From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters
Zimbabwe’s de facto President for Life, Robert Mugabe, 92, is approaching the end of that life. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the overthrow of white minority rule in 1980. The succession is now being contested by factions of the ruling ZANU-PF party. One faction is associated with First Lady Grace Mugabe, 50. A rival faction is associated with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe has been moving against this second faction. He prefers keeping power in the family. It is characteristic of him. Mugabe lost to labor activist Morgan Tsvangirai in the 2008 presidential election, but kept himself in power through violence and threat.
Mugabe has long looked to China as his biggest arms supplier. Today, the Chinese yuan is Zimbabwe’s official foreign currency. A classic neocolonial relationship has developed that profits China, via control of mining and agriculture, more than it does Zimbabweans. Mining runoff, for example, contributes to a major water pollution problem, which in turn helps
promote or exacerbate diseases like cholera, tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria.
Zimbabwe has an 80% poverty rate and 95% unemployment rate. Neocolonialism bolsters the kind of undemocratic “strongman” rule favored by U.S. imperialism. Despite laws favoring Black control of business and agriculture, little is done to contest capitalist relations. Mugabe wants to spirit away economic reality into an ideological fantasy meant to bolster his rule in this life and after.