Zimbabwe: How the Berlin Wall collapse affected us: Zimbabweans have no compelling reason to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – or the fall of Communism, which followed it, domino-like. True or false? Most zealots of the original plot to turn the country into a one-party state pretend it never happened. Or that, if it did, it had little effect on their politics or the country’s political destiny. That, some would say, was the height of self-delusion.
The two liberation movements, ZANU PF and PF ZAPU were proteges of communist China and the Soviet Union respectively. Without their material, ideological, and moral support, they wouldn’t have made any headway in the struggle against the white supremacists.
Then, after independence, the short-lived coalition government chose Marxism-Leninism – almost inevitably. ZANU PF was more obsessed with that goal than PF ZAPU. There is little doubt that Robert Mugabe was keener on controlling everything and everyone in the country than Joshua Nkomo. Journalists working for the private media found themselves, after 1981, suddenly working for the government media. This point of “control” was brought home to them with the violence of a tsunami. Those who had visited the Soviet Union and China saw the stark similarities: the campaign of regimentation, of all people dwelling on one thought – serving the Sate and The Party. For them, it had a sickening sense of de javu.
Overnight, there were incessant briefings, not just by Mugabe himself, but by diverse cabinet ministers. Their theme was the same: acquaint the people with the government programme – which was of implementing “Gutsa ruzhunji” – socialism. There was no time for according capitalism any special mention, except as the No. 1 Enemy of the People. Capitalism had backed the Smith regime against the socialist-backed struggle of the guerillas of ZANLA and ZIPRA. Most of the journalists had learnt their journalism through Western eyes. Their view of both China and the Soviet Union was jaundiced: intrigue, murder, lies, falsehoods, and the “oneness of the people” – the one party system.
After the fall of both the Wall and communism, there was an embarrassed, ambivalent silence among the leaders. Most whispered among themselves that there would be a reversal: Mikhail Gorbachev was pilloried. He didn’t know what he had started, they warned darkly. He had taken on more than he could chew, they said. They predicted he would bite the dust. There was an inept attempt to pretend the crisis was overblown. It was no crisis at all – Communism would survive, would bounce back, they insisted, rather desperately. Remember Hungary in 1956? Remember Alexander Dubchek in Czechoslavakia? They had all fizzled out, and communism had triumphed. It was indestructible.
Then Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize. No leader in Zimbabwe came anywhere near to winning anything of anything. Nobody was giving awards for bungling an economy that should have been nursed carefully to achieve its potential. So, who had bitten the dust? Rather apologetically, both Russia and China made gestures to the leadership that they were still looking after their interests, even if less glaringly than before. Both could not disguise their willingness to profit from the change in their ideological thrust: the Russian Federation was manifestly capitalist. China went crazy over the consumerism of free enterprise. Continue reading.
Last week, I wrote a column titled Africa after 1989.