Thoughts on Zimbabwe & Empire

December 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports today the the United States has no faith in the deal cut in September that would see Mugabe and Tsvangirai share power, with the former as President and the latter as Prime Minister.  The United States doesn’t believe that Mugabe intends to actually do so. Jendayi Frazer, who is the US Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, also noted to reporters in Pretoria, South Africa, that Mugabe’s claims that the west is engaging in biological warfare by launching cholera in Zimabwe shows that Mugabe is “a man who’s lost it, who’s losing his mind, who’s out of touch with reality.”

Tsvangirai, meanwhile, claims that 42 of his supporters have been abducted by state agents, and so he and his Movement for Democratic Change have pulled out of power-sharing discussions if nothing is put forth by New Year’s Day.

That is discouraging. 

Meanwhile, the CBC allows for people to pontificate on news stories on its website, which usually leads to a whole raft of, for the lack of a better term, interesting positions put forth.  One argues the following: “Currently popular opinion that “Mugabe is guilty for everything” is apparent oversimplification. The sad truth is that if it was not Mugabe, it would have been Nkomo; if not Nkomo it would have been someone else, but the result would have been the same, as the same scenario repeats itself over and over again in literally ALL African countries liberated from “white rule”. The history of failures of newly liberated African countries proves over and over again that “equal representation” democracy does not work in Africa.”  By “equal representation”, he means equality between blacks and whites.  He goes onto argue that blacks in the former Rhodesia were still tribesmen in the 60s and 70s and were not literate, nor did they speak English.  This, in his mind, means that black Rhodesians were not ready for democracy and self-rule.  

He also argues that land was distributed equally to blacks and whites under British rule in Rhodesia and that whites farmed the land better, whereas black farms suffered from soil erosion.  Of course, in reality, white Britons received the vast majority of land in Rhodesia, all of it well-drained, fertile, and on flat land.  Blacks, on the other hand, got less land (though they were the majority) and it tended to be land on hillsides, have poor soil, and not well drained.  

Another poster argues, after having read an article in The Economist on the civil war in Congo, and Rwanda’s involvement therein, argues that all of the people commenting on this article “blames the west, the US, Britain, France or China. They blame greedy corperations, they blame a weak AU. Anyone but the combatants. A continent that cannot take responsibility for it’s actions cannot rule itself.”  He actually posts in response to this article, too, arguing that Africans behave like spoiled teenagers.  I think he’s referring to the leadership cadre. 

I find this kind of commentary depressing.  The first poster on the CBC’s website is basically making the same argument the British used for centuries to justify their colonialism in various parts of the world, including India, Rhodesia, and Ireland.  The natives aren’t ready to rule themselves.  Funny, but seems to me that they were doing fine before being colonised.  A former colleague once argued in response, vis-à-vis Ireland, that the British united the fractious kingdoms of Ireland into a unified nation.  This, in his mind, justified imperialism and colonialism, and the horrors attached thereto.  

As for the poster’s argument that the fact that black Rhodesians did not even speak English meant that they were unfit for democracy and self-rule is so far beyond the pale of being worth responding to.

The second poster’s arguments are from the same vein.  In the end, on The Economist‘s website he seems to be arguing that it is time for Zimbabweans to rise up against Mugabe.  Fair enough, but the poster is also Canadian.  He lectures people that in Canada, when faced with a corrupt régime, we turf them out of office.  As I noted in a previous post, this is exactly what Zimbabweans tried to do in the spring of 2008, vote Mugabe out of office.  Mugabe refuses to take heed.  I also noted that Mugabe’s response has been violence.  Very easy to be sitting in Canada and suggest that people who are starving, poor, desperate just to survive, to say nothing of the cholera epidemic, should be taking up arms against their government.  Very easy.  But then he goes on to suggest that Africans are spoiled teenagers and the continent (the entire continent, mind) is incapable of self-rule, though he does pat South Africa on the back for being on the right track.  

Commentary like this just astounds me.  Where do you start to respond to this?  It’s so wrapped up in racist, colonialist mindsets.  The logic of their argument is inconsistent, arguing on the one hand that the citizens of Zimbabwe need to rise up against Mugabe, and then arguing that Africans are incapable of ruling themselves.  Which one is it?  Then they complain that everyone blames the west, in purposeful reductionism.  The problem with this type of mindset is that, 1) it refuses to recognise the legacy of colonialism, and 2) it advocates neo-colonialism as a solution.  This, my friends, is what logicians call circular logic.  Me, I call it disturbing and offensive.


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