Zimbabwe sets national elections despite sanctions

Citizens of the Southern African state of Zimbabwe are scheduled to vote on March 16 on whether to accept or reject a draft constitution. The draft is the product of four years of collaboration between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the two Movement for Democratic Change parties. Later in July, national presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in order to form a new government.

Zimbabwe gained its independence from British colonial settlers in 1980.  For many years since then, the country has faced British, U.S. and other imperialist sanctions, designed to isolate the ruling ZANU-PF party. Headed by President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF launched a comprehensive land redistribution program in 2000 that seized the most productive farms and turned them over to the African masses.

In recent years, a national reconciliation process has lessened internal tensions. The Global Political Agreement and a coalition government since 2008 resulted in broad-based discussions and the draft constitutional document.

It’s expected that millions of Zimbabweans will vote on the draft constitution, which is supposed to solidify the national reconciliation process. President Mugabe and other leading governmental officials have appealed to the citizens of the mineral-rich state to maintain the peace throughout the campaigning and election period.

During the lead-up to the land redistribution program, the imperialist states imposed draconian sanctions and financed the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, headed by Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC later split into two factions, with one headed by Arthur Mutambara and the other by Tsvangirai.

The opposition’s years of destabilization efforts along with the land seizures provided a pretext for the imperialists’ economic blockade of the country. These governments and the corporate media spread allegations of corruption and inefficiency in implementing land reform. This propaganda was aimed at discrediting ZANU-PF and President Mugabe.

Several studies conducted by Western researchers and journalists, including Professor Ian Scoones of the Institute of Development Studies in Britain, belied this anti-land reform propaganda. The tens of thousands of African farmers who took over the land from a handful of settler agribusiness people increased production and raised incomes.

Zimbabwe has also made significant new discoveries in the diamond and gold industries. To sabotage Zimbabwe’s recovery from sanctions, the imperialist states attempted to prevent Zimbabwe from marketing its diamonds internationally.

A campaign launched by the government, with the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional organization, defeated these attempts to place a ban on Zimbabwe diamonds. Over the last few weeks, additional gold resources have been discovered inside the country as well.

Another strategic resource that exists in abundance in Zimbabwe is platinum. Along with neighboring South Africa, this region of Africa encompasses more than 80 percent of the world’s known sources of this mineral.

In addition to land redistribution, the government in Zimbabwe is implementing what it calls the indigenization of the mining industries. The objective of this policy to transfer the ownership of mining corporations to Zimbabweans so that the revenue generated can be reinvested in the national development of the country.

Western observers unwelcome

To minimize imperialist intervention in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, a leading official announced on Feb. 23 that the countries which have been attempting to undermine the independence process in the country will not be allowed to monitor the upcoming elections. Despite the creation of a government of national unity, a global political agreement and the scheduling of elections, the Western states have maintained sanctions against the country.

A Feb. 24 Zimbabwe Sunday Mail article reported that only observers from the Southern African region will be allowed to monitor the upcoming elections. Vice President and longtime ZANU-PF member Joice Mujuru, said, “Some countries, particularly those which have imposed illegal sanctions on us, wish to pursue their interest at our expense by imposing themselves on our national election processes so as to influence the outcome in their favor.”

Alliance with China

The ruling ZANU-PF party has maintained a long relationship with the People’s Republic of China that extends back to the days of the national liberation war of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Zimbabwe’s support from the SADC regional states during the sanctions, the PRC’s economic and political role was important.

This alliance has opened up a new chapter with the signing of three bilateral agreements in the fields of information communication, agriculture and transport. Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said China wants to expand its economic relations with Zimbabwe.

These new agreements build on existing projects, which include the Sino-Zimbabwe Cement factory in Gweru and Anjin Diamonds, which is developing the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Also the state-owned Chinese company Shandong Taishan Sunlight Group is planning to invest up to $2 billion to develop coal mines, coal-bed methane extraction and other power projects located in the western province of the country.

The former Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Xin Shunkang, reported during 2012 that trade between Zimbabwe and China had increased by 100 percent to $800 million over a two-year period. To help facilitate further growth, the China Development Bank is planning to invest $10 billion over the next five years in the Southern African state.

The Chinese corporation Sinotex is currently developing a $US 500 million cotton production project in partnership with more than 300,000 rural farmers.

These agreements will contribute toward resolving what the African Development Bank says is the need for Zimbabwe to invest $14 billion in projects that will enhance its infrastructural capacity.