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Zimbabwe: A Desperate Regime
ON 18 April Zimbabwe marked 20 years of independence but most Zimbabweans had little to celebrate. The economy is in ruins, there is mass unemployment and poverty. But there is also a growing opposition to president Robert Mugabe's increasingly repressive rule.
Having suffered a humiliating defeat in last February's constitutional referendum Mugabe faces defeat in the expected general election.
In a desperate bid to cling to power he adopted a populist posture, orchestrating the occupation of white-owned land by 'war veterans' of the liberation struggle. At the same time opposition activists have been targeted and five murdered in the last two weeks.
After years of collaborating with the white farmers in the capitalist Commercial Farmers' Union, Mugabe has now denounced them as "enemies of Zimbabwe".
Yet Mugabe, by implementing the International Monetary Fund's austerity programme of cuts, shares responsibility with imperialism for the savage decline in Zimbabweans' living standards.
"We are yet to enjoy our liberation"
WHILE THE killings of two white farmers grabbed the headlines in Britain, little is said about the murders of leading black opposition activist Talent Mabika and his partner.
Mabika, a former Chemical Workers Union leader, was the driver for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC is challenging Robert Mugabe's 20-year rule. "We fought for our liberation and the victory of 1980 has been stolen from us. We are yet to enjoy our liberation", declared MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda.
At its founding conference on 29 January, 3,200 delegates danced and sang: "Mugabe is a murderer. He has been killing our fathers and brothers. Mugabe is a thief. He has stolen the Treasury of Zimbabwe. Mugabe is a liar..."
In last February's referendum, the MDC helped defeat (by 55% to 45%) Mugabe's proposed constitutional changes which would have given his regime new sweeping repressive powers.
MDC emerged from the working-class struggles of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) including one-day general strikes in 1997 and 1998 against the desperate economic conditions (see box) and the costly sending of troops into the Congo.
Potentially it could have developed into a new mass workers party with a socialist programme but its leaders have moved to the right.
Its programme remains vague on key issues such as land ownership and creating jobs and doesn't challenge capitalist interests in Zimbabwe nor that of foreign imperialism.
Nonetheless, if elections proceed, the MDC, by uniting opposition to the government and with Mugabe's ZANU-PF split, could end Mugabe's reign.
Who owns the land?
LAND OWNERSHIP has dominated Zimbabwe's history, especially in the century since reactionary adventurer-capitalist Cecil Rhodes marched in and seized control of the country.
In 1960 settlers of European origin (around 5% of the population) controlled over 70% of the arable land. Today whites account for less than 1% of the 12 million population but still hold one-third of the land, including 75% of the best farm land which is owned by 4,500 white farmers.
After the 15-year liberation struggle to achieve independence from the colonial regime of Ian Smith's Rhodesia, Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government failed to tackle land redistribution. Only 70,000 families were resettled, typically without title to the land and with no money to invest.
Most of the £44 million obtained from Britain - the former colonial power - appears to have benefited the 400 ZANU-PF supporters who in 1990 gained 400,000 hectares of land bought for the resettlement of poor black farmers.
A socialist government would confiscate land and redistribute it to the peasants but within the overall context of a comprehensive land reform programme.
That means nationalising big commercial farms, mines and major industry under the democratic control and management of the working class and rural workers. This would lay the basis for a socialist reorganisation of society under a workers' government supported by the peasantry.
To succeed, this revolution would need to spread to the workers and peasants throughout southern Africa.
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