The situation in Zimbabwe continues to unravel.
Aging dictator Robert Mugabe is facing increased opposition. After the violent breakup of a prayer meeting last week, opposition both inside and outside of the country has increased. Opposition leaders now have a face in opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and Archbishop Ncube is urging churches to continue peaceful resistance even if the regieme responds violently against them.
Mugabe’s own party has some who oppose him. Many who had hoped to succeed him are now angered by his decision to run for another term.
However, Mugabe’s Marxist credentials and credentials as a liberator have gained him protection from ordinary people.
South Africa’s President Mbeki has a long history of supporting Mugabe, and many hoped that he would pressure Mugabe into negotiations toward resolving the increased risk of conflict. After all, South Africa has 2 to 3 million economic and political refugees from Zimbabwe that have flooded that country due to Mugabe’s policies. However, Mbeki is ignoring pressure from western governments to try to persuade Mugabe to talk to opposition leaders. He is also ignoring pressure from South African churches and trade unions.
The reason for Mbeki and others in Africa to refrain from even weak criticism of Mugabe is political: how dare ex colonial powers criticize a black freedom fighter.
As ex president Kaunda of Zambia, who had been removed from his own presidency for corruption, laments from exile that the West has no right to criticize Mugabe.
Yet in the face of increased, peaceful demonstrations, Mugabe gives no signs of compromising with the opposition. Indeed, he continues to encourage violence against his political enemies.
In the meanwhile, Angola, whose communist government had long been propped up by Cuban mercenaries, is sending 1000 elite police to assist in the crackdown, reinforcing Zimbabwean police who have been losing members due to poor pay. In addition, ZANU-PF’s trained youth militia AKA the “green bombers” continue to intimidate rural areas, and were involved in the beating of 14 activists on TuesdayLINK
Although this is in an African setting, the picture is all to familiar to those who study the sad history of communism and other dictatorships in the twentieth century.
What we see is what bluntly must be seen as communist true believers helping each other because their belief in Marxism outweighs other considerations. That is why Mugabe could bring in North Korea to train soldiers to destroy the “opposition” of the Ndebele tribe in the 1980’s with little outcry. This is also why Marxist leaders of Angola, Mozambique and South Africa hesitate to intervene in the present struggle. These presidents are still remembering the “us versus evil colonialist” struggle, ignoring the fact that their rise to power was helped by others, especially in South Africa.
Ironically, like the man who had one devil thrown out of him only to have seven devils return, this ideological blind spot ignores that the real alternative for their people is a free democratic state. Whether democracy can be grafted onto a tribal African culture is questionable, but given the large educated population of Zimbabwe, (many of whom have fled elsewhere for jobs) this argument may not be accurate.