John Mahama is right: Mugabe is a great Pan Africanist

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 Source: Nana Yaw Osei

During my days at University of Cape Coast as a student, a lady wanted to know my favorite meal through a conversation. I told her my favorite was/is plantain plus “koobi”, garden eggs and palm oil stew.

I heard her response with a stark horror as she described me as too local a boy for mentioning “Koobi’ instead of tilapia. Sadly, that is the extent to which black man’s mentality has been massaged not only to his own disadvantage but to Euro-centric convenience.

Environmental exigencies in Europe and North America necessitated embourgeoisement and capitalist spirit. Perhaps, the iconic history professor, Ali Mazrui was right when he asked rhetorically if not metaphorically that if environmental conditions in Europe gave birth to capitalism what then has Africa got to do with snow? Can’t we Africans devise our own approaches to economic development? One would not understand Robert Mugabe when he/she assesses erstwhile President of the born free nation of Zimbabwe by Euro-centric standard of development.

Historical antecedent to Zimbabwean economic debacle is an ample testimony that Mugabe is an ideal pan Africanist who only defended Black Africans but was not responsible for the development setbacks of his country.

In what is now Zimbabwe, there was/is a pervasive awareness of the early period. The great empire of Monomotapa especially under king Mutato the great was solid and looked like that of Oyo, Dahomey, Zulu and Asante. Archaeological findings at Kalambo Falls demonstrated that inhabitants of Monomotapa Empire had knowledge of iron technology before the advent of the Europeans.

The great empire of Monomotapa covered what are now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique to Transvaal in modern Republic of South Africa.

This rich African civilization was usurped by the waves of colonization. Zimbabwe became known as Southern Rhodesia and Zambia became known as Northern Rhodesia.

Rhodesia was unrecognized state in the above areas. The insufferable iron fisted dictator of Rhodesia, Ian Douglas Smith did not only intimate that black men were incapable of ruling themselves but arrogantly vowed to rule Rhodesians for 1000 years.

In 1965, he championed the cause of leading some white minority Rhodesians for a unilateral declaration of independence instead of accepting black-majority rule. “Let me say it again, I don’t believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia-not in a thousand years” Smith arrogantly stated reportedly.

Ian Smith treated black Zimbabweans inhumanly. Majority of them were denied education. 97% of the Zimbabwean population were without secondary school education. 80% of the population lived in the tribal trust land and 20% had urban life. Many blacks were murdered.

Those Africans who were lucky to live in Harare were forbidden to walk on pavements. Black men were second fiddle to animals under heartless Ian Smith and his de facto Rhodesian government. Ian smith engaged in systemic human rights violation resulting in unfair annexation of farm lands from Black African majority.

The struggle for black Southern Rhodesian freedom began in 1961with the birth of a militant political party; Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) by Ndebele tribe man, Joshua Nkomo. Robert Mugabe was the publicity secretary and Nkomo the president. Another political party known as Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was formed by Ndabaningi Sithole and others.

These two political parties were militant patriotic fronts which merged until 1980 electioneering campaign when they separated as ZANU-PF and ZAPU PF. In 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, British granted independence to Southern Rhodesians. The 1980 election was won by Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front).

The 1980 independence of Zimbabwe plunged many people of African descent into spontaneous cheering and jubilation. This partly explains why Bob Marley composed his song “Zimbabwe”. Ian Smith’s unmitigated desire on the icy waters of his own egoistic calculation to deny Zimbabweans of self-rule willy-nilly was on the brink of decline, the greatest effect, the fantastic synergy between Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.

Like many post-colonial African countries, the prospects of Zimbabwe’s future after independence became very bleak, albeit Africa being the treasury chest of natural resources. Colonialism did not help Africa because there is no way one could copy someone’s culture and be better than him/her.

A counterfeit cannot be equal to original. The young Zimbabwe affectionately known as the born free nation under Robert Mugabe did not only sidle up to the trough of European capitalists’ convenience, but its economy hovered between an abyss of decay and an ocean of dependence.

