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Many Western journalists, diplomats, political analysts, and researchers familiar with the situation on the ground chose to disregard some inconvenient facts and picked the stories they wanted to believe in. Obviously, such bias prevented a sound understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe for more than two decades. In this thoroughly reconstructed history, the contribution of ZAPU and other forces is minimized or blatantly ignored, and the role of the British government in sponsoring the Lancaster House agreement is downplayed.

The war hero cult played an important part in this discourse. Not only was this militant discourse a means to mobilize supporters and silence critics but it provided a convenient excuse to sideline embarrassing issues such as poverty alleviation and bad governance. To a large extent, the political developments unraveling since February constitute the culmination of this exhausted strategy.

Therefore, Mugabe probably did not believe more in socialism than in democracy or human rights—or black empowerment for that matter. The one-party state mentality prevailed in daily politics and ZANU-PF showed no hesitation to use violence against its opponents when it felt threatened. The relative pluralism of the press in the s—after an era of tight government control in the s—and the seemingly independent and effective court system gave civil society at large, and political activists more specifically, a false sense of strength and security until mid According to the dominant view, in the mids—at least in domestic media and the diplomatic milieu—democratization was under way, and a younger, technocratic, reformist ZANU was willing to promote this agenda when conditions became more conducive—meaning when Mugabe retired.

This was more wishful thinking than insightful vision, as later years demonstrated. With the food riots, the mass strikes, and the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC , was certainly a turning point. However, for most observers only the violence associated with the farm invasions and the parliamentary elections was a true eye-opener. Brian Raftopoulos, a veteran social scientist and a committed civil society activist, produced some promising material toward this end. In these works there is little in-depth analysis offered of the processes leading to the current disaster.

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Their behavior since sheds a crude light on the nature of their domination, which is in essence autocratic and neopatrimonial. Among African states, Zimbabwe was in one of the least patrimonialized—thanks to the relative sophistication of the Rhodesian state—but it changed radically through twenty-five years of ZANU-PF rule. Since , Mugabe has stubbornly opposed any suggestion of political reform or resignation and is likely to do so to his death.

He is a man of consuming ambition who worked very hard to reach his top position. He entertains a superiority complex and belittles other contenders for power—especially those without higher education—including aspiring successors from his own party. People who have met him in private acknowledge his brilliant mind, his sober and even Spartan way of life, and his intellectual sophistication backed by several university degrees.

But behind this posture of the modest and seemingly competent statesman there is another Mugabe and a more sinister character: reckless, extremely cunning, and tactically patient, a born political animal. Resorting to violence, for instance, is part of a shrewd calculation and the focus is always on specific targets: it is not the product of his emotions. For example, he is not known for taking pleasure in witnessing torture and killings, rather the opposite. What needs to be clarified is not What went wrong? This book, therefore, is neither a detailed history of Zimbabwe since independence nor a theoretical essay on African politics, although we do use a few political science concepts.

Nor is it a detailed chronology of political developments in Zimbabwe since , and we make no pretense of addressing all dimensions of a complex crisis that has engulfed the whole Zimbabwean society. It is important also to set the record straight about the responsibilities of fellow African and non-African leaders who let Mugabe have his ways and taint the image of the continent through his actions. Contrary to a view commonly held in the media and by some observers—that there was a sudden turn of events in , supposedly reversing a previous trend toward democratization—the political system set in place at independence and throughout the s was authoritarian in essence.

For ZANU-PF leaders, the institutions, values, and procedures of parliamentary democracy were alien and a potential impediment to their objective of fully controlling the postcolonial state—something hardly disguised by the claim to adhere to socialism. Adopting an Eastern European Communist-style one-party state guaranteed absolute control over both state and society by those entitled to it—so they thought—by right of conquest.

Power was theirs because they had won the struggle and the struggle within the struggle. In spite of profound changes on the international scene since , and unlike many other authoritarian regimes in Africa, ZANU-PF has retained the abusive vocabulary and the power techniques of former Communist parties and upheld the one-party-state mentality. The state capture of the economy and the bullying tactics used against the media, civic organizations, and judiciary are addressed in subsequent chapters.

We will focus first on the political arena, and more precisely on the party system and the electoral process. His relations with his lieutenants bear similarities to those between a Mafia supreme boss and members of his crime syndicate. For the sake of survival in power, control is a round-the-clock business. To establish himself securely at the top of the power structure, Mugabe needed to maintain a constant grip on the ruling party.

He transformed a liberation front riddled with tribal factionalism in the mids into an efficient political machine that took over power in At one time posing as a benevolent referee above opposite camps, at another leading one coalition against would-be dissidents, Mugabe consolidated his authority over the years, effectively preventing an anti-Mugabe coalition from forming within the party. When troublemakers appeared to be a potential threat, they were ruthlessly eliminated and punished—and some murdered.

From this perspective, the so-called succession debate that has been going on since the mids, and with more intensity since , is largely futile. Recurrent outsider speculations that a reformist wing within ZANU-PF could force Mugabe into retirement was not only wishful thinking but demonstrated a lack of understanding of his lifelong enterprise.

