Washington’s Missing China Strategy
To Counter Beijing, the Biden Administration Needs to Decide What It Wants
On April 18, a British Tory government, by repute the most conservative since Hitler's war, handed over the last substantial British colony, Southern Rhodesia, to a professed Marxist, Robert Mugabe, with the Prince of Wales officiating at the ceremony. When the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, witnessed the all-party signature to the terms decided at Lancaster House, she can hardly have wished for such an outcome, and yet-with only a few ultraconservative backbenchers demurring-the final decolonization process was nevertheless hailed on both sides of the House as a triumph for the British premier whom the Russians call "the Iron Lady."
Mugabe himself declared that he had come to hold the outgoing British governor, Lord Soames, in admiration and "even love." President Samora Machel of Mozambique, himself also a self-styled Marxist-Leninist, labeled Thatcher the "best British Prime Minister for 15 years." Lieutenant General Peter Walls, Ian Smith's military commander through most of the vicious pre-independence war, had held at least two meetings shortly before the election-one with senior industrialists, another with senior military personnel in the Joint Operational Commands-to proffer reassurances that a Marxist government would never come to power. The day after the election result, however, he accepted Mugabe's offer to remain at his post as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, with Mugabe's guerrilla commander, Rex Nhongo, as Chief of Staff. The outgoing Chief Justice, Hector Macdonald, known in nationalist circles as "the hanging judge" and certainly the most prolific pronouncer of the death sentence in the contemporary West, with due pomp swore in the Reverend Canaan Banana as President of the new state of Zimbabwe.
Of greater moment in this series of ritual exchanges, which two years ago would have seemed macabre and unthinkable to the whites and surreal to the blacks, was the concurrence of South Africa, which a mere few weeks before the election had hinted broadly at armed intervention to "forestall chaos north of the Limpopo." Deciding to accept Mugabe-temporarily, at any rate-the Afrikaner republic fast fell back on stressing the need for regional cooperation, mindful of Rhodesia's utter reliance upon South Africa's economic support since 1965, and mindful too of the vital economic tasks that Pretoria gladly performs for several other black African states.
But, as a sharp and telling rejoinder to the Afrikaner concept of a "constellation" of southern African states centered around South Africa itself, the African front-line states gathered together a group of nine black states-including the emergent Zimbabwe, plus South Africa's friendliest colleague, Malawi, and the "island" state of Lesotho-to declare a fresh determination to rid themselves cooperatively of economic dependence upon South Africa.1 In further response, South African journals, even those like Die Transvaler and Beeld, which are close to government, began increasingly to recognize that no black state could ever encourage any form of contact, let alone formal links, so long as apartheid remains; and they continued to appeal for a further softening of the laws of "separate development".
Mugabe's victory threw a tantalizing question mark, too, over the economic and political future of Zimbabwe's chief neighbors, Zambia and Mozambique. Can a one-party system retain the political vitality to satisfy the needs of a growing black technocratic elite? Certainly that group is becoming restive in Zambia. Similarly, it is being asked increasingly whether a broadly nationalized economy such as Mozambique's can cope with the consumer demands even of a relatively unsophisticated population. As Mugabe appeared ready to accept a mixed economy in Zimbabwe, with a very strong private sector including large white farms and mining ventures owned by foreign capital, so President Machel in Mozambique began to veer sharply away, in rhetoric at any rate, from a strict adherence to Marxist economic principle, despite strong official denials to the contrary.
Finally, the clear-cut nature of victory for Mugabe and the most militant-sounding nationalist faction threw into sharp focus the question of white survival in a continent that must eventually be entirely black-governed. How will the whites in Zimbabwe manage, and what effect will their ensuing welfare have upon their far more numerous counterparts in the white citadel to the south?
How Mugabe governs will provide many clues to such questions. After South Africa and Nigeria, Zimbabwe probably has the most powerful all-round economy in Africa. Its economic and political development will have a compelling effect both on South Africa and on the diverse set of neighboring black states, ranging from Mozambique to the rigorously authoritarian and pro-Western state of Malawi. In Zimbabwe, it is possible that a greater concentration of power will gradually devolve upon Mugabe himself. It is thus no overstatement to say that he himself has become a critical factor in southern Africa and in Africa as a whole.
Mugabe's rise to power inside the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), as much as in Zimbabwe itself, is a remarkable history of skill and determination. During the prime years of his life, the only activity he could undertake, due to a ten-year spell in prison and detention from 1964 to 1974, was study. As is well known, he achieved several scholastic successes, mainly in the fields of law and politics. But he was necessarily divorced from outside party activity. From 1970 onward, however, the personality and tactics of the ZANU leader, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, who was also in detention, fell under growing criticism from his closest party colleagues imprisoned alongside him, and they, in a so-called prison coup (and by a vote of just three to one), replaced him with Mugabe. But it took several years for Mugabe to convince the party inside Zimbabwe, the front-line states, or the guerrillas themselves that his claims to leadership were just. So he came to party power not through a broad consensus, nor through any widely conducted election. Furthermore, he was released in December 1974 at a time when the party was experiencing its worst-ever factional infighting, culminating in March 1975 in the assassination of former chairman Herbert Chitepo. Just a few days before that event, Mugabe had slipped secretly into Mozambique, having enjoyed only three months of freedom to assess the needs of his country from outside the walls of prison.
At first President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania refused to acknowledge Mugabe's proclaimed leadership. Machel actually kept Mugabe under virtual house arrest for several months. By the time of the Geneva Conference in the fall of 1976, Mugabe had made some headway in the guerrilla camps, but many guerrillas in the field inside Zimbabwe did not by then recognize him as leader. Some had only recently left eastern Zimbabwe under the auspices of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was encouraging them to take up arms in Mozambique. Others still looked to Sithole, while some owed a stronger, direct allegiance to their independent-minded camp commanders, or simply said they were "fighting for Zimbabwe, not for individuals."
