By Owei Lakemfa
ROBERT Gabriel Mugabe was a normal human being. But to the West, he was an enigma. He was born in racist Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and spoke up against racism and for democracy. That made him an enemy of the state for which he spent over a decade in prison. He had three degrees in History/English, Administration and Education from South African universities.
In prison, he acquired four more: Bachelors and Masters in Economics and Law from the University of London. That made him appear crazy, or why would a normal person amass seven degrees? Given the violence against the Zimbabwean people, he became involved in armed struggle to defend the right of Africans to exist as human beings. That to the West made him a terrorist. When Britain called for the Lancaster House Talks to negotiate independence, Mugabe was suspicious and initially refused to give up armed struggle. That made him a hardliner.
When as Prime Minister, he rolled out welfare programmes, including free healthcare and free education which made Zimbabweans within score years, the most educated Africans, that convinced the West, Mugabe was anti-capitalist. In the 92 years of White rule in Zimbabwe, only 177 secondary schools were built, but within 20 years of Mugabe’s leadership, the number rose to 1,548. Also, child immunisation rose from 25 to 92 per cent.
When White farmers who had stolen land from Africans were reluctant to sell the lands to the original owners, and Britain which had accepted under the Lancaster Agreement to provide funds for the purchase, reneged, Mugabe supported the lands being seized. That made him a communist appropriating land. As an African and a rational being, I saw Mugabe’s actions as perfectly normal, but the West saw them as abnormal. For this, he was treated as an enemy of the ‘international community’; ostracised, harassed and sanctions, including economic and travel bans, heaped on his government.
Additionally, despite holding regular and open elections, he was demonised as a tyrant who ruined his country economically and turned it from a food basket to a basket case needing food aid. Tragically, many Africans bought this Western propaganda. In truth, the West, including the international financial institutions, deliberately tried to strangle Zimbabwe, imposing wide- range sanctions, blocking letters of credit and doing all in their power to ruin the country.
As for food production, Africa, like other peoples, were agrarians and pastoralists; so we do not need the Whiteman to teach us agriculture. In fact, it was Africa that invented and taught the world irrigation. By 3000BC, Ancient Egypt had developed an irrigation system which later the Arabs called Shadoof or Shaduf irrigation system. It was copied by all other human civilisations beginning with the ancient Greeks who called it Kelon; Indians named it Dhenki; the Chinese adopted it’s as Jiegao; the Hungarians called it Gemeskkut while in copying it, the English described it as the Swape, or Counter Poise and the Americans called it Sweep.
When the West claimed that Zimbabwe’s food crisis was because the indigenous Black people took over the stolen lands and made a number of White farmers flee, it was trying to imply that Africans do not know about agriculture or mechanised farming. This is blatantly false. The food crises in Zimbabwe began within ten years of independence when the drought started sweeping South and East Africa after devastating Ethiopia from the early 1970s.
The drought in those parts of Africa properly started in 1991 and there were food shortages. This was seven years before the compulsory land acquisition programme began in Zimbabwe. In fact, the drought in 1992 killed over one million cows in Zimbabwe, and cows were the main force of labour in the farms drawing the plough during the planting season. That same year when the White farmers were still in place, five million Zimbabweans were in need of food.
The severe food shortages and high food prices did not stop the British under Prime Minister John Major singing the praises of Mugabe, and Queen Elizabeth II from knighting him in 1994. So the Western attacks on the Mugabe government were not due to his allegedly ruining the Zimbabwean economy, but because he touched White interests by taking over the farms without compensation. It is a matter of fact that Western sanctions made a bad economic situation far worse. Do we blame Mugabe for that?
The drought that has for about three decades now devastated Zimbabwe has had similar effects on Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa. Zimbabawe, like Kenya before it, has solved the Land Question; that is what Namibia and South Africa have failed to solve. The message of South African leaders like the late Winnie Mandela and crusading Julius Malema is that the option of resolving the issue of land is the Mugabe Way.
The vicious attacks on Mugabe and trying to rubbish his legacy, are not unexpected. The West has always tried to demonise Africans and people of African origin who refuse to be compromised or corrupted. So they did to Marcus Garvey who they falsely accused of theft, jailed for a crime he did not commit and deported. Same for Kwame Nkrumah whom the American Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, ousted in a coup and turned Ghana into a basket case.
They did the same to Togolese President Sylvanus Olympio against whom the French Legionnaire led by Sergeant Gnassingbe Eyadema staged a coup. President Olympio was seized from the American Embassy compound and executed at its gates. Sergeant Eyadema was to rule Togo as puppet President for 38 years until his death in 2005, after which his son, Faure took the baton, continuing in power until this day.
The move against Patrice Lumumba, the founding Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo was much more brutal and devastating. He spent only three months (June –September 1960) in power, before the Belgian, British, French and American intelligence agencies overthrew him, using a former corporal in the Army, Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko.
Lumumba and two Ministers, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo were seized, and with the connivance of the United Nations, publicly tortured in Kinshasha. Then the hostages were flown to Lubumbashi where they were executed by a squad commanded by Belgian Captain Julien Gat and Belgian Police Commissioner Frans Verschurre. They did same to Nelson Mandela and his ANC comrades who until the 1990s were characterised as terrorists. They bombed Libya’s President Mouammar Ghadaffi out of power and turned the beautiful and rich country into a killing field and a basket case in which slave trade in other Africans, thrive.
Mugabe who on September 6, marched on, largely survived these Western machinations. He was one of Africa’s greatest leaders.