Factionalism was always the curse of African nationalism in Southern Rhodesia. Thus they read the factional struggle as a confrontation between radicals and reformists. David Moore, for example, identifies ideological cleavages within the nationalist camp that led to the elimination of the radical elements by the more conservative leadership of both ZANU and ZAPU.

In his view, the entire leadership of these movements being petit bourgeois by nature, factional struggle had a generational dimension, with younger leaders aspiring to a faster promotion.

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It is still taboo among Western academics to mention the influence of tribal affiliations in Zimbabwean politics. As elsewhere in Africa, Zimbabwean tribalism is a modern phenomenon rather than a tradition, a set of fabricated identities marshaled by politicians to advance their careers. However, the struggle within the struggle in the s was primarily a cutthroat fight for power between political entrepreneurs whose ideological differences were often very thin.

Obviously, Mugabe did not create factionalism in the liberation struggle, but he learned how to make good use of it to gain control of ZANU. However, in most cases factional strife was to blame. Factionalism had degenerated into feuding. An active member of the nationalist movement since the inception of the National Democratic Party NDP in , Mugabe had displayed some oratory skills, but until he was still only one among others in the group of nationalist leaders. When ZANU split from ZAPU in August , Mugabe became secretary general of the new organization and was a potential contender for the top position at the ZANU congress in he dropped his candidacy knowing he would not win against the more senior and better known Ndabaningi Sithole.

However, the leaders of the Front-Line States refused to condone the coup and demanded that Sithole be reinstated. In Salisbury in the first quarter of , Mugabe had perhaps nothing to do directly with the plot against Chitepo.


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Alternatively, there could be no plot: such factional strife effectively created a power vacuum in ZANU that Mugabe skillfully exploited. When Mugabe made his escape to the Mozambican border in April , he intended to build a following in the refugee camps. When Mugabe secretly entered the country, he was put under house arrest for several months in Quelimane, away from the camps. Although Machel preferred Tongogara, still in the custody of the Zambian police, guerrilla commanders posing as leftists chose to support Mugabe, the last member of the old ZANU leadership who sounded committed to their radical line.

When the Soviet Union demanded that he recognize Nkomo as the leader as a condition for the delivery of modern weaponry, Mugabe refused bluntly and turned to the Chinese instead. Mugabe came back from Geneva with a new international aura and full backing from the Front-Line States to stir up the war. In order to strengthen his grip on the organization, he persuaded Machel to neutralize a group of Chinese-trained guerrilla cadres called vashandi workers , led by Wilfred Mhanda who used the name Dzinashe Machingura in the war , a former ZANLA commander and political commissar and formally third in the united ZIPA command.

A group of cadres, led by Central Committee members Henry Hamadziripi and Rugare Gumbo, were arrested, summarily convicted by a kangaroo court presided over by Mugabe, and detained in pit cells for months. For the elections, Mhanda and twenty-six of his colleagues aligned with ZAPU others went with Sithole or Muzorewa , only to be arrested again when Mugabe assumed power.

A Predictable Tragedy

When he returned in , after the Central Intelligence Organisation CIO , the state intelligence agency, plotted to have his work permit in West Germany revoked, he found himself blacklisted for all jobs in the public sector and had a difficult time finding a job even in private companies because the CIO interfered with potential employers.

Thanks to an intervention by army commander general Constantine Chiwenga, Mhanda managed to have the interdict lifted, provided he would never get involved in politics again. Moreover, Mr Mugabe has inflicted a depression on a country that was pretty poor to begin with.

Liberator or Dictator? Robert Mugabe's Rise in Zimbabwe Explained

If they are to reduce poverty, African states must achieve annual GNP growth of at least seven per cent and sustain it for decades. Zimbabwe has been going in reverse for most of the past 10 years, digging a deeper and deeper hole. Grasping why this happened - and its wider consequences - is crucial to identifying the steps needed for recovery. Zimbabwe's economy rests on three pillars: commercial agriculture, tourism and mining. By seizing white-owned farms and handing them out to his cronies, without troubling to provide them with finance, farming equipment, training or even title deeds, Mr Mugabe wrecked commercial agriculture.

By unleashing violence against his political opponents, he frightened away tourists. And by passing a law allowing the seizure of 51 per cent of their shares, he forced mining companies to abandon all exploration and investment. So Zimbabwe's economic collapse came about as a result of government policy. Consequently, Mr Mugabe's tax revenues have been wiped out and he cannot pay his bills.

A Predictable Tragedy | Daniel Compagnon

The response? The Reserve Bank simply prints money to keep him afloat. The entirely predictable consequence of churning out trillions of Zimbabwe dollars is that inflation has soared to , per cent and the currency's value has plunged.


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The first step that must be taken is to stabilise the economy and curb hyperinflation. Reducing inflation means the government must stop printing money. This can only happen if someone else pays its bills. So the IMF will probably agree an immediate injection of funds to keep Zimbabwe going while the Reserve Bank turns off its printing presses. This should curb inflation in a matter of months.