[Marxism] Zakes Mda on Mugabe

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 21 07:12:55 MDT 2008


Our quiet complicity
South Africans now see that the support lavished on Mugabe 
contributed to Zimbabwe's collapse

     * Zakes Mda
     * The Guardian,
     * Saturday June 21, 2008
     * Article history

In Johannesburg, Robert Mugabe was given a rousing welcome by 
Africans from across the continent. As he addressed the 2002 World 
Summit on Sustainable Development, we ululated and sang his praises, 
and after his brief speech we gave him a standing ovation. He spoke 
of the wonderful work he had achieved in Zimbabwe with his "agrarian 
reforms" in a country where 70% of prime land had been owned by just 
4,000 white farmers.

Here was an African leader who was prepared to redress the injustices 
of the past by giving land back to its rightful indigenous owners. 
Here was a government doing what our own was afraid to: dealing with 
the problems of inequitable distribution through one short, swift 
surgical action. Here was a black man giving the former colonial 
masters the finger. We went into frenzied applause when he thundered: 
"So, Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe!"

It did not matter to us that the process was not done in a way that 
respected the rule of law, or that the so-called agrarian reforms 
were an election ploy to win votes from a peasantry that had been 
marginalised since 1980. We condemned our South African newspapers as 
lackeys of the west when they reported in the previous two years that 
the "war veterans" (most of whom had never fought any war) murdered 
black workers as well as white farmers when they occupied white-owned 
farms in the Mugabe-sponsored violence and mayhem. We dismissed as 
mere western propaganda reports that began to filter into the country 
that the farms - confiscated not only from whites but from those 
black farmers who were deemed to be supporters of the opposition - 
were in fact redistributed to leaders of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

In any case, most of us did not read newspapers, which had exposed 
Mugabe from the beginning, but got our news from the South African 
Broadcasting Corporation, which did not dare be critical of Zimbabwe 
and even banned independent commentators who were deemed to be 
anti-Zanu-PF - including the South African president's brother, Moeletsi Mbeki.

Our unwavering support for Mugabe continued over the years, despite 
outrageous acts of violence against his own people, such as Operation 
Murambatsvina (Sweep Away the Filth) when he destroyed more than 
700,000 homes in urban areas deemed to be opposition strongholds. We 
were encouraged by the line our government was taking. Our president, 
Thabo Mbeki, was the official mediator between Zanu-PF and the 
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and he was engaged in what 
was euphemistically called "quiet diplomacy".

We understood that Mbeki could not be neutral because Zanu-PF was a 
fraternal organisation. It had been our ally during the struggle, and 
as South Africans we were well known for being loyal to those who 
took our side - hence our continued close friendship with Fidel 
Castro and Muammar Gadafy, despite protestations from America. We 
were proud of our independent foreign policy. Despite the "mediator" 
title, we never expected Mbeki to be an honest broker. We were not 
about to desert Mugabe in his time of need; "quiet diplomacy" was 
another name for "complicity".

But last December a new leadership took over the ANC. The new party 
leader, Jacob Zuma, attained his position through the support of the 
trade union movement and the South African Communist Party, both of 
which had been vocal in condemning Mugabe's actions as soon as the 
"war veterans" began their farm invasions. And for the first time we 
heard the ANC publicly condemning Mugabe for trying to hijack the 
electoral process, even as a lame-duck Mbeki continued to defend 
Mugabe in international forums and to declare that there was no crisis.

Two weeks ago I was in Johannesburg talking to reporters who have 
been covering the xenophobic anti-Zimbabwean attacks of the past few 
months. It became clear to me that the support that Mugabe used to 
enjoy among black South Africans is beginning to wane. For the first 
time our people are beginning to talk openly about the South African 
government's complicity in the total collapse of Zimbabwe. They are 
beginning to say South Africa should bear some of the blame for the 
millions of Zimbabweans who have had to flee state violence only to 
compete for scarce resources in the poor townships of South Africa.

Yes, the jokes about "those millionaire Zimbos" - an allusion to the 
fact that a million in Zimbabwe adds up to less than one US dollar - 
still abound. But there is growing recognition that the chickens are 
coming home to roost, as thousands more continue to cross the border 
in search of a better life and are welcomed with hate attacks.

· Zakes Mda, a South African writer, is the author of Cion zmda at mweb.co.zay

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