Hands Off Zimbabwe: 19 Years of Torture for Freedom

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.2 - January/February 1980

At a press conference in London, Eddison Zvobgo, spokesman for ZANU, paid this moving tribute to Maurice Myagumbo who had arrived in Britain that day, having been released after 19 years' detention by the racist Rhodesian regime.

Let us meet a very strange, unusual individual. He is a beautiful man, one of the most beautiful people this world has been privileged to have. He has just been released from Salisbury Prison after 19 years in prison, Maurice Myagumbo. Nothing special about him. He started as a waiter in South Africa, waiting for whites in their hotels in Johannesburg. He moved to East London, was promoted, he became a chef.

Then he moved to Port Elizabeth from East London and became aware of the oppression in South Africa of all people. He quit his job and came home in 1956. In 1957 he was among the first five to launch the nationalist struggle in our country, the African National Congress. They had one truck, it was his. That car vanished, disintegrated, during the next two years. He was detained in 1959 by Whitehead. We saw no more Maurice until 1963 — he was released after Winston Field fell. We formed ZANU together. He vanished once again in 1964. Zimbabweans did not see anything of Maurice again until 1975, 11 years after. Immediately he came out, he intensified his campaign for the liberation of the country, recruiting, day and night, forces to cross the border into Mozambique. He was again arrested, tried and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

He is out here. Just a personal note. His daughter is here. She was born as a result of the visit of her mother, his wife, to a detention camp in 1960. She saw him when she was three years old in 1963 when we formed ZANU. Then he vanished. She grew up and did not know her father. He came out in 1975. She was now here in Britain as a student. He vanished four months after he came out — back to jail. She got married and had two children. She was born when he was behind bars for freedom. Two of his grandchildren have been born when he has been behind bars for freedom. Something the world has not seen very often. He's a grandfather, his daughter was born when he was in jail, his two grandchildren have been born when he has been in jail. He is a beautiful person. And for what remains to free Zimbabwe he will be there. Never has history been so made by living people than is the case in Zimbabwe. Maurice Myagumbo is it. You can sum it all up — he is it. Zimbabwean history here. He saw it when nationalism began. Talk of torture and pain and suffering he has been through it. Let us clap to 19 years of torture for freedom.

Hands Off Zimbabwe! - Interview with Robert Mugabe

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 2 - January/February 1980

The following interview was given to Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! by Comrade President Mugabe — President ZANU — Patriotic Front. The interview took place at Heathrow Airport on [22 December 1979] — just before President Mugabe flew out of Britain. It is the last interview he gave before leaving Britain.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!: What positions would you like organisations in this country to take on the settlement, and what would you like us to do over the coming weeks and months in your support?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: The struggle hasn't ended. It's only just begun in our view. In the sense that if all goes well during the elections and we emerge as the government there will still be another form of struggle. But there's going to be lots of work in reconstruction, resettling people. In the initial period we will expect all the support groups we have here in Britain and elsewhere to concentrate their efforts in enabling us to resettle our people. There are many refugees, if not more refugees inside the country than outside the country. There is also the question of working to aid us at the present moment when we are campaigning for elections.

FRFI: What we are particularly concerned about is the role of Britain in Zimbabwe and South Africa in particular and we believe that the possibility of intervention of British troops or South African troops is one that we have got to fight against. What's your comment on that?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: Yes, certainly we must combine forces just now. South African troops are within the country. We raised this matter yesterday with Mrs Thatcher and Lord Carrington when we met them and we wanted to get from them a definite commitment that they were going to get the South African troops out. They were not that convincing. They said that as far as they knew the South African troops were not in the country. There is the possibility that these troops will be used against us if we are victorious. There is also the possibility that in fact the South Africans are there at the invitation of Britain, because Britain is hesitating to remove them. Hence there is a need for us to combine forces and demand through all political platforms, through all media, the withdrawal of South African troops and action, definite action, by Britain to get those South African troops out.

