Apparent direction of history and its relevance to ‘reform’

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

BASIC understanding of the apparent direction of contemporary history will enable The Patriots readers and MaDzimbahwe, in general, to distinguish two opposite processes which, for lack of ideological clarity, can be framed as if they were the same.  

These two opposite processes are re-engagement and re-integration. The latter process can also be called re-incorporation.

To set the stage for answering the question which of the two processes Zimbabwe is supposedly pursuing, let me use the illustration of what seems to be the main direction in which Southern Africa’s relations with the Western empire and the rest of the world have been moving.  

The following selected developments should help answer this question. 

The history Zimbabweans have forgotten

The Voice of America (Studio7) and other media channels helping to hide the real effects of sanctions on the povo are merely following in the footsteps of their ancestors and predecessors as purveyors of a subtle white racist posture against Africans.

According to Professor Gerald Horne’s book From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980, it was not just the US media which supported white settler-regimes in Southern Africa throughout the period of African liberation struggles.  

One of the effects of the media propaganda was the popular recruitment of white racist mercenaries who fought on behalf of colonial troops in the Congo, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique.

Perhaps three publications might help to put the history into perspective:

  • Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980;
  • Nathaniel Weyl, Traitors’ End: The rise and Fall of the Communist Movement in Southern Africa; and 
  • Henry Kissinger, National Security Memorandum Number 39, the Kissinger Study of Southern Africa.

Whereas, the independence of Mozambique in 1975 was the turning point for Zimbabwe’s Second Chimurenga leading to independence, the independence of Angola in 1976 and the defeat of the Apartheid regime’s forces inside Angola in 1987 were equally critical for the independence of Namibia in 1990 and South Africa in 1994:

Nathaniel Weyl, in 1970, had reached the same conclusion about the fate of Southern Africa which Henry Kissinger, as National Security Advisor to US President Richard Nixon, had also reached in his 1969 National Security Memorandum Number 39, the Kissinger Study of Southern Africa:

  • That all the African liberation movements of the entire region were under siege. They were banned in their own white ruled territories and their leaders were either in jail/detention or in exile;
  • That the white minority economies and regimes were thriving despite bad press and purported UN sanctions against Rhodesia;
  • That, in military terms, all the independent African states in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the liberation movements could never take-on the combined firepower of South Africa, Rhodesia and the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique;
  • That the white settler-regimes were importing poor whites from all over Europe and resettling them throughout the region in order to boost white populations against African majorities and therefore help secure a permanent white settler-future;
  • That through the massive importation of poor whites into the region, apartheid would be extended to Rhodesia and there, the African majority population would soon be confined to reserves similar to Bantustans in the lowveld;
  • And that, finally, the interests of the Eastern Bloc countries that supported African liberation movements (the so-called communists) had already been defeated.

The context of these conclusions was the global US policy as applied to Southern Africa in which the purpose of the Marshall Plan was not limited to the economic reconstruction of Europe. 

It included the reconstruction of white supremacy by replacing European nationalism in Europe and in European settler-colonies with what Gerald Horne calls a ‘synthetic whiteness’ or a superior form of pan-European solidarity driven by business interest and a rightwing anti-communism. 

The US-sponsored form of global white supremacy considered itself to be above German racism, above Italian fascism and superior colonial apartheid because it offered pan-European solidarity under the guise of combating communism and promoting ‘development’. (Horne, 2001: 54, 81, 90-93, 93-129) 

The involvement of the US in Zimbabwe has consistently reflected one of the consequences of the Marshall Plan: the ability of the US to influence and even determine the policies of its European allies through strategic resource control, such as the control of petroleum.

By declaring Southern Africa to be ‘the Persian Gulf of Minerals’, the US served notice to its European allies that their Southern Africa policies had to be in line with US policy and US interests, just as in the real Persian Gulf itself.  

That was why the title of Nathaniel Weyl’s book had to mislabel all African liberation movements in the entire region as the ‘communist movement’.

