Zimbabwe and the killing of Cecil

It has taken the illegal and cruel killing on July 1 of a beloved lion named Cecil by a stereotypically arrogant U.S. “trophy” game hunter to bring Zimbabwe back into the news here. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer paid $55,000 under the table to have the lion lured from its game preserve to where he could kill it with a powerful, high-tech bow. The magnificent beast never had a chance. The Zimbabwean government has demanded the extradition of Palmer to stand trial for his criminal behavior.

Zimbabwe, it should be remembered, used to be called “Rhodesia” after the British explorer and colonialist Cecil Rhodes. One of the last holdouts of outright white racist colonial rule in Africa, it was finally liberated in 1980 by Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union.

White settler control over much of the economy continued, however, until the Zimbabwean government, beginning in 2000, undertook a land reform program in which the richest farmland, monopolized by just 4,000 descendants of settlers who had violently stolen it in the early 1900s, was turned over to African veterans of the independence war. Viciously attacked in the Western media at the time, who predicted the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy, the land reform eventually brought about a huge improvement in agricultural production and the rural standard of living.

The land seizures were too much for the “international community” — read the imperialist U.S. and European ruling classes — who engineered a series of sanctions against Zimbabwe and its leaders that were supposed to topple the government.

The good news is that the sanctions didn’t work. At first, the economy was dragged down, and the regime-change engineers thought they’d be back in the catbird seat soon. But something happened in 2008 that started the country back on the road to development. Just when Western economies were falling off the cliff with the financial collapse that year, Zimbabwe’s economy started to grow again.

Part of the reason, in addition to the land reform, is that the Republic of Zimbabwe and People’s China began a closer relationship, negotiating a series of economic agreements that are vastly improving the infrastructure of this much-abused country.

A complaining headline in a British imperialist broadsheet two years ago said it all: “Zimbabwe is booming but its future lies in Chinese hands — China’s willingness to do business with Robert Mugabe makes a mockery of Western sanctions.” (The Telegraph, Aug. 1, 2013)

Last year, according to Zimbabwe’s leading newspaper, the African country and China “signed nine landmark agreements that will see the emerging global giant from Asia providing financial support for the much-needed economic enablers in critical sectors that include energy, roads, national railway network, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism as part of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.” (The Herald, Aug. 26, 2014)

The article emphasized that, “contrary to media reports that Zimbabwe was to securitize the funding of the agreed projects with minerals, the fact is that no sub-soil assets were used to securitize the commitments.” The agreement was between the governments of China and Zimbabwe, and will strengthen the state-owned institutions in that African country.

A despicable “big game hunter” from Minnesota may have succeeded in killing a beloved lion that symbolized the country’s national pride, but the people of Zimbabwe are proudly moving ahead, building an economy and a nation that won’t bow down to the dictates of the imperialist banks and corporations.