I read Onyekachi Wambu’s column, “From Liberation to Normal Politics” (NA, Dec 2012) initially with some misgivings, and later with mounting frustration and anger. Wambu seemed to argue that Southern African liberation parties – the ANC of South Africa, Frelimo of Mozambique, the MPLA of Angola, Swapo of Namibia and Zanu-PF of Zimbabwe – should “split” and create space for “normal competitive politics to resume”, or there is the implied threat that the new opposition parties would tear apart the fabric of the state – as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) nearly did in Zimbabwe in 2008.
What, Citizen Wambu, is “normal competitive politics” in post-colonial Africa? Would “normal competitive politics” be like the Rwandan type, where three presidential opponents were found murdered by “unknown assailants” just before the last presidential election in that great country?
Or would “normal competitive politics” be like the Ivorian variety, where the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, was declared the winner of the disputed election by the Constitutional Court, only for him to be forcibly removed from office by French troops on the orders of the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague?
What about the “normal competitive politics” in Kenya in 2007? The result of that election was hotly disputed by the “credible opposition”. In the clashes that ensued, over 1,300 Kenyan civilians lost their lives! The major flaw in Wambu’s article was the total disregard of contemporary African history. As an African “griot”, writing for New African magazine, Wambu should act as the repository of the “collective memory” of Africans. He should not fall into the Western habit of totally ignoring the historical context in which a particular episode occurs.
Wambu’s ahistorical approach to African politics totally neglects what Nobert Elias, the great German sociologist, calls “the state and nation formation process”. Elias posits that every nation has, to a greater or lesser degree, to be invented. The cardinal function of the new nation state is to integrate the people, grow the economy, and to extend the regulating functions of the central institutions to ensure the monopoly of violence, taxation, and the conduct of foreign affairs by the state.
While the state is focused on infrastructure and economic development, the process of development leads to specialisation and more complex divisions of labour. Eventually there will emerge groups in industry, finance, academia, etc. The different political and social interests of the founding fathers of India, Taiwan and the former Yugoslavia would clearly confirm this phenomenon.
It is an undisputed fact that by 1963, 33-odd African nations had attained political independence by negotiations. A few countries, like Côte d’Ivoire, actually initially refused independence but were forced by a bankrupt and exhausted France to accept it!
In Southern Africa (then called “White Africa”), the decolonisation process came through the “barrel of the gun” (pardon me, Ruth First). The liberation parties of Southern Africa had to form armies – Zanla and Zipra in Zimbabwe, Swapo in Namibia, and Umkontho we Sizwe in South Africa, to confront the racist settler regimes. In the liberation war of Angola, apartheid South Africa intervened but it took heroic Cuban internationalist troops to crush the racist forces in the decisive Battle of Quito Cuanavale. That permanently removed the apartheid forces from Angola and Namibia. The war in Angola in fact ended only in 2002 when Jonas Savimbi was killed. Angola lost between two and three million souls in its liberation struggle. As for Mozambique, the Frelimo liberation war ended in 1992 when Renamo, the Rhodesian-created and apartheid South African sponsored insurgent group, signed a peace treaty with the Frelimo government.
After 30 years of liberation war, which liberation party would “split” and pave the way for “normal competitive politics”?
What about the Zimbabwean scenario? At independence in April 1980, there were two liberation parties – Zanu-PF and PF Zapu – in addition to Abel Muzorewa’s UANC, Zanu Ndonga and Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front. In ideological terms, the liberation parties were as far from the Rhodesian Front as the North Pole is from the South Pole. There were three armies – Zanla, Zipra and the Rhodesian Army. It took vision, vigilance, and goodwill on the part of the Zanu-PF government to form a government of national unity with PF Zapu. The three armies were successfully integrated into the Zimbabwean Defence Forces, which military analysts say is the “best small army in the world”.
The two liberation parties – Zanu-PF and PF Zapu – after initial false steps, came together in 1987 to form a united Zanu-PF party. Significantly, the united Zanu-PF, with over 80% of seats in Parliament, did not legislate a one party state. Instead, it launched the most massive educational revolution in Africa. Twenty years before the UN Millennium Goals were announced, Zanu-PF had provided 10 years of free primary and secondary education for Zimbabwean children. That is why UNESCO announced in 2010 that Zimbabwe is the most literate African country, in spite of the fact that “the credible opposition” successfully persuaded the US, Britain and the EU countries to impose illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2000 for alleged “human rights abuses”.
As a result of the Zanu-PF land reform programme, in which part of the 49 million acres of land reserved for 4,000 white farmers was distributed to 300,000 new African farmers, Zimbabwe came under hostile Western attack. Pirate radio stations were set up outside London, Hilversum (Netherlands), Washington DC (USA) and Botswana for “the credible opposition” to broadcast propaganda.
The Zimbabwean dollar was attacked, international credit dried up, shop shelves were empty, many factories closed down, and plans were hatched by Tony Blair’s UK government to invade Zimbabwe.
A regime change agenda was in full swing. A political party, MDC, fully financed by the Westminster Foundation, was formed to exploit the anger and hunger of the Zimbabwean people. It took real vigilance, discipline and fortitude to defend the integrity Zimbabwe.
As far as what Wambu calls “xenophobic attacks” in June 2008 in South Africa are concerned, it is my considered opinion that it was organised by the same “sinister forces” which were behind the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the invasion of DRCongo by Rwanda and Uganda in 1996 and 1998, and the recent M23 rebel invasion of Congo.
Why did the xenophobic attacks occur only after Zimbabwe’s 29 March 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, and, more importantly, after the June 2008 presidential re-run was announced? The sinister forces hoped that the expelled victims of xenophobia in South Africa would come home to Zimbabwe to vote out the Zanu-PF government.
To some of us who survived the hardships and suffering inflicted on the Zimbabwean economy by the Western economic sanctions, the face of “Moise Jonas” Tsvangirai attached to Wambu’s article represents the face of sanctions, corruption and debauchery.
What exactly, I ask Wambu again, is “normal competitive politics”?