If one looks at the chronology of events as well as anti-communist and anti-African pronouncements by various white leaders as supporters of the colonial project in the region, Weyl’s conclusions would seem, at the time, to represent the inevitable truth.

Indeed, back in 1951, Dr A. L. Geyer, white South Africa’s Ambassador to the UK, addressed the Royal Empire Society in London and said, among other things, that:

“One fact can be put dogmatically:  South Africa and Rhodesia are not part of Africa. Both have built up a permanent white population and established a modern state on European lines.”

But by 1957, the US was eagerly seeking a deeper involvement in the region we now call SADC, precisely because white supremacy was under threat there.

On January 24 1957, the colonial journal East Africa and Rhodesia published a story titled ‘American Congress Member’s Report on African Visit: Tribute to British Administration in East and Central Africa’.

This was about a US intelligence gathering team led by Mrs Frances Bolton.  

The team travelled through Africa from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Cape Town, South Africa.  

Its main purpose was to gauge the extent of Eastern Bloc influence on African nationalism and African liberation movements. Bolton reported to the US Congress, saying: 

“We cannot close our eyes to Russia’s invasion of Africa. Just as she took hundreds of students from China and gave them education in their Communist schools, so is she [Russia] doing with hundreds of starry-eyed young Africans who see only the vision of freedom ‘told to them’ (by communists).”

On April 11 of the same year, 1957, East Africa and Rhodesia reported: ‘US Vice-President (Richard M) Nixon’s Report on His African Visit: Great Stress on Plans of International Communism.’

In other words, US interest in measuring the extent of the influence of the Eastern Bloc in Africa was elevated from the level of Congresswoman Frances Bolton to the level of Vice-President Nixon within a matter of months.  

The purpose was to replace the grip of European powers on Africa with a wider enclosure co-ordinated by the US itself.

So, by the time Nixon himself became President in 1969, the US had already intervened in the Congo against Patrice Lumumba; and it was Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger who authored the 1969 Kissinger Study of Southern Africa which concluded that:

“The whites (in Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa) are here to stay and the only way that constructive change can come about is through them. There is no hope for the blacks to gain the political rights they seek through violence, which will only lead to chaos and increased opportunities for the communists.”

This meant that, by 1969, US Government thinking was that African independence would probably end at the Zambezi and the rest of Southern Africa would evolve to become like white Australia with a sprinkling of African reserves.  

That would mean permanent integration of the region into the Western system in racial terms, in economic terms as well as in terms of culture and ideology. 

Looking at this chronology, it is easy to understand why the Rhodesian settler-regime declared unilateral independence from Britain on November 11 1965; why it dared hang the first African guerillas without referring to Britain in 1968; and why it proceeded to dispossess the African majority of even more land by reconstituting the so-called Land Apportionment Act of 1930 as a more severe Land Tenure Act of 1969.

Having been told by the biggest white imperial power that they were here to stay, the whites assumed a very defiant mood.  

In Rhodesia, from 1969 to 1971, the regime bulldozed a whole community of the Tangwena people, more than 3 000 families, off their land.

In 1975, the same regime assassinated Herbert Chitepo, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), in Zambia and proceeded to pass the Indemnity and Compensation Act which exempted all Rhodesian armed personnel and their mercenary supporters from any charges that could be brought against them for crimes committed ‘in good faith against the African population.  

The Act was made retroactive to 1972!  

This white law meant, among other things, that African freedom fighters would be shot on sight and would not be treated as prisoners of war in terms of the Geneva Conventions.  

Western powers knew and accepted that position because of racism and strategic economic interests.

Given the consistent and persistent efforts of successive US administrations in support of white settlers in the Southern African region, it is not surprising that US sanctions are still being renewed while opposition papers in Zimbabwe and the US Ambassador here claim that these sanctions do not hurt anyone.

So, the struggle on whether the region is part of the West or free to choose its relationships with the world remains serious.

