Robert Mugabe – writings and speeches

Robert Mugabe 1986

Robert Mugabe 1986

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Robert Mugabe (1924-2019)

Robert Mugabe became the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1975 – at the height of the National Liberation War against the racist and colonial regime of Rhodesia – eventually leading the organisation (and the people of Zimbabwe) to success and the establishment of a Government led by and comprising a majority of Black Zimbabweans.

In the 1970s and 80s he professed himself a Marxist-Leninist but as international pressures and economic difficulties increased during the 1990s his approach became more ‘pragmatic’ – although he always considered himself a socialist.

In many ways Mugabe was the only honourable participant in the Lancaster House Conference in late 1979. He accepted a disproportionate participation in the Parliament of the tiny white minority in order to undermine any arguments of the odious Ian Smith – the erstwhile Prime Minister of the renegade country since the 1960s . This agreement was due to last for ten years and probably one of Mubabe’s biggest mistakes was that he honoured that agreement.

If he had attacked white majority power during the 1980s, when there was definitely a revolutionary fervour in the country, Zimbabwe might had been more able to face the various ‘setbacks’ of the 1990s. These were a combination of events which, using the modern cliché, created a veritable ‘perfect storm’ for the country.

The events that hit the country included;

  • droughts in the 1990s, which followed drought years in the 1980s,
  • the collapse of the Soviet Union removed a potential, non-Western ally (although with conditions) from the equation,
  • the refusal of the governments of the United Kingdom (both Conservative and Labour) to live up to their end of the bargain and provide assistance (including finance) for the white minority land (the very best, most fertile and most easily irrigated) to be transferred into the hands of black Zimbabwean farmers,
  • a growing level of corruption at too many levels in the Party, Government and the country in general which were undermining any attempts to move forward without any interference from the past colonial ‘masters’,
  • the efforts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) to force conditions upon any country receiving loans. This primarily manifested itself in the forced privatisation of national resources – a policy which was developed throughout the 1980s but which had become institutionalised by the 1990s. The fact that, throughout his time as Prime Minster/President, Mugabe refused to accept such conditions must always stand in his favour.

The documents below allow the reader to get an idea of how Mugabe thought during the time of the National Liberation War and the early years of the independent Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister opens Economic Conference, September 1, 1980, Harare, 1980, Government Printer, Harare, 1980, 6 pages.

PM’s New Year Message to the Nation, December 31, 1981, Policy Statement No 6, Government Printer, Harare, 1981, 9 pages.

PM opens Zimbabwe Conference on Reconstruction and Development (ZIMCORD), March 23, 1981, Government Printer, Harare, 11 pages.

Speech by the Honourable Prime Minister, Comrade R.G. Mugabe, at the 69th Session of the International Labour Organisation, Geneva Switzerland, June 15 1983, no publisher or publication date, 15 pages. (Apologies for the poor quality of the print.)

Prime Minister Addresses State Banquet in North Korea, October 9, 1980, Policy Statement No 1, Government Printer, Harare, 1985, 14 pages.

The Prime Minister’s speech in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, January 24, 1983, Policy Statement No 9, Harare, Government Printer, Harare, 1983, 6 pages.

The Prime Minister’s Speech to Ecclesiastical Leaders, April 5, 1983, Policy Statement No 11, Government Printer, Harare, 1983, 8 pages.

The President’s speech on the 3rd anniversary of Independence, April 18, 1983, Policy Statement No 10, Government Printers, Harare, 1983, 9 pages.

Our war of Liberation, Speeches, articles and interviews, 1976-1979, Mambo Press, Harare, 1983, 215 pages.

The Construction of Socialism in Zimbabwe, Prime Minister, July 9, 1984, Policy Statement No 14, Government Printers, Harare, 1984, 11 pages.

The President’s speech at the opening of the 1st session of the 2nd Parliament of Zimbabwe, July 23, 1985, Government Printers, Harare, 1985, 12 pages.

PM Mugabe’s address to the 40th Session of the UN General Assembly, October 7, 1985, Policy Statement No 16, Government Printer, Harare, 1985, 14 pages.

