Monday evening’s event on Zimbabwe, held jointly by Progress and ACTSA, was thought provoking. It was humbling to be in the presence of Lovemore Matombo, President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Lovemore has made and continues to make huge sacrifices because of his opposition to Robert Mugabe, facing dismissal from work, imprisonment and intimidation. Kate Hoey MP made an inspiring speech setting out why and how the left in Britain and across the world should raise awareness and campaign against the regime in Harare.
It’s pretty clear that South Africa, and Zimbabwe’s other neighbours, hold the key to resolving the crisis. It will only be through pressure from Thabo Mbeki that Mugabe is forced to step down and Zimbabwe can begin the process of rebuilding its civil society and economy. However, this pressure has been conspicuously lacking. The unwillingness of African leaders to be critical of a man who cleverly wraps himself in the flag of African liberation and resistance to Western imperialism is preventing European and American pressure having any impact.
Some voices at the meeting argued that by speaking out against Mugabe British voices risked being counter–productive. Our colonial past will contaminate opposition to Mugabe, and people across Africa will side with him. Whilst this issue is one we have to keep in mind, I found the argument being made depressing and defeatist. We can’t allow post-colonial guilt to prevent us speaking out against one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. And unless we help the Zimbabwean opposition put their case to the rest of the Africa, their voice will never be heard.