February 25, 2009

Voiceless in Zimbabwe: Mugabe is no friend of those who love peace and justice

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 10:46 pm

To comrades and friends

The views of the comrades from the Harlem Forum on Zimbabwe, in the posting “Pro-Mugabe anti-imperialists blather on” by Patrick Bond, (22 February 09) has reference. For a fuller report of what Harlem Forums views on Zimbabwe go to

Father of Zimbabwean nationalism
Father of Zimbabwean nationalism

To recollect briefly, Bond posted a message to a few mailing lists and added that he loudly disagrees with these voices and asks us how we can counter the MDC’s sellout to imperialism and the “SA sub imperialism – be countered by genuine anti-imperialist grassroots forces.” The posting included names of various activists who have undoubtedly contributed immensely to the struggle of Black people and Pan African solidarity.

The names listed included  amongst others

–Dr. James McIntosh, Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People -Monica Moorehead, International Action Center

-Atty. Malik Zulu Shabazz, New Black Panther Party

-Chaka Cousins, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party

The list also included the well known Imamu Amiri Baraka (formerly Leroi Jones), revolutionary poet who continues to do great work as poet, playwright and activist. As a poet in 1969, Baraka wrote a poem BLACK ART, a snippet which follows below:

Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step
. . . We want poems
like fists beating niggers out of Jocks
or dagger poems in the slimy bellies
of the owner-jews. Black poems to
smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking
Whores! We want “poems that kill.”
Assassin poems. Poems that shoot
guns. Poems that wrestle cops to alleys
and take their weapons leaving them dead
with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland.
. . . We want a black poem. And a
Black World.
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem
or LOUD [15]

I want to state that whilst we recognize the contribution of these comrades,I believe they have it seriously WRONG on Mugabe and ZANU PF, although some of their criticisms of the so called white farmers (before Mugabe’s opportunist attack of them) are not necessarily to be rejected. Most of them are correct. The question for us in the African social movement is this: have we failed to convince other Pan Africanists (or have we even begun to engage them?) that the former revolutionary (revolutionaries) has (have) turned dictator (s)? Anyway, a more difficult challenge we face by those who support Mugabe – Zanu PF (both inside and outside the region) because they see him as a genuine anti –imperialist, who is getting a bad press. It is this belief that blinds them of the reality and thus serves to justify (conscious or otherwise) the mass murder of the people in Matabeleland 20 years ago when about 20 000 people (see compiled in 1997 by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace 1997). Most were Ndebele speaking and members or supporters of PF ZAPU then led by the father of Zimbabwean liberation Joshua Nkomu. The killings were led by North Korean Five Brigade and called Operation Gukurahundi, (1982 -1987) which in Shona means ‘the first rains of the season which wash away all the chaff’ – thereby ending any perceived resistance two years after independence in 1980, lasting for 5 years. But in truth, whilst the Operation stopped, others reemerged, moving people from their homes, starving others and providing food aid only to members and allies of his party.

The repression clearly was upped when Comrade Bob, was set to loose – and subsequently stole the Zimbabwe parliamentary elections of 2000. The official records now reflect that the newly formed Movement for Democratic Change, won 57 of the 120 elected seats. Zanu PF won 63 seats. Many differ, however, it is clear this saw the rebirth of a new Mugabe…consistently repressive…and shrewd political manoeuverer ….

So, it is my belief that the supposed anti imperialist credentials is part of the problem which I will discuss hereunder. Mugabe and ZANU PF anti Imperialist? As suggested that various people with good reputations inside the ANC are blinded by the claims of Mugabe of being a victim of Bush – Blair imperialism, and from that position (which is true to a great extent) they go on to affirm him as an anti imperialist leader, the Chavez of Africa and the like. Nothing can be further from the truth. If you are a victim of British and US imperialism (which to a great extend is true) how does it tally with your repression of your own people?

But during and after the Matabele killings, Mugabe was seen and played a role in Sout Africa´s breaking free from Apartheid. As a leader of the Frontline States, who writing in Foreign Affairs journal (winter 1987-88) tried to convince a US government ( and some of the public?) that their blind observance of constructive engagement was support for Apartheid- If we recall at that time, the new South African looked far away with Reagan in the white house and Thatcher in number 10 Downing street…they faced the charm and intellect of the man (leaving aside for the moment – his killings of Matabeleland) it is true his role was vital for the freedom of South Africa, and the the sub-region generally in the fight against white rule.

anti imperialist?
anti imperialist?

