Like some BlackCommentator.com commentaries
of the last two weeks, accounts of the situation in Zimbabwe
by Africa advocacy organizations are virtually identical to
those of corporate media, UK
and US government officials.
With The People of Zimbabwe by Nunu Kidane, the quote
by featured cartoonist Tony Namate published in the June 26th
issue No. 283, and Bill Fletcher’s commentary titled, Mugabe
Sworn in Officially...Simultaneously Loses his Legacy,
in last week’s issue No. 284 all depict Zimbabwe as descending
to hell in a hand basket at the hands of a despotic Mugabe.
The disproportionate attention on Zimbabwe
has intensified in the last few weeks as a result of the presidential
run-off that took place Friday, June 27th. African (Black)
people should see this attention clearly as a reason for extremely
critical analysis on the matter.
Malcolm X warned us that: “If you form the
habit of going by what others think about someone, instead
of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself,
you will be walking west when you think you’re going east,
and you will be walking east when you think you’re going west...you’ll
always be maneuvered into a situation where you are never
fighting your actual enemies, where you will find yourself
fighting your own self.”
First let me make it clear that the views and
opinions in this commentary are my own and do not reflect
the position of the Institute for Policy Studies. What about
the facts in this commentary? Well, those speak for themselves.
After sharing some of what follows with a work colleague,
her response to me was “all I hear you saying is that everything
the MDC does is bad and everything Mugabe does is good.” This
was especially baffling since I had not once mentioned Mugabe’s
name in what I had said. I’ve often run into this sort of
thing. It shows that hatred for Robert Mugabe has been stirred
to such rabid levels that any statement even remotely favorable
to him is not judged on merits of veracity but on its political
mileage. It’s not at all politically advantageous within the
US for a person to be seen as favoring the Zimbabwe government,
even if it’s over imperialism. That is to say it’s not the
best avenue for an opportunist. African people cannot afford
such defective political judgment.
the age-old propaganda ploy of demonizing for dubious political
ends we must be able to distinguish between blind idolizing
and points of fact; between rabid contempt and points of fact.
Is it blind idolizing or acknowledging a fact that a ZANU
PF led government finally corrected the racist land allocation
by redistributing land to over 300,000 indigenous Zimbabwean
families? Is it not a fact that a ZANU PF led government has
formed legislation to give majority ownership of the country’s
mines and enterprises to the Black majority? Is it not a fact
that a ZANU PF led government jettisoned the imperialists’
Economic Structural Adjustment Programs by imposing tariff
restrictions and investment performance requirements, nationalizing
certain business enterprises, and institutionalizing economic
indigenization policies? It is not a fact that imperialism
is actively trying to sabotage all of these things and in
the process raising Mugabe as the poster child for all that
is wrong in Africa?
Bill Fletcher says, “The Bush administration
is not in a position to lecture anyone on human rights or
genuine elections. This fact, however, should NOT mean that
we remain silent simply because President Bush holds President
Mugabe in distain. The enemy of our enemy is not necessarily
our friend.” While this makes a good disclaimer from the Bush
agenda it also manages to reduce the issue to one of mere
distain between individuals (Bush and Mugabe) versus being
the reflection of a historical US
policy toward Africa intended to preserve Western economic
and political domination over Africa. Why does Bill fail to address exactly why the UK and US are targeting Zimbabwe and even more illuminating fail to address
what specific methods they are using against her?
Bill insinuates that those of us who say the
primary issue in Zimbabwe is imperialism are subscribing to the
flawed logic that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Actually,
Pan-Africanists logic and conviction deduces that because
imperialism is an enemy of Africa and we are Africans then
the enemies of Africa and/or Zimbabwe are our
enemies. Right now imperialism’s most pronounced and pointed
attack on Africa is in Zimbabwe.
When imperialism attacks Zimbabwe
it is attacking us. This is our logic. The flawed logic of
the “my enemy’s enemy…” instead applies to the opposition
since they are the ones working with the enemies of Africa
and humanity for a regime change.
