Robert Mugabe: Victim or Villain?
When sharks smell blood, they go into a feeding frenzy and attack relentlessly. There is feeding frenzy about Zimbabwe preceding the run-off elections scheduled for 27th June. Thwarted in their bid to install their man, Tsvangirai in power, the forces of Western neo-colonialism are ratcheting up media pressure. Some African leaders seem to have bought into this propaganda campaign.
Stories in the Western press about ‘government-sanctioned violence’ in Zimbabwe focus on lurid details quoting one-sided and opinionated anonymous sources without much verifiable data. Remember the gory reports about Saddam’s troops in Kuwait during the first Gulf War bayoneting babies in their incubators? Many of these stories later turned out to be fabrications.The same type of campaign is operating in Zimbabwe now.
Could the violence be orchestrated by external forces attempting to force a crisis of chaos, thereby justifying intervention? Mugabe’s suspension of aid agencies’ involvement is a matter of national survival. The outspoken comments of the US ambassador go well beyond his purview as a resident diplomat and enter the restricted area of direct interference in a sovereign country’s internal affairs. The struggle for control of Zimbabwe has never been about democracy. We need to be absolutely clear about that. The struggle for control of Zimbabwe is about, and has always been about whether Africans will rule themselves or be subordinated to the dictates and whims of Western powers.
When one considers there are at least half a dozen African leaders who actually brutalize their people and have ruled their respective countries without any pretensions about democracy for longer than Mugabe, the question must be asked: why, then Mugabe?
There is a trend across Africa among certain sectors, to dismiss and devalue the ideology and values of the Liberation Struggle, values which encompassed the quest for freedom from foreign rule [which was a thousand times worse than anything any African dictator could dream up today. King Leopold of Belgium, for example, butchered 10 million Congolese during the scramble for Africa at the turn of the last century], the search for an African identity and ultimately, Continental unification. The implication of that struggle has never been lost on Western strategic planners- for a unified Africa, in control of vast human and natural resources, land space three times the size of the United States of America, could evolve into a military and economic giant as has China in recent years.
The implications of this vision, with the psychological consequences for Africans the world over living on the margins of societies they inhabit on sufferance in Europe and America, are world-changing. Thus, buds that sprout must be torn up like weeds before their roots can anchor and spread. Zimbabwe is such a bud.
Whatever his shortcomings, Mugabe has consistently and unequivocally stood for African independence and has demonstrated his Pan-African convictions by intervening on behalf of the government of the late Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo when it was attacked by forces backed by Western economic interests. Mugabe’s stance vis-à-vis the West has its justification based on sound historical reasons. When the European nations scrambled for Africa’s resources at the turn of the last century, Cecil Rhodes, the quintessential British imperialist [who presumptuously stamped his name on an African country] sent in his mercenaries and freebooters, butchered the Ndebele and Shona, the original owners of the land.
The Africans resisted fiercely inspired by their Nehanda, a divine woman [later hung by the whites for daring to inspire and resist] but were decimated by the Maxim machine gun, a new weapon against which they had no defense. African lands were then apportioned to the invaders and Africans were dispossessed of and driven off their lands.
When Mugabe took back the lands from the whites in 2000, he was acting legitimately and righting a century-old wrong. Talk about the ‘rule of law’ and that he should have followed legal protocol is absolute nonsense- for when Rhodes’ thieves and mercenaries invaded, they exercised no legalities, but simply killed and stole the land just as their contemporaries had done with the indigenous people of America and Australia.
As the so-called Rhodesians, faced defeat by Mugabe’s guerilla armies, Britain which had previously refused to intervene on behalf of the Africans against their ‘kith and kin,’ scrambled to arrange a peace deal before suffering a humiliating defeat. The warring parties were invited to Lancaster House in London where the British bugged the hotel rooms of the Africans and thus checkmated their best moves. The British promised to fund the land reform which was the casus belli for the war, but typically had no intentions of so doing. In 2000, faced with a rising demand for land reform, Mugabe acted. This was unforgivable.
As Cuba remains unforgivable for manifesting independence, so does Zimbabwe remain unforgivable for exercising her right to reclaim land that rightfully belongs to Africans. Behind all the high-flown talk about ‘property rights’ and the ‘rule of law’ lies white racism, a sense of white entitlement, and that Africans have no right to redress the wrongs perpetrated against them so brutally and for so long.
The West, especially Britain, the US, Australia and other Europeans have no right to lecture Africans about rights and the ‘rule of law’ given the history of their depredations-slavery, theft of lands, extermination of the Tasmanians by the Australians and genocide by the Germans against the Herero.
Zimbabwe’s problems are African problems and must be solved by Africans. Tsvangirai’s running to Western capitals like a petulant schoolchild complaining about Mugabe is giving the West an excuse to intervene in Zimbabwe’s affairs or perhaps he is truly their puppet and has to report to his masters. It is very curious that the West announced his victory ahead of even exit polls.
Frustrated by the failure of their man to win an outright victory, the West has ratcheted up the pressure in the hopes if precipitating a crisis which would allow them to intervene more directly. Mugabe’s pre-emptive move against the aid agencies [which have the perfect cover for espionage] has taken critical pieces off the board. Africans need to understand that is a test of their sovereignty and independence. If Mugabe’s independent voice can be stilled by Western intervention, propaganda and the collusion of local puppets, then Africa’s independence becomes meaningless.
Africa can solve its own problems and it needs to assertively tell the West this. Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy is an attempt find African solutions and avoid violence and chaos, for ZANU-PF will not ride off into the sunset and give the country to a man who cavorts about Western capitals calling for sanctions and intervention against his own country and seems to speak from a script that echoes the detractors of the government. Zimbabwe’s problems are not intractable and they can be solved by Africans working together, but the region’s leaders need to speak in one voice and unequivocally tell the West to leave them alone to resolve the situation, whether by a unity government or some cession of power.
Unfortunately, Tsvangirai has compromised his credibility by appearing as the West’s man. We need not to be befuddled by talk of ‘democracy’ which the West insists on when it meets their interest. Zimbabwe, we must never, never forget, is really about one defiant black man taking back what was stolen from his people as was his right to do. Africans have no reason to be ashamed of this.
By Amengeo Amengeo
Specialist in Spanish, Latin American, Caribbean as well as African History. He has also been a journalist, civil servant and graphic artist
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