[Marxism] Zakes Mda on Mugabe
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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