Malcolm’s statement is too relevant when we
consider that the mission claimed by most Africa Advocacy
organizations is to affect US
policy toward Africa, yet their activities related to Zimbabwe more so resemble them. The solidarity
fund for which Ms. Kidane advocates in her commentary is administered
by Africa Action, whose stated mission is to “change U.S.
foreign policy and the policies of international institutions
in order to support African struggles for peace and development…by
changing the policies of our own government, we have proven
that we can make a real difference.” 
Although when it comes to Zimbabwe many of
these organizations more than fall short on this mission,
never addressing the policy and interests of their own government
toward Zimbabwe and certainly taking no action to change it.
Tellingly I have yet to see from these Africa
advocates any real elaboration or analysis about the opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). What would
Malcolm say about that?
such a lead by “advocates for Africa” is not thinking for
ourselves or fighting the enemies of Africa.
We cannot let the enemies of Africa and enemies of all humanity
dictate how we see the world or Africa.
They’ve become extremely sophisticated in how they advance
their misinformation so we must become that much more sophisticated
about where and how we get our information.
For example the bio accompanying Tony Namate’s
cartoons brags that, “Zimbabwe’s politicians…have described (his work)
as treasonable and unpatriotic” as if this were an unreasonable
accusation. But several of the media institutions accredited
to him do belong to governments hostile to Zimbabwe and that are openly working for regime
change against his country. Such as the US government funded
Voice of America’s Studio 7, Britain’s BBC World, and Swedish
TV. The intrinsic job then of these media regarding Zimbabwe can only be to attack her sovereignty
and right to national self-determination through propaganda.
Based on the African experience should we trust
media that is so egregiously wrong on Iraq and historically
has never acknowledged immoral and illegal imperialist government
agendas? Right now this media are complicit in hushing up
the blatant double standard in the US’
undeclared asylum for notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carrilles
and its unjust imprisonment of five courageous men (a.k.a.
The Cuban Five), whose only crime was attempting to thwart
the terrorism by the likes of Posada. Yesterday, this regime
change was directed at Ghana,
and Vietnam to name only a few. Today it’s Cuba,
Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe to name another few. Anywhere such an
agenda is in place, a critical thinker knows to believe none
of what we read or hear and only half of what we see.
Zimbabwean journalist and filmmaker Olley Maruma
“On 6 February 2002, The Zimbabwean Independent
carried an article titled, My Ordeal as Mugabe’s Prisoner,
written by Basildon Peta. In the piece, Peta claimed that
State security agents had wrongfully jailed him. The article
was subsequently reproduced in many other newspapers in the
West and elsewhere. It later turned out that the Zimbabwe
police or state security agents had never arrested Peta. The
fictitious article, in which Peta described vividly his “holding
cell,” an imaginary blocked toilet and the coarse behavior
of Zimbabwe’s security agents, was in fact the result
of his fertile imagination. Yet he did not seem to feel any
shame for having passed this off as truthful, fair and objective
journalism. When his lies were exposed, Peta was dismissed
from his job as a “special projects editor.”
“He fled Zimbabwe in disgrace to South Africa
only to claim to the sympathetic Western media there that
he had been ‘hounded’ out of Zimbabwe by a repressive state
for his ‘fearless reporting.’ Thus, a dishonest man, who had
been exposed to the world as a shameless liar, was hailed
by the Western media as a hero. In no time, he was snapped
up by the white South African media for whom he continued
to write his false and vituperative stories demonizing the
government of the ‘dictator, Robert Mugabe’” .
