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Forget the election - Zimbabwe will remain a basket case, and the West has a dilemma

By Guy Hallowes - posted Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANUPF) and Emmerson Mnangagwa were never, ever going to lose the so-called 'free and fair' elections in Zimbabwe this month. ZANUPF would have ensured this, by whatever means.

For the record, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission reported that Mr Mnangagwa received 50.3% of the vote and the MDC opposition candidate, Mr Chamisa, received 44.4% of the vote. The balance went to a myriad of other candidates. In the parliament, ZANUPF won 144 seats to the MDC's 64 seats.

As in all the previous elections in Zimbabwe, the opposition claimed the result was rigged. The MDC say they are going to challenge the result in court. At least six people, 'rioters', have been killed by the army and there are a number of MDC supporters in jail 'for inciting violence'.


We should all understand the tribal nature of the political conflict in Zimbabwe. ZANUPF is a Shona-based movement situated in the eastern half of Zimbabwe. The opposition MDC is an Ndebele organisation based in western Zimbabwe. Historically the Ndebele are relative newcomers to the territory. In the 1830s Mzilikazi, a general under Zulu King Shaka, rebelled against Shaka and moved with a large band of followers, initially to the east of what is now Johannesburg. He and his followers moved on again when the Boers arrived in the mid 1830s, to settle in what is now western Zimbabwe.

The Boers were the vanguard of the Afrikaner people who had left the Cape of Good Hope in wagons, in an episode known as The Great Trek, which started in the mid-1830s. They left the Cape to escape the British, who had ousted the Dutch from the Cape in 1804. They left mainly in order to keep the slaves they owned, which the British insisted had to be freed.

The relatively peaceful Shona were no match for the fearsome and well drilled Zulus, who took over the western part of what is now Zimbabwe from about the late 1830s. The Ndebele speak Zulu, which is a totally different language from Shona. Even Zimbabwe's 'war of independence' was fought by two separate factions, the Shona from Mozambique in the east and the Ndebele from Zambia from the north. Every attempt at cooperation between the two parties has ended in failure.

The Shona are in a majority in the country and probably always will be.

Mr Mnangagwa, in order to start the flow of Western aid again, will try to persuade the Western world that he has reformed by returning a few of the confiscated 'white owned farms' to their previous owners. He will also say he is tackling the endemic corruption in the country. He won't be able to do much in either case, because if he does he will be ousted by the very people who now occupy those unproductive farms and who also benefit from the corruption.

The forceful takeover of white-owned farms mainly benefitted members of ZANUPF. The white farmers had, in a great error of judgement, backed the opposition MDC and Mr Mugabe then decided to get rid of them. The takeover of the farms was fraudulently presented as 'land reform'. This is nonsense; all Mr Mugabe did was to widen the circle of corruption to keep himself in power. As is obvious, there was no reason why Mr. Mugabe would allow any of the white-owned farms to be occupied by members of the MDC opposition. There have been reports that many ZANUPF members have more than one farm now.


Again as is well known, the takeover of the white-owned farms completely destroyed Zimbabwe's then-buoyant agricultural sector. Almost without exception the farms that were taken over became completely unproductive within two years.

There was a program funded by the British and American governments to buy up white-owned farms for redistribution to the black majority. This was based on a scheme that was implemented in Kenya as part of the independence settlement there in 1962. The scheme was abandoned in Zimbabwe when Mr Mugabe insisted on personally controlling the funds that were made available.

Mr Mugabe was never a committed democrat; he was always determined to stay in power, come what may, and anything that got in the way was destroyed, one way or another. Mr Mnangagwa is no different. As is well known, he was Mr Mugabe's 'enforcer' for the last 40 years. Mr Mnangagwa was also personally responsible for organising the massacre of some 20,000 Ndebele in western Zimbabwe in 1984.

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Article edited by Margaret-Ann Williams.
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About the Author

Sydney-based Guy Hallowes is the author of Icefall, a thriller dealing with the consequences of climate change. He has also written several novels on the change from Colonial to Majority rule in Africa. To buy browse and buy his books click here.

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