No Better Opportunity

HARARE/BERLIN | | simbabwe

HARARE/BERLIN (Own report) - The German presidency of the European Council is using new attempts to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe, to intensify the pressure on President Robert Mugabe's government. The German government insists that Mugabe enters into direct talks with the Berlin-supported opposition. The German minister for Economic Cooperation is calling on Zimbabwe's neighboring nations to "finally unambiguously express" opposition to Mugabe and take measures accordingly. The reason for the years of western campaigning against the Zimbabwean President, is the radical land reform, that has led to the expropriation of the white large landowners, the heirs of old colonial elites. Berlin is afraid that Mugabe's concept of land reform could be copied by other states in Southern Africa, including Namibia, where the heirs of German colonialists would be affected. Because of international pressure, hefty dissention has arisen inside the president's own party. "In any case, there has never been a better opportunity for getting rid of him" writes the German press.

Prayer Meeting

The violent measures, applied by Zimbabwean authorities against Berlin supported members of the opposition, serve as the current pretext for the German threats to the government in Harare. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its chairman, Morgan Tsvangirai, for years have maintained good contacts to the German capital. The SPD affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation helped found the MDC, which was formed from trade union oriented circles.[1] The foundation has since maintained good contacts with Tsvangirai, raising suspicions last year of having contributed substantial sums of money to the MDC. Tsvangirai had visited Germany on numerous occasions and had direct talks with the government.[2] At the beginning of the month, Zimbabwean security forces broke up a rally, camouflaged as a "prayer meeting." Tsvangirai and other members of the MDC, which has since split, were injured in the ensuing scuffle. These incidents have been widely covered in the German press.

Factional Fighting

After years of western reprisals and a dramatic deterioration of the economic situation in the country, President Mugabe has been losing support within his own party. In December his majority faction suffered a serious defeat. One party faction turned against the party leadership and indicated their inclination to negotiate with the opposition. Berlin is taking advantage of the inner-party conflict and has intensified international pressure. In the name of the EU, the German foreign ministry is demanding that Harare initiate a "dialog with all political forces" in the country.[3] The minister of Economic Cooperation and Development demands that Zimbabwe's neighboring states take measures against Mugabe.[4]

Palace Revolt

Observers predict that if German interference succeeds, Mugabe's overthrow is within reach. Until recently, the governments of South Africa, Namibia and of those of other bordering states, have refused to withhold their support for the Zimbabwean president. According to the German press, Pretoria has to finally drop him. "That would lend the critics within Mugabe's own party the essential backing needed for a palace revolt."[5] Berlin's demands are currently causing tension in Zambia. Whereas the new president of the country is prepared to give in to the pressure and endorse an early end to Mugabe's reign, his two predecessors are raising serious accusations. The former colonial powers are lacking a "moral right" to utter a word about domestic conflicts in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai is a western puppet, "financed, to cause trouble in Zimbabwe" explained the leader of the Zambian opposition.[6]

Free Press

Botswana is also agitated. A "Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition on Zimbabwe" has announced that it is developing "strategies" against the Mugabe government. They are supported in their action by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.[7] The German Heinrich Boell Foundation, affiliated with the Green Party, is also involved in the efforts. Its subsidiary in Johannesburg is cooperating with two media projects, an internet-based news agency and a radio station based in Capetown, broadcasting Zimbabwean dissident appeals. Officially these measures are branded "promotion of the free press in Zimbabwe," but falls in line with the foreign ministry's policy of seeking the overthrow of the current government.


The most intimate reason behind Berlin's efforts is to achieve a containment of the land reform measures, with which President Mugabe overthrew the property relations of the society. Following Zimbabwe's independence, Mugabe's party attempted at first to wrest concessions from the previous colonial landowners. To no avail. Even at the end of the 1990s there were approx. 4,500, mostly, white large landowners on the one side and hundreds of thousands of black peasants on the other.[8] Therefore Mugabe began applying more radical measures – that provoked the definitive wrath of the former colonial powers. German interests are not just affected because among the dispossessed are individual Germans or ethnic German large landowners in Zimbabwe, but primarily because of a possible role model function that the Zimbabwean measures could have in Namibia. During Mugabe's recent visit to Namibia, where he sought support for his policy, the German ambassador felt compelled to make inhabitual commentaries. Berlin's emissary threatened that German tourists and investments would cease. "Any impression that link Namibia and Zimbabwe on the land reform issue is poison."[9]

Protest Enthused

Mass demonstrations to overthrow the Zimbabwean president have now been announced by Archbishop Pius Ncube. Several years ago, this African clergyman had consultations with the foreign ministry during his extended stay in Germany.[10] Ncube now declares, he is prepared to lead the protests against Mugabe, even if these should become violent confrontations. His archdiocese recently initiated training courses, to prepare militants for political protests ("Mission for Human Rights and Justice"). The protest's non-negligible finances come from Germany – from the Catholic Missionary institution "missio" based in Aachen. According to "missio" "the overall costs for this project is 60,000 Euros." Only one third of this amount is contributed by the protest enthused archdiocese. The German Christian aid organization, not exactly known for its support of mass demonstrations, provides the lion's share of those costs. "Missio, has therefore promised 25,000 Euros in financial aid and hopes for your contribution."[11]

[1], [2] see also Der nächste, bitte! and Nicht angemessen
[3] Erklärung der Präsidentschaft der EU zur gewaltsamen Auflösung einer friedlichen Kundgebung in Simbabwe; GASP Erklärung 12.03.2007
[4] Wieczorek-Zeul: Simbabwes Nachbarstaaten müssen Klartext reden; Pressemitteilung des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung 20.03.2007
[5] Ein Wechsel tut not; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 24.03.2007
[6] Kaunda, Sata and Chiluba rail at Mugabe's critics; 22.03.2007
[7] Civil society deliberates on Zim situation; 19.03.2007
[8] Landreform in Simbabwe; Länder- und Reiseinformationen des Auswärtigen Amts
[9] Namibia: "Choose Your Friends Wisely"; The Namibian 08.03.2007
[10] s. dazu Kolonialprobleme und Alles oder nichts
[11] Simbabwes Katechisten – mutiger Einsatz in tödlicher Gefahr;