Win or lose, Robert Gabriel Mugabe is that lonely voice in the wilderness amidst prowling lions looking for who to kill and devour. Mugabe’s scalp on a platter is the white man’s gory fantasy but like the biblical Daniel, his angel is keeping the cannibal pack at bay. His integrity has been misunderstood. His admirable courage has been tarnished. The zeal which animates his patriotism has been seen as a convenient veil for his dictatorship. Africa’s only guardian angel against the relentlessly rapacious white overlords has been denied the oxygen of support, applause and affection. He is seen as a wasting demon!
It is safe to say that the racist demonisation and imperial conspiracy against Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe should be a source of great agitation among black African leaders who still cherish the freedom and independence of black African continent. Over the years, commentators of all hue have presented arguments denouncing Mugabe for corruption, oppression, tyranny, brutality, dictatorship, intimidation and pursuing ill-informed vendetta against political opponents and innocent white settlers.
Any sensible analysis of the Zimbabwe’s catastrophe must recognise that it has had two central aspects. The first was Tony Blair’s personal vendetta against Mugabe. The second aspect was the neo-colonialist and racist abhorrence of seeing a group of black men humiliating and killing whites. The received wisdom had always been the other way round as it so often happened in most western democracies and North America.
Mugabe’s ongoing crisis represented the first round of the many neo-imperialist fights we need to fight in Africa. Simply put, it is the fight between racism and justice for blacks in a polarised world where whites are becoming arrogant, unilateral and using both economic and military clout to submit other races to humiliation, political impotency and economic paralysis. Honourable Tony Blair was ahead of the ravenous wolves who requested for the head of Mugabe on a platter. This call was applauded by both right wing and liberal papers in the UK.
Robert Dowden, a mercenary writer and self-styled Africa expert called Mugabe “the Saddam of south Africa” and made an audacious call for Britain to implement “regime change” by force in sovereign Zimbabwe. The tone of the agenda in British press against Mugabe was overwhelmingly combative, arrogant, disdainful, snobbish and worst of all, racist.
Leader writers, opinion-formers, columnists and desk editors not used to seeing a former colonial servant trading insults with their Prime Minister rallied to his defence because the white way of life in Africa, with all its odious colonial arrogance, was under attack.
Mythologising the corruption and tyrannical crimes of Mugabe is hypocritical, given the then huge racial inequalities in the distribution of land and wealth. Black African leaders are famous for tyranny and corruption. To objectify the western argument of tyranny, corruption and bad governance we need to move from the particular to the general. Before the sudden death of Mobutu Sese Seko, he was a pampered local manager of western powers. Then, no western governments saw or heard of his evils.
Idi Amin Dada was tolerated until the mass expulsion of Asians from Uganda in the 70s. Opponents of such policy failed to see the resentment and envy generated by the virtual take over of an African country by a tiny economic-dominant minority from Calcutta, Mumbai and Lahore. Britain had to support the Ugandan rebel movement of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni because of the logistics and financial nightmare in absorbing thousands of expelled Asians.
Daniel Arap Moi, the former dictator and tyrant of Kenya was not demonised by the western press because of one important reason. He did not, in his 24 years of misrule, caused panic or economic and social shift in the lives of the rich and overfed white gamekeepers scattered across Kenya. When Moi was in power, he was more ferociously tyrannical, more corrupt and forcefully suppressed his opponents more than Mugabe. Among his victims was Robert Ouko, his foreign minister, who died in suspicious circumstances in 1990.
President Thabo Mbeki is left alone to nurse the wounded dream of his African Renaissance that may never see the light of day. Why? He will be committing a political suicide like Mugabe across the border if he dare ruffles the excesses of the economic-dominant white minority in Sandton, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Equitable land and wealth redistribution must stay suspended in South Africa if he wants to complete his second term as South African president. Mandela understood this whiteman’s power play and remained impotent in land and wealth redistribution throughout his governance.
Inevitably, Mbeki had to find Mugabe’s pan-Africanism and belligerence admirable and lofty. Unlike other leaders who view Mugabe with the blinkers of corruption and tyranny, Mbeki knows that racialised falsehood account for most of the cumulative portrait of Mugabe in western media. He was once a victim of vicious campaign of hate in the west due to his stance on the causes of HIV and AIDS.
An historical mission to right the wrongs of colonialism has presented itself for all black Africans to embrace. We should not allow the forces of colonialism that destroyed and divided African society to happen again. If you look at the Mugabe’s stand off with brute, metallic logic, there are good reasons to support him. But rather than back Mugabe who is facing an orchestrated campaign of racially motivated animus, we betray our own and called him ruthless, corrupt and a murderer. It is true that Zimbabweans have been cowed by a violent authoritarian rule just as Nigeria is one of the worst countries for just about everything.
But unlike Mugabe, Yar’ Adua has no white economic-dominant minority to dispossess of their ill-gotten land and machinery. Unlike Mugabe, Yar’ Adua has no Brian Donnelly, the former British High Commissioner in Harare, plotting to overthrow him. Yar’ Adua has no Morgan Tsvangirai who leads an opposition movement funded by white businessmen in the UK.
We have to remember too that John Howard the ex-Prime Minister of Australia, who led a bitter campaign of Commonwealth exclusion against Mugabe is a racist par excellence. He waged a war of attrition against black Aboriginal people, denying them land rights which led to his shaming indictment of racism from the UN committee on discrimination.
Howard, and to some extent Helen Clark of New Zealand, both from white, rich nations had to support Blair in his racialised battle with Mugabe. It is in the tradition of white Anglo-Saxon to ‘stick together’ and force surrender among inferior races, regardless of historical wrong and racial injustice. Wars in Congo, Sudan, Angola and Burundi did not get the coverage Zimbabwe got because they did not involve whites.
Black Africa has to resurrect its classical pre-colonial nationalism and fight the demons of neo-colonialism infesting the minds of western leaders. The legacies of colonialism, apartheid, racism and modern discrimination have all combined to produce an impotent black Africa with shrinking voice in a rabidly racist world. My salute to Robert Mugabe for defending the spirit of Africa’s pride from the trenches of deprivation, hunger and hopelessness.