Zimbabwe Communist Party issues observations on the 2023 general election

Issued by the Central Committee of the Zimbabwe Communist Party 4th September 2023 

The Zimbabwe Communist Party ZCP observations on 2023 general elections


Firstly, as Communists, we do not confuse democracy with voting

The word ‘democracy’ is derived from Greek and means ‘rule by the people’; without democratic control of the means of production and of the productive process, multi-party democracy, the contestation of political parties in an election every 5 years, has only limited relevance to the wellbeing of the people, in particular to the working masses. 

Bourgeois democracy gives the illusion of popular power, while the reality is that all major decisions are made by the bankers and monopoly capital, plus, in the case of Zimbabwe (as in most African countries) the black elite, under the guise of ‘indigenous economic empowerment’ lives a life of conspicuous consumption while treating the working majority with arrogant contempt. 

The majority are forced to look for survival by any means necessary and in the main either continue to live in poverty or are forced to become unwanted migrants in other countries. 

The Zimbabwe Communist Party does not believe that an election alone, without a well-organised and politically-clear mass movement, can create any substantial change for the better. 

In the case of this specific election, it has brought no change at all. The ZCP leadership forecast this well before the election took place. 

‘Harmonized Elections’ 

The ZCP is opposed to the holding of national and local elections simultaneously. Local concerns become buried by this process, yet it is frequently at the local level that people are able to make decisions which better their lives. 

The Two Major Parties 

The ZCP has no faith in either ZANU(PF) or CCC. Both parties reject national planning in favour of ‘free enterprise’, both are ideologically trapped in the mantra of “Making Money Makes Sense” as opposed to the development of production, the control of the financial sector and the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy. 

The history of Zimbabwean politics is complicated. We have seen some Communist Parties congratulating ZANU(PF) on its electoral victory against the Western-backed CCC. We understand this position, but the truth is far more complex. While hiding behind the finger of anti-imperialism, ZANU(PF) continues to be a party led by greedy and violent elitists enjoying an extravagant lifestyle of conspicuous consumption. But that CCC, the successor of MDC, indeed enjoys the support of Western imperialism and in particular that of the USA and UK, is without dispute.

Currently, the people in the urban areas, in particular the urban working class, vote mainly for CCC due to having witnessed the de-industrialisation of Zimbabwe and the decline in real wages and living standards under ZANU(PF) rule, especially since the introduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991. 

On the other hand, most of the rural population perceive CCC as an organisation opposed to the land reform which began in 2000 when Zimbabwe War Veterans, ex-combatants of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) and the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), took over white-owned farms forcing the government to adopt land reform. 

The majority of the rural population believe that a CCC government will return their land to the white farmers. As a party which seeks to unite workers and peasants, we find this division very disturbing and we fight for the unity of the oppressed classes. 

To understand properly the twisted complexities of the politics of Zimbabwe, we have to examine our history. 

The Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) ─ ZANU(PF) 

We have on many occasions pointed out that the Zimbabwe liberation struggle was launched in September 1957 when the workers took over the Southern Rhodesian African National Congress and voted in the President of the Railway African Workers’ Union, Joshua Nkomo as its President. The struggle, including armed struggle, was launched by and waged by the workers and peasants of Zimbabwe ─ not by the arrogant ‘Chefs’ of the parasitic black bourgeoisie which emerged after Independence. 

In our publications, we have traced the emergence of ZANU as a dissident, Western-backed, breakaway from the original liberation movement ZAPU; however we honour the memory of all the freedom fighters who participated in the Independence War regardless of party affiliation. 

Briefly, the breakaway began when Joshua Nkomo made an agreement with the USSR to back the armed struggle. Right-wing elements within ZAPU, in particular those associated with the Capricorn Africa Society formed by British mercenary leader David Stirling in 1949, formed ZANU, using the excuse that they could not be led by a person from the Ndebele minority ─ in other words, Joshua Nkomo. Ethnicity had never before been an issue within the liberation movement. 

It should further be noted that during this period, due to the Sino-Soviet split, China in a number of cases began to support Western-backed dissident liberation movements, in this case ZANU. 

Both ZAPU and ZANU claimed to be Marxist-Leninist organisations, and though a few took MarxistLeninist political education seriously, the majority of the leadership saw political education as a burden to be endured in order to obtain the arms and training from the socialist countries necessary to overthrow the white settler government. 

Following the Lancaster House Peace Talks at the end of 1979, the 1980 Independence Election was conducted by the British Army. Along the eastern border, ZANLA forces used intimidation and violence against the ZAPU civilian leadership which remained present in all provinces.

The election results gave ZANU received 63% of the vote and ZAPU 24% with the rest going to minor parties. According to the British, Mashonaland West, a ZAPU stronghold and a ZPRA operational area voted ZANU! 