When Mugabe came to Geneva, guerrilla leaders like Josiah Tongogara, who had recently been released from over a year in Zambian prison in connection with the Chitepo catastrophe and had therefore had little if any contact with Mugabe for at least 12 years, gave the impression of treating him with distant respect rather than obeisance. The guerrillas tended to refer to him as "spokesman" rather than Secretary General (the post he held under Sithole) or Acting President. After the abortive conference, the guerrilla leadership was further confused because most of the newer, younger men who had displaced Tongogara in Mozambique during his Zambian prison period were themselves ousted and imprisoned in Mozambique shortly after his return there. A year later, in early 1978, another series of guerrilla arrests in Mozambique occurred, due to a variety of internal differences based on tactics, ethnic factors, personality and professed ideology. The party, especially the military wing, was in disarray, and relations between the military and the politicians were ticklish.
But by 1979 Mugabe had clearly managed to assert himself over the guerrillas and had begun to restructure the party. He had strengthened the central committee with a number of co-opted members and had made the military more directly answerable to the politicians. The April "internal settlement" election bringing Muzorewa to the premiership was, nevertheless, a setback for Mugabe, mainly because the turnout (variously estimated at between 50 and 63 percent) contradicted his and the guerrillas' claims that their own military superiority would prevent almost everyone from voting, whatever pressures and intimidation would be brought to bear by the Smith-Muzorewa government. In sheer military terms, the election showed that the organizational capacity of the internal government, still orchestrated by the whites, was undeniably functional and the regime still resilient. The frontline states took note, and became gloomily aware that the guerrilla campaign could take some years to complete.
Muzorewa, however, soon proved highly inept at trying to maneuver himself outside the control of the white bureaucracy and armed forces, and indeed seemed willing both to adopt much of the old regime's crude anti-Marxist rhetoric and to become most evidently beholden to South Africa. Mugabe's guerrillas, assisted both by the clumsiness of Muzorewa in failing to achieve greater political advances and equally by Smith and the whites in their reluctance to give blacks some of the material rewards that could have gained Muzorewa more support, soon proved that they would never be beaten on the battlefield unless the white supremacist apparatus was dismantled. Mugabe found it easy to reassert himself.
Thus by September 1979, when the Lancaster House conference began, Mugabe had over just four and a half dangerous years shown the utmost delicacy in ensconcing himself at the head of ZANU, both politically and militarily. The stamina of his guerrillas was proven, but both sides were near exhaustion. The morale of many guerrillas must have been low, for their casualties were persistently far heavier than those of the white-led security forces. Probably over a quarter of all cadres committed to the bush had perished. Though the guerrillas had effectively captured most of the rural hearts and minds and had almost paralyzed the administration, the white-led forces had never been beaten in conventional contacts and strikes.
In addition, several of the front-line states, principally Zambia and Mozambique, had reached a pitch of economic hardship that only peace in Zimbabwe was likely to end. Thus they were determined that Mugabe and his fellow guerrilla-backed leader Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) should make maximum concessions in order to gain a political settlement that might enable them to assume power through the ballot box.
So when Mugabe entered the conference, he had incontestably become the dominant nationalist figure, because his guerrillas, rather than Nkomo's, had borne the greater share of the fighting and were-for the first time-clearly under Mugabe's control. The party had itself achieved its greatest stability in years. Yet the forces opposed to Mugabe outside the country were many. The unstinting support of the front-line states, it was becoming apparent, could not be relied upon forever. Of those states, Zambia had never been especially sympathetic to Mugabe, and Nkomo had retained the stronger international links in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and at the United Nations, with the Soviet Union and Western multinationals, and with whites inside Zimbabwe. South Africa seemed committed to hoisting Muzorewa somehow into power as leader of a client state. Above all, a British government had come to office clearly ill disposed toward Mugabe's self-proclaimed Marxism. All these forces were essential in forcing Mugabe to accept a transitional arrangement and constitutional terms which the ZANU party rhetoric of the past had seemed unlikely to countenance.
Relations between Mugabe and the British Tories were a remarkable aspect of the conference and of the pre-election run-up; in the upshot they suggested that authoritarian, patrician Western politicians may on occasion be better placed to do political business with tough, avowedly left-wing African leaders than are many of those Western politicians more obviously committed to the causes of black liberation in Africa. Indeed, it was notable that the front-line leader with whom Britain most happily cooperated was Mozambique's Machel, rather than Kaunda or Nyerere, two front-line leaders long accustomed to dealing with figures from the West. Occasionally the Zimbabwean nationalists-especially Mugabe's ZANU-found Lord Carrington, British Foreign Minister and chairman of the conference, high-handed, but in the end the Tory handling of the negotiations, firm and abrasive to a degree that could be described as aggressive, paid dividends.
Even though any claim to British sovereignty over Southern Rhodesia struck an inevitably loud note of imperial illusion, the Tories did seem more prepared than previous governments to assume what responsibility Britain still had. By contrast, Labour, under the direction of Dr. David Owen as Foreign Minister, had been keen to devolve the task to a large extent upon third parties, mainly the United States and the United Nations. Indeed, it was against strong resistance from colleagues in his own cabinet, including the then Prime Minister James Callaghan, that Owen had dragged out a promise for a battalion of British troops to participate in a U.N. peacekeeping force in Zimbabwe. The Tories, though equally loath to commit troops to a potentially dangerous area, were anxious to remove U.N. and overt American participation, which had made the white Rhodesians and South Africans reluctant to cooperate. The Tories, moreover, were much less shy about admitting that any settlement in Rhodesia needed the active compliance of Pretoria. This British readiness to reassert responsibility, (even if it was more a matter of style than substance, since "self-government" [i.e., white autonomy] had been granted to Southern Rhodesia back in 1923), gave the Tory conference team additional and necessary bargaining bite.
Carrington also had an advantage over a Labour government operating under similar conditions in that the Smith-Muzorewa tandem knew that no other British government would ever offer better terms. (In fact, Smith was intent on holding out for softer terms from Britain, but he was isolated by both black and white colleagues, and his protestations were scornfully shrugged off by Carrington.) There could be none of the "Let's hang on until a Tory government gets in" which had dogged Owen's attempts at a settlement. Similarly, when Owen, in negotiations with the black exile nationalists over the Anglo-American proposals, declared that he "would not accept a veto from anyone," the black nationalists rightly sensed that he was bluffing. The Labour Party, because of pressures on the Left, would never under any circumstances have backed any scheme without the support of both guerrilla groups. It was an inevitable and serious flaw in Labour's bargaining capacity.