The President opens 2nd Session of 2nd Parliament, June 24, 1986, Policy Statement No 17, Government Printers, Harare, 1986, 13 pages.


Mugabe, a biography, David Smith and Colin Simpson with Ian Davies, Pioneer Head, Salisbury, 1981, 222 pages.

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The shrine of La Difunta Correa – the deceased Correa

La Difunta Correa

La Difunta Correa

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The shrine of La Difunta Correa – the deceased Correa

A few days ago I made my first pilgrimage to a pagan shrine. (At least it wasn’t Christian one.) I didn’t do on my knees or by stripping the skin off my back with a metal flay – the like of which I saw in a priest’s cell in Sicily – but on a regular bus from San Juan to a small village known as Vallecito, about 65 kms away and taking just over an hour.

The story of the Difunta Correa is as strange and unbelievable as any produced by the mainstream religions. Her name was Deolinda Correa and she was married to a conscript in the war of Independence against the Spanish crown. She heard that he was sick (how that was possible for a poor conscript and his wife is a mystery to me) and she decided (for bizarre reasons) to head to the war zone to give him succour.

She was also nursing her baby and went through the desert area through the present day province of San Juan with limited provisions. A little bit irresponsible and irrational but it is from such situations that miracles are born.

Why she went out into the desert so ill prepared is another mystery and (according to some versions of the story) no one was prepared to give her water as she made her progress and died of heat exhaustion. A few days after her death (how many is not specified) she was found by a group of gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) and they were surprised to find that her baby was still feeding from her dead breast – what happened to that baby is also not specified. This was in 1840 when people were more stupid and susceptible to suggestion about so-called ‘miracles’ but many still believe this twaddle well into the 21st century – so really no less stupid and susceptible.

I’m not a medical expert but I assume that the process of a mother being able to breast feed her baby is a two way contract. The baby suckles and something in the mother’s metabolism permits the release of milk from the mammary glands. I can’t see even the most desperate and hungry baby being able to suck out the nutrition to survive even if it had the sucking power of a Dyson on speed. Or perhaps, the hidden part of the story, this baby was an offspring of Lestat and was, in fact, a vampire.

Whatever the reality ‘La Difunta Correa’ became a people’s ‘saint’.

Now here I’m going to make a few wild assumptions.

From what I have read about young Deolinda she really became an icon for the poor just over 40 years ago – that coincides with the beginning of the military dictatorship in Argentina – which only collapsed due to the failure in the liberation of the Malvinas from the imperialist British. This means to say that for more than a hundred years she was merely a folk tale that fed the limited imagination of the desperate.

During the period of the dictatorship the Catholic Church, both in Rome and at a local level in Argentina, would have supported the military in their campaign against left wing, socialist and communist groups within the country who were seeking to make the life of the majority better at the expense of the rich.

In such circumstances the choice of a ‘popular’ heroine, such a Deolinda Correa, could have been seen as a pacific act of defiance to the military dictatorship and the official, State religion. By the time the military had ceased to hold (openly) political and economic power the cult of ‘La Difunta Correa’ had already produced its own momentum. From that time there was no going back and the mythology and importance of the death of a poor, young peasant woman (if she ever existed) could only grow in importance.

She became the ‘pagan’ patron ‘saint’ of travellers (eat your heart out Saint Christopher) and the shrine just grew and grew.

Today it’s worth a visit for the view it provides about what Argentinian people think about their existence. The phenomenon of ‘La Difunta Correa’ is not just one for the area (San Juan province) in which she is supposed to have died and little red shrines, normally a small dolls house with bottles of water surrounding them (often with red flags flying), can be seen the length and breadth of the country alongside roads, both major and minor. (I’ve seen I don’t know how many of these shrines but always on a speeding bus and so don’t have a photo to help the understanding of the phenomenon.)

