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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 July 2008

Mugabe clique tightens its grip on Zimbabwe

DESPITE MORGAN Tsvangirai's decision to pull out of the second 'run-off' round of Zimbabwe's presidential elections, 'voting' proceeded last week with Robert Mugabe as the only candidate.

Keith Pattendon

If Tsvangirai thought this would ease the widespread intimidation of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters as he claimed, he was sadly mistaken. In an attempt to maximise the turnout, the coercion was, if anything, intensified, particularly in those areas that had switched support from the ruling Zanu-PF to MDC in the first round on 29 March. Mugabe now claims a 'landslide' victory despite the process being condemned by most independent observers.

Just two months ago Mugabe's grip on power seemed to be weakening, having lost his majority in the parliamentary elections. Losing to Morgan Tvsangarai in the first round of the Presidential vote, he was coming under pressure to stand down and concede a power-sharing agreement with the MDC, the favoured option of the Western powers.

This should have been the time for the opposition to go on the offensive by mobilising their supporters throughout the country in mass action against the regime. Instead, the MDC leaders began a tour of neighbouring states, attempting to drum up support for a diplomatic solution. But this power-sharing agreement would be a political conspiracy against the working class and the poor on the basis of Western imposed economic measures to further exploit Zimbabwe's resources.

This temporising gave Zanu-PF the chance to prepare their coup. It seems that Mugabe came under pressure from the military to dig in and refuse to hand over the reins to the opposition. A systematic campaign of violent intimidation and murder was conducted against opposition activists utilising loyal army officers augmented by militias, including the so-called 'war veterans'. As in previous elections, most of the victims have not been the big landowners, but the black farm labourers and villagers who have been driven from their homes in their thousands.

The big question is what happens next? Mugabe, at 84, has a limited shelf life and the military-police elite he represents will want to ensure one of their own as his successor. They will see this as an opportunity to finally crush the MDC and all other potential organised opposition. This could include ZCTU, the trade union federation, many of whose leading activists have already been jailed on trumped-up charges.

There is huge pressure on the African Union (AU) to intervene to remove Mugabe with some Western leaders even advocating military action. But the AU is split on the issue. (AU leaders like Libya's Gaddafi, Egypt's Mubarak, or Kenya's Mwai Kibaki et al, are hardly in a position to criticise Mugabe's undemocratic regime!)

While clearly concerned about the destabilising effects of the crisis, particularly the influx of refugees into neighbouring states such as South Africa, they fear a direct confrontation would have even more dire consequences.

An invasion would not only meet with resistance from pro-Mugabe forces, but would enrage millions of workers and peasants throughout Africa. The most that can be expected from the AU leaders, who in any case are corrupt and self-serving, is a mealy-mouthed statement of condemnation.

Zimbabwe now faces an uncertain future with no end in sight to the disastrous economic situation. In fact, with global recession beckoning, the situation is likely to deteriorate further. Neither Zanu-PF nor the MDC have any alternative to the capitalist policies pursued since independence in 1980, nor do Tsvangirai's allies in the West.

The hypocritical bleatings of warmongers Bush and Brown about human rights and democracy should be condemned by all with any genuine concern for the plight of the Zimbabwean masses.

Land question

Redistribution of the land is one of the most important issues in Africa as a whole, but it is a problem which cannot be solved in isolation from the rest of the economy. Land by itself is worthless if those who work it can't afford seed, fertiliser and agricultural equipment, and if the urban population can't afford to buy the produce.

Much of the land which was redistributed in previous election campaigns has not been farmed since. The chaotic, unplanned methods used by Mugabe have led to a collapse in food production and contributed to the current economic meltdown.

The land question can only be solved as part of an overall restructuring of the whole economy involving the drawing up of a state plan of production. This would require the state ownership of all major industry and finance, including the seizure of all the assets of foreign-owned enterprises, and democratic control by the working class. But this in turn requires the mass involvement of the workers, urban and rural, leading the poor peasantry in a struggle against the existing system.

This development would be dreaded equally by Tsvangirai, his Western backers and Mugabe, along with the political elites of all the surrounding states. Such a movement would not be contained within the borders of Zimbabwe, but would spark a continent-wide struggle against the pro-imperialist regimes throughout Africa.

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