Clearly, the election results were manipulate to show that ZANU was the party of the Shona majority while ZAPU was the party of the Ndebele minority. 

US senior diplomat Andrew Young had this to say in an essay titled: The United States and Africa: Victory for Diplomacy (1980): 

Despite widespread doubts outside Zimbabwe about the strength of Mugabe’s political constituency, he had achieved a solid electoral victory over both Bishop Abel Muzorewa, on whom both Britain and South Africa had placed their hopes, and Joshua Nkomo, who enjoyed military support from the Soviet bloc. The unexpected size of his majority gave Mugabe an unequivocal mandate which greatly simplified the task of the British in handing over power. 

The Zimbabwe settlement must also be recorded as a victory of the Western alliance in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It signalled a renewal of the cooperation in de-colonization which came under Western leadership and via the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s. And it curtailed at least temporarily the trend toward growing dependence on Soviet military aid to bring about African liberation.

Robert Mugabe and ZANU(PF) as ZANU it called itself from 1980, were to remain favourites with imperialism until 1998. Violent behaviour, which we saw at this recent election, has long been a trademark of ZANU(PF) practice. This was most evident in the 1980s when the period of Gukurahundi, the suppression of ZAPU in order to prevent uMkhonto we Sizwe, armed wing of the ANC of South Africa from using Zimbabwe as a rear base. An estimated 20,000 people were massacred in the Ndebele-speaking parts of Matabeleland and Midlands, with significant numbers also being massacred in the ZAPU stronghold of Mashonaland West and ZAPU leaders being murdered in many parts of the country. 

It should be noted that from 1980 until 1982, ZAPU had agreed to be a junior partner in the postindependence government, but in that year, following talks held with the apartheid South African government by Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Minister of State Security and the appointment of General Sir Edward Jones as head of the British Army training force in Zimbabwe, Gukurahundi began and Mugabe announced that “Zimbabwe is not a frontline state.” 

At the end of 1987, the Unity Accord was signed by the leaderships of both ZANU and ZAPU, although the process of integration was only finalised in 1989. 

At the funeral of Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe was to announce that Gukurahundi was “…a moment of madness.” A moment that lasted 5 years! 


In 1990, the ZANU(PF) government adopted the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) which was introduced along similar conditions to that of structural adjustment programmes promoted elsewhere in the world by the Bretton Woods institutions, i.e. the World Bank and the IMF. 

The Rhodesians, under sanctions, had set up a largely self-contained economy which operated without significant change until 1991, the year that ESAP began in earnest. During this early period of Independence 80%-90% of what was bought in Zimbabwe was made in Zimbabwe. 

It is a sad but true fact that the economic independence of Zimbabwe created by the white settler regime was surrendered to an imperialist Bretton Woods programme by the African nationalist government. Robert Mugabe was given an honorary knighthood by the British government. 

In 1994, the ZANU(PF) government put an Act through parliament allowing government to take land from white farmers without compensation. (The whites had started evicting Africans from the best land from 1930s.) Half the land, mainly the best land, was owned by white farmers. The farmers successfully blocked the Act at the Supreme Court which declare it ‘unconstitutional’. 

Formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 

By 1995 the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), seriously considered forming a labour party to contest ZANU(PF) in light of the serious decrease in real wages since the adoption of ESAP. Specifically, the initial movement challenged the neoliberal agenda. 

Then, in 1998, at the time that President Mugabe was Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the USA mounted a proxy war against the Democratic Republic of Congo using Ugandan and Rwandan troops. Mugabe as SADC Chair felt that he should send in the Zimbabwe National Army to defend the progressive government of Laurent Kabila which had renegotiated all mining licenses in DRC and for that reason had been seen as an enemy of US mining interests. 

In 1999, the IMF and World Bank removed support from Zimbabwe while continuing to support the aggressor nations, Uganda and Rwanda. 

This was the first stage of sanctions. 

In February 1999 the National Working People’s Convention produced a very progressive programme, The Zimbabwe People’s Charter, a document clearly opposed to neoliberalism. 

However, by the time the MDC held its first Congress in January 2000, it had accepted funding from white farmers eager to hold on to their land and from British and US government agencies wanting to get rid of former ally Mugabe following the intervention of the Zimbabwe National Army in the DRC. 

Eddie Cross, a fervent neoliberal, was appointed as the MDC spokesperson for Economic Affairs. By the time the MDC was formed, it had become the opposite of what the National Working People’s Convention had called for, but it retained the support of the majority of workers, and under the new name Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC) continues to do so. 

In 2000, a referendum was held on a new Draft Constitution, this would have replaced the Lancaster House Constitution and would have given government power to take land without compensation. 

