From the ousting of Mugabe to the unprecedented voter turnout for this election, it is clear that the people are engaged and demanding change says Prof. Horace Campbell
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
Zimbabweans went to the polls on Monday to elect a new president and a new parliament. This is the first time since Zimbabwe obtained independence in 1980 that its longtime leader Robert Mugabe is not on the ballot. The election is also historic because it takes place after the military ousted Mugabe in a soft coup last November, and installed his second in command Emmerson Mnangagwa as president. Turnout is said to have been unusually high at 70 percent. The European Union, the United States, and the Commonwealth have all sent election observers. If the vote is considered free and fair, international economic sanctions that have been in place since independence will be lifted.
Although there were 23 candidates running for the presidency, only two are considered to have a chance: incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the leader of the main opposition party, Nelson Chamisa. The contrast between the two candidates are stark. Mnangagwa is 75 years old, and his main leading candidate at this point, the opposition candidate, is twice as young as he is, and his name is Chamisa.
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Joining me now to discuss Zimbabwe’s election is Professor Horace Campbell. He is the Kwami Nkrumah Chair of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. He’s also the author of many books, including Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya; and Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation. Horace, I thank you so much for joining us today.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Sharmini, thank you for having me again to discuss changes in Africa.
SHARMINI PERIES: Horace, we don’t quite have the results of the elections yet. It is expected on Thursday. So could we preface this discussion by you taking us back to that other historic moment we experienced last November, when the soft coup against Mugabe took place, and that was a historic transition for the people of Zimbabwe? And if you haven’t seen that interview with Horace Campbell, you must. You can find it on The Real News. And then, Horace, if you could bring us forward to this historic moment of this election today, and what your thoughts are.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Thank you. The Zimbabwe peoples have been fighting against oppression and exhausting patriarchy for 20 years. It was 21 years ago in 1997 when there was a general strike by the workers. And out of that general strike by the workers, they formed a political party called the Movement for Democratic Change. That movement was representing the working class in the urban areas and that working class aligned themselves in some sections of the landed white, and they aligned themselves with Western governments.
And so in southern Africa, and in Africa as a whole, the Movement for Democratic Change was not supported. Because governments like the government in South Africa, governments like the government in Mozambique and [inaudible] said Robert Mugabe was a freedom fighter and no party should come to power in Zimbabwe that is not coming out of the freedom struggles. Yet in 2008, when there was elections, the MDC won the election. The international observers called for a runoff in 2008. And after that runoff- it did not take place, because the MDC, their candidates and their partisans, were beaten and threatened to the point that they withdrew.
The good thing about Zimbabwe is for the past 10 years, the working people have been fighting against the Mugabe government. They’ve been calling for Mugabe to go, and they said Mugabe must go. In the process, the government of Robert Mugabe used populism to say they were taking the land, which everybody wants- everybody in Africa wants the land to return to the poeple. But you want the land to be returned to the people who [work] the land. And it is precisely because the land was not returned to the majority of those who work the land why there was massive opposition to Mugabe. That opposition precipitated that division within Mugabe’s party.
And Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the chief of security, Minister of Justice, he was the right hand man of Mugabe for many years. It was when his life was threatened by one the other faction that he moved with the army against Mugabe. But that movement could not have been successful without the intervention of the people who were on the streets saying Mugabe must go. Now, fast forward eight months after that. There is supposed to be an election. The elections are mandated in constitutional terms, because they should take place before August 2018. But in the case of Emmerson Mnangagwa, he needs the election in order to gain legitimacy for his opening to the West.
What the people of Zimbabwe, who have been calculating all along, they’re saying when the election comes they were going to intervene. And we saw all the pictures yesterday that the youth and the people of Zimbabwe came out. According to the observation that we received from people on the ground, more than 75 percent of the population of registered voters came out to vote. Now, this was very similar to what happened in Zimbabwe in 1980, when the people were voting against the Ian Smith regime.
So although we do not yet have the results of the election, we know the sentiments in the country were very high against the Mnangagwa government.
SHARMINI PERIES: Horace, there’s 23 candidates running for president, which is obviously a good sign to have such diversity. But the international media, mainstream media, has focused in on two main contenders who have significant difference, at least age difference between the two. So it is seen as one is holding forth in terms of the old guard in Zimbabwe, and Chamisa and his supporters are seen as a young and representative of the youth in Zimbabwe. What are your thoughts on this whole entire process, and of course the two main candidates?
HORACE CAMPBELL: The process is good, in one sense, that the people are seeking ways to empower themselves. And for the moment they believe that the way to empower themselves is through the electoral process, even though they have been robbed many times since 2008. They believe that they can effect a change of leadership of the country and a change in the leadership of the institutions- the mines, the banks, the telecommunication companies- and to change those who have held onto power in Zimbabwe since independence 38 years ago.
Now, they’re mistaken. But they will have to learn from this mistake. So this process is good that they will move to the next level. Because although the media is making a distinction between the age of Mnangagawa and Chamisa, there is no distinction between them in their belief in private property. They believe in opening up to the West and believe that Zimbabwe needs foreign investments in order to develop. There’s no difference in the sense that neither of the major political parties have a project for politically and economically empowering the people.