The dilemma hinging on the neck of Cash-strapped African leaders! The dilemma that probably compelled President Akufo-Addo to demonstrate ambivalent stance on homosexuality recently.

A bold attempt by Mugabe to disentangle his nations from the clutches of imperialism sadly consigned Zimbabwean economy into decomposition. For example, in 2009, the Zimbabwean currency had glutted with a hyperinflation so that a double currency was introduced to resuscitate the economy.

The frustrations of Mugabe appeared limpid when he reportedly told Tony Blair, “Take your Britain and Let me take my Zimbabwe.” Ali Mazrui opined that European imperialist introduced capitalist greed to Africa without capitalist discipline, and that this was partly responsible for African economic failures. This begins the conversation on Mugabe as a pan Africanist.

Pan Africanism is the belief that people of African descent have a common interest and destiny and must come together for their common good and identity. This notion was the creation of Africans in the Western Hemisphere. The early pan Africanists included Martin Delany and Alexander Crummel both African Americans and Edward Blyden, a West Indian.

The father of modern Pan Africanism was W.E.B Du Bois. A notable pan Africanist in the 20th century was the Jamaican born black nationalist and the founder of Universal Negro Movement (UNM), Marcus Garvey. Other members included George Padmore, Henry Sylvester Williams; a lawyer from Trinidad, Prince Sam, Jommo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Leopold Senghor (Senegal).

Early pan Africanists spear-headed independence struggle of Africans. Independence of Black people was one of the main purpose of Marcus Garvey-founded UNM. Therefore, we must address the underneath conundrums before judging Bob Mugabe. During his stewardship, did Robert Mugabe fight for black people or not? Did he respect himself as an African or not? Did he believe in the fight against imperialism or not? Responses to the above questions will determine whether Mugabe is a pan Africanist or not? Before we criticize Mugabe, we must understand the chronological rendition of events which led to his current posture.

Naturally, a good intention has a wonderful beginning but a terrible end. Mugabe had good plans to enhance development fortunes of his compatriots, but he was lurching alluringly under the behest of imperialism and capitalist greed.

In August 2017, England-based Ghanaian international journalist, Baffour Ankomah reported from Harare that President Robert Mugabe gave free farming inputs and assistance to needy farmers. This partly explains why May 2017, Afrobarometer reports revealed that 69% of Zimbabweans in the rural areas supported Mugabe (Source: NewAfrican Magazine).

Who violated the terms in the Lancaster Accord? The declaration of right clause posits that Zimbabwean land redistribution was expected to last for 10 years. The Zimbabwe nationalists reluctantly signed the agreement based on the assurance from President Jimmy Carter of USA. Zimbabwe is endowed with land resources which could feed the whole of Africa when the country is permitted to develop uninterrupted.

The 1979, Lancaster House Accord signed by Carrington agreed on an equitable redistribution of farm land. The Lancaster agreement was not contingent on a perceived good governance in Zimbabwe by the British. How can another country determine whether the government of another country is good or bad? How could somebody flout an agreement and applied sanctions to Robert Mugabe who complied with the agreement by engaging in land redistribution? Mugabe cannot not be faulted!

Be that as it may, the political posture of Nelson Mandela after his repugnant condemnation to 27 years imprisonment has made it increasingly difficult to defend Robert Mugabe’s latter behavior. Of course, Mugabe was not the only Zimbabwean who fought for the country. Nevertheless, he is a great pan Africanist of our time.

I am equally struggling to catch the drift of the mission of Zimbabwean army commander, Constantino Chiwenga in China shortly before the military axed Robert Mugabe from office? I know Bob Mugabe will not easily allow China to scramble for his resources.

Therefore, the former president of Ghana, Mr. John Dramani Mahama (JDM) was right when he described Mugabe as a pan Africanist! Perhaps JDM as a historian must set up a foundation to award scholarship for more students to read history so that many people will understand the import of his tweet! Let all and sundry in Africa join Marcus Garvey and quiz rhetorically: ‘How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?”

Columnist: Nana Yaw Osei