Then Mugabe argued of his countries progressive policies thus:“ In Zimbabwe we have totally rejected any aid or investment from any quarter that seeks to change, influence or modify the policies that we have enunciated based on our perceptions of Zimbabwe´s national interests. For us this is a matter of principle.” He further argued that “We are not militarily at war with apartheid, but apartheid is at war with us. And militarily, economically and socially we are paying an enormous price. “

On making the case for sanctions upon South Africa Mugabe argued forcefully (p325) that they are meant to raise the costs of “apartheid both economically and psychologically” and then he dealt with the argument that sanctions will hurt Blacks most, … and wait for it…Mugabe quotes the then Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu whom he said put the position “most eloquently” thus:

For goodness sake, let people not use us as an alibi for not doing the things they know they ought to. We are suffering now, and this kind of suffering seems to be going on and on and on. If additional suffering is going to put a terminus to our suffering then we will accept it.

The second argument Mugabe wrote, for not considering sanctions was its impact on neighbouring states, to which he said simply: “But we are already suffering, as I have clearly illustrated earlier, and if additional suffering is necessary, we are also ready to pay the price.”

The third excuse according to President Mugabe for not imposing sanctions was that they simply did not work, Rhodesia being a good example of such failure. He begged to differ, adding that no regime could give formal recognition to the Smith regime as long as UN sanctions remained intact. “They worked in limited, but important and costly ways. Rhodesia was forced to sell its products at below-market prices and buy its imports at a premium.”

Concluding remarks On imperialism:

What are the essentials of anti imperialist politics? For many, anti imperialism is a virtue on its own, a badge of progressiveness, that explains much. If it helps, let our comrades know that in the history of anti imperialism, (broadly defined) there have been rightwing anti imperialist too. Historically, the concept anti-imperialism has been used to include opposition to wars that colonized people and territory, and it is understandable that it resonates well with progressive people the world over who helped to fight colonialism etc. Later Marxists tended to emphasise economic exploitation relying heavily on Lenin (imperialism – the highest stage of capitalism), may have been speaking about today´s globalization. ( For those interested there are tombs of materials available which will explain further the concentration of production and capital, free-market dominance and foreign control, monopoly capitalism etc etc – but the simple point I suggest is that these concepts and this one in particular is an insufficient basis to build political support for a leader or a party. There are other is progressive theories and analytical tools within the progressive movement to to explain our reality and approaches to struggles.

Our anti imperialist comrades need to look through a wider spectrum, including the basic one: does the rulers lead with the consent of the people? Today, for me at least, the concept does not explain everything especially when when refers to the role of states (albeit much weakened roles. Take China for example, its external policies were guided by the strategy, Mao made famous. (still widely used) “that my enemies enemy is my friend” which moved far away from a principle of genuine and principled anti imperialism. Currently, Mugabe poses as the anti imperialist, but at home represses his own people, hides known dictator from Ethiopia, and much more.

ON the way forward in Zimbabwe

It has been said that Mugabe´s peace with the MDC is to get the funds flowing again, consolidate the economy and all its inequalities, and then or simultaneously hope to undermine those who are his partners. The MDC fears he will try an NKOMO but he is old and weakened, even inside his own party. I have also read that we have called the deal a sellout largely (though not exclusively on ) on the objective economic factors. What equally requires discussion is the existing state of fear, imposed by years of repression, and its consequent “weakened” popular movement. There is a large body of study that reflects on the impact of repression on a peoples aspirations for liberation. At this moment, clearly the people want the violence to stop and some basic human freedoms restored, and …as much as we want more, this the movement inside the country and their leaders must determine. However, I think the sanctions that Tutu spoke off, in the case of SA and comrades have asked for in the case of Zimbabwe must be kept until a climate of fear and terror is replaced by free and open debate about the best options available for a Zimbabwe committed to equality, justice a nationally and people- own and participatory, just economy, ecology, …society is constructed. The same TUTU To end, Mugabe has quoted Tutu before, and I will end with him too. Tutu has the day before Christmas last year said that Mugabe could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for his violent suppression of opposition members adding: “I have to say that I am deeply, deeply distressed that we should be found not on the side of the ones who are suffering,” Tutu told the BBC. “We have betrayed our legacy, how much more suffering is going to make us say, ‘No, we have given Mr. Mugabe enough time’,” he said. Tutu said that he is ashamed of South Africa’s handling of the Zimbabwe issue at the U.N. Security Council, where China and Russia in July vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that proposed worldwide sanctions against Mugabe and 13 officials. All I can say is that Mugabe changed (for the worst) and not Tutu. Bishop Tutu remains true to his and our beliefs.

Hassen Lorgat

PS. Other opponents and scholars of Mugabe and Zanu PF point out that Mugabe was always like that…


1 Comment »

  1. An article written in 2004 about Josiah Magama Tongogara (from the New Statesman)

    Comment by shenid — March 11, 2009 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

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