party’s policies are hardly democratic.

The MDC favors economic "liberalization", privatization and a return to the glacial-paced willing buyer/willing seller land-redistribution regimen a status quo ante-friendly policy that would limit the state’s ability to redistribute land to only tracts purchased from white farmers who are willing to sell.

Compare that to the Zanu-PF government’s direction. Mugabe’s government is hardly socialist, but it has implemented social democratic policies that elevate the public interest at least a few notches above the basement level position it occupies under the neo-liberal tyranny favored by the MDC. A Mutambara or Tsvangirai government would jettison policies that demand something from foreign investors in return for doing business in Zimbabwe. Foreign banks, for example, are required to invest 40 percent of their profits in Zimbabwe government bonds. (9) What’s more, the MDC leaders would almost certainly end the Mugabe government’s policy of favoring foreign investors who partner with local investors to promote indigenous economic development. And Zimbabwe’s state-owned enterprises would be sold off to the highest bidder.

Moreover, the land redistribution program would be effectively shelved, delaying indefinitely the achievement of one of the principal goals of Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle reversing the plunder of the indigenous population’s land by white settlers. Mugabe, it is sometimes grudgingly admitted in the Western press, is a hero in rural parts of southern Africa for his role in spearheading land reform, something other south African governments have lacked the courage to pursue vigorously. South African president Thabo Mbeki’s reluctance to join in the collective excoriation of Mugabe is often attributed to "respect for Mr. Mugabe as a revolutionary hero (he led the fight that ended white rule in Zimbabwe in 1980, and was a key opponent of apartheid) and because the issue of white ownership of land in South African is also sensitive." (10)

Contrast respect for Mugabe with the thin layer of support the US-backed Save Zimbabwe Campaign has been able to muster. It "does not yet have widespread grassroots support," (11) but it does have the overwhelming backing of the US, the UK, the Western media and US ruling class regime change organizations, like Freedom House. Is it any surprise that Zanu-PF regards the controversy swirling around its crackdown on the opposition’s latest provocation as an attempt by an oppressor to return to power by proxy through the MDC?

STEPHEN GOWANS is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached at: sr.gowans@sympatico.ca

NOTES

1. Times Online March 5, 2006.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. The Sunday Mail, February 5, 2006.
5. The Herald, October 21, 2005.
6. The Herald, November 7, 2005.
7. The Herald, March 14, 2007.
8. The Observer, March 18, 2007.
9. The Observer, January 28, 2007.
10. Globe and Mail, March 22, 2004.
11. Ibid.