I will give you one example. The land question is still a major question. What is needed in the land question in Zimbabwe is to have banking institutions, the transportation, water, and all the institutions of the state reorganised so that it does serve their farmers. Can set up cooperative banks, cooperative housing, cooperative transportation, and new institutions that the people can empower themselves. Now, it seems that this is work ahead. One has to get beyond the stage where there is a euphoria where people believe elections will being bring political and economic change.
SHARMINI PERIES: Horace, it is interesting that the European Union, the United States, the EU are the observers. You know, representative of the Empire. Very present in terms of making sure that the natives behave themselves. Your thoughts on this dynamic? And shouldn’t the African Union take the lead in terms of ensuring that Zimbabwe has a free and fair election?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, I’m sorry. In Africa we know that the African Union and especially the states of southern Africa, they are monitoring this very, very closely. So the fact that the European Union is there is only in the news because during the Mugabe regime they were kept out. And during the regime of Mugabe, the United States had sanctions against Zimbabwe, and [inaudible] kept out. The agreement with Mnangagwa, Britain, European Union, the United States, is that if you won the elections, sanctions will be lifted. So there is an agreement between them.
So one, we’ll be watching them very carefully to see if the elections are rigged and are stolen, what will be their attitude. Because the people of Zimbabwe acted decisively by coming out to vote, over 75 percent. And in many countries of the West they do not that have high level of turnout. And the people are ready to be organized, to be mobilized this time, if the elections are stolen.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Now, the opposition MDC party of Nelson Chamisa is casting doubt on the fairness of the vote. They issued a statement that the Electoral Commission is delaying the process in order to commit fraud. Heres what Tendai Biti, an official of MDC, had to say.
TENDAI BITI: We are, however, seriously concerned about evidence of foreign interference with the people’s will that is being displayed by the authorities. So for instance, as I’m talking to you right now, there is a deliberate delay in formally announcing the results.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Horace, what do you make of these allegations, and the costing of doubt to the process like this?
HORACE CAMPBELL: They have legitimacy insofar as the process that has been set in motion by the local observers and the organized groups in Zimbabwe, the process at this stage set in motion was that the results from the individual polling stations would be tallied, sent to the provincial headquarters, before they’re sent to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. So in Zimbabwe there is some general sense of what the election results were turning out to be. And the comparisons have been made with the elections of 2013, where by this time in 2013, 75 percent of the electoral results were known.
Now, out of 230 constituencies at 7:00PM GMT, only 7 seats were cleared. There is righteous indignation among the people about why this delay, and Tendai Biti is correct to raise questions; that these questions are raised so that there could be more vigilance by the people and by others so that there are free and fair counting of the votes in Zimbabwe.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Horace. Finally, if this vote is considered free and fair and there is a clear victor here, and the sanctions are in fact lifted, what will this do to the economy of Zimbabwe? What can we look ahead to? I mean, are we going to open Zimbabwe up to all kinds of neoliberal economic presence there? Or are we going to be able to hold forth the way Mugabe had managed to do for so far, not to have, you know, foreign investment and corrupt foreign investment installed in the country?
HORACE CAMPBELL: As I said, the economic program of the MDC or Zanu-PF. There’s no difference between them. We do not expect anything good to come from opening up from the West. What we have seen all over Africa. In 2017 there was an election in Gambia. A new government came into power. The people came out from the streets, there was great euphoria. The government went back to the IMF and the World Bank. There is nothing that has changed in the Gambia for the majority of the people. The same thing happened in Sierra Leone. The same thing happened in Liberia. Thousands and thousands of young people came out and they voted. And yet after the elections, they are going to Washington, they’re going to London, they’re going to New York, and they’re going to Paris to seek for funds.
Nothing will happen in Zimbabwe until we organize new economic structures, new economic foundations to empower the working peoples. Because after all, the Mugabe government liquidated the working class by closing down the manufacturing sectors and the areas of economy, and provided the basis for the livelihood of the working class. The West is not about to support the development and the restructuring of Zimbabwe manufacturing. The West is not about to ensure that we produce products that can compete either with the West or with China in the midst of a trade war.
So the leadership of both political parties are selling the people a bill of goods by suggesting that Western investment will save the situation in Zimbabwe. We need the resources of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa to be organized, so millions of young people can be put to work for building a new economy, so that the minerals can be developed inside Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is one of those countries that is so endowed. There are over 240 working mines in Zimbabwe with all kinds of minerals. Billions have been lost in Zimbabwe. 15 billion dollars have been lost from the mining sector. Zimbabwe is one of the top seven exporters of diamonds. The resources are there, but none of the political parties are speaking to the question of restructuring the economy for a self-directed economy that is based on the skills and knowledge and the transformation of the economy. And that discussion will have to come another time, when new political forces emerge in Zimbabwe. And in South Africa, I may add.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Horace. I thank you so much for joining us at this moment. And we’ll be looking for you on Thursday after the results are out. I thank you so much for now.
HORACE CAMPBELL: Thank you so much for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.