Now let us compare Guinea and Zimbabwe, both
countries having a head of state who has been in power since
early-mid 80’s; Lansana Conte in Guinea and Robert Mugabe
in Zimbabwe. Conte, however became leader through an imperialist
backed military coup following the death of the democratically
elected, Pan-Africanist President Sekou Ture. Mugabe on the
other hand was democratically elected after earning his place
as a freedom fighter in the struggle against British settler
colonialism. But only Mugabe receives a heavy degree of patent
denunciations for being “in power too long”. Not blind idolizing
but a point of fact.
little over a year ago, both countries experienced some internal
unrest but not equal consideration by the media or civil society
advocates for Africa. As part of a terrorizing
spree in Zimbabwe by opposition members who had been firebombing
public buses, kombis and police dormitories, and attacking
citizens and police on the streets, the MDC with civil society
organizations disguised a protest as a prayer vigil during
a temporary ban on demonstrations. When an outnumbered group
of police - who are rarely armed with guns - were attacked
by the mob they were provoked into fatally shooting one of
them. The police still received a brutal beating and had to
flee . The incident earned a flurry of attention from the
international media that spun its coverage as a Mugabe crackdown
on dissent completely omitting the actions of the mob. The
imperialist governments and “civil society activists” all
chimed in unison with condemnations of Mugabe and ZANU PF.
However, the brutal and unprovoked attack by
Conte, which mind you occurred roughly at the same time, went
relatively unnoticed. Advancing on a crowd with tanks, Conte’s
forces sprayed a peaceful demonstration of thousands with
rapid-fire automatic weapons killing over 60 people and some
reports were as high as 200 killed . The same benevolent
Western governments and their NGO agents uttered hardly a
Nevertheless Ms. Kidane says: “From news sources,
teleconferences and the Zimbabwean Diaspora in the U.S. we hear of violence
directed at opposition members who threaten President Mugabe
and the current leadership of the Zimbabwe African National
It is naïve not to be skeptical of recent reports
that pin blame for all the violence on ZANU-PF given the frequent
threats of violence from the MDC and civil society and reports
from SADC, the UN and Human Rights Watch that point to violence
on both sides. Further, it seems the violence is primarily
committed by individuals and small groups taking action on
their own, because passions on both sides are inflamed. Why
are they inflamed? The West’s proxy provocateurs and sanctions
have deliberately brought the situation to a boiling point.
Mugabe has publicly scolded supporters of ZANU
PF who’ve perpetrated violence, saying on one occasion, May
17 “Such violence is needless and must stop forthwith.” He
added, “Support comes from persuasion, not from pugilism.
Genuine support for the party cannot come through coercion
or violence” .
MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai has publicly declared that if Mugabe
didn’t go peacefully he’d be forced out violently . Five
years ago Tsvangirai was exposed on video through meetings
in London and Montreal, Canada in what was more than likely
a plot to assassinate Mugabe and stage a coup d’état .
Tendai Biti, the MDC’s Secretary General threatened
Kenya-style electoral violence if Mugabe won this years election
. A glimpse of the handbook being used in all the anti-Mugabe
euphoria is revealed when outspoken Mugabe critic Archbishop
Pius Ncube says “I think it is justified for Britain to raid
Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe…” We should do it ourselves but
there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns
blazing, but the people are not ready.”. Ncube’s solution
for Zimbabwe is for the
former colonizers to intervene militarily. Is that not telling?
What happens when we apply Malcolm’s insistence
on independent scrutiny to Kidane’s request for contributions
to a solidarity fund? Kidane says the fund is “organized by
civil society organizations in the US
who are directly linked to civil society groups on the ground
- not political opposition groups as such.” But assurances
that recipients of the funds aren’t political opposition cannot
be true because if one is opposed to a government and engaged
in work to change a political landscape then that is a political
opposition. Thus Kidane uses the qualifier “as such.”
All the organizations supported by the fund:
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition,
and the Zimbabwe National Student Union were members of the
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a coalition formed
in 1997, which gave birth to the MDC . We would be remiss
in our analysis if we did not acknowledge that external forces
Westminster Fund for Democracy and the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) mostly funded the NCA
. Now let us examine a couple of the fund’s recipients
individually to show just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
One group the money would go to is the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition, which is already funded by the US’ National Endowment for Democracy (NED) ,
a supposedly private non-profit organization serving to maintain
US global hegemony
in the name of promoting democracy and human rights. We all
know how the US
promotes global democracy and human rights. The NED is funded
by a US congressional
appropriation and is used as a federal conduit to fund “civil
society” organizations around the world.
To illustrate just how non-political and nonpartisan
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is, one should know that its
chairperson, Arnold Tsunga, is a lawyer for the MDC. Its vice-chairperson,
Collin Gwiyo, is a founding member of the MDC .
Another recipient of the fund is the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Who wouldn’t sympathize with
the rights of the working class? But please follow me on this.
Kwame Nkrumah warns us that “mechanisms of
neo-colonialism” often work through the labor movement. He
“In the labor field, for example, imperialism
operates through labor arms like the Social Democratic parties
of Europe led by the British Labor Party, and through such
instruments as the International Confederation of Free Trade
Unions (ICFTU), now apparently being superseded by the New
York Africa-American Labor Center (AALC) under AFL-CIO chief
George Meany and the well-known CIA man in labor’s top echelons,
Irving Brown” 
Philip Agee, former CIA operative and author
of Inside the Company: CIA Diary, corroborates this
in his thorough paper, Terrorism
and Civil Society As Instruments of US Policy In Cuba,
when he revealed that:
successes of revolutionary movements in Ethiopia, Angola,
Namibia, Zimbabwe, Grenada, Nicaragua and elsewhere brought
‘cold warrior’ Democrats and ‘internationalist’ Republicans
together to establish in 1979 the American Political Foundation
(APF). The foundation’s task was to study the feasibility
of establishing through legislation a government-financed
foundation to subsidize foreign operations in civil society
through U.S. non-governmental organizations. Within APF
four task forces were set up to conduct the study, one for
the Democrats, one for the Republicans, one for the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, and one for the American Federation of Labor-Congress
of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)” .
Thinking for ourselves, I am sure Malcolm would
again refer to Nkrumah’s understanding that in Africa it is
optimal, revolutionary and Pan-Africanists for African workers
to “...link the African workers’ movement organically to the
struggle by determining specific intermediary objectives so
that whatever progress is achieved in the workers’ struggle
will mean progress in the whole anti-imperialist movement,
and the promotion of socialism on a continental scale...”.
An anti-imperialist character is clearly missing
from the program of the ZCTU and consequently any commitment
to Pan-Africanism. They erroneously define their tasks as
those delineated for them in guides and manuals, training
and so forth given to them by neocolonialist elements. The
fact is that the AFL-CIO, which I have established above has
a history of being used by the CIA, has an international arm
called The Solidarity Center. The Solidarity
Center works directly with ZCTU,
advising them and advocating for them in the US .
To further illustrate how the Solidarity
Center is an extension of imperialism we need only acknowledge where
they themselves say their main support comes from. The Solidarity
Center’s “funding sources include the U.S. Agency for International
Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S.
Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO,
private foundations, and national and international labor
organizations” . Let’s not also forget that Morgan Tsvangirai
was once Secretary General of ZCTU until European trade unions
handpicked him to be the leader of the MDC.
Readers of Kidane’s appeal commentary are asked
to contribute money to a Zimbabwe Solidarity Fund as if funds
from the US
and UK governments aren’t
enough. Not only do we find that fund recipients are tied
to the political opposition MDC - which is directly tied to
European governments trying to execute regime change in Zimbabwe - these solidarity fund recipients also
have ties of their own to the Western governments hostile
to their own country. So why try to claim there are not ties
between MDC and the civil society activists?
political shenanigans of the MDC have become so embarrassing
and its shameless cooperation with imperialism so overt that
it is a common practice for other anti-Mugabe organizations
to claim distance from them. But this distance can only be
a deception when civil society opposition groups claim not
to be linked to the political opposition, and only engaged
in fostering democratic participation, the mantra of the NED.
Once you call Mugabe a dictator, working to open democratic
space logically becomes the same as working to give Mugabe
and his government the boot.
Before ending please indulge me to address
one more piece of misinformation. Kidane says, “When a democratic
space such as this (with all its shortcomings) has been closed
for the millions of Zimbabweans who had eagerly been awaiting
a change in regime…” This seems to echo the media distortion
that the people of Zimbabwe in the majority are chomping at the bit
for regime change. What it ignores is that, despite the considerable
pressures placed on Zimbabweans to boot out Mugabe’s government,
ZANU-PF did win the popular vote in the March 29 harmonized
elections involving the presidential, parliamentary, senatorial
and local authority elections.
The pressures I am referring to are the – rarely,
if ever mentioned - sanctions and economic crisis, pirate
radio stations and “independent” media funded by the US, Britain
and Netherlands to turn popular opinion against the government,
and the provision of millions of dollars to civil society
groups to oppose the Mugabe government.
So to be faced with a sustained program of
vilification and regime change methods for nearly a decade
and to still win the popular vote, the idea that the majority
of Zimbabweans are eager to be free of Mugabe’s government
is absurd. In the March 29 presidential round of voting the
margin of votes Tsvangirai received over Mugabe was just 4%.
Also, ZANU PF won more seats in the senate, an absolute majority
within five provinces and a simple majority within one. The
MDC, on the other hand won only two provinces with an absolute
majority and two with a simple majority.
While the website of Nunu Kidane’s Priority
Africa Network believes “Africa has never been top agenda
to the US”,
history might disagree. Remember Patrice Lumumba? Remember
that the CIA overthrew Nkrumah and that the US
government once bombed Libya?
Sounds like a top billing to me. And even if it isn’t, do
we really want to be at the top of such an agenda?
We’ve established that the recipients of the
Zimbabwe Solidarity Fund really are political opposition.
It should be understood that supporting these organizations
makes one more in common with the US
and UK government’s Africa policy
than with African (Black) interests and progress. We are not
hearing a whole lot about Zimbabwe
right now because it’s the worst case in Africa.
We’re hearing about it because it is top agenda for the US, UK, and EU.
As a result of a previous BlackCommentator.com
commentary I wrote, a reader sent me an appreciative email.
After reading Nunu Kidane’s commentary the same reader sent
me the following message, which I share with his permission.
“Africa has over fifty countries but
the Mugabe government receives the lion’s and tiger’s share
of criticism directed at governance on the continent. How
is it possible for no Black American intellectual to condemn
Meles Zenawi for overthrowing the first government in
Somalia to bring some semblance of peace and order
in almost twenty years? Is it possible that none of our observers
have seen the destruction in the great lakes region perpetrated
by Kagame of Rwanda?
The French government has warrants outstanding for Kagame’s
role in the assassination of two African presidents; yet Black
American thinkers have made no mention of this! The international
criminal court in The Hague found Museveni
guilty of looting natural resources from the Congo. He also has about a million of his countrymen
in concentration camps. Many of us are well traveled and well
read but we only see what the master sees.”
In conclusion as we say, there is clearly a
striking double standard between the treatment of other countries
in Africa and Zimbabwe.
Maruma, Olley, “African Blood Is Cheap” 2002
Gregory Elich, “The
Battle Over Zimbabwe’s Future,” Global Research, April
Free Speech Radio News, January 26, 2007
Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe),
May 18, 2008
BBC, September 30, 2000
The Guardian, February 20, 2002
The Washington Post, May 16, 2008
The Sunday Times (UK), July 1, 2007
Sithole, Masipula, “Fighting Authoritarianism
Journal of Democracy 12 (2001): p.162-163.
Nkrumah, Kwame, Neo-Colonialism
the Last Stage of Imperialism,
Agee, Philip, “Terrorism
and Civil Society As Instruments of US Policy In Cuba,”
Socialism and Democracy (2003): p.10
Nkrumah, Kwame, Handbook
of Revolutionary Warfare: A Guide to the Armed Phase of the
African Revolution. (Little new world paperbacks),
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Netfa Freeman, is director of the Social
Action & Leadership School for Activists
(SALSA), a program of the Washington
DC based Institute for Policy Studies
longtime activist in the Pan-African and international human
rights movements, and a co-producer/co-host for Voices With
Vision, WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington
DC. Click here to contact Mr. Freeman.