Though Carrington's ruthless negotiating tactics were skillfully deployed, it must be stressed that the successful Tory attempt at mediation was also blessed with fortunate timing that had been denied to Owen two years before. The pressures had mounted since then, so that the squeeze against both sides had never been so acute. The war had driven the bishop, Smith and the white machine into an ever more desperate bargaining position-as had not been the case, for instance, at Geneva in 1976. Similarly, the economic near-paralysis of the front-line states exerted sharper pressures on Mugabe and Nkomo than ever before. When the Lancaster House conference opened, the time for a settlement was at last ripe.
What did finally clinch the deal was the brinkmanship of Carrington under the direct instruction of Prime Minister Thatcher. The British Foreign Office talked unofficially about the "first class" solution and the "second class." The first involved all parties; the second involved Britain, the internal parties and perhaps also Nkomo, but minus Mugabe and his guerrillas. Ultimately, it was Mrs. Thatcher's threats and determination to stick to what she felt was a matter of principle-based, her detractors would argue, on ignorance of the probable bloody consequences-and plunge into the second class solution, if need be without Mugabe, that actually pressed the latter into acceptance. It was the probably justifiable belief of Mugabe that Thatcher and Carrington might actually go over the brink that caused her brinkmanship to succeed. Even at the last hurdle, when Mugabe was extremely hesitant in accepting the unofficially termed "Walls Plan" (whereby the guerrillas were to be corralled inside around 15 assembly points vulnerable to air attack, and in the border regions of Zimbabwe, thus perhaps giving the impression of guerrilla retreat), it was Britain's peremptory decision to dispatch to Salisbury the Governor-designate, Lord Soames, that may, in Carrington's phrase, have prevented "the ball from unravelling." If the guerrillas had not subsequently signed, Britain could have found itself in Rhodesia technically fighting a massive guerrilla insurgency with almost no British troops and with every chance of international opprobrium. And it should finally be added, as a serious qualification to Britain's skill, that the Tory government-perhaps duped by Rhodesian intelligence-was under the illusion that Muzorewa would win the planned election. (In that case, the vulnerability of the guerrilla assembly points would probably have been brutally proven. It would not have been difficult for a winning Muzorewa government to find a pretext for obliterating them as soon as possible after an election.)
Mugabe did not, of course, welcome the rather bullying British conference technique, wherein, even before the agreement was signed, Britain appeared to be harassing the guerrilla parties, while Muzorewa and the whites meekly accepted the new British "authority." The front-line presidents publicly complained of Britain's hard-faced, high-risk approach, but when Mugabe flew to Dar es Salaam in mid-December, resolved to hold out against the Walls Plan after Walls and the bishop had already gone home to embark upon electioneering and military arrangements, the front-line presidents-in particular, Machel-told the guerrillas to take the risk and sign. It was an undoubted triumph of British diplomacy.
The hectoring manner adopted toward Mugabe's party by Salisbury's new British administration, manned by much of the same staff whose approach had succeeded at Lancaster House, continued when Britain took over the trappings of formal power in Rhodesia. Right from the start, in an attempt to assert what influence he had, and perhaps over-conscious of the frail artificiality of his position as ruler in name more than in substance, Soames appeared intent on showing the guerrillas that he would brook no dissent whatever. It is certain that the guerrillas, conscious of their new vulnerability in the designated assembly points after years of freely flouting the laws of the illegal regime, decided to keep a proportion of hardened men at large in the villages for electioneering.
Muzorewa, equally keen to ignore inconvenient aspects of the agreement, showed little inclination to allow his armed "auxiliaries," numbering between 16,000 and 25,000 and in theory part of the white-led national security forces, to be monitored by the Commonwealth forces or to be confined to base. Indeed, they roved the countryside, many of them intimidating civilians they suspected of supporting Mugabe. (The auxiliaries kept a low profile in Matabeleland, where the pro-Nkomo vote was a foregone conclusion.) But the British administration seemed sensitive only to guerrilla breaches of the agreement, arguing that auxiliaries were not in fact partial to the bishop and that many of them were gainfully employed in "community activity" such as repairing roads and cattle-dipping tanks. Furthermore, within a fortnight of Soames's arrival, security forces were deployed to attack "unlawful" guerrillas (i.e., those who had failed to report to the assembly points by the allotted deadline), and offers by Nkomo's and Mugabe's parties to send out their own forces, in concert with the monitoring forces, to round up the recalcitrants, were rejected.
To the African people it began to look, early on, as if Soames was biased against Mugabe. Nkomo's guerrillas were generally praised by the British for their discipline, which was indeed of a higher order than that of their ZANU counterparts, but the alacrity with which Soames and his administration appeared to congratulate Nkomo soon began to smack of a desire to accept Nkomo into government without Mugabe. There was a strong lobby in Government House that wanted to ban Mugabe from contesting the election in large areas of the country. It was certainly true that many of his guerrillas were intimidating civilians. And the battle-hardened guerrillas, though fewer than the auxiliaries, were probably more effective, in view of their longtime dominance over the civilians and genuine sympathy among them. But it seemed that the sins of Muzorewa's bullies and the old Rhodesian administration's obvious connivance in (or deliberate failure to notice) acts of sabotage, forgery and attempted assassination were all occurring without the same gubernatorial wrath.
The British administration, inevitably over-reliant upon the old bureaucracy that had served Smith so efficiently, and over-credulous of the Rhodesian intelligence and information services, was strangely insensitive to the Zimbabweans' hopes that it would assert what little authority it had over the white establishment, and start to redress the most obvious wrongs of the past. The British were reprehensibly slow to release political detainees, arguing that those Africans convicted of technically criminal offenses but motivated by reasons of war could not be classified as "political." At the time of the election, at least 2,000 people were still being detained. Similarly, the British appeared slow to accelerate the refugees' return, which was obstructed by the existing Rhodesian administration.
Nor did Soames seem keen to shake the bureacracy into assisting the exile parties, especially Mugabe's, by granting them the public services enthusiastically given to the Muzorewa team. A small but telling example was the failure of the post office, a mere two weeks before the election, to connect Mugabe's telephones at party headquarters.
