Saturday, July 12, 2008

Zimbabwe: racism and international meddling

Mines in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe on Saturday welcomed the failure of a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions over its violent presidential elections, calling it a victory over racism and meddling in its affairs. (Reuters)


Robert Mugabe is a member of the Shona tribe (as is opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai), which comprises 70% of the population of Zimbabwe, occupying the centre and north of the country.

The Matabele (Ndebele) tribe, who tend to live in the southern part, make up half of the remaining minority, and (not surprisingly, in view of their post-Independence massacres by Mugabe's troops) are supporters of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). ''The denial of food to opposition strongholds has replaced overt violence as the government's principal tool of repression,'' the ICG wrote in August 2002.


Zimbabwe's natural resources include "coal, chromium ore [10% of the world's reserves], asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin, platinum group metals" (CIA World Factbook), and there are 10 or so foreign-owned mining companies operating there. The Zimbabwean kleptocracy has turned from seizing farms (which they either don't know how to run, or can't be bothered to), to grabbing controlling interests in foreign-owned firms, and a 25% no-compensation stake in mining companies. Presumably, in the latter case, they'll leave the operational side to the experts.

In 2005, the Chinese government and Chinese businesses supplied T-shirts for ZANU-PF supporters, jets and trucks for the Army, and the architectural plans and blue tiles for Mugabe's new 25-bedroom mansion. The recent attempt (April 2008) to ship a load of arms in, so that Mr Mugabe could deal with his little local difficulty, was described by the Chinese as "normal military trade". Annual trade between these two countries was expected to reach $500 million this year.

Zimbabwe is touting Russia for trade and business deals, including tourism (uniformed hunting trips in Matabeleland?)

Perhaps the reason 84-year-old Mugabe is hanging on, is that he and his entourage have a tiger by the tail. How could they get out of their land-locked country alive?
But why Russia? The New York Times fishes for an explanation as to why Russia indicates some willingness to consider sanctions, and then reneged, dragging China with her. The NYT is baffled, limply quoting the US Ambassador to the UN: “Something happened in Moscow.”
Could it be that Zimbabwe in itself has little interest for Russia, but this veto is a dog-whistle to other African nations where the Ivans may develop more serious business links?
Or could it be, as this blogger hypothesises, part of the Great Game between Russia and the US, particularly reflecting missile defence technology?
How skilfully does Robert Mugabe, the Dom Mintoff of East Africa, play off great nations against one another! If only his skills benefitted his country, also.


Cassandra said...

Hi, the autocrats still believe in state autonomy, resisting nanny efforts from the new world order. Just dropping in to say hello. Looking forward to read your interesting comments!
Cassandra (new bloghound)


Goedendag, Cassandra. Look forward to sharing ideas with you.

Rufus said...

I'd say that's quite the reason that they're hanging on- out of fear of what will happen once they step down.

dearieme said...

Do the Russians also mine many of the minerals you list? If so, won't they be happy to see competition suppressed?


DM: perhaps they're looking over the heads of the Zimbabweans at the rest of Africa, and its riches.


Rufus: Hi! I wonder if African tyrants make retirement plans, or is it like the Mob?

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