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Zimbabwe after 30 years of independence

Indigenization & gender equality on agenda

Published Mar 11, 2010 9:24 PM

Against all odds the southern African nation of Zimbabwe is celebrating its 30th year of independence from British settler-colonialism.

In February and early March of 1980, nationwide elections were held inside the former Rhodesia, named after racist colonialist Cecil Rhodes, in which the two leading national liberation movements, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front, won the overwhelming majority of votes leading to the recognition by the international community of an independent state on April 18 of that year.

The elections grew out of a 14-year armed struggle waged by the African majority against the Rhodesian state headed by Prime Minister Ian Smith. After tremendous gains were made in the national liberation war during the late 1970s, the U.S. and British imperialism pressured the Smith regime to negotiate an end to the war.

These talks held in December 1979 resulted in what became known as the Lancaster House Agreements. A ceasefire was declared, and 16,500 guerrillas from the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, which was the armed wing of ZANU-PF, and 5,500 fighters from the Zimbabwe African People’s Revolutionary Army, the military section of ZAPU-PF, returned to the country.

The survival of Zimbabwe as an independent country committed to the empowerment of the African majority as well as an anti-imperialist foreign policy is a testament to the unity and fortitude of the ZANU-PF party, which merged with ZAPU-PF in late 1987. Over the last decade, since the imposition of the Third Chimurenga — a radical land reform policy that seized control of half of the farm land previously controlled by white settlers even after national independence — the Western imperialist states have enacted sanctions against the country and its leadership.

Over the last twelve years, since the land redistribution process became national policy in 1998, the governments of Britain, the United States and the European Union have taken hostile measures against Zimbabwe. During 2000, after much political discussion and debate, revolutionary war veterans took control of hundreds of farms operated by British settlers who held both Zimbabwean and British citizenship.

After 2000, the imperialist interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe became apparent. In that year, an election held in June witnessed the wholesale financing and political support by Western interests and local capitalists of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Although ZANU-PF maintained its majority in the national government, the opposition utilized its electoral gains to further push for the regime-change policies of U.K. and U.S. administrations.

Zimbabwe’s leaders were banned from traveling to various European countries and the U.S. during this period. Under George W. Bush, the U.S. unsuccessfully attempted to pressure the African National Congress-led government in South Africa to cut off electrical supplies to Zimbabwe and to refuse to allow goods to enter the country.

In 2002, when ZANU-PF won an overwhelming victory in the national elections, the sanctions imposed by the imperialists intensified. By 2008, the national currency was in free fall and the country was under fire by the Western states that sought to add more sanctions against the Zimbabwe government.

Nonetheless, the ZANU-PF government maintained its unity and forced the opposition MDC, which had by then split into two factions, to enter into negotiations for the creation of a Global Political Agreement and a national coalition government. MDC-Tsvangirai boycotted the presidential elections in June 2008 after it had won a narrow majority in the parliamentary poll earlier that year.

The realization of the GPA was a major victory for the government of President Mugabe. Since the Western imperialist states were saying that ZANU-PF should be removed from power, the appointment of opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutumbara as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, respectively, of the coalition government created the conditions for the Zimbabwe state to demand the immediate lifting of sanctions against the country.

However, the sanctions and political attacks on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have continued. The United States under the Obama administration and Britain led by Gordon Brown have maintained the sanctions against the government.

South African President Jacob Zuma traveled to Britain in early March and demanded that sanctions be lifted. The Brown government refused to consider this request and called for the Zimbabwe government to make greater concessions to Western imperialist interests before this economic war would be ended.

Zimbabwe domestic and foreign policy

During the process of attempted isolation and regime change in Zimbabwe, the country has intensified its relations with neighboring states, including the Republic of South Africa and other members of the regional Southern African Development Community. In 2008, in contravention to the pressures exerted by the U.S. and Britain, the African Union meeting in Egypt reaffirmed its support for the government’s efforts to reach a political settlement with the opposition MDC-T, with the Republic of South Africa the principal mediator.

In addition, Zimbabwe enhanced its economic and political cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, whose socialist government extended credits and trade agreements that bolstered the national economy. China was also instrumental in blocking several attempts to pass resolutions against Zimbabwe before the United Nations Security Council.