What further lowered Britain's reputation for impartiality in the eyes of most Africans and the outside world was the extraordinary decision to allow South African troops to remain in Zimbabwe, in clear breach of Lancaster House. British arguments, logical yet politically nonsensical, that the presence of the South Africans-a mere few hundred just north of Beit Bridge, the border across the Limpopo-"would not affect the election" showed a remarkable ignorance of the most powerful symbols of hatred in black Africa. On January 30, three weeks after the South African presence was admitted, the force near the bridge withdrew, though over a thousand recent "volunteers" remained as part of units integrated into the old Rhodesian Army.
In defense of Soames, it must be conceded that his readiness to be lenient to the South Africans and the white-led security forces was largely motivated by the fear that Pretoria might at any time intervene militarily or that the white-led forces might revolt, should the British appear lax toward the guerrillas and their political representatives. It is true that the independent-minded security forces were itching to "have a go" at the assembly points on the slightest pretext, and Soames felt consistently obliged to "throw crumbs at the whites" (as a senior British official put it) to ensure that no mutiny took place.
In any event, the Soames policy was proven by its successful outcome-the holding of a reasonably free and fair election. This did add weight to his claim that it was of paramount importance to keep the South Africans and the white Rhodesian establishment quiescent at all costs, even if by so doing it appeared that Britain was partisan against the interests of Mugabe. But Soames could probably have called the white bluff rather more often than he did, in the interests of winning black goodwill, which could have been crucial after the election.
More pertinent is the question of what would have happened in the event of the indeterminate election result predicted by most observers. For Britain was undeniably all set to see Nkomo lead a coalition government even if Mugabe had won the most seats. Even if Mugabe had won 40 of the 80 black seats in the 100-strong assembly, it is highly possible that Nkomo would still have been asked by Soames to lead a government. The Constitution was quite clear. Soames was perfectly entitled to ask any politician who, in the Governor's view, could "command a majority in the assembly." Holding the middle ground as the man best able to win support from the widest spectrum of parties, Nkomo could, by refusing to join a government as second fiddle to Mugabe, have made it impossible for Mugabe to lead a government. Had Mugabe won over 40 but under 50 seats, it is probable but not certain that he would have been able to take the premiership with the compliance of Nkomo. Anything less and the British clearly hoped for a coalition government of national unity, led by Nkomo but including both Mugabe and Muzorewa. If Mugabe had rejected second place in a coalition, Britain would simply have granted power to an Nkomo-led coalition without him.
If Mugabe had been excluded, bloodshed would almost certainly have ensued on a worse scale than before. With a possible wavering of Mozambique's support for Mugabe, a Zambia-Nkomo-Muzorewa-South Africa axis of forces might have succeeded bloodily in imposing itself, but the likelihood is that it would have fallen apart in the face of guerrilla retrenchment. Even if it had succeeded, the emergent coalition would have been incalculably more accident-prone, unstable and ill equipped to govern than the party that actually emerged under Mugabe. For the driving desire of most Zimbabweans was not for a particular ideology, but simply for peace, and the eradication of inequities in their society. The near total failure of Muzorewa in his ill-contrived brief courtship of guerrillas, followed by attempted repression of them after the April 1979 election, told the people plainly that peace would only come with a guerrilla victory either in battle or at the polls.
The Ndebele and related Kalanga voted en masse for Nkomo, but (with around 19 percent of the total population) gave him only 20 seats. The Shona majority voted almost as a community and swung wholeheartedly behind Mugabe, giving him a resounding 57 seats-with only 3 for Muzorewa. It was obvious, whatever the threat of more war, that Muzorewa had lost the confidence of the people and that Mugabe, by his articulate reasonableness and conciliatory appeals before and after the election, was gaining that trust by the day. The logic of villagers and townspeople was proven right: peace returned almost overnight.
Soames' manner of governance before the election-severity toward Mugabe, leniency toward the whites and Muzorewa-was remiss in certain already stated respects but it did successfully steer him along the tightrope toward his first vital goal: the actual holding of the election. Thereafter, his real skill manifested itself in his swift recognition that Britain's sole recourse was the rapid if tardy befriending of the victor, Mugabe. Soames brilliantly succeeded in establishing a remarkable rapport with the black leader. It was fortunate for the British governor that the subordination of the victor's professed ideology to pragmatism soon became clear. For Britain and Soames, the stunning landslide victory became a blessing in disguise, for the political contortions and probable wrangling and international odium that would have accompanied a coalition-building process were all mercifully avoided. The rancor and blunders of the past were soon forgotten, along with Muzorewa and Smith. Soames' reputation soared. And it will be an enduring irony that in international terms, the reputations of Soames, Carrington and Thatcher were hugely boosted by the overwhelming magnitude of Mugabe's victory, which they had never intended. Soames' miracle was wrought with as much luck as skill.
Despite the history of bitterness and oppression in Zimbabwe and the internal violence within Mugabe's own party, the omens at his advent to power were more propitious than can ever have been expected. In the preceding two years he had achieved a greater measure of stability within the party than ever before. The black middle class, much more powerful in Zimbabwe than in other black states at independence, has swung hard behind this new leader. He also has the vital support of the white army commander, Peter Walls. And the clear-cut nature of his electoral victory, obviating the need for frail alliances, gives Mugabe the strongest possible starting point.
His first tasks are national economic reconstruction and social reconciliation. There is much talk of a likely crisis of expectation. Government economic advisers are against granting a series of large pay raises, but the current average urban wage of between $60 and $75 per month falls far below the estimated urban poverty datum line of $115 for a standard African family of six. Domestic servants and agricultural laborers often receive as little as $40 per month. Already, within a fortnight of the election, the new Labour Minister was forced to take a firm line against wildcat strikes sometimes in quest of payraises of over 60 percent.
However, the benefits of peace are so great that progress should assuage popular expectations for at least a year or two. The paradoxical advantages of Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence will also become clear, for the self-reliance foisted upon Rhodesia by U.N. sanctions will be a vast asset to Zimbabwe, much to be envied by many other Third World countries which are dependent on a few commodities whose prices on the international market can fluctuate wildly. Black economic betterment will be slow, but, provided political stability is established and enough whites remain to lend their expertise, the benefits of peace, the country's vast and diverse natural wealth, the strong infrastructure, and the people's long-tried patience should all ensure steady enough growth to turn the new Zimbabwe into one of the most prosperous states per capita in Africa.
