- Created: Friday, 01 December 2017 12:39
- Written by Patrick Newman
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 3 March/April 1980
We salute the landslide victory of ZANU and ZAPU in the Zimbabwean elections. It will give an enormous impetus to the struggle against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. This overwhelming victory will be joyfully greeted by the Irish people fighting against the same ruthless British imperialism. A body blow to the British ruling class, it is a great step forward for the British working class and the world-wide movement against imperialism.
Despite the enormous obstacles placed in its way by the British state and the racist Rhodesian regime the Patriotic Front has won 77 out of 80 seats. The imperialist puppet Muzorewa won 3 seats thus demonstrating conclusively that the Muzorewa regime existed solely by virtue of the backing it received from Britain and South Africa.
British Imperialism Exposed
How thoroughly the Patriotic Front's overwhelming victory exposes British imperialism! The British had claimed that the Patriotic Front had no mass support, that it existed by intimidating the Zimbabwean masses, that the Patriotic Front forces were 'terrorists' and ‘criminals'. The British state has made the exact same claim about every liberation movement it has confronted. It says the same about the Provisional Republican Movement in Ireland today. It attempts to justify its own terror, torture and repression of Irish republicans on these very same grounds.
And now the Patriotic Front victory reveals the truth — that the Zimbabwean masses have all along supported the Patriotic Front; that despite the enormous repression they have suffered at the hands of the Rhodesian racist regime the people's support for the Patriotic Front was unshakeable and steadfast; that the war against the Patriotic Front waged by imperialism and its racist allies in Rhodesia and South Africa was in reality designed to crush the masses and prevent them from exercising their right to self-determination.
What a humiliating blow has been struck at British imperialism! The victory in Zimbabwe shouts its message round the world — the British state lied about the Patriotic Front just as it has lied about every liberation movement and just as today it lies about the Provisional Republican Movement. British imperialism stands revealed as a bloody handed liar!
Britain Stacked the Odds
It was the military strength and mass support for the Patriotic Front which forced Britain to the negotiating table and forced Britain to hold elections. The British plan was to use the Lancaster House settlement to stack all the odds against the Patriotic Front and thus try to secure their defeat. During the run up to the election, as the Zimbabwean masses openly and defiantly proclaimed that the Patriotic Front was their movement, the British state resorted more and more to the same techniques of naked repression that it uses against the Irish people today.
Whilst the Patriotic Front military forces were in assembly camps the Rhodesian army and the hated auxiliaries were allowed to roam the country freely. At no time did Britain make any attempt to restrict the Rhodesian army to base, yet every ounce of British propaganda concerned the 'difficulty' of getting all the Patriotic Front forces to assembly camps and of the so-called 'intimidation' by the Patriotic Front. The reality was that the Rhodesian army, the notorious Selous scouts, the police and the auxiliaries were able with British help to conduct an intensified campaign of repression and intimidation against the masses.
- Robert Mugabe was the subject of repeated assassination attempts. His home was the target of a grenade attack (as were many ZANU officials' homes) and an expert attempt to blow up his car was made.
- Two Selous scouts blew themselves up whilst about to bomb a fourth church in Harare, their intention being to plant the blame for this on ZANU.
- On several occasions the Rhodesian army shot and killed groups of freedom fighters on their way to assembly camps. For example, a ZANLA commander leading 118 men to link up with the ceasefire monitoring force was arrested along with all his men. The authorities have only accounted for the whereabouts of 22 of them. These are in prison.
- By the time of the election the police under Soames' directions had detained no less than 10,000 ZANU and ZAPU supporters including leading officials and candidates.
- At Umvuma a busload of people were returning from a ZANU rally. They were all arrested and beaten up and forced to sign an admission of guilt. Events of that kind were going on daily throughout the election period.
The auxiliaries were out in force - 30,000 — and conducted widespread intimidation and harassment forcing people at gun point to go to UANC rallies and shooting and beating up ZANU and ZAPU supporters.
British Governor Soames extended the martial law regulations which allow detention without trial. In fact under British rule the number of political prisoners rose to 15,000; this is in addition to the thousands detained during election campaigning. Under these regulations even the Red Cross is not allowed to see the prisoners and torture by electric shock as well as beatings were commonplace.
Britain also prevented large numbers of Zimbabwean refugees from returning to the country. Of 150,000 in Mozambique only 34,000 were allowed to return in time to vote in the election. Backed by Soames the Salisbury authorities ruled that only 400 Men of military age would be allowed to 'return to Zimbabwe each day. Refugees returning from Zambia, were tortured at the Gwai river 'reception centre' and of 130 detained there, 91 were sent back to Zambia. By these means the British planned to prevent a sizeable section of the Zimbabwean people, who would have overwhelmingly supported ZANU and ZAPU, from voting.
Every obstacle was placed in the way of election campaigning by ZANU and ZAPU. While Muzorewa had millions of pounds of British and South African money and unlimited access to the media, ZANU and ZAPU were legalised only two months before the election; their election material was seized and confiscated; transport provided by the socialist countries to assist their campaign was held up at the border; no telephone was installed in the ZANU headquarters; their rallies were broken up by the police using teargas and dogs. Finally Soames decided to play his last card and banned several ZANU candidates from campaigning at all in the election.
Yet still, in the face of this intense campaign of repression the Patriotic Front was able to sweep to victory. That victory is a great and historic one. But it is not yet complete. British imperialism and its partner, the South African apartheid state, have suffered a grave setback to their plans but they remain the greatest threat to the Patriotic Front regime. Imperialism will continue to scheme and plot to frustrate the aspirations Of the Zimbabwean masses for independence, peace, and prosperity. The imperialists have the might and the means — from economic sabotage to military coup — to frustrate the progress of the Zimbabwean revolution.
Defend the Victory
That is why the need remains to organise effective solidarity actions in Britain in defence of the Zimbabwean revolution. But throughout the period of the Lancaster House talks and the election period there has been pathetically little activity in Britain in solidarity with the struggle of the Patriotic Front. We have said before and we will repeat here that this failure is due entirely to the petit bourgeois socialists who, in a pale imitation of the imperialists' lies, have always maintained that the Patriotic Front was 'militarist' and 'unable to mobilise the masses'. These 'mass mobilisation' experts of the British petit bourgeois left themselves managed to mobilise less than 100 people on the one major solidarity action organised by ZECC over the election period. In the months ahead, as the wounded imperialist hawks circle Zimbabwe, the need for solidarity action in Britain will be as urgent as it was during the Lancaster House talks and the elections. All anti-imperialists in Britain must rally both to celebrate and to defend the historic victory of the Patriotic Front!
5 March 1980