In January a new series of agreements between Zimbabwe and the PRC were signed involving projects in the national steel, pharmaceutical and fertilizer industries. Government officials from both countries reached a Memorandum of Understanding for financing these projects.

According to the Jan. 28 Zimbabwe Herald, Ziscosteel is one of the companies on the West’s illegal sanctions list, which has constrained its operations. Officials from the Ministry of Finance and representatives from China’s Eximbank and Sinosure, a Chinese State enterprise, signed the deals in Harare on Jan. 27.

According to this agreement, “The first phase of the program will see Eximbank financing fertilizer supply, medicines and water chemicals for the City of Harare.” The team paid a courtesy call on Vice President Joice Mujuru after the deals were sealed.

In the article Mujuru acknowledged the critical role China is playing in combating the economic crisis facing the southern African nation. “I am glad that you have agreed to reschedule the debt. This will enable us to solve some of the problems that we have been facing regarding the loan repayment.”

In regard to domestic economic policy, the government has emphasized “indigenization” of local industries. Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Empowerment, said that the aim is to achieve sustainable development of the national economy and to fight poverty among the majority African population.

The March 8 Zimbabwe Herald pointed out, “The indigenization regulations require companies to — within the next three months — explain how they intend to fulfill the requirements of the law on empowerment and to have 51 percent ownership by Blacks in the next five years.”

According to the article, Minister Kasukuwere stated that the government had made progress in the areas of social issues, including health and education since independence in 1980 but had achieved little in the area of participation and ownership in the mainstream economy. The official noted that Western-initiated sanctions were still negatively impacting the country because the economy was foreign-run and dominated.

“We are under sanctions and these sanctions work because the economy is in the hands of foreigners,” Kasukuwere said. He also illustrated the role of the Western media, saying that “Journalists are being asked to write hate stories about their country and surprisingly they write as many stories as they can falsifying some facts in a bid to find negative stories about their country.”

Efforts to achieve gender equality

Zimbabwe is also undergoing a process of formulating a new constitution resulting from the Global Political Agreement between ZANU-PF and the two MDC parties. In a March 8 Zimbabwe Herald article, Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga, who chairs the Zimbabwean Women Parliamentary Caucus and is a ZANU-PF Member of Parliament, said, “With 52 percent of its population being women, it is paramount and legitimate that women participate in this process as respected and equal citizens.”

Nyamupinga indicated that the country must work toward 50 percent representation for women within governmental structures. This policy is in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which was adopted by the Zimbabwe Parliament on Oct. 23.

“However, as women have already argued, it is quite evident that they are underrepresented in the management structures of the constitution-making process,” Nyamupinga said. Women’s participation in the process is 16 percent.

Nyamupinga continued, “Women’s Caucus expresses gratitude to Vice President Joice Mujuru and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe for coming out forcefully to seeing to it that women representation is effected within the constitution-making process management structures.”

According to the Jan. 31 Zimbabwe Herald, at the January meeting of the ZANU-PF Women’s League, National Secretary Oppah Muchinguri noted that the country is obligated to reach the 50-50 representation in decision making as mandated by the SADC protocols. Muchinguri announced that a two-week induction course will prepare women party activists to ensure the achievement of these goals.

“We will also walk them through various achievements the League has made since independence and the effects of sanctions on ordinary persons. It is also in this context that we are urging the MDC-T to tell the West to remove sanctions,” she said.

ZANU-PF Women’s League Secretary for Information Monica Mutsvangwa said that they were demanding that the sanctions be lifted. She pointed out that “David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary has finally owned up to the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.”

Mutsvangwa emphasized, “The ZANU-PF Women’s League appeals to Britain, the European Union and the United States to remove the sanctions. We call for a new chapter in Africa-Europe relations.”

Mutsvangwa added: “For the first 15 years of independence, we went through the bliss of hard won freedom. We saw our country make great progress in all human indices of progress as we filled our granaries. Alas our respite from pain and suffering was short-lived. Soon after we embarked on the land reform program the West imposed sanctions.”

Dr. Olivia Muchena, the Zimbabwe Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, stated in a recent lecture, “With adequate support, women could contribute significantly to the turnaround of the country’s economic fortunes.” (Ziana News Agency, Feb. 2)