Mugabe's apparent acceptance of the need to retain indigenous white economic skills also implies a caution that cancels out much of the Marxist and revolutionary rhetoric of exile. A close friend of Mugabe describes his economic and political model as "somewhere between Swedish social democracy and Tito's Yugoslavia." Mugabe hopes the peasants will move toward the collective in agriculture, but "by persuasion rather than by force." He has also stated a belief that the multiparty system is a "luxury a developing country cannot afford" but will be abolished "only with the people's consent." It is likely that during the transitional period of the next two years or so the more idealistic and experimental side of Mugabe's political nature will be suppressed in favor of the pragmatic. Whether there is a drift toward the authoritarian and the more strictly egalitarian will depend largely upon the activity of constitutional and unconstitutional opposition. It will also depend upon the ability of the mixed economy and the white civil service to accommodate Mugabe's broader ideals, and to deliver discernible benefits to blacks.
It is nevertheless likely that the one-party system will arrive fairly soon. In many African states such a system is seen, with some justification, as the sole device whereby tribalism, at any rate in formal terms, can be excluded from the body politic, since political parties in multiparty states invariably take on an ethnic tinge. This, indeed, is the case with Nkomo's ZAPU (which this year relabeled itself the Patriotic Front) and Mugabe's ZANU. In Zimbabwe, the move toward a one-party state would be facilitated by the political retirement of Nkomo, a giant in the Ndebele-Kalanga ethnic camp, though he shows no sign of wanting to bow out at present. He seems, in fact, reluctant to accept his party's defeat, let alone its submergence in a coalition. But if a referendum were to be held on the question of a one-party system, there is a strong likelihood that most people would say yes. The opportunity could come within five years.
At present the Patriotic Front (PF), as junior partner in the coalition, remains a dangerous potential source of conflict, with Nkomo currently bitter at his rejection outside his own ethnic group, particularly because he has always taken the utmost care to maintain a non-tribal national executive which is three-quarters Shona and embraces most ethnic groups in the country, including whites, Coloreds (people of mixed race) and Indians. Since his election defeat, Nkomo has accused Britain of rigging the election to favor Mugabe. He also felt cheated both by Mugabe's decision to give him only one of the 20 senate seats nominated by the premier or elected by the ZANU-dominated assembly, and by the allocation to the PF of just four ministers and two deputy ministers out of 36. In addition, the powers of Nkomo at the Ministry of Home Affairs have been clipped by the removal of rural administration (whose executive arm was the powerful white district commissioners in the tribal reserves) to the local government portfolio, while the police special branch and the intelligence service have also been removed into the Prime Minister's own care. Nkomo's party has begun to look again to its old Russian and Eastern bloc allies for support. Attitudes within Mugabe's party toward its coalition ally vary from lukewarm to extremely hostile.
This ill-feeling is particularly dangerous in the military sphere, where Mugabe has over 21,000 trained guerrillas against Nkomo's 12,000 or so in Zimbabwe. Nkomo's men, however, have been well equipped with newer and more sophisticated conventional weaponry, which they are reluctant to surrender to a central command. Further, though the coherence of the ZANU guerrilla leadership has been greatly weakened by Tongogara's death, the ZANU guerrillas will have to be persuaded to accept the new reformism in place of the revolutionary doctrine of the past. It will be a delicate task to demobilize as many of the estimated 33,000 guerrillas now in Zimbabwe as soon as possible. In the winding down of the armies-an essential process-no formula had been found as of mid-May to satisfy Nkomo's demand for military parity, which Mugabe's guerrillas are strongly resisting. Indeed, there have been increasing signs of insubordination by Nkomo's forces. Integration of the two guerrilla armies and the old Rhodesian Army is proceeding slowly, with only 600 men from each side so far undergoing joint training. Nor has it escaped the notice of Mugabe, who is also Defense Minister, that the broad ethnic mixture within the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR), the old security forces' main black infantry regiment, is much more successful than that within the guerrilla armies. (ZANU guerrillas are almost entirely Shona, while Nkomo's forces may contain perhaps 10 percent Shona to 90 percent Kalanga and Ndebele.) Thus, under instruction from white Rhodesian and British officers, the RAR as much as the guerrillas may end up as the central part of the new Zimbabwean army. For Mugabe, the ZAPU-Ndebele problem will remain a dangerous threat.
The question of the whites is also likely to become exceedingly tricky after the present honeymoon is over. Due to years of previous propaganda which depicted Mugabe as a psychopath, his polished and persuasive appeals for reconciliation since the election have been enthusiastically received by an astonished white audience. But many whites will now find it hard to accept real social equality, for instance in hospitals and schools, where they erroneously hope that segregation by money rather than by law will still be the norm.
Furthermore, the likely growth of black authoritarianism in place of white, including the overt politicization of supposedly independent institutions such as the broadcasting media and press (recently subservient to Smith) and the university, will demoralize many whites. Many will find it hard to adapt to new customs of overt patronage likely to impinge fiercely upon the business world, while some of the fastidiously upheld standards of white Rhodesia will probably be sacrificed in the interests of rapid indigenization and social mobility among blacks. Mugabe has demonstrated his willingness to treat sympathetic whites with respect and generosity by appointing two whites to key ministries. But it is questionable whether many whites will remain. My guess is that in five years, only about 80,000 will have stayed, down from the 278,000 of eight years ago.
But even if the white community is unable to accept the new world, it is important for Mugabe's economic plans that the process of white withdrawal be orderly. Much depends on the Prime Minister's ability to impose his newly adopted views forcefully upon his central committee, the powerhouse of his party. Decisions in ZANU have tended to be taken very much by consensus, in keeping with Shona tradition, in contrast with Nkomo's ZAPU, where the writ of the leader has been far more keenly felt. Indeed, one of the secrets of Mugabe's arduously won success, in party terms, has been his ability to allow everyone his or her say before molding a unanimously agreed-upon policy. Hence, decisions often take exhaustingly long to reach-witness the countless all-night sessions at Lancaster House, and Machel's frequent impatience when dealing with ZANU in Mozambique. The different shades of opinion that still exist within ZANU could threaten to rekindle the flames of factionalism that Mugabe has done much to quench since the dark days of Chitepo's death. The central committee-currently around 27 active members-is a cumbersome parallel body to the new Cabinet, and may have to be sidelined for the government to perform effectively. But party traditions could make that difficult.
