Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Imperialists Offer Deadly “Ceasefire” in Zimbabwe

First Published: Revolutionary Worker, November 30, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The London conference on Zimbabwe has entered its final stage, taking up the question of a ceasefire between the guerrilla forces of the Patriotic Front, headed by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, and the Rhodesian armed forces under the command of general Peter Walls. Walls, generally recognized as the leading figure and behind-the-scenes strongman within the Muzorewa-Smith regime, showed the world what Rhodesia thought of the negotiation process when he launched a massive air attack into Zambia (a sanctuary for Nkomo’s ZAPU forces) a little over a week ago. The attack was only the latest in a long string of savage military assaults, particularly against Mozambique, which offers shelter for the larger and more active forces of ZANU, and it came on the heels of the Patriotic Front’s acceptance of Britain’s proposal for interim arrangements leading up to new elections in Zimbabwe–which represented a major concession on the part of the Patriotic Front, and which came about, in part, due to pressure put on the Front by Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda (see last issue of RW).

Kaunda’s lobbying for western imperialist interests at the London talks did not save Zambia from the vicious Rhodesian assault, nor did the Patriotic Front’s acceptance of the British interim arrangements render the Rhodesian minority regime more “reasonable.” The spirit of compromise has not been a cornerstone of the imperialists’ policy toward these negotiations, and as part of their efforts to force a thorough capitulation from the Patriotic Front, the U.S. and Britain have wholeheartedly (though of course not openly) supported Rhodesia and its ally, South Africa, in their stepped-up military attacks on the Patriotic Front and the front-line African countries. Even given all this, the Patriotic Front has chosen to remain at the negotiations and has made major concessions, one after another.

In their proposal for a ceasefire, the British want the guerrilla forces to give up a substantial part of their liberated areas, come out into the open, assemble in areas designated by Britain and stop fighting immediately. At the same time, Rhodesia’s armed forces would remain intact without any restraints on their sphere of activity. Indeed, under the British plan, they would be the ones who would “monitor” the ceasefire (with token representatives from the Patriotic Front on a joint ceasefire commission).

The gangster logic of the imperialists’ plan is quite clear. It has been met by demands from the Patriotic Front which include (1) a force of several thousand troops, either from the U.N. or from various Commonwealth countries, to enforce the ceasefire, (2) a period of several months to organize the ceasefire, (3) the disarmament of the vigilante bands of white Rhodesians which have sprung up in opposition to the liberation forces, (4) the immediate dissolution of some elements of the Rhodesian military, such as the green-beret style Selous Scouts (notorious for their savagery and responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of civilians), and (5) the retention of all territory now controlled by the Patriotic Front, with mutually agreed upon ceasefire lines drawn, behind which the opposing armies would withdraw.

The imperialists have no intention of accepting these just demands and expect the Patriotic Front to agree to their terms sooner or later. On the earlier question of adopting a constitution before interim arrangements were agreed to, and on the question of the nature of the interim arrangements themselves, the Patriotic Front position was separated from the British position by seemingly insurmountable chasms, and in both cases the Front went along with the British proposals with only slight modifications. Agreeing to the British ceasefire plan would round out the imperialists’ neo-colonial designs on Zimbabwe and would represent a complete betrayal of the interests of the Zimbabwean people.

Throughout the entire, three months of negotiations, Britain has conceded nothing of substance, and at each crucial stage of the talks Lord Carrington, chairman of the conference, has presented the imperialists’ proposals as ultimatums for the Front to accept, or else. This has been Carrington’s approach on the question of a ceasefire as well. He gave the Patriotic Front until November 26 to arrive at a “yes or no” decision on the British ceasefire plan.

The Patriotic Front requested an emergency meeting with leaders from five front-line African countries, all of which have been putting pressure on Mugabe and Nkomo to settle quickly with the British. Only three of the five countries sent representatives (neither Zambia nor Angola showed up), and despite the Front’s announcement that the front-line states “clearly understand and support our position,” Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere’s silence on the question raised serious doubts as to the real level of unity achieved there.

While the meeting was going on, N. Sithole, a renegade from the Zimbabwe African National Union and a member of the Muzorewa-Smith (Rhodesian) delegation at the London Talks, returned to the Rhodesian capital and predicted that the negotiations would end in agreement. As he put it, “There will be an agreement because of the real pressure from Commonwealth countries and from the front-line states and other elements.”

The pressure is certainly real, but the question remains, can such pressure no be withstood? Could it be any more severe than the pressures of war, which both Mugabe and Nkomo have repeatedly vowed to continue if the negotiations fail? A significant part of the answer lies in the roles played by Mugabe and Nkomo at the London talks. Have they played the role that might be expected of revolutionaries at such negotiations–i.e., that of exposing the heavy hand of the imperialists at every turn and preparing public opinion, both in Zimbabwe and throughout the world, for a continuation of the struggle for liberation whatever the outcome of the negotiations?

Despite a few obligatory protestations, Nkomo has done nothing to change his image as a self-seeking careerist, willing to accommodate with whichever imperialist bloc (the U.S. or the Soviets) will offer the most attractive deal. This has been the source of much friction between ZAPU and ZANU until recently, when the hatchet was buried in order to present a united voice in London.

There are questions around Mugabe’s role as well. For example, he summed up the agreement on interim arrangements saying, “What has happened is that we managed to get the British to agree to our forces having the same status as the Rhodesian forces. In other words, they will be treated equally and we can rely on our forces for the same purposes as the other side will rely on their own forces during the interim period.” Given the unrelenting aggression by Rhodesian troops throughout the entire process of negotiations and the British ceasefire plan that amounts to nothing more than a call to surrender, Mugabe’s assessment objectively serves to hide the real nature of the agreement and to disarm the Zimbabwean people, rather than prepare them for the continuing struggle ahead.