30 June 2008

Mugabe was once a hero? Only in the heads of the willfully blind

James Kirchick in the LA Times wrote late last year about Mugabe's past, how it was whitewashed. You see the UK felt guilty for colonialism and the racist Ian Smith regime, so it tolerated the brutality of Mugabe. Kirchick wrote:

"over several years in the early 1980s, Mugabe executed what arguably might be the worst of his many atrocities, a campaign of terror against the minority Ndebele tribe in which he unleashed a North Korean-trained army unit that killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

Yet, even in the midst of these various crimes, Mugabe never lost his fan base in the West. In 1986, the University of Massachusetts Amherst bestowed on Mugabe an honorary doctorate of laws just as he was completing his genocide against the Ndebele. In April of this year, as the campus debated revoking the degree it ought never have given him, African American studies professor Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, who had been in favor of honoring Mugabe two decades ago, told the Boston Globe: "They gave it to the Robert Mugabe of the past, who was an inspiring and hopeful figure and a humane political leader at the time." Similarly, in 1984, the University of Edinburgh gave Mugabe an honorary doctorate (revoked in July of this year), and in 1994, Mugabe was inexplicably given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II."

Mugabe humane? Only if your red coloured glasses mean you can't see the blood he spilt from the early years on. Anthony Daniels in First Post points out it is time Africa was liberated from its so called liberators. He says that "Nelson Mandela's description of the Zimbabwean catastrophe wrought by Robert Mugabe as a failure of leadership is a failure either of intelligence or of honesty, or of both. There comes a point at which euphemism turns into untruth; and Mugabe's regime long ago passed the stage of mere human error that the term 'failure of leadership' implies."

Noting that South Africa has only been saved from the same fate by the collapse of the Soviet Union:

"If the ANC had come to power with the Soviet Union intact - which would have been impossible without a civil war - it would have made contemporary Zimbabwe seem like a garden party."

Mugabe has done only what many other post-colonial African leaders have done. A fifth of the Zimbabwean population has fled; but a third of the population of Guinea, under the leadership of another hero of African liberation, Sekou Toure, fled. It would be difficult to say who was the worst liberator: the competition is so stiff. Africa is the one continent in which, with a few honourable exceptions, there has been little advance or progress in the last forty to fifty years. What Africa desperately needs is liberation from the liberators. But who is to do it without renewing the catastrophe?

Indeed - the great truth about Africa is not that the West has let it down, which it only has done so in part - with trade policies that have hurt it - but that Africa's post colonial rulers have, in most cases, used decolonisation as a path to personal enrichment. From kleptocracies to nepotistic autocracies, Africa has been let down badly - and only Western colonial guilt (with lashings of Soviet, Chinese and other third world Marxist support) has let that be. Mugabe is simply showing the bankruptcy of African Marxist liberation politics. Nelson Mandela stepped to one side from this because F.W. de Klerk was prepared to negotiate South Africa's transition to becoming an open liberal democracy, and because the Western world would tolerate or expect nothing less, when Gorbachev had destroyed the Soviet's totalitarian empire that once philosophically armed the ANC. Mandela's hero status in moving South Africa from the tyranny of apartheid to its tenuous relative freedom is deserved, but that is all.

He has let Zimbabwe down, and most of his ANC comrades continue to do so. His unwillingness to confront Mbeki and the evil of Zanu-PF surely stands out like a sore thumb. Yes he is an old man, and he may well have had his last public appearance - but he could have called a spade a spade. After all, who more than anyone could have changed events through his own words and eloquence, and who is more untouchable against Mugabe and his thugs than Mandela?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nelson Mandela stepped to one side from this because F.W. de Klerk was prepared to negotiate South Africa's transition to becoming an open liberal democracy,

More likely the millions of Rands that SA business kept on pouring into Mandela's bank accounts dissuaded him from following his Marxist bent.

His successors have shown less tendancy to follow this liberal democracy and when, not if, Zuma takes over the SACP will have free rein to grab and destroy.