Mugabe's first cabinet was a clear attempt to balance the groups within the central committee. The placating of ZAPU, as Nkomo's friends have pointed out, was not Mugabe's prime concern, nor was his appointment of whites. It was the choice of ministers within ZANU that was most important, with portfolios very evenly distributed between the two largest of the five main Shona-speaking groups, the Karanga and the Zezuru, and the third largest, the Manyika, only just behind. It would be wrong to characterize ZANU as simply divided into ethnic factions, though ethnic strife (between Karanga and Manyika) was certainly a key factor in the Chitepo debacle. But the two main, though loose, groupings within ZANU, focused on Deputy Prime Minister and Party Vice President Simon Mzenda and on Secretary General and Manpower Minister Edgar Tekere, do tend to attract Karanga and non-Karanga (mainly Manyika and Zezuru) respectively.
Nor is ideology the main bone of contention between the groups, though in past periods of discord it has been invoked on every side. Nothing better illustrates this lack of real ideological depth than the readiness of those professedly left-wing dissidents imprisoned under the party's aegis in Mozambique to realign themselves with "reactionaries" on their release just before the 1980 election. Of the 74 former detainees, most of whom had been categorized as "Maoist" or "pro-Soviet" and nearly all of whom had castigated Mugabe as a "sellout" (Uncle Tom), about half joined Sithole, and a similar number Nkomo, while half a dozen went over to the bishop. Ideological aspirations evaporated quickly.
In the case of Mzenda and Tekere, temperament rather than ideology is the key. Mzenda, the older man, is cautious, conservative and by nature conciliatory. For instance, he counseled the "rehabilitation" of the dissidents in 1978, while Tekere urged that they be shot. Tekere is forceful, aggressive and as powerful in the party as Mzenda. In the emotive matter of policy toward whites, for instance, Tekere's and his associates' temperamental reluctance to advocate gradualism might push economic considerations aside. But that is hardly a matter of ideology. Apart from the whites, Tekere's associates were not keen to include any members of ZAPU in the Cabinet. Tekere is particularly hostile to Nkomo, and his group has been in the ascendant since the ZAPU leader's secret August 1978 meeting with Smith in Lusaka, an act of downright treachery in ZANU eyes. It should be emphasized, however, that the groupings are loose, and that Mzenda and Tekere each have close colleagues who do not fit the stereotypes described above. But it nonetheless holds true that the prevailing mood of Tekere's group will make it temperamentally difficult for it to attune to Mugabe's new, gentle tones.
Mugabe himself has managed to stay majestically above the groupings within the party. That is another aspect of his success. He has been the focus of a laboriously sought consensus, a juggler, a spokesman, an arbiter. Now he will have to strengthen his own base through the machinery of government at his disposal, through the Prime Minister's office and the Defense Ministry, and through the intelligence services. His need for administrative cut and thrust is likely to reduce his deference to the long-winded deliberations of the central committee in favor of the skilled bureaucracy he has inherited. Indeed, he may look increasingly to his technocratic friends and to those without a personal base within the party, such as Emmerson Munangagwa, minister in the Prime Minister's office and head of intelligence; Rex Nhongo, a curiously lone figure despite the guerrilla leadership thrust upon him since Tongogara's death in December;2 Nathan Shamuyarira, a university professor, Minister of Information but not yet a member of the central committee; and Bernard Chidzero, a senior figure at UNCTAD in Geneva, whose allegiance until recently has been to a broad nationalism and not specifically to ZANU (at Geneva he offered his services to Muzorewa and Nkomo as well). All these friends owe their primary allegiance not to groupings within the party but to Mugabe.
His choice of Cabinet does, however, indicate a need to attend to the traditional needs of the party balance. His appointment to the Finance Ministry of the erratic Enos Nkala, a belligerent oldstyle nationalist who had spent 15 years in detention, was a gesture to militant ZANU nationalism and shocked the bureaucrats. But Nkala's powers will be trimmed by the creation of a new Ministry of Planning for Chidzero, a conservative reformist, while other key economic ministries go to a wealthy, pragmatic white farmer not formally connected with politics in the past, Dennis Norman, who controls agriculture, and to the deputy leader of the old ruling Rhodesia Front, David C. Smith, who takes the commerce and industry portfolio.
It is another irony of the new Zimbabwe that Mugabe himself is probably one of the few genuine ideologues in the party, and stands to the Left in ZANU, despite the present pragmatism, which he may or may not countenance beyond the transitional few years. Mugabe is a puritan of deeply felt egalitarian instinct. Many of his new MPS are not. Despite some of the already noted queries over the temperament of some central committee members, it has already become patent that the austere past life in exile is rapidly giving way to an obvious (perhaps too obvious) enjoyment by senior party men of the fruits once reserved for whites alone. Most ministers are moving into expensive houses in the smartest white suburbs of the past. Indeed, some of the new political elite may be too readily acquiring a taste for the benefits of office. Many white businessmen are delighted at how fast the fruits of consumer capitalism are replacing the deprivation of exile, but in the longer term a new elitism could pose a dangerous threat to the nation's equilibrium.
In terms of sheer ability, few observers would contradict Soames' assessment that Mugabe is "head and shoulders above his colleagues." It is impossible to predict, however, whether he will, once he has consolidated his position, gradually reassert the radical egalitarian ideals of the past, or whether he will be "converted" to a belief in the lasting benefits of a mixed economy and a relatively open society.
