Mugabe in the cross-hairs
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Bush is out to make Robert Mugabe into the Saddam Hussein of Africa,
a life-threatening condition. When top State Department officials declare
that "the political status quo is unacceptable," that Zimbabwe's
government is "illegitimate," they are announcing U.S. intentions
to remove Mugabe by force, if necessary.
Although there is
plenty of old-style, reflexive racism in the current White House, the
Bush regime is also a near-pure expression of corporate-globalism. It
would be parochial on our part to believe that white farmers are uppermost
in the minds of Bush's strategic thinkers.
Yes, Zimbabwe is
relatively rich, but the threat to eliminate Mugabe is based on much
more than some crude urge to reserve the country's bountiful agricultural
resources for the further enrichment of the tiny white minority. Global
corporations, which control the international markets that determine
the fate of nations, can get along just fine without a few thousand
white agribusinessmen. Fundamental regional corporate interests compel
the Bush-men to place the cross-hairs on Mugabe's skull.
South Africa is
the ultimate prize, as it has always been. Bush and the British are
preparing to show South Africa who is boss in the region, even if it
takes a bullet in Mugabe's brain to the make the point.
Programmed as we
are to see the world in Black and white, many African Americans and
progressives slipped easily into the assumption that the struggle for
control of the continent's industrial giant, was settled. The smooth
transition from Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki, under the African National
Congress, served to obscure from international - or, at least, American
- public discourse the ongoing debate over South Africa's future. The
burning questions remain open: what is the meaning of Black rule in
a powerful industrial state? What role will multi-national corporations
play? What are South Africa's economic, political and military
obligations to its sister nations on the continent?
may not have been paying close attention to the internal struggles within
the ANC and South Africa at large, the multi-nationals fully understand
their stake in the matter. They know that "socialism" is still
a popular word among the people; that Mbeki represents the conservative
wing of the ANC, while the ranks are led by the Left; and that the poor
majority believe that the revolution is not over.
U.S. and European
corporations follow South African political affairs microscopically,
as do the West's intelligence agencies and strategic thinkers. The fluidity
of South African power relationships scares them. Business interests
across the continent can be affected by the political coloration of
the ANC, which remains more of a coalition than a political party, yet
sits atop Black Africa's strongest state and economy. South Africa's
military is formidable, albeit racially unreliable.
Both the South African
government and the corporations exert great efforts to present a face
of stability and harmony to the world. Yet both must consider the fact
that two generations of thoroughly politicized, urban youth grew to
maturity and middle age in a struggle to control skyscrapers
and all the power these structures represent. Most South Africans are
not peasants, or people who strive to be small landowners. They are
city folk, and remember the blood shed by so many thousands who believed
that the urban centers, mines, and factories belonged to them.
The ANC's 1955 Freedom
Charter is still venerated, including the words, "The mineral wealth
beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred
to the ownership of the people as a whole... the land re-divided amongst
those who work it."
and newspapers ignore these political realities when they visit formerly
whites-only golf courses to interview Black executives in stylish gear.
Yet the future disposition of the spoils of liberation is always at
the center of South African political discussion.
Comrades in arms,
not long ago
Mugabe and his military
began as freedom fighters in need of help from independent Black "frontline
states" in the struggle to throw off white rule. In turn, Zimbabwe
became a frontline state for South Africa's liberation forces. Feelings
of solidarity linger between the ANC and Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National
Union - Patriotic Front, and among many average South Africans. Yet
South Africa's Black leadership - grouped one way or the other around
the ANC - is determinedly democratic, and has been critical of Mugabe's
treatment of trade unions and non-ZANU-PF civil society in general.
Under white and
Black rule, the same corporations have dominated the heights of both
countries' economies. These historical and contemporary commonalities
Following the "fraudulent"
elections, in March, South Africa attempted to convince Mugabe to share
some measure of power with the opposition. He refused, and South Africa
continued to pronounce Mugabe's government "legitimate." U.S.
and British diplomats could barely contain their anger. They seemed
to have expected greater compliance from Mbeki. Now it appears that
Bush is prepared to force the issue, first with massive infusions of
money to Mugabe's opposition (principally to the Right, especially those
already on the take from the white landowners and CIA fronts), to be
followed by proxy or direct military action. At least, that is the bald
A U.S. hit on Mugabe,
performed with the vulgar arrogance that is George Bush's trademark,
will register as a direct assault on the national personality and character
of "free" South Africa, the former regional superpower. It
will resonate as a South African domestic crisis, with results that
no one can predict.
The Bush crowd,
wielding blunt weapons, appears to believe that Mbeki will become more
malleable once the real superpower sets up shop in the neighborhood
- and they may be right. They may also set in motion events that undermine
the current, precarious balance between the old South Africa, and the
one the people fought for.