Our children do not know this history because we stopped teaching it at the time of demobilisation at the end of the liberation war!

Let me describe the latest phase of the crisis of re-incorporation first. It covers the period 1973 to-date.  

In that period:

Those states whose oil fuelled the Anglo-Saxon empire rebelled by setting up the Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC);

The United States suffered defeat in, and had to pull out of, South-East Asia, militarily (1974);

Although the Arab states were defeated in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 against the apartheid state of Israel, they did demonstrate that Israel could be defeated and Palestinians could be freed if the Arab states all united against the Western imperialist states backing Israel against Palestine. 

The UN General Assembly, for the first time (1973), recognised as combatants in terms of the Geneva Conventions those African guerillas fighting for national liberation in the region now called SADC.

Passage of the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid in 1973 opened the possibility that P. W. Botha, F. W. De Klerk, Ian Smith as well as their apartheid and UDI killers could be sent to the Hague to face trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Moreover, the Western arms suppliers and financiers of apartheid and UDI could be required to pay reparations to the African nations of the region which is now SADC.

As a result of the impending victories of African liberation movements, the Portuguese fascist regime and Portugal’s African empire collapsed. This freed Angola and Mozambique and opened chances for intensifying the liberation struggles for Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, leading to the beginning of the end of British hegemony in the region.

The revolutionary climate created through these events gave the children of South Africa, under apartheid, the courage to stage the Soweto Uprising in 1976 at a great cost in lives.  The brutality of the apartheid regime was exposed on camera to the whole world.

Initially, the response of imperialism came in the form of inquiries and books examining the future of the Southern African region. R. W. Johnson, a Professor at Oxford, published How Long Will (white) South Africa Survive?  

The Carnegie Foundation of the US commissioned a corporate inquiry whose report was significantly titled: South Africa: Time Running Out.

The problem for imperialism was that the inspiration for real democracy, for real human emancipation and popular sovereignty was not coming from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) or from the so-called mature democracies of the West, who in fact advocated constructive engagement with apartheid and supplied arms to all the white settler regimes in the region.

Real democracy, human emancipation and popular sovereignty in the region were inspired by Vietnam, Cuba and Algeria, materially supported by China, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).  

That is why, in the mid-1970s, from the point of view of Anglo-Saxon hegemony, time was, indeed, running out.

So, in response, imperialism did what it has done for the last 500 years: adjust its instruments of ideological aggression; design a fresh doctrine of human rights and democratic change; and figure out ways of defaming and dehumanising African freedom fighters as the new oppressors, while baptising the Anglo-Saxon killers and oppressors from UDI and apartheid as the latest champions of human rights and democratic change.  

Most importantly, the West designed Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes for Africa as an instrument of re-integration or re-incorporation into the Western system after independence.  

When I was in Philadelphia, US, I was surprised to see in The Philadelphia Inquirer for May 12 1979 a column by one Patrick J. Buchanan titled ‘Mission for Connally? It’s Time Someone Talked Tough to Third World leaders.’   

The idea was that the then US President Jimmy Carter was too soft on ‘Third World’ leaders who were becoming more and more vocal against US foreign policy toward apartheid South Africa, Israel and Palestine, Rhodesia and even on the dispute between Mainland China and Taiwan.

On May 12 1979, a conference of 159 non-aligned, Movement nations was about to start in Manila, capital of the Philippines. So, Buchanan wrote:

“Rather than dispatch the usual kowtowing apologist, why does not Jimmy Carter ring up Big John Connally [red-neck and bully] and tell him that this year the United States has a different message and would he — an economic nationalist — be kind enough to fly to Manila to deliver it.” 

The columnist then provided the draft speech which Connally could deliver to these ‘Third World’ leaders. Here I select just a few paragraphs:

“At the President’s request, I have come to deliver a message.

For openers, your poverty is not our fault. The United States never had any colonies in Asia, Africa or Latin America — and we don’t owe you a nickel (meaning five cents).

