Zimbabwe: Cultural Revolution

In late December Robert Mugabe announced the start of his campaign to be re-elected as President of Zimbabwe. His country was embarking, he said, on the ‘third chimurenga’. All Zimbabweans know that the ‘first chimurenga’ was the uprising against the settlers in 1896. They know that the ‘second chimurenga’ was the liberation war of the 1970s. But many are now be puzzled. What exactly is the ‘third chimurenga’ and how can the continued tenure of their aged President possibly be seen as a liberating revolution?

The World Today Published 1 February 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 6 minute READ

Terence Ranger

of St. Antony's College, Oxford

It would be too easy to dismiss President Robert Mugabe’s words as sheer rhetoric. To understand the situation two ‘revolutions’ need to be considered – the fantasy one in Mugabe’s mind and the real one on the ground in Zimbabwe.

Most commentaries in the British press, and official analyses like the Home Office country profile of Zimbabwe, content themselves merely with saying that Mugabe’s actions can be explained by his desperate desire to hold on to office. His power is at risk and so he threatens some and bribes others. But power for what? And what determines who has to be threatened and who bribed?

Within Zimbabwe there are many explanations for Mugabe’s desire to continue. Some say it is to satisfy the ambitions of a young wife; others that he needs presidential office to protect him from prosecution in an international human rights tribunal; still others that illness and age have affected his mind. I do not credit any of these.

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