Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Robert Mugabe: Freedom Fighter Or Dictator?

By Kwaku Tafari
Last Friday, I was invited to deliver a lecture on the topic Mugabe: Freedom Fighter or Dictator at Futa Square in Nima. It was an educative session. I want to share the bullet points I touched on here. I further explained the points during the lecture though. Follow and read more on the points raised. Thank you.

1.      Amilcar Cabral stated in his book Unity and Struggle that “In all our studies, history is best qualified to reward all research.” On this basis let me take you slightly into history.
2.    It was Kwame Nkrumah, the one who knows that stated that “Those who would judge us merely by the heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depths from which we started.”
3.    Once upon a time, there lived a happy people called Matabeleland with their great king called Lobengula Khumalo. Matabeleland was named after its people, the Ndebele. Other ethnic groups include Tonga, Kalanga, Venda, Khoi Sani, Twana, Xhosa and Zulu.
4.    One fine afternoon, a group of free-booters led by Cecil Rhodes, (a man who had the reasoning that “the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race”. He therefore advocated vigorous settler colonialism, describing the country’s black population as largely “in a state of barbarism” and advocated their governance as a “subject race” and was at the center of moves to marginalize them politically. He is a White Supremacist and “an architect of Apartheid) visited Matabeleland with some few drinks (snaps), mirror, gun and gun powder and 100 British Pounds and presented it to the king.