At the top of the shrine in Vallecito there’s a place where people can light candles, just as if it were a Catholic shrine, and although on my visit there were only a few people there are certain times of the year – one of them coinciding with the ‘Day of the Dead’ (November 1st) – when thousands of people are in the small village. The stench from the burning of the cheap candles must be intense and the pollution it is causing is clear for all to see.

Around the shrine of the La Difunta Correa

Around the shrine of the La Difunta Correa

It would also be interesting to know the attitude of the Catholic Church to this phenomenon. Yes, it’s not on the level of Lourdes in France but there’s a serious undercurrent that challenges the official religion. At the same time I’m almost certain that those who go to visit ‘La Difunta’ are also quite ‘religious’ in the official sense. There were crucifixes in abundance at the shrine and the statues were touched and venerated in the same way I’ve seen people approach statues in various churches and Cathedrals throughout Argentina. However, at present, the church probably has nothing to fear from the poor girl and her child.

What I did find interesting about her image is the fact that she is wearing a bright red dress, red on women being an anathema to Catholics – with the Magdalena always being depicted with red hair (and often with red painted toe nails) to indicate that she was a ‘fallen woman’, i.e. a prostitute. Whereas Deolinda wears her red shroud with pride.

There was also a few examples of the sexualisation of the dead girl as some of the statues had her with her left leg bent at the knee and therefore the raising of her dress.

La Difunta Correa

La Difunta Correa

I’ll let the picture gallery at the end tell its own story but before that I want to make a number of points.

Although not praying, and asking favours, from the establishment’s God all the relics that have been left by I don’t know how many thousands of people in the last 40 years demonstrate that still many people believe in a force outside of themselves for their successes – no one goes to Vallecito to register their failures.

And this is problematic.

The more that people look to external factors, influences on their lives, the less they look to themselves and those around them for the solution to the problems of society.

For example, in the Museum area there is a ‘Salon de estudiantes’ – ‘Students Room’ – where the ‘faithful’ have left copies of their diplomas, etc. If it becomes universally accepted that some sort of ‘divine’ intervention is needed to succeed in exams then why should anyone study? More importantly, those who fail can always blame their lack of dedication to that deity for their failures.

La Difunta Correa - 'Students' Room'

La Difunta Correa – ‘Students’ Room’

In another women have ‘donated’ their wedding dresses (what use do they have for it a second time, anyway) in thanks for finding someone to marry them. But that doesn’t reduce the divorce rate which is increasing, even in Argentina.

But the main problem with this way of thinking is that people don’t take responsibility for their own actions, or inaction. They will either play the victim or argue that they were helpless against an overwhelming force. Or the lack of support from a dead peasant woman.

And this just feeds the victim status that many claim in present day societies. They are incapable of changing things as there is some overwhelming force against them which makes any change impossible, that there’s no point in doing anything as nothing is achievable.

As is always the case at these ‘shrines’ there are a multitude of souvenir shops selling tat. Just so I could ensure I would survive my journey I bought a little statuette of the dead woman and her child as well as a fridge magnet (to add to my collection of the worse taste fridge magnets in the world). I did that before a beer as I waited for the bus back to San Juan. It was after a certain level of alcohol I wondered why I had been so daft – not the other way round.

If I do survive then perhaps I will have to return to Vallecito and leave an offering of thanks.

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Mugabe, Zimbabwe and Anti-Colonialism

Zimbabwe Independence 1980

Zimbabwe Independence 1980

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Mugabe, Zimbabwe and Anti-Colonialism

‘The end of an era’ has been used a lot in the last few days in reports and articles about the situation in Zimbabwe. Precipitated by a decision to remove an erstwhile ally in preference for his wife – in a battle over ‘succession’ – the Zimbabwean army took control of the country and placed the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, under house arrest. As I write this the news has broken that Mugabe has resigned as President but whether this is the end of the story is another mater. Whether it be peaceful or violent, will end in smiles or tears, is still unknown.

The events of the last week have only precipitated the inevitable. At the age of 93 Mugabe didn’t have much longer in his role as President and the situation in the country was about to change. But change, although inevitable, does not always happen for the best.