The regional effect of Mugabe's victory will be profound, not just in its repercussions within South Africa, but also in the debate on political and economic development in neighboring black Africa. Many lessons are already being learned from the election landslide-especially south of the Limpopo. The essential psychological turnabout is that Zimbabwe now faces northward rather than to the south. South Africa knows that the continuing relative backwardness of its black neighbors is the prime safeguard for the apartheid state. While the Republic will continue to strive toward self-sufficiency in all economic areas, even in oil (which is being expensively produced as a by-product of coal), and in conventional and perhaps even nuclear arms. At the same time, Pretoria is intent upon forging as close economic links as possible with its potentially hostile neighbors, to nullify any possible intention on their part to encourage insurgency or participate in economic boycotts against South Africa.
Yet the black countries' plans for regional economic cooperation to oppose South Africa's "constellation" idea look, at this early stage, very much embryonic. The Lusaka meeting of the nine black states, including Zimbabwe, on April 1 and 2, 1980, produced some significant political messages, but they will be hard to translate into economic reality in the short term. Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland reasserted their commitment to eventual independence of the apartheid economy, though they are currently tied to South Africa by a customs union. At Lusaka, Malawi, the black state probably on friendliest terms with South Africa, also-for the first time-declared its solidarity with the black group.
At present, however, South Africa's relative economic power suggests that the regional reorientation proposed at Lusaka will be a gradual process. According to the 1978 and 1979 World Development Report, published by the World Bank, the total exports of all the countries represented at Lusaka except Zimbabwe amount to less than a third of those of South Africa and Namibia.3 In African continental terms, apart from South Africa's well-known mineral assets, it produces 25 percent of the continent's entire gross national product, 90 percent of its steel, 50 percent of generated power, 47 percent of telephones, 44 percent of motor vehicles, 40 percent of all manufacturing, 30 percent of all cement.4 Exports are no longer broken down country by country, but it is reckoned that 16 percent of the total are sold to black Africa. In this context, of particular note is the export of primary and processed foods, which are often vital to the political health of such states as Zambia and Zaïre, and machinery and spares for essential mining and industry.
Despite OAU calls for boycotts of all South African goods, many African states trade heavily with Pretoria. Mozambique's transport system, its railways and harbors, is largely dependent on South African expertise and financed in large part by traffic dues on South African exports, 17 percent of which pass through the port of Maputo. Of Zambian and Malawian trade, 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively, is with South Africa. Mining machinery is exported to Ghana, hardwood is bought from Congo-Brazzaville, many of the francophone countries have trade links, Nigeria is said to import food through third parties. Last year Kenya bought $11 million worth of corn, marked as produce of Mozambique.5 South African diamond technology and marketing is utilized in Angola, Tanzania and Sierra Leone. Many of the trappings of the Lusaka Commonwealth Conference in August 1979 were brought from South Africa. Even as the April 1980 Lusaka conference took place, new air routes between Johannesburg and Lusaka were being opened, though there was a slight delay so as not to embarrass the conference participants.
The most obvious initial way to counter South African economic hegemony in the region is to develop alternative transport routes. With Angola's Benguela Railway inoperable to through traffic due to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA guerrillas and with Dar es Salaam's port congested and mismanaged, Zambia has sometimes found itself entirely dependent on South African railways for its copper exports in the past year. With Zimbabwe now independent and the routes to Beira and (less importantly) to Maputo soon functioning, the regional transport system should gradually reduce its dependence on South Africa. If Namibia were to become independent, a rail link westward to its Atlantic coast is also a possibility. In the past, however, attempts to look northward have sometimes backfired. The Bot-Zam road link, for example, designed to facilitate Botswana's northbound trade with Zambia, has simply become an extra conduit for South African goods conveyed more easily by road to Zambia and beyond to Malawi.
The cost of regional transport development is frightening to the black states. At Lusaka in April, it was reckoned that the necessary improvements would cost around two billion dollars, practically all of it to be borrowed from abroad. Western moneylenders are becoming increasingly tough in their loan conditions to Third World countries, many of which are in danger of defaulting on debt repayments. (Zimbabwe itself is, in fact, greatly underborrowed in relation to other developing countries.) Indeed, increasingly stringent conditions for loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are sometimes interpreted by black African states as attacks on the sovereignty of poor nations caught up in a cycle of dependency on others. But the Lusaka Conference proposed the establishment of a Southern African Development Fund, to be administered in cooperation with the African Development Bank. The Lusaka nine are due to meet again in Zimbabwe in September, and there will be an aid donors conference in November.
The unblocking of the Zimbabwe stalemate has brought an important pyschological lift. As Machel put it at Lusaka: "We must liberate the minds of our technocrats enslaved by South Africa." President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia spoke hopefully of "our transcontinental belt." Though it could take long to bear fruit, the regional concept could eventually prove fertile. It offers a key weapon in the slow process of isolating and removing apartheid.
But in the immediate future, the short-term interests of individual states could provide the same sort of stumbling block that destroyed the East African Community (comprising Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). For instance, it is possible that Zambia could be tempted to impose tariffs against certain Zimbabwean goods, should Zambian manufacturing industry find itself threatened by cheaper and better goods from its newly independent southern neighbor, just as Tanzania resented Kenya's ability to flood the Tanzanian market. In the end, the rigorous management of individual countries and the reinvigoration of their political models may be the fundamental prerequisite, often at present painfully lacking, for black southern African countries wishing to rid themselves of their current economic subordination to the apartheid economy.
In this context, Mugabe could be looked upon in black and white Africa as a guiding light to the future. In Afrikaner eyes, Mugabe's election success has cast a further question mark over the decolonization process in Namibia and may force South Africa to reassess its opposition to the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). Perhaps more important, if the Mugabe experiment succeeds, is the likely reaction in Mozambique and Zambia. Machel is already showing signs of rethinking economic policy and moving toward more free enterprise. He is also looking increasingly for Western investment. Like Zambia, Mozambique has tended to blame its economic shortcomings on the Zimbabwean war, which has indeed been responsible for immense damage to the health of neighboring states. Mozambique was even more seriously harmed by the exodus shortly after independence five years ago of around a quarter of a million white Portuguese, which left a huge vacuum in the ranks of middle and upper management and even among skilled workers and artisans. Politically, the ruling FRELIMO party under Machel has retained some of its revolutionary momentum and idealism. But if Zimbabwe maintains its economic vigor, the Mozambique ideologues who preached a rigid observance of Marxist economic doctrine are likely to come under severe pressure. Signs of this are already apparent. Although party organs have denied that the removals of Marcelino dos Santos, former Vice President, from the Ministry of Planning, and of Jorge Rebelo from the Information Ministry, were demotions (the two continue to hold important positions in the party), it is probable that the more thoroughgoing left-wingers in government will come under attack. Political and armed dissidence within Mozambique, fueled previously by the Rhodesian government, may be more serious than admitted. Machel, whose country is beset with shortages in many basic commodities, knows he must take fast political action to avert social and economic instability. The next year is likely to see startling economic and political changes in Mozambique, but the pace will depend on Mugabe's success in Zimbabwe.