FRFI: If you win the election, as we think you will win the election, and General Walls and the British act with the South Africans to overthrow your power, do you envisage going back to the armed struggle?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: The armed struggle is not ending just now. We are upholding a ceasefire. We have our arms with us. If anybody attacks us we will readjust and mobilise ourselves for action immediately. That will be the end of the ceasefire if it happens during the ceasefire period. If it happens after we have won the elections, naturally we will put up a resistance. We will defend our victory through armed struggle. We will have to do that.

FRFI: In the elections that are taking place, is the Patriotic Front standing as separate organisations?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: The Patriotic Front is two organisations under a banner, and we cannot create one party overnight. It takes time. Even if we wanted it, this is not the time to do it; it would raise more contradictions in the Patriotic Front. We will fight the election in the most effective way which ensures that the two parties are there, but we can agree on pooling our results and forming a coalition. There are many, many possibilities, but certainly the two parties will maintain their identity.

FRFI: During the talks at Lancaster House, there was a great failure of the anti-imperialist forces in this country to give you support. Do you think this made a difference?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: Yes, the anti-imperialist, forces in the country here, I think are not that strong. The capitalist forces, the reactionary forces are far more formidable, far better organised. But we would have wanted to hear the voice of the anti-imperialist forces, those who espouse the cause of freedom, the cause of independence, everywhere. There was not that failure as such, but it is a state of affairs which continuously exists in the country. It did not start with our coming to Lancaster House. I think that the movement is weak in this country, much weaker than it is in Italy for example, much weaker than it is in Spain, much weaker than it is even in Germany, although there the groups are small they are very vociferous and you get them speaking loudly and organising. We expected anyway that the democratic forces which have agreed with us in this country would have rallied behind us. But it was a difficult struggle. Even some of our friends, not only here, but in the international community, in Africa as well, were beginning to show weakness and their weakness, did not lend support to us and we found ourselves weak negotiators at various stages.

FRFI: Something which concerns us greatly is the Irish struggle against British imperialism. Do you have any comments to make on that struggle?

Comrade President Robert Mugabe: Our view is that we would want to see the situation in Ireland resolved, but we do not intervene in that situation for tactical reasons. Our view is commonly known that imperialism wherever it is must be fought and that justice must be done in Ireland.

Hands off Zimbabwe! Victory to the Patriotic Front


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 2 - January/February 1980

The most dangerous stage of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle has now been reached. The Lancaster House settlement has not ended the war but has taken it to a new and perilous phase. Perilous for the Patriotic Front and the black masses of Zimbabwe. The same forces which underlay the war continue to exist. The suffering and injustice which drove the people of Zimbabwe to take up arms under the leadership of the Patriotic Front still exists. The same reactionary racist state apparatus still exists. The same imperialist interests which have tried time and again to 'stabilise' Southern Africa by procuring the defeat of the Patriotic Front still exist. The victory of the Patriotic Front still threatens the ability of imperialism to exploit the resources and the masses in Southern Africa. Most of all it threatens the very existence of the bastion of reaction — the South African apartheid state itself.

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Hands off Zimbabwe!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 1 – November/December 1979

‘David Owen in drag' was how one Rhodesian newspaper described Margaret Thatcher after her apparently surprising change of position at the Lusaka conference in early August. In April the Tory election manifesto had promised to gain international recognition for a Muzorewa type regime, and the Conservative delegation which reported on the elections in May argued that sanctions should be lifted. The Tory government was forced to come to the conference table in September because of the decisive successes of the Patriotic Front, and because they thought this might be the only way to salvage something from Rhodesia.

The struggle in Zimbabwe is now at a decisive stage and offers the anti-imperialist forces an opportunity which will not recur for many years. The armed forces of the Patriotic Front have driven the Rhodesian army and British imperialism into a corner. For many years they have fought heroically against a vicious and racist regime. British imperialism is failing to meet its NATO commitment, unable to defeat the national liberation movement of the Irish people, and it cannot at the moment conveniently send a military force of any consequence to Zimbabwe. It can only hope to buy time by attempting to split the Patriotic Front or to coerce the Front Line states into withdrawing their support for the liberation movement. The British ruling class is aware of the gigantic issues at stake. A victory for the Zimbabwean people would mean an enormous threat to the beleaguered apartheid regime of South Africa, and a smashing blow to the arrogant confidence of the British ruling class. Such a victory would be a victory for the working class and the oppressed peoples of the world of even greater importance than the defeat of American imperialism in Vietnam.