When Mugabe goes it is an end of an era for him but also for the anti-colonial struggle within the continent of Africa.

When Independence was declared in Harare on April 18th 1980 this followed the example of a number of countries that had achieved Independence through armed struggle. Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde islands had achieved their freedom from Portugal five years earlier and in the process weakening the Fascist regime in Lisbon so that the Portuguese people were able to topple the Caetano regime.

(The so-called bloodless ‘Carnation Revolution’ in Portugal was possible after the shedding of a great deal of blood by fighters who had fought against the colonial power in the country’s African colonies. The Portuguese repaid this debt by a wholesale desertion of those ex-colonies and creating serious problems for the new, independent nations.)

Most of the nations that had achieved independence from their colonial oppressors in the years after World War II quickly became mere client states of imperialism with only a semblance of independence. Any attempts at building a new sort of society, for the benefit of the workers and peasants of the continent, were crushed in the Congo with the murder of Patrice Lumumba at the beginning of 1961 and the experiment in Tanzania had yet to fall apart.

So the group of avowedly left-wing nations, with various levels of developed Socialist ideology, that had gained freedom in the 1970s offered some hope to the poor and oppressed and sent shivers down the spine of imperialism worldwide. Britain was peeved, on both the Tory and Labourite sides of the political spectrum, that Mugabe won a landslide in the elections held in February 1980 – they would have preferred Joshua Nkomo who was much more malleable and pro-capitalist. If Mugabe wasn’t a Marxist-Leninist (although he used Marxist terminology) then the fact that he was so feared by the white, imperialist establishment earned himself a lot of credibility.

There was a great deal of hope and expectation in the newly independent Zimbabwe. During the 1970s most attention in the anti-apartheid movement was directed towards South Africa and its racist Boers. There’s no doubting that South African society was rotten to its core but the figures demonstrate that what used to be known as Rhodesia was a country where the black population existed solely to serve the white minority.

In the early 1980s the whites in South Africa made up a third of the population. Just before the final victory of the Zimbabwean Independence fighters towards the end of 1979 the white population of Rhodesia number was no more than 250,000 – with a black population of about 7 million. That’s a ratio of 28 to 1.

The privilege that came as a consequence of that ratio explains why the Rhodesian army fought in such a vicious manner to maintain their hold on the country. Using techniques that were employed by the Americans in Vietnam, such as chemical warfare as well as the establishment of ‘protected villages’ – to deny the guerrillas contact with the local population – thousands of black Zimbabwean men and women died in the final seven years of the liberation war when the fighting became more intense. In this life and death battle the Rhodesians were supported by the rich and powerful racist regime in Pretoria – who got many of their armaments from the Israeli settler regime in Palestine.

By the time of independence the white settler population in the new Zimbabwe was down to about 100,000 but the agreement made in London, the Lancaster House Agreement of December 1979, maintained many of the privileges the whites had enjoyed for decades. Mugabe kept to this agreement – much to the anger of many of those who had fought in the Chimurenga (Liberation War), presumably with the idea that the British would keep to their side of the agreement in assisting the country to move to a situation where the wealth created in the country would be for the benefit of the majority. If that was the case that was foolish – no one should ever trust the British. The term ‘perfidious Albion’ exists for a reason.

The whole society was skewed in favour of a very small group of people and to change that so the majority could have a decent lifestyle was both difficult and expensive. Promises made during the 1970s that education and health would be provided for all were, in the main kept, but this took a huge amount of resources. Education is something that has to be paid for now in the expectation of returns in the future. But by the time these young people had been educated the situation had moved on – and not to the benefit of Zimbabwe.

Although the battle had been won against the Rhodesians the white South Africans continued the war, taking it into the sovereign country of Zimbabwe itself by making a number of assassination attempts against members of the African National Congress (ANC) who were living there. In October 1986 the President of Portugal-free Mozambique was assassinated by the South African government. The Boers also supported the collaborationist forces of UNITA in Angola. So after gaining independence from colonialism Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde Islands and Zimbabwe found themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, continuing to have to fight for their existence. The failure of the ANC in South Africa to mount a real and determined liberation war against their own government didn’t help.

