[Marxism] 'Freedom Day' hah... Re: (Fwd) Dignity for Walter Rodney: sign petition against Forbes Burnham's SA honour on Saturday

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Apr 27 04:49:02 MDT 2013

On 4/27/2013 12:16 PM, demba moussa dembele wrote:
> Dear Patrick,
> Thank you very much for initiating this petition.
No, just passing it along... so readers, do sign if you haven't... 

> This would be a great insult to the memory of Walter Rodney

Sorry, not 'would' but '*/is/*' ... because in a short while it will 

> Even if Zuma ends up honoring Burnham, we should continue circulating 
> the petition and let all progressive intellectuels and social 
> movements know about this shameful and despicable act

This sort of act will indeed continue, because it signifies how SA 
foreign policy is up for sale; the Dalai Lama's inability to get a visa 
to visit Archbishop Tutu for his 80th birthday party in 2011 was just 
one high-profile example of s Pretoria rulers being under the donor's 
thumb, rubbishing the ANC's proud solidaristic history.

We were first sickened by this realisation when in 1997, the Indonesian 
dictator Suharto was repaid by Nelson Mandela for funding the 
ANC:/'Suharto was greeted by Mandela and 16 members of the cabinet. 
Following an hour-long meeting, Mandela emerged to describe the 
discussions with his "close friend" as "very fruitful". He thanked 
Suharto for his financial assistance to the ANC prior to the 1994 
elections. Suharto was also awarded South Africa's highest award, the 
Order of Good Hope.'/ http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/15847 (The local 
trade union movement, Cosatu, held an exemplary protest outside at the 
time, leading the SA police to arrest 38 workers who were non-violently 
demanding, "end Suharto's genocide" and "end union bashing now".)

How much taxpayer funding did Burnham give away to the ANC? According to 
his website, it wasn't even all that much: /"In his bold, characteristic 
way, he secured parliamentary approval to commit funds from Guyana's 
Treasury to aid the African freedom fighters: an initial, annual 
disbursement of US$50,000 and, subsequently, US$100,000 was given to the 
African National Congress at a time when Guyana could hardly afford it. 
In 1981, when Guyana hosted a Forum on the Liberation of Southern 
Africa, President Burnham increased financial assistance to the African 
Liberation Movement to the amount of US$250,000." 

But we've also been educated in new ways through this fiasco, including 
getting a better understanding of how 'talk left (to) walk right' works 
in places like Guyana, given that Burnham called himself a socialist 
while generating a brutal crony-capitalist political economy.

And in terms of resistance, I've been surprised that not only within the 
beleaguered independent left here, but more generally - e.g. in two 
mainstream websites below, SABroadcastingCorporation and the 
centre-right politicswebs.co.za - you'll find revulsion, with no 
official defense of Burnham that I can see so far... so there's no 
debate, as such; there's just a sense that yet again, SA's ruling party 
is committing a reactionary act with no justification.

Struggle on,


  Decision to confer OT Award to Forbes Burnham sparks controversy

Tuesday 23 April 2013 09:42

ANALYSIS: Tula Dlamini, SABC News Research

As Director-General in The Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, in his 
capacity as the Chancellor of the National Orders, unveiled the nominees 
for the National Orders for this year in Pretoria, controversy brewed on 
the criteria used to award the highest award that a country, through its 
President, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.

Alarm bells first rang after the Caribbean press reported that late 
former executive President of Guyana, Linden Forbes Burnham would be one 
of the recipients to be conferred posthumously with the prestigious 
Oliver Tambo Award. According to the report "Roxane Van West Charles, 
his daughter will be traveling to Johannesburg to accept the award. She 
will be accompanied by her sister Dr Francesca Onu and her husband, Dr 
Richard Van West Charles".

"The decision spells dissension from the generation of scholars and 
political activists who blame Burnham for the murder of Dr. Walter 
Rodney," notes Prof. Horace Campbell, author and Pan Africanism 
professor at Syracuse University.

"The decision deepens the questions about the present leadership of the 
ANC," Prof. Campbell said.

