Why Mugabe is my hero

I’ll rephrase … why Mugabe is one of my heroes this week. He hasn’t always been, but in recent years I’ve grown to appreciate what he stands for and I’ve grown to understand that his voice is so important in Africa and in the world today. I’ve come to realise he is important and he matters.

‘We also belong to the world, a part of the world called Africa and Africans shall no longer tolerate a position of slavery; slavery be any other name, by the denial of rights, by not being treated in a manner that is not the manner that they treat themselves.’

Robert Mugabe is one of the world’s most controversial characters. He won the hearts of many over 30 years ago when he and the freedom fighters brought independence to Zimbabwe, a country under the grip of British colonial law. As President, his government turned the country into an agricultural goldmine with large farms producing cash crops to sustain the economy and feed neighbouring countries. His schools boasted quality education. The country was peaceful and beautiful.

And then the spiral of events that turned him into the ‘despot,’ the dictator, the madman. To correct White dominance over the economy, he ordered repossession of those farms, taking them from White farmers and handing them to Black farmers, who lacked the experience or equipment to run them correctly. His message became very anti-White, leading to sanctions, withdrawal of development assistance (read: Aid). As HIV and AIDS ravaged Africa, Zimbabwe was not spared. The economy crumbled and Black and White nationals emigrated; Zimbabwe became a shadow of its former self. But still Mugabe stayed as president, year after year, election after election.

It’s been 34 years of independence and Mugabe has been the one and only president. In his own words, “I’ll still be here. As long as I’m still alive and I have the punch.”

Political opponents have come and gone, but Mugabe remains in power and remains as vocal and critical of the Western world as ever. He calls out the UK, the US and the EU for not minding their own business (the fight against corruption), or interfering with African politics when their politics was in no better state (Bush vs Gore). He criticises the West for imposing ideas that Africans may not necessarily accept (homosexuality). He lambasts their hypocrisy regarding human rights abuses when reports of war crimes and abuse occur in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

In all of this, Mugabe has become hated by Westerners and Africans alike. Black and White people, but I suspect for different reasons. The White group might not like his actions, and true, it was harsh to dispossess people of their homes. Black people have also suffered at the hand of Mugabe, so many lives destroyed and people killed, home razed and voters threatened. Africans may not like his abuse of power over his people. Westerners may not like his disregard for democracy and his dominance over a country.

But Mugabe is the voice that Africa needs. Africa is a continent struggling for recognition, equality and economic independence. Still, after all these years and wars. Africa is struggling not on its own terms but on the terms of those cooperating partners who offer help with conditions. Mugabe, as outgoing AU chairperson, at the Summit in January, 2015, made clear comments demanding greater equality for African member states in the UN Security Council. “If the UN is to survive, we must be equal members. Speaking truly as members with voice… respected and honoured.”

His words were applauded and rightfully so. And the greater context was not just in the UN Security Council but in other global bodies in which Africa participates. Mugabe wasn’t saying anything that we Africans haven’t already thought or wanted. We live the inequality every day when we see our governments signing MOUs to have our resources mined, taken away and sold back to us. We know that the world needs us and yet they don’t look us in the eye like a partner. Mugabe rejects that sentiment. He says what his counterparts are afraid to say and he speaks for us Africans on a global stage. As uncomfortable as it might be, the Westerners are forced to hear him, and maybe listen. His words might not bring action but at least he has not been silent.

This is not to say that Mugabe has done nothing wrong. He has plenty of wrongs in his book. But the reason he is my hero today, this week, is because he has gone out there and spoken the uncomfortable truth on behalf of many Africans, so the West can know that they are not knights in shining armour and we Africans might not tolerate it for much longer. We have a lot of work to do for ourselves, but at least Uncle Bob is paving the way for us to have our voices heard, and to speak that uncomfortable truth.

Mugabe addresses 26th AU Summit

Zimbabwean White farmers lose land to Zimbabwean Black doctor

Can someone please explain this xenophobia in South Africa?

This last week, media screens have flashed images of black South Africans execute violent acts on other black people, though not South Africans. Black people from other countries in Africa. I have seen people petrol bombed in their shops. I have seen images of bloodied heads and faces. I have seen images of angry mobs walking through the streets, mpangas and other weapons in tow, ready to lash out at any foreigner. But more so the Black foreigner.

These people have come to South Africa for a number of reasons – school, work, business, economic opportunity, refuge. They came to South Africa to live their lives, but are now being punished for making such a decision.

It’s black on black crime like we’ve never seen before. Actually, we’ve seen this before. In 2008, 2011, oh, 2014 and 2015. It happens year after year in South Africa with no end to this horrific attitude in sight.

It appears the Black South Africans are angry because other Africans have come to South Africa to take away opportunities that rightfully ‘belong’ to them. This latest upsurge in violence is as a result of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s comments that foreigners must go back to their homelands. Of course, the Zulu king has denied it, claiming his comments have been distorted but the damage has been done, and one cannot deny that even if his comments have been taken wrongly, there is an amount of anti-foreign sentiment there.

Why? Why can a country like South Africa resort to these awful acts? In their apartheid days, black South Africans were harboured in many African countries – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya. All the countries in southern Africa rallied together, sometimes at the peril of their own stability, to ensure South Africa’s freedom. Lives were lost in South Africa fighting apartheid. Lives were lost outside of South Africa, too. And yet, these people, who have their political freedom because of us, are now beating and battering us as though none of that happened, but also as though it’s okay to treat humans like that. Black South Africans are attacking foreigners, burning their homes and businesses to make a point. And the point is this:

You are taking over our country.

You are taking our jobs.

You are taking what should be ours.

South Africans have found themselves competing with foreign nationals on a number of fronts and with the history of marginalisation, perhaps it was all too much. The government wasn’t protecting their jobs, houses or opportunities but bringing in even more foreigners. They took matters into their own hands. Regardless, it’s shocking. And I don’t understand it.

What I do know, is this should not be accepted. Governments are not taking a large enough stand against xenophobic attacks against their nationals, probably because the region depends so heavily on South African goods and investment that boycotting SA investments and products would cripple their own economies.

These are human rights violations on a grand scale and I would like to see South Africa penalised for this. I would also like to see the foreigners repatriated to their own countries. Get out. Malawi has begun bussing its people back to Nyasaland. Good. I hope they stay home.

Next should be Zambia, or Zimbabwe. And let all other African countries follow suit. Then we’ll see who’s left in South Africa. We’ll see how well their economy would run, how well their services will be managed and delivered.

And then we’ll see who will be targeted next.

Because it seems to me, these are just angry people who have the residues of apartheid left in their souls and cannot be freed from that grip.

But they don’t see it.