Corruption started to appear in all these countries and in Zimbabwe by the middle of the 1980s. A report produced by the Domestic Workers Union in 1986 concluded that the black ‘servants’ were even being treated more harshly by their black employers than they were by the whites. (That shouldn’t be a surprise. Southern African racism was heavily paternalistic and considered the black population like children – something I consider even more insidious than the vicious form of racism that exists in the United States. On the other hand the black employers who took on some of the roles of those whites who had fled the country just treated their servants as people who they had to get as much from whilst giving as little as possible in return.) Mugabe made a serious mistake by not stamping down on this corruption and abuse of power with an iron fist as soon as it arose.

For the whites in Zimbabwe it was very much business as usual – they carried on their colonial lifestyle very much in the same way as they had since WWII, when there had been a large influx of settlers from Britain – many of them working class. They owned the best land, that being the land closest to reliable water resources, and whilst the maize (the basic food stuff) of the small farmers wilted during the drought of 1986-7 the commercial crops, like tobacco, of the large white farmers thrived being irrigated from the waters of Lake Chivero (formerly Lake McIlwaine).

Support, both financial and logistical, promised by the UK government to reverse the inequalities created by colonialism (especially in land redistribution) weren’t forthcoming and by 1990, after the ten year period of grace for the whites, Zimbabwe found itself in a shaky situation economically. The world had also moved on in that ten year period. Neo-liberal economics dominated and any money from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank came with conditions – primarily the selling off of state enterprises and the opening up of the country to foreign interference, the unequal agreements that have caused havoc throughout the poorer parts of the world. A small group can benefit but society in general loses out. To his credit Mugabe resisted these pressures but it came at a cost.

When land redistribution became a major issue at the end of the 1990s the matter was pursued chaotically and on an individual basis. This taking back of the land should have occurred in the 1980s and in a structured manner, establishing something akin to collective/State farms on the bigger and most productive properties. Once capitalist property rights were challenged imperialism got together and imposed sanctions on the country in the hope that the colonies they once dominated could be brought under their control again.

But Mugabe stood out against this interference but by now the situation in the country was worsening. In isolation, all the other countries that had gained independence in the 1970s having fallen into the arms of imperialism earlier, Zimbabwe’s situation had no real way forward that would benefit the people of the country.

Opportunists saw their chance and when Mugabe made a silly political error they were ready to pounce. That brings us to the situation at the moment where Mugabe has just resigned as President. But this military and political coup was a long time in the planning, the rebels just waiting for an opportunity to take action. A simple look at the sort of professionally produced posters that were seen on the streets at the ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations over the weekend of the 18-19th November 2017 indicates that this crisis had been anticipated and prepared for long since.

Mugabe made many mistakes however he did maintain independence for his country, he didn’t cave in to international pressures (although he did look east towards capitalist China to help in recent years).

And it is here that we have the ‘end of another era’. The era of anti-colonialism, the era of independence for those countries that had thrown off the yolk of colonialism, the era when ordinary working people had the hope that freedom from white, European rule could mean they could take their fate into their own hands, that they could use the immense wealth of their countries for the betterment of themselves and their children.

Those that now hold the reigns of power, even if they were fighters in the Chimurenga, do not hold have a view of the future that is for the people. They are openly ‘free trade’ in their outlook and it will only be a matter of days before they are opening their country to the ravages of globalisation. State industries won’t stay in public hands for long and the ‘prosperity’ that might arrive in the future will be that for a selective view.

With the fall of Mugabe Africa no longer has a country which isn’t, in one form or another, under the control of those very forces so many fought against from the end of the 19th century, culminating in the liberation wars of the 1970s.

Those brave and courageous men and women who died thinking they did so for a better future have finally been betrayed by all the nations of the continent. What has happened in November 2017 is indeed an ‘end of an era’ – the end of an era where people were prepared to fight, and give their lives, for dignity, freedom and the right to determine their own future.

When shall we see their likes again?

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