Silent work for democracy and justice
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Zimbabwe
»Development policy is the peace policy of the 21st century.« – Willy Brandt
Social democratic education work in Zimbabwe has existed since the seventies, when the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung supported the struggle for independence. In September, I visited the Harare office, which has existed since 1980, and spoke with representatives of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in Bulawayo about the work of the democratic opposition.
In view of the current tremendously difficult political and economic situation in Zimbabwe, the approximately 12 staff members of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung are mainly trying to act as silent moderators in the background. In doing so, the FES keeps an eye on all relevant social groups and parties: trade unions, trade associations, members of the ruling party ZANU (PF), the opposition (MDC), churches, national and international organisations, farmers« representatives and others.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung promotes industrial and trade relations, the building of strong trade unions, supports dialogue between government and social groups. But the social democrats also provide very practical help: For example, there is special training and advice for journalists who work professionally and independently, not least writing for the opposition democracy newspapers or being heard on South Africa’s diverse local radio stations. Currently, the most important issues are the land distribution debate and the establishment of think tanks and round tables to discuss a new draft constitution.
But the »quiet work in the background« (according to one staff member) is also a race against time.
Internet, SMS and secret meetings
Many in the country expect the economy to collapse completely in two years at the latest, not least because of the illegal but state-enforced farm occupations by the war veterans. Some people told me they expect a collapse in just 2 months. Already, international trade and industry are withdrawing from Zimbabwe. Loans on the farms, for example, can no longer be serviced.
Due to the occupations, seeds could not be sown and crops are partly left to rot. During my visit to Zimbabwe, several bomb attacks were carried out on MDC offices. To create confusion, the government papers headlined that the MDC had planted the bombs itself in order to manoeuvre itself into a victim role. The domestic conflict is intensified by the new general amnesty for all war veterans involved in the occupations.
The Bulawayo lawyer David Coltart (member of the MDC board) informed about Mugabe’s further strategy at a secret meeting of opposition and farmers in a church in Bulawayo on 18.9.2000, convened by SMS and e‑mail: confusion and terror, an almost total psychological war, which ultimately aims at inciting all classes. President Mugabe, 76 years old, ill and marked by a loss of reality, seems to want to take the once flourishing country to its grave. But there is still hope: the democratic opposition is becoming more and more united and stronger – also thanks to the mediation work of social democrats.
(From the archive. The report first appeared in the »Vorwärts«).
After a long and intense struggle for independence from the racist white-minority government, the struggle for democracy and social justice started and continues until today. Zimbabwe’s history is marked by the marginalisation of big parts of its society. Since then, the culturally rich country with its well educated population has been marked by some of the most severe economic and political crises in Africa. Even today, 14 Million citizens are facing major economic, social and political challenges.
More information: Home: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung – Zimbabwe Office (fes.de) »