The key factor in the present situation is that the Patriotic Front forces are winning the war against the white racist regime, and are thus well on the way to such a historic victory. They control 4/5 of the area of Zimbabwe and 1/5 of the population lives in the liberated zone. In their raids on Salisbury and Bulawayo earlier this year, they showed their ability to strike right at the heart of the racist regime. Lieutenant-General Peter Walls, the chief commander of the Rhodesian armed forces, has publicly admitted that there is no possibility of his army winning the war, and that the response to 1.5 million leaflets dropped in the liberated zone offering amnesty to 'guerillas' who surrendered was a 'mere trickle' (in fact it was about 100, compared to an estimated total of 15,000 freedom fighters). As a last measure of desperation, the call up now extends to all white men up to 60 years old. Even this is ineffective, given that so many white Rhodesians are voting with their feet, so that an increasingly large proportion of the Rhodesian army consists of foreign mercenaries — ZAPU estimates put this as high as 43%.

It is only the success of the Patriotic Front forces which has forced British imperialism and Smith to the conference tables, and made them apply the thin and patchy cosmetic of the Muzorewa regime. The 1976 Geneva conferences, the 77-78 Anglo-American plan, championed by David Owen with the full support of the Labour Party, and now the Muzorewa constitution, all foundered on the rock of the armed resistance of the Zimbabwean people.

Faced with this reality, Thatcher adopted a different line at Lusaka, agreeing to the talks which began in September. This was not because of a change of heart by the Tories. It was not because they recognised that elections held without a registered list of voters, with thousands of Patriotic Front supporters detained and the Patriotic Front itself detained, with large numbers of voters brought under armed guard to the polls, could hardly be regarded as democratic; but because they realised that in the present situation, the David-Owen-Labour Party approach is the best tactic for imperialism. That is, to play on the divisions between the Front Line states, in particular Zambia and Tanzania, and by political, economic and military blackmail to sow discord between them and the military forces of the Patriotic Front.

‘Constitutional' conferences may come and go, but the brutal repression of the Zimbabwean people continues in all its barbaric ferocity. Just one week after the installation of Muzorewa and his fellow puppets, the Rhodesian Air Forces attacked Patriotic Front bases in Mozambique, only the first of several 'hot pursuit' raids into the territory of the Front Line states. Whole populations are moved at will by the 'security' forces. As a result, in 1977, during the very period of the Labour Party's 'democratic initiative', 600,000 Zimbabwean peasants were living in `protected villages' — in fact these are concentration camps in all but name, surrounded by barbed wire, subject to the daily harassment, torture and rape by auxiliary' forces. One in twelve of the entire black population lives in these camps the equivalent total for Britain would be about 5 million people: the proportion is far higher than that of the European population imprisoned in Hitler's concentration camps. In the refugee camps in Mozambique and Zambia, 200,000 people fleeing from the Rhodesian armies cling precariously to bare existence, just surviving from day to day with the ever present threat of murderous raids by the Rhodesian army. There are as many black refugees in the camps as there are whites in Zimbabwe as a whole.

In this situation, the key questions are not so much the constitutional niceties, or the details of electoral procedure, but: who will rule Zimbabwe in the interim period up to the next elections? Whose armed forces will have effective control? Anti-imperialists in Britain must resolutely oppose any suggestion that British troops could be sent into Zimbabwe to play a 'peace-keeping role' during any forthcoming elections—even if initially it is proposed that they will only be playing an equal or even a subordinate role to the forces of the Patriotic Front. For where would these troops be drawn from? From Northern Ireland — where they were sent ten years ago under the pretext of `keeping the peace'? For the last ten years of British imperialism's rule, the Unionist statelet has been maintained by the open slaughter of Irish nationalists, by the undercover murders of unarmed Irish working class men and women, by the torture centres at Castlereagh and the prisons of Long Kesh and Armagh. Are the vicious butchers of the Irish people to be transformed over night into messengers of peace, into guardians of a truly democratic constitution—one which would sweep away minority racist rule for ever? We must oppose all British plans for Zimbabwe —constitutional or military. Recognising that victory for the Patriotic Front is a victory for the British working class and a blow against the racism of the British state, we must give complete support to the Patriotic Front. This is what the Zimbabwean people have every right to demand of British anti-imperialists!

