African governments meeting at the African Union (AU) summit in July acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off election on 27 June was fraudulent. But what have they done about it? Refused to recognise Mugabe’s government? Isolated him regionally? Recognised the winner of the freer and fairer first round in March?
No. Only a few African heads of state were prepared to point out the obvious – that Mugabe’s regime is not legitimate and Morgan Tsvangirai is entitled to be recognised as the president of Zimbabwe.
Instead, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has persuaded the majority that the best solution is to negotiate and create a government of national unity. This would put Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in an impossible position, as Mugabe holds all the bargaining chips. It is hardly surprising that the MDC is refusing to participate unless violence ends and Tsvangirai is acknowledged as the winner of the March poll.
Even if the two parties do eventually sit down to ‘talk’, we can be sure that negotiations will drag on for months as Mugabe stalls to keep himself in power for as long as possible. Besides, Mugabe is unlikely to concede anything meaningful in the absence of much more serious pressures either regionally or by the AU as a whole – unless the impact of Zimbabwe’s imploding economy intervenes in some way to terminate his government.
If a government of national unity is created in some form, it is likely to be a clumsy deal made between elites, ignoring the wishes of the people for a government that is accountable to them and committed to delivering social justice.
The EU, the US and other developed countries may intensify sanctions and withdraw their diplomatic missions, but this is likely to make Mugabe even more defiant. Meanwhile, his unworkable economic policies will continue, prolonging the misery of Zimbabweans, whether at home or in exile, and impacting seriously on the economies of the entire region.
The AU summit has helped us in Zimbabwe to see clearly that the governments of Africa, and the Southern Africa Development Community in particular, will provide no early solution to Mugabe’s usurpation of power. A counter-force is now needed within the region to establish governments in each nation that can stand up for both their own people and their neighbours.
This is hardly a new idea; progressive social movements do already exist. But we must recognise that the days of sitting back and expecting governments to do it for us, with a bit of pressure here and there, are gone. We’ve seen over and over again that they will not act.
The fault is with us, the people, as much as with those leaders who join the elite only to betray the people’s ideals. The seduction of wielding power is too great, the temptations of holding office too many for ordinary human beings. The responsibility of holding governments to account must belong with the people. We must build popular organisations with strategies that learn the lessons of these failings and ensure that governments act in the interests of the masses.
This work must be regional, based on the solidarity of peoples whose lives are inextricably linked through history, proximity, migration and economic integration. There is a long struggle ahead – a struggle to build democracy from the bottom and create participatory structures and practices that can hold governments permanently accountable for their actions and assist them to fulfill the promises of social justice on which independence was achieved.
In this broad context, what is the way forward for Zimbabwe?
Some are now calling for armed resistance – but this is the solution that has been tried before and has produced the undemocratic trap in which we are now ensnared. Few desire this road: as a region we have seen the inevitable suffering that it causes without creating popular and accountable government. Those nations that appear to have more responsive governments and are further ahead in developing the practice of democracy are those very nations where nonviolent forms of independence struggles predominated. What we need is strategic and mass action of the type that South Africans developed to complement their own armed struggle to topple apartheid. And we need it both within Zimbabwe and outside.
Within Zimbabwe, progressive individuals and organisations need to recover rapidly from the disappointment and terror of recent events. They will have to peer into the darkness and overcome the temptation to give way to fear, despair and dejection. Hopefully they will respond to the opportunity – and the necessity – to build a new people’s movement that can create the foundation of a future participatory democracy.
It will be difficult. Any such movement will have to operate under repressive conditions. But the aging generation of Zimbabwean grandfathers and grandmothers devised strategies and made sacrifices in order to achieve their own goal of independence. Why should their children and grandchildren not be prepared to do the same now?
As the charade of a negotiated settlement plays itself out at the level of political leadership, Zimbabwean civic organisations and social movements will be restrategising and mapping their way forward. Meanwhile, there is very important work to be done in the region in further developing effective social movements and in making use of existing structures to bring pressure to bear on the Zimbabwean and regional governments. Such cooperation and solidarity activity is already under way and includes:
Trade unions, students, professional groups and other popular movements have already shown that they are capable of taking such actions. One of the most uplifting moments of the past gloomy months was when dockworkers in Durban refused to unload a Chinese ship carrying 77 tonnes of arms and ammunition for the Zimbabwean regime and the Durban high court ruled that the shipment should not have been granted a permit by the national convention’s arms control committee.
Such solidarity inspires us and gives us hope. Let it continue and multiply throughout the region as together we can not only solve the Zimbabwean problem but build truly democratic societies that can provide decent lives for all southern Africans. Governments will not do it for us, but we the people can. Robert Mugabe’s satisfaction must not be permitted to linger for long.
Mary Ndlovu is a social justice activist involved in Woza (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). A version of this article was published in Amandla, Red Pepper’s sister paper in South Africa
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History