Forgotten role of Africa in World Wars


Recently in Moscow, Russia TO the ordinary Russian, the May 9 celebrations of the end of the Second World War, which President Robert Mugabe attended in Moscow, Russia, were more than a commemoration. The world war cost them 27 million lives and the Russians have not forgotten. For days, in 1941, Leningrad, now St Petersburg, was under siege from the German Nazis. The siege was finally breached on January 27 1944. The siege lasted 872 days, there was starvation, there were reports of cannibalism, some died of the cold and those injured could not get access to medication. Even to this day, as the story of Russia’s victory against Hitler is told, dozens can be seen crying openly, young and old together. To celebrate such a sacrifice and eventual defeat of Hitler by the Soviet’s Red Army, nothing was left to chance. A total of 16 000 troops, 200 army vehicles and 150 planes took part in the displays. By the end of 2014 the Russians were feeling the pinch of the sanctions placed upon them by the West and the European Union (EU) leading to a dip on their currency the Ruble, but for this occasion, they spent US$560 million. China and India were among the 10 countries whose troops also joined the parade in Moscow last week and 27 Heads of State and Government graced the celebrations. For Zimbabwe, the major highlight of the Russian visit was when President Mugabe met Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Sunday. President Mugabe pointed out the forgotten role of black Africa in the war against Hitler’s aggression. While for most of Europe their soldiers went to defend their country’s interests, many in the colonies did not have a choice as they would fight on behalf of their oppressors. President Mugabe mentioned the irony of how as the world fought against Hitler’s aggression, some of the allies were occupying territories and oppressing other races. “Sadly the soldiers who fought first Nazism and fascism and the then Japanese militarism alongside the Soviet Union went on to become Africa’s oppressors,” said President Mugabe. “The fact is that although they fought Nazism and fascism, they had not stopped being colonisers.” To this day, there is no mention of the black sacrifice in both the First and Second World Wars. Black people in colonies across the world sometimes volunteered, but most were forced to serve under the British. Colonies in Africa were not only a source of human capital, but suppliers of raw materials, which were on high demand during the war. In the then Rhodesia, blacks who had been ‘recruited’ to sacrifice for the empire were known as the Rhodesian Native Regiment in the First World War and the Rhodesian African Rifles in the Second World War. The British in 1947 would