Patrick Newman


Zimbabwe: deciding its destiny / FRFI 204 Aug / Sep 2008

FRFI 204 August / September 2008

Zimbabwe: deciding its destiny

The battle between the imperialist nations is intensifying as they stake claims on markets and resources worldwide. This battle is spreading to every continent, not least of all Africa. From the Horn of Africa in the north, to the Nigerian and Angolan oilfields in the west, to the political crisis in DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda in the centre and the east, imperialist greed lies behind wars and crises that are made to appear like internal conflicts. Ask the imperialists and they will tell you that the continent suffers from the greed and corruption of African political leaders and parties. What they don’t tell you is that this corruption, for undoubtedly it exists, is not only fostered by imperialism, but is also a pale shadow of the rapacious greed of the imperialists themselves. This is the background to the sustained attack by British and US imperialism on the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. CAROL BRICKLEY reports.

Despite the untold mineral resources of Sub-Saharan Africa, and the comparatively advanced industrial development of South Africa, the region is the poorest in a poor continent. Zimbabwe, formerly with a stable economy and an agriculture that could feed its own population, now has an economy in total collapse; it is suffering hyperinflation and is threatened by famine.

The two presidential elections held this year were corrupt, surrounded by violence, and have left the country in deeper crisis. The result of the first election on 29 March between main rivals Robert Mugabe of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), and Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), remains unpublished. When Mugabe stayed out of sight for five days afterwards, stock values on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange soared and the ‘international community’ (read the imperialists) prepared to ‘rebuild the nation’ with a good dose of neoliberalism. The International Monetary Fund hatched plans at its spring meeting in Washington. They celebrated too soon: Mugabe may have been down, he was not out. A re-run election was called in June and was boycotted by the MDC on the grounds of corruption and violent intimidation of its members. Mugabe came away ostensibly the victor, but with very little credibility.

The British and US imperialists have now intensified their attack on this poor benighted country. Anyone knowing the history of Southern Africa will have appreciated the irony of Britain’s and the US’s failure to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe at the United Nations (UN) Security Council in July (vetoed by China and Russia). Throughout the apartheid era, both Britain and the US exercised their veto consistently to prevent UN sanctions on South Africa, when the frontline states, including Zimbabwe, despite their poverty and economic fragility, were the mainstay of opposition to the racist regime. Britain is, in fact, up to its neck in the tragedy that has overcome Zimbabwe, and no amount of finger-pointing can hide its perfidy.

It was Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company (BSA) that first colonised the country in the 1890s. The aim was to rob the region of its resources, and more particularly, for the politically astute Rhodes, to ensure peace and plenty in Britain via rich pickings from southern Africa. Southern Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then called, was settled by increasing numbers of white immigrants and when the BSA mandate ended in 1922, power was handed to this settler minority. What followed was the systematic transfer of fertile land from the black majority to the white minority under the Land Apportionment Act. Black families were forced off their ancestral land to supply cheap labour to the white-owned mines and factories, or to languish in infertile ‘Reserves’.

In response to colonisation, liberation movements were formed all over Africa and flourished in the period after the Second World War. Zanu and Zapu (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) in Southern Rhodesia were among them. Educated in South Africa, Robert Mugabe returned home to join the liberation struggle in the 1960s. In 1965 the white racist minority led by Ian Smith declared unilateral independence (UDI) with the intention of entrenching white minority rule for ‘a thousand years’. Smith imprisoned the entire leadership of the liberation movements:?Mugabe was detained without trial for ten years. Over the next 15 years various British governments, including two Labour governments, made timid attempts to reach deals with the Smith regime which would bring about black majority rule very, very gradually, while the regime’s racist backers (including prominent British companies like Lonrho) ran rings around the weak international sanctions and the white farmers profited from immense subsidies.

