Mugabe pro and con

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Jul 5 08:12:32 MDT 2003

NY Times, July 5, 2003
Criticism of a Hero Divides Blacks

WASHINGTON, July 4 — When the TransAfrica Forum decided to speak out last 
month against Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, for condoning the 
jailing, beating and killing of black opposition party supporters, it 
shouldn't have been all that surprising.

After all, for decades, TransAfrica, a research and lobbying group based 
here, has been speaking out on the struggles of Africans on the continent 
and elsewhere.

In the 1980's, for instance, it led the anti-apartheid marches that helped 
press the American government to change its policy of "constructive 
engagement" with the white government of South Africa. In the 90's the 
group protested against the repressive black regimes in Haiti and Nigeria.

In this latest action TransAfrica's president and other prominent black 
Americans from Africa Action, an advocacy group here; Howard University; 
and church and labor unions wrote a public letter to Mr. Mugabe, assailing 
what they described as the "increasing intolerant, repressive and violent 
policies of your government."

But the decision to condemn Mr. Mugabe publicly — which was hailed as long 
overdue in some quarters — has also touched off an outcry among some black 
intellectuals, activists and Africa watchers. Mr. Mugabe, who has led 
Zimbabwe since white rule ended in 1980, is still considered a hero by some 
African-Americans. And in some e-mail messages and on radio talk shows, the 
signers of the letter have been described as politically naïve, sellouts 
and misguided betrayers of Africa's liberation struggle.

Angry critics have sent e-mail messages to those who signed the letter, 
saying in one instance that they "do not represent African-Americans." On a 
left-leaning radio station in New York City, WBAI-FM, several people have 
called to complain. "Whatever black Africans in Zimbabwe decide to do," 
said a caller who identified herself as Missy from Queens, "I think black 
Africans here, we should join them."


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