But who was Walter Rodney and what did he stand for? It is perhaps 
enough to say Rodney was a young academic and political activist who 
galvanized African and India workers in Guyana and the entire Caribbean 
region in the most moving way over a short period of a few years. When 
the Government of Guyana, through its representative on the Board of 
Governors, revoked the appointment of Dr. Rodney to a teaching position 
at the University of Guyana, leading periodicals and organizations in 
the Caribbean and other parts of the world expressed their abhorrence at 
the revocation. Renowned thinker, Prof. Ali Mazurui, who was a 
self-confessed ideological adversary of Dr. Rodney during his stint at 
the University of Dar-es-Salaam in East Africa in the 1970s, wrote to 
the Guyanese government concerning the decision and expressed what he 
termed "bewilderment and concern," given "Dr. Rodney's intellectual 
gifts as a scholar".

Literary works authored by Dr. Walter Rodney include: How Europe 
Underdeveloped Africa; North Atlantic Slave Trade; and the Groundings 
With My Brothers.

Upon his assassination, Rodney was accorded the largest funeral ever 
seen in the history of Guyana. The international community condemned his 
murder. Countries such as Grenada and Cuba declared days of national 
mourning for a man who never held political power in his country.

Walter Rodney was only thirty-eight years when he was murdered on 13 
June, 1980. Forbes Burnham was the Executive President of Guyana at the 
time. In a speech at the Square of the Revolution, following a Congress 
of his party, Burnham announced that his party's steel was sharper. He 
urged the leaders of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) to which Rodney 
belonged to "make their wills".

Thus, when Walter Rodney died, allegedly at the hands of an operative of 
the local military, many concluded this was not an isolated killing. 
According to Prof. Campbell, Walter Rodney was with his brother Donald 
Rodney who survived. "Donald told the world that the bomb that 
assassinated Walter Rodney was placed by Gregory Smith...an agent from 
the Guyanese Defense force."

    "The decision spells dissension from the generation of scholars and
    political activists who blame Burnham for the murder of Dr. Walter

Prof. Campbell is not the only one who questions why then President 
Burnham failed to constitute an inquiry into the assassination, in spite 
of repeated calls to do so; and the fact that he allowed the alleged 
assassin to leave Guyana to the colonial territory of Cayenne where he 
died after more than twenty years.

"Since the assassination of Rodney, the Burnham forces in the Caribbean 
have been working very hard to discredit the ideas and the lessons of 
the life of Walter Rodney," laments Prof. Campbell.

The South African government says the late Burnham deserves the Gold 
Oliver Tambo Award for his dedication to the liberation of his country, 
Guyana, as well as the African continent. The official statement adds 
that Burnham established diplomatic relations with many African 
countries and expressed solidarity with the liberation movement and 
freedom fighters in South Africa...an act of solidarity with the leaders 
of the ANC that strengthened relations between Guyana and South Africa.

Prof. Campbell disagrees with this notion of "late President Burnham the 
liberator", citing the fact that "at the time of the global opposition 
to apartheid, most leaders, even Mobutu Sese Seko of then-Zaire mouthed 
anti-colonial statements while supporting French and US colonialism. 
Burnham was the same. While he was publicly praising anti-colonialism in 
Africa, he was collaborating with French colonialism in the Caribbean. 
The closeness of relationship was such that the Burnham government could 
find refuge for the killer of Walter Rodney in a French colonial 
territory of Cayenne".

Regardless of the merits or de-merits of the fore-going positions, it is 
within reason to support those who are calling for a serious debate on 
these issues. For example, the SA government must explain what rationale 
is there for the honour to be given to Burnham when it has never been 
given to Julius Nyerere? These are the questions that Prof. Campbell and 
many in the Pan Africanist fold are asking.

*Tula Dlamini is a senior researcher with SABC News Research.*



  Why on earth are we honouring the late Linden Forbes Burnham?

Dinga Nkhwashu
26 April 2013

Dinga Nkhwashu says the late Guyanese President was a murderous despot


On the 22nd of April 2013 and on the 19th instalment of the ANC 
government's award of national orders, Dr. Cassius Lubisi, the Director 
General in the Presidency announced the names of this year's awardees of 
the various national orders,

He was making this announcement in his capacity as the Chancellor of 
National Orders of the Republic of South Africa in keeping with 
tradition to award such orders during April, Freedom month. Most 
awardees are indeed familiar names and local sport, academic, scientific 
and other heroes including Dr. Malekgapuru Makgoba, Vusi Mahlasela, Chad 
Le Clos and others,

