Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite