The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Why President Deserves Standing Ovation for 2008

opinion

Sometime last week, driven by the strong love for my country, I embarked on a venture to write an opinion article on the expected 2013 elections in Zimbabwe. I found myself zooming in on Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T and Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF. Several aborted attempts were to follow.

I would write one page and find myself scribbling and tearing the papers and throwing the pieces of paper in the little bucket bin under my table.

This happened three times. It turned out that my inclination towards MDC-T was clouding the smooth flow of my thinking. Several attempts to present the MDC as a better option for the Zimbabwean electorate, as I had done in my previous writings, were to follow.

In the end I tore my draft points and changed and began writing about why Mugabe is a hero. One is not a hero because they were blown by the wind whichever direction the wind listed but because they defied the odds in fighting for justice. There is no doubt the man, Robert Mugabe, is at the sunset of his life but the least we can do for the remaining days of his life is to acknowledge and celebrate a man who lived out his purpose in driving the national and African agenda. That is not an attempt to say that he has not made mistakes like every one of us.

But that he is one person whose works will speak well after he is gone is undeniable. My Diaspora stint, although it took long for me to admit it, opened my eyes to the realities of the factors at play in global politics. My sober conclusion is that Africa needs more Robert Mugabes.

The political leadership of Africa has been very timid and visionless in dealing with the issues bedevilling our continent. With the continent that provides the world with the bulk of raw materials and mineral wealth, why should the dark cloud of poverty and despair still hover around us? God blessed Africa with vast arable land and good climatic conditions ideal for agriculture and tourism. But, we don't have anything to show for it.

Why? Africa has become a sorry example of the saying that poverty is not the shortage of food or money but the inability to use the resources one has to make money or food. We can only blame it on our leadership.

So, when one leader stands out to challenge the status quo and boldly takes drastic, and in many respects dangerous to their own personal affairs, steps to cause a serious and permanent re-configuration in the ownership dynamics, that leader must be applauded. He deserves a standing ovation. I believe the coming elections is where Zimbabweans should acknowledge this man.

Africa needs leaders who are prepared to forego their prestige and privileges as they pursue to bring meaningful and sustainable change for their people. President Mugabe was a darling of the world. He compared favourably with Nelson Mandela and other world venerated leaders as long as he continued to play within the box prescribed by the West, who continue to arrogate themselves the Big Brother role when it comes to Africa's affairs. The wanton vilification that

President Mugabe and Zanu-PF received when they decided to champion the real African revolution through the agrarian reforms just betrays a desperation by the world leaders who are ready to crush anyone who challenges their hegemony.

But, for President Mugabe, even the rescinding of the knighthood and university degrees, the economic sabotage, travel bans and freezing of personal assets abroad never managed to break his spirit. The primary thing on his mind was to fight that Zimbabweans regain their honour and sovereignty. Talk of a principled man.

That Zimbabwe suffered with him also goes without saying. Many of us, because of the suffering that we experienced when Mugabe took the principled stand, forgot that there is no meaningful change that just comes without sacrifice. So we abandoned the liberation movement and clung to the next available party. In that way we played into the hands of those who were at the forefront in the regime change agenda. It is incumbent upon me also to admit that Zanu PF made many mistakes along the way, especially when some within the movement sought to enrich themselves.

That, to an extent discredited the noble intentions of the policies. But, that cannot take away the good that was in the fight.

The last 50 years saw many African countries attaining their independence but it is sad to say that there was too little, if any change at all, in the change of the standards of living of the generality of our people.

Yes, some of the lack of development was a result of some of our corrupt politicians who made sure that their bellies and necks were fat at the expense of prosperity of the people. But, the greater reason has been the lack of resources that indirectly remained in the hands of the erstwhile colonial masters.

Our leaders institutionalised and perpetuated the centuries of exploitation by agreeing to a retention of the status quo in terms of the ownership of the resources and means of production.

Africa needs a fundamental reappraisal of its objectives and strategies if African renaissance is not to remain a pipe dream. Africa, and posterity cries out for the emergence of champions of the order of Mugabe first to deal with resource ownership and then to drive the unity of Africa and the optimisation of the benefits of those resources by way of processing and value addition. This will not be a type of leader who is shy in demolishing the structural barriers that has kept Africa a disgrace but innovative strategic thinkers who are prepared to boldly engage the systems so as to bring the change so that the scripture will be fulfilled that "Ethiopia (or Africa) shall lift her hands to God".

The resources, land and minerals in particular, were so central to the fight for independence in Zimbabwe. Both, for the freedom fighters and equally so for those who fought to maintain the exploits their fore fathers had gotten by unjust means. The resources were so important that they became a major hindrance in the compromises that the Smith regime would have made earlier during the struggle. The 5 000 or so, farmers in the then Rhodesia had huge influence in the decisions of the Rhodesia Front. They feared for "their" land and so strengthened the Smith regime by providing the resources for the war.

We saw a similar drive around the year 1999. The farmers, who had continued to enjoy their benefits even after independence panicked when Zanu-PF resolved to address the imbalance. They were then staring in their faces some of their previous fears.

The farmers, together with their friends in the West, then started scouting for ways and means of countering the threatening move to redistribute land and other resources. Unfortunately this is how the MDC was formed. I say, unfortunately, because they took advantage of the people's anger and disenchantment with

Zanu-PF because of the deterioration in the economic conditions caused by a myriad of reasons which included the failure of the IMF sponsored Esap, the drought of 1987 and general endemic corruption. Many of the people who formed the core of the MDC leadership and membership were, and are still, genuine people who had, and still have, the interest of the country at heart but just fell prey to the underhand manoeuvres which were at play.

They needed the financial resources and the adage became true: he who pays the piper calls the tune. Thus the MDC, who had gone to bed with the farmers, made a rigorous campaign for the "NO vote" at the referendum in 2000. The MDC, I think, should have moved to redefine themselves as a real people's party, led by leaders who are their own not shadows of the farmers and other agendas. I believe that this can still be done but it appears the lack of political will to pursue it is just abundant under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai.

In South Africa, we have witnessed a similar drive to remove the ruling ANC from power. This drive got into serious over-drive when talk about economic liberation got to a peak just like it had done in Zimbabwe in 1998. We have seen the Democratic Alliance party resort to all forms of sabotage and vilification of the ANC using their arms which include the media and some within the judiciary. The aim is to stop the ANC before it lays its hands on the resources just like they attempted to stop Zanu-PF after 1999 in Zimbabwe.

The scramble for Africa's resources continues to this day. Dr S.Zondi, a respected commentator and writer, in one of his writings highlights current trends in "land grabs" taking place in Africa by the West and emerging east through shady deals with some shortsighted African governments.

This underlines the importance of African farmland in global food production. Africa remains the future in terms of global food security.

The indigenisation of the economy is one issue that causes me a lot of pain when I analyse the policies of the parties in Zimbabwe. I find it difficult that any sane educated Zimbabwean should be against the principle of the indigenisation drive. Yes, they can criticise the method and implementation but definitely not on the policy itself. It is a noble policy.

The critics of Zanu-PF fail to make a distinction between the party itself and its policies.

For political expediency, many of the previous opposition sympathisers, often seek to portray Zanu-PF as attempting to present indigenisation as a substitute of employment creation.

That is clearly not the case. But, the indigenisation drive should go on while at the same time we seek to address the unemployment issues. Any genuine foreign investor should find it logical to partner with locals.

This, to me is a better approach than the wholesale nationalisation which is been lobbied for in South Africa.

The unemployment issue should then be addressed by the government prioritising infrastructure development and favourable regulatory and incentives for business to thrive. The myth that the current indigenisation scares away investors, and thus worsens unemployment levels, needs to be debunked.

We just have to show that the indigenous partner knows what he/she is doing and that there is a peaceful political environment and potential for profit.

This is one area where President Mugabe needs to be applauded because we can only influence the direction of Africa if we own the resources.

That is what the world powers have understood and have always sought a say in our Africa's resources giving rise to the numerous conflicts that we have witnessed since our countries attained independence.

The battle for resources is not a make-believe war. It is real, that is why Mugabe and Gaddafi were being ostracised while the likes of Mandela have been hero-worshipped because they dared not touch the resources issue. The potential spiral effect of the Mugabe's ownership policies in Africa needed to be contained.

Having been a Christian for the greater part of my life, I know that when God decides to bring a change to the affairs of his people, he usually finds a man whom he anoints for that purpose.

To that effect, I am inclined to believe that President Mugabe may have had his heart and mind hardened by God so that he refuses to compromise, even under immense pressure, until his purpose of the redistribution of the resources has been carried out.

We may not see it now, but, in years to come, when Zimbabwe returns to her prospering ways and has been restored to the prestigious bread basket of Africa status, our children shall be grateful of the travail that we had to go through to change the structure and ownership our resources.

Mbango Sithole is a Zimbabwean consultant in South Africa who writes in his personal capacity.

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