Zambia is politically no less frail than Mozambique, and Kaunda's own reputation is now lower at home than that of his Mozambican counterpart. The early months of Mugabe's rule have already injected fresh breath into Zambian technocrats. This group has been increasingly frustrated by Kaunda's reliance on the political old guard who have grossly mismanaged the administration. The rhetoric of humanism has far too long sounded hollow against the backdrop of the privilege and luxury enjoyed by much of the Zambian political elite. The refusal to allow any candidate to stand against Kaunda for the presidency in 1978 is increasingly resented by the technocrats today. If Mugabe continues to condone a lively capitalist-oriented economy and a measure of political freedom in Zimbabwe, they will be crying out for economic and political changes in Zambia too. A well-known banker (Elias Chipimo) and several former ministers, all of them able technocrats, have been publicly singled out by Kaunda as "traitors" for suggesting that a return to multiparty politics would be beneficial. The poor state of Zambia's ruling and single party, UNIP, does not itself prove the one-party system unworkable, but it is a sharp example of how easily a one-party state can become politically moribund if direction and example among senior politicians are lacking.
As for South Africa, Mugabe has demonstrated the futility of political half-measures designed to satisfy a restless and disenfranchised black majority. Mugabe's victory, above all, has emphasized the attraction of militant nationalism. Since Lusaka's April meeting, South Africa must also increasingly realize that any formal acceptance, let alone encouragement, of South Africa's economic regional mastery is deeply abhorrent to black states, and any attempt to reconcile South Africa's white establishment with black Africa can only succeed through the total abolition of apartheid. Yet it will be important for the psychology of white South Africans, if they are to attune themselves to drastic change, that Mugabe's government turn out to be more tolerable for a substantial number of whites in Zimbabwe than white South African public opinion has generally predicted.
South Africa will inevitably become increasingly isolated from the outside world. But if regional pressures on South Africa are to be effective, the continuing international hostility needed to force the pace of reform in South Africa should be accompanied by massive assistance from the West to those black states which met at Lusaka and whose present economic connections with South Africa take the sting out of their capacity for opposition. Zimbabwe can indeed, despite the pitfalls, become the new hub of an alternative constellation of southern black states.
So far, however, aid to Zimbabwe has been only a tiny proportion of what it needs. The British contribution, so far the largest, has been an insubstantial £75 million over three years, while U.S. promises have been meager.6
Yet, from the Western point of view, Mugabe's victory has so far entailed considerable if surprising political benefits. Although the Soviet Union had in the past two years begun to put out feelers to Mugabe, its interest had remained primarily in the Nkomo camp. As Mugabe recently put it: "We are not cold toward the Soviet bloc. They have been cold to us." In the past two years, Russian weaponry had begun to flow to ZANU through Ethiopia and had long been received through the OAU Liberation Committee, which passed on supplies to the two guerrilla parties equally. But Mugabe's preferred friends have always been China, Romania, Yugoslavia and states such as India and Pakistan, along with Tanzania and Mozambique.
Mugabe has, in fact, been cold toward the U.S.S.R. since independence. His refusal to invite delegations from the Soviet Union's closest Eastern bloc allies to independence celebrations was widely seen as a snub. It has been clear from the wording of radio broadcasts from Moscow and Prague that Mugabe's wholesale victory was not entirely welcome to Moscow. Nor can Mugabe's decision to invite the BBC to assist the state broadcasting service, and British officers to assist the army and police, have much gratified the Russians.
There is an increasing recognition by African states which have experimented with collectivist economic models that the U.S.S.R. has little to offer in development aid or investment. Even on a personal level, the reputation of-for example-Russian technical assistants in Mozambique is said to be low. American policy toward Africa under Carter has, with considerable assistance from Ambassadors Andrew Young and Donald F. McHenry, been widely appreciated in many African and Zimbabwean circles. Indeed, some ZAPU cadres, now thinking of strengthening old ties with Moscow, have actually been blaming a conspiracy of the United States, Britain and China for "rigging the election" in Mugabe's favor.
Despite the generally alleged bias of Britain against Mugabe during the election campaign, many Africans were favorably impressed by Britain's ability to hand power peacefully to its apparently least loved candidate. That action alone, in the minds of many African observers, has won massive dividends in the superpower competition for friendship in Africa.
The U.S.S.R., however, is the chief financial supporter of the most important black nationalist movement in South Africa, the African National Congress, while the West continues to be hamstrung by its massive economic investment in apartheid. Zimbabwe is now South Africa's key front-line state, and-whatever Mugabe's protestations to the contrary-will almost certainly find itself entangled in the struggle of South African blacks for self-rule. Against the odds predicted a year ago, Mugabe has initially shown a remarkable and willing flexibility in his dealings with the West. It would be foolish if the West-in particular the United States and Britain-failed to respond with as much economic and political sympathy as it can muster.
1 The nine were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
2 There is no evidence that Tongogara's death was caused by foul play, though many nationalists assume that to have been the case.
3 Unofficial sources put Zimbabwe's 1979 trade figures at: exports, $700 million; imports, $585 million (Tony Hawkins, "Survey of Zimbabwe," The Financial Times [London], April 22, 1980).
4 Figures of the South African Foreign Trade Association, Johannesburg.
5 The New York Times, April 5, 1980.
6 So far the United States has given $2 million for the rehabilitation of provincial medical services, promised $13 million more during the current fiscal year (ending September 30) and has indicated that $25 and $30 million may be forthcoming next year, pending congressional authorization.