5.     After that they handed Lobengula a paper and told him they wanted his signature on it. The king had no signature so therefore they made him to thumbprint.
6.    After that, Rhodes stated that by the paper that the king had thumb-printed, he had ceded off the mineral and mining rights of the Matabeleland to him and his group for thousand years.
7.     The King protested and demanded withdrawal from that thievery of an agreement. Cecil Rhodes therefore brought the full force of their military industrial complex and pounded the Matabeleland people into submission.
8.    The people of Matabeleland were shut down and forced down in their numbers and it became obvious that they could not match the forces of Rhodes and conceded.
9.    Immediately, Rhodes changed the name of the place to Rhodesia. The whole idea of colonialism in Zimbabwe was thievery, blackmail, plunder and pillage, hoodwinking and bamboozling and above all murder.
10.                        This is a brief history of colonial occupation of Matabeleland. A history of savagery. A history of barbarism. A history of thievery by the British. The one the world does not want to talk about now.
11.  On 21st February, 1924 at the Kutama Mission village, a small boy was born to a carpenter and a catechist. He was named Robert Mugabe. His grandfather was Constantine Karigamombe, a strong man who served Lobengula. So to Mugabe, Independence of Zimbabwe was their birthright which they never sold at any point in history. He was a constant victim of abuse by other boys who viewed him as a mummy’s pet.
12.Mugabe excelled at school and was described as “secretive and solitary child preferring to read alone rather than playing sports or socializing with other children”. He won scholarship to study at South Africa at Fort Hare. There he joined the African National Congress and learnt Marxist ideas. His biggest influence then was Mahatma Gandhi.
13.In 1958, he moved to Ghana. He said “I went to Ghana to be an adventurist. I wanted to see what it will be like to be an independent African state. In 1960, he returned to Zimbabwe with his Ghanaian wife. He led the ZANU to attain independence for ZIMBABWE.
14.The Zimbabwe African National Union became the political vanguard and carried it upon themselves to restore not just the glory of Matabeleland but to take back their full independence. Independence too we know is not an end in itself but a means to an end.
15. This whole idea of Yellow Journalism, smear campaign to paint Mugabe as a demon is therefore understandable. He has been targeted for vengeful reportage and image-tarnishing enterprise. The Dictatorship label is being pushed by British Broadcasting Corporation and its allies whose nose have been bloodied by the drive by Mugabe to assert the full independence of the Zimbabwean people.
16.I have had the opportunity to read the profile of some dictators and Mugabe is not part of them. Dictators take decisions that are arbitrary, whimsical and capricious.
17. Mugabe never took a unilateral decision. Everything was approved by the Central Committee. Even the sacking of the Vice President was agreed by the Central Committee and Cabinet.
18.The last time I checked, no dictator kept the constitution of his land. Mugabe never suspended the constitution. He has always subjected himself to the people’s scrutiny. I am yet to see a dictator who abides by the constitution and governmental institution of his lands. He has always contested and won the elections.
19.Mugabe democratized education in Zimbabwe. He ensured every child attended school and not only the children of whites as done earlier. He increased the level of education of his people. And Education is the factory that turns an animal into a human being. A Dictator never gives wide-scale education to his people like Mugabe did. Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa. When you give people education, you open their eyes.
20.                      The whole dictatorship call is an enterprise of convenience. The imperialists don’t care about the desire of the people. The point is any leader who will do the difficult things to resist attempts to co-opt his country and its resources will find himself given all sorts of labels.
21.One of the criticisms against Mugabe is his prolonged stay in power. Though I stand against any leader’s prolong hold on power, I tend to see the criticism of Mugabe along that tangent as hypocrisy. Houphuet Boinye, the former President of Cote d’Ivoire was in power for 30 years with the active support of France was never described as a Dictator. Iddi Amin was supported by the West. During the late 1960s, Milton Obote’s move to the left, which included his Common Man’s Charter and the Nationalization of 80 British companies, had made the West worried that he would pose a threat to Western capitalist interests in Africa and make Uganda an ally of the Soviet Union. So Iddi Amin was supported by Israel, West Germany and Great Britain. As a matter of fact, his right hand man was a British called Robert Astles (Major Bob Astles). Mobutu serviced the economy of Belgium and therefore did not receive the dictator label from the West when he was alive. In Obama’s Audacity of Hope, he lamented the fact that the US at a point in time supported ‘thieves’ like Mobuto and Iddi Amin.
22.                       I dissociate myself from the decision to make his wife the Vice President. I don’t like the idea of First ladies poking their noses into Presidential affairs. But will you blame a 93 year old man whose brain is in his wife’s pocket?
23.                       I am not happy with how the land was redistributed. But if he decides to take back the land from Criminals to Black People, is it right or wrong?
24.                       Lastly, I am not happy because Mugabe as President was the Last Standing Pillar of Pan-Africanism on the continent. His ousting means Africa will further be manipulated through its puppet leaders.
25.                       I end with Mugabe’s statement himself.
“Mr. President,
Zimbabwe won its independence on 18th April, 1980, after a protracted war against British colonial imperialism which denied us human rights and democracy. That colonial system which suppressed and oppressed us enjoyed the support of many countries of the West who were signatories to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Even after 1945, it would appear that the Berlin Conference of 1884, through which Africa was parceled to colonial European powers, remained stronger than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is therefore clear that for the West, vested economic interests, racial and ethnocentric considerations proved stronger than their adherence to principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The West still negates our sovereignties by way of control of our resources, in the process making us mere chattels in our own lands, mere minders of its trans-national interests. In my own country and other sister states in Southern Africa, the most visible form of this control has been over land despoiled from us at the onset of British colonialism.
That control largely persists, although it stands firmly challenged in Zimbabwe, thereby triggering the current stand-off between us and Britain, supported by her cousin states, most notably the United States and Australia. Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and now Mr. Brown’s sense of human rights precludes our people’s right to their God-given resources, which in their view must be controlled by their kith and kin. I am termed dictator because I have rejected this supremacist view and frustrated the neo-colonialists.
Mr. President,
Clearly the history of the struggle for our own national and people’s rights is unknown to the president of the United States of America. He thinks the Declaration of Human Rights starts with his last term in office! He thinks he can introduce to us, who bore the brunt of fighting for the freedoms of our peoples, the virtues of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What rank hypocrisy!
Mr. President,
I lost eleven precious years of my life in the jail of a white man whose freedom and well- being I have assured from the first day of Zimbabwe’s Independence. I lost a further fifteen years fighting white injustice in my country.
Ian Smith is responsible for the death of well over 50 000 of my people. I bear scars of his tyranny which Britain and America condoned. I meet his victims every day. Yet he walks free. He farms free. He talks freely, associates freely under a black Government. We taught him democracy. We gave him back his humanity.
He would have faced a different fate here and in Europe if the 50 000 he killed were Europeans. Africa has not called for a Nuremberg trial against the white world which committed heinous crimes against its own humanity. It has not hunted perpetrators of this genocide, many of whom live to this day, nor has it got reparations from those who offended against it. Instead it is Africa which is in the dock, facing trial from the same world that persecuted it for centuries.”
Thank you!
The Writer is a Youth Activist and a Student of Knowledge


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