Yet, for years, our people have generously poured tens of billions of dollars into your countries and seen little in the way of development and less in the way of gratitude.

So, we have decided to close down the soup kitchen…

If you want any more hard currency, free of charge or in low-interest loans, go get it from the bandits of OPEC you applaud or from the Soviet and Chinese comrades with whom you vote in the United Nations.”

Then Buchanan moved to what he called a simple lesson in economics and economic history which demonstrated why those who followed the Western capitalist path would succeed and prosper and while those who refused would forever sit “…in the mud eating anti-capitalist rhetoric for the next 100 years.” 

So, China, the Soviet Union and all those leaders from the South who agreed with them were going to sit in the mud, eating anti-capitalist rhetoric for anther 100 years from 1979! 

Buchanan went on:

“The two major causes of malnutrition in the Third World are the governments of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.  Were they not wedded to unworkable systems of agriculture, they would be regular exporters of food and grain as Russia was under Czars.” 

The meaning of this article is easy for the reader to understand. The entire Third World should remain part of the West because nothing good was to be expected from the Soviet Union (Russia) and the People’s Republic of China.  

The popularity of Russia and China policies toward the nations of the South could be explained by alleging that all ‘Third World’ leaders were just stupid. They did not know what was in their best interests or in the interests of their people.

But, put in perspective, the new China dates back only to 1949, after the communists defeated Japanese occupation forces, Western proxies and mercenaries. The US, as a republic, dates back to 1776.

At any rate, given this kind of propaganda, it is easy to understand how the current US President Donald Trump can still convince large numbers of US citizens that the Chinese economy can challenge the US economy on the global stage only if the Chinese have cheated their way to the front.  

This was not supposed to happen according to Buchanan’s 1979 prophecy. White reactionaries teach that the Czars, who ruled Russia before the Soviet Union, were better for Russia than later leaders.  

Botha and apartheid were better for South Africa than Cyril Ramaphosa and Ian Smith was better for Zimbabwe than Robert Mugabe or E. D. Mnangagwa.

Yet it is not just propagandists who praise the Chinese approach to Africa.  For instance, Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo wrote a book called Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working, and There is a Better Way for Africa.

In that book, the author explained why economic relations between Africa and China should be preferred over relations with Western allies.  

The West has crafted a complex and insidious aid regime since 1945 and that system is clearly part of the problem, not the solution for Africa.  It is the key contributor to corruption.  

The Chinese promote mutual trade and most of their investment goes into solid long-term infrastructural projects which lay the foundation for improved production and trade in the long-term. 

In the case of Zimbabwe, the British sharply reduced their stakes in the Zimbabwe economy when they imposed sanctions on this country together with the US and the EU.  The Chinese saw a big opportunity and came in in a big way.

Even if those sanctions are lifted tomorrow and relations resorted, there is no way the British and the rest of the West can regain the position they had before 2002.  

As for the US, the future is full of many unpredictable challenges.  

The year 1979 was only 40 years ago.  Yet, when Buchanan wrote his column mocking China, Russia and the entire South, anti-communist propaganda and prejudice prevented him from imagining a different future.  

Prejudice made it impossible to imagine that, in 40 years’ time, the biggest quarrel between the US and China would no longer be over AK47 rifles donated to ‘Third World’ guerillas, but over high technology inventions, their global market and cyber security implications.  

Buchanan, in 1979, could not imagine a future Huawei.  Yet a little less prejudice would have made it possible for him to see.  

The decline of empires is not that hard to imagine!  

Trump is presiding over such a slow but steady decline whose defining terms are now economic and technological.

This history puts reforms and re-engagement into perspective.  Like Africans occupying their dariro, we should develop, among us, people who know how to relate to and how to handle people from all over the world: south-to-north; east-to-west; and so on.  

Engagement for Africans occupying their autonomous dariro has always been radial, not linear.  

That history and unhu must moderate our re-engagement. 

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