However it was the appearance of one specific names that got people in 
an international debate about how some recipients of these awards are 
chosen. The name in question is that of one Linden Forbes Sampson 
Burnham who got the posthumous award, the Order of the Companion of OR 

Those of you who are now asking who on earth is that deserves a quick 
rundown on who he is:

The late President Burnham is the former President of present Guyana, a 
small Caribbean state. Not only was he President but he also held the 
following positions during his leadership reign-

1. Premier of British Guiana later Guyana from 1964 to 1966,

2. Prime Minister of Guyana from 1966 to 1980,

3. Finally 1980 to 1985 he was President until he died on the 06th 
August 1985 on an operating table while receiving anesthetic for a 
throat surgery,

According to Wikipedia and other sources his reign was characterized by 
the following-

a. Enactment of oppressive and draconian legislation giving police power 
to wantonly violate the basic human rights of citizens including 
arbitrary searches, seizures and arrests,

b. vote rigging and election fraud,

c. being a strong man of sorts,

d. Promotion of a police state,

e. declaration of Guyana as a "Socialist Cooperative Republic" and 
designating himself as "the Comrade Leader". Shame on those of you who 
thought Gaddafi was the only one who had this kind of self affection 
when he was called "Brother Leader",

f. harassment and abuse of foreign election observers during elections,

g. Fraudulent rigging of a referendum that resulted in him being 
bestowed or rather him bestowing himself the new position, after the 
Constitution was amended at his behest, of Executive President. It was 
at this time that he apparently conferred on himself supreme powers over 
all constitutional institutions,

h. supporting,aiding and abetting fugitives and outlaws like the House 
of Israel and its fugitive American leader, one David Hill,

i. Presiding over rolling power outages or black outs,

j. arranging or hiring thugs to beat up critics of his government 
including opposition leaders,

k. political repression,

l. Murder of opposition leaders like Edward Dublin, Ohene Koamanand and 
Dr. Walter Rodney and other atrocities,

Now these national orders are supposed to be awarded to patriots (South 
Africans) and friends of the South African government who subscribes and 
promotes the values enshrined in our Constitution or at least aligned to 
them including freedom and justice,

According to Dr. Lubisi's press release the awards recognize, in so far 
as foreign nationals are concerned, "imminent foreign nationals and 
foreign dignitaries for their friendship shown to South Africa". With 
the risk of stating the obvious these awards, introduced at the dawn of 
democratic dispensation under the ANC government, will invariably honor 
those people that the organization feels made some or other kind of 
contribution to freedom, equality, justice and other values that it 
aspires to and hold dear.

The crux of the international debate led mainly by Professor Horace 
Campbell (see here 
about the decision to posthumously award the Order of the Companions of 
OR Tambo to the late President Burnham is that, with his atrocious 
governance record neither does he deserve the award nor did he subscribe 
to the values of the awards and what OR Tambo stood for.

Professor Campbell's gripe centers around President Burnham's alleged 
involvement or at the very least his complicity in the assassination of 
Dr. Walter Rodney, an eminent leading Guyanese intellectual who was 
murdered by a thug called Gregory Smith,.

Not only was President accused of involvement in the murder he is 
further accused of being an accessory after the fact (in South African 
legal parlance) in that he apparently allowed the murderer to flee 
Guyana to the French island of Cayenne and further refused to appoint a 
commission of enquiry into the assassination.

He is further being accused of being part of a group of people who set 
about to systematically discredit Dr. Rodney's philosophy and thinking.

For those of us who, during the apartheid years and growing up, imbibed, 
as part of our political education the teachings and the philosophy of 
Dr. Rodney, this is more than a worrying accusation. It is like awarding 
the apartheid South Africa's leaders for killing Steve Biko.

President Burnham is being awarded the Order of the Companions of OR 
Tambo for "his dedication for the liberation of his country as well as 
the African continent and his expression of solidarity with liberation 
movements and freedom fighters in South Africa". If that is the criteria 
then Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga ( Mobutu of the then 
Zaire and now DRC) will be the next recipient of this award.

Those who follow history will tell you that President Burnham was no 
Barry White( he did not practice what he preached) and was, as some 
argue, a French stooge cut in the same cloth as Mobutu.

He therefore does not deserve the award or even to be associated with 
the values of our freedom, constitution and what Freedom Day in South 
Africa stand for.

/The writer is a member of the ANC and writes in his personal capacity.

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