In 1974 the tables began to turn across the whole region of southern Africa:?Mugabe was released from gaol, left the country for Mozambique, and the liberation war began in earnest from the east. In 1975 the US/British-backed invasion of Angola by the South African army, launched to prevent independence after the Portuguese withdrawal, was defeated by the Angolan MPLA with the considerable help of Cuba. The news of this defeat lit up the region. In 1976 the students in Soweto, South Africa, rose up against apartheid tyranny.

By the late 1970s, and following a failed attempt to impose a stooge black leader (Muzorewa), the Smith regime, under the auspices of Britain and the US, was forced to the negotiating table with the liberation movements. The Lancaster House talks brought about the first elections where the black majority had the vote: Zanu came to power under the leadership of Mugabe.

The Lancaster House Agreement, which brought the liberation war to an end in 1979, imposed grave restrictions on Zimbabwe’s new government. The most significant of these were the safe-guarding of white representation in Parliament (20% of seats) and the restriction on the redistribution of land, both for the next ten years, 1980-1990. At the time of independence the white minority – 5% of the population – ‘owned’ 80% of the arable land. The deal, stitched up at the last minute with the agreement of the US when Zanu and Zapu threatened to walk out of the talks, promised British and US aid to compensate white farmers who were willing to sell their land. Land reform, the most important issue in the liberation war, was kept at a standstill.

In 1985 the Land Acquisition Act gave the government the right to purchase excess land for redistribution to the landless. This Act had limited effect, mainly because the government could not afford to compensate landowners and white farmers vigorously opposed it. The government was powerless in the face of the farmers’ resistance and from 1980 to 1990, only 71,000 families were resettled – a tiny fraction of the landless.

It is this issue of land ownership that lies at the heart of Zimbabwe’s crisis. During the 1990s land was seized from white farmers without compensation as Mugabe attempted to keep his frustrated supporters in line. But this was not organised land reform, it was corrupt land-grabbing, and the British government used this as the excuse to withhold the aid it had promised. In a sustained campaign, international aid was cut off, Zimbabwe was thrown out of the Commonwealth and the EU instituted sanctions. The subsequent failure of agriculture is not just a result of under-resourcing black farmers, although this is crucial. The region is subject to prolonged droughts and to add to its misery Zimbabwe is blighted by an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Despite the progressive policies of the government (unlike those of South Africa), due to lack of funds, life expectancy has reduced to 37 years and a quarter of children are orphans. The collapse of the economy and political violence has caused many thousands of Zimbabweans to flee the country to neighbouring South Africa where, once again, they have been the target of politically-motivated violence.

The Zimbabwean people need help and support. In a world ruled by imperialism, where its ambitions are paramount, what the Zimbabweans are being offered is the opposite. When UN sanctions were blocked, the EU tightened its own sanctions further. Multinational companies like Anglo American and RioTinto, with substantial holdings in Zimbabwe’s mineral and platinum mines, are perched ready to take advantage of any settlement while retaining their profitable foothold in the country. The South African President Thabo Mbeki has stepped in to organise talks between the opposing Mugabe and Tsvangirai parties with the aim of forging a unity government. Unfortunately, such a government, even if it can maintain stability, will be forced to introduce a settlement favourable to imperialism. The stakes are high. After more than a decade in power in South Africa, the ANC has itself failed to introduce land reform or lift the oppression of the mass of its working class. They promised that 30% of agricultural land would be transferred to black claimants by 2014; so far they have achieved just over 4%. Millions of black people still live in impoverished townships, without electricity or clean water and without jobs. The South African ruling class can ill-afford to see its neighbour in turmoil.

The biggest question of all is who will represent the interests of the black majority who are still waiting for liberation. Tsvangirai and the MDC are already beholden to imperialism. The old warhorse Mugabe can see that imperialism is ready to step in, but through his own corruption and failures he is impotent to stop them. This is the question not just for Zimbabwe, but for the whole continent.