It was lost by a relatively small margin of votes due to pressure by white farmers and disinformation spread by the MDC. Because the Draft Constitution also restricted Presidential powers, dividing responsibility between a President and a Prime Minister, it was openly opposed by the Mnangagwa faction of ZANU(PF) and almost certainly by Robert Mugabe himself. 

The ‘No’ vote meant the continuation of the old Constitution and played a major role in keeping Robert Mugabe in power until 2017. 

As a consequence of the failure to secure the ;and clause in the Constitution, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association led by Chenjeria Hunzvi started to occupy land owned by white farmers under the slogan “one family, one farm”. 

Many white farmers owned multiple farms with an average size commercial farm being 1,000 hectares. War Veterans felt that they had waited 20 years to acquire the land which they had fought for. The movement of peasants and war veterans on to the land was unstoppable. Mugabe had to accede, otherwise he would have been removed from power. The narrative that Mugabe gave people the land is false. He had no option but to agree. 

In the middle of 2001, Chenjerai Hunzvi and the biggest peasant leader, Border Gezi die within 6 weeks of each other in the middle of 2001. The black elite began to take the best farms for themselves, often acquiring multiple farms. The extent of the looting was shown when details of the divorce settlement of Bona, Mugabe’s daughter, became public. Among other vast assets, she owned 21 farms. This begs the question: “How many farms does the whole Mugabe family own?” 

Recently, there have been revelations too of gold smuggling on a massive scale linking to the family of President E.D. Mnangagwa. 

The internal coup of 2017, created little real change. In 2019 and 2020 there was economic downturn, although recently the economy has picked up slightly due to the discovery of lithium. 

Little, if any improvement has come to the lives of the majority, although there is greater entrenchment of the parasitic black bourgeoisie as a stratum. 

Health and education has suffered. Teachers and hospital staff has either been going on strike or leaving Zimbabwe due to salary levels well below the poverty datum line. 

China has played a key role in restoring electricity production in Zimbabwe, most notably in the refurbishment of Hwange Power Station and has taken some interest in road building and other infrastructural development. 

However the good intentions of the Chinese government have been severely damaged in the minds of the people by the conditions imposed on Zimbabwean workers by Chinese companies, particularly in the mining industry. 

Mnangagwa and Chamisa 

The politics of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa as leaders of ZANU(PF) and CCC respectively need to be scrutinised. 

Mnangagwa did not achieve his nickname ‘Crocodile’ for nothing, abundant evidence shows that he was the main mover in Gukurahundi. That is mass killings of mainly Ndebele-speaking people by the Shona-speaking 5th Brigade and other ZANU(PF) controlled units. This was between 1982-1987. 

Then in a much later episode dubbed ‘Mini-Gukurahundi’, following the election of MDC MPs in 2008 in some rural Shona-speaking constituencies which had formerly been ZANU(PF) strongholds, some Ndebele-speaking ZPRA ex-combatants were unleashed on the people of these areas with around 400 being killed and others severely beaten. 

The ruthless beatings, and occasionally killings of CCC supporters as well as the banning of CCC rallies during the recent election period are simply an extension of Mnangagwa’s lifelong political behaviour. 

When the Mnangagwa-led coup came in 2017, opposition forces were involved. When ZANU(PF) reneged on its pledge to bring MDC (as it was then) into government, the whole MDC leadership, including Chamisa, flew to Washington to complain to the US government, then under the leadership of Donald Trump, to complain! 

When he came back, Chamisa claimed at a rally that Trump had promised billions in aid to Zimbabwe if there was an MDC government in place. 

Then, at the time of the 2018 General Election, when Chamisa was leading what was then MDC Alliance. At the time that Israel was bombarding Gaza, he visited Israel, proclaiming his support for Zionism,’ 

As well as being a politician and a lawyer, Chamisa claims to be a Christian pastor. 

The CCC manifesto at this election was filled with religious references. 

Further, the opposition in Zimbabwe is full of young people who have been to CIA-sponsored leadership schools. Most of our trade unions rely on ‘donor-funding’ and function more like NGOs that trade unions. 

As much as Zimbabwe needs a strong opposition to the kleptocratic ZANU(PF) government and the class it represents, CCC, a weak organisation funded by western imperialism, cannot be the answer. 

In particular, at this current time when there is a major shift in the world balance of forces and a new economic hub in the form of BRICS, a pro-Western government in Zimbabwe would have created a huge problem on the African continent. 

Recent Election 

With regard to this last election, we cannot say whether or not ZANU(PF) would have won or not without the extensive violence and intimidation of voters. We note that most of the observers did not see the election as ‘free and fair’ and we take particular note of the comments from SADC observers. 

The ZCP calls for future elections to be carried out according to the 2013 Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the SADC Guidelines. 

Please note that the ZCP has been careful to investigate this election and the histories of both major parties thoroughly before making our official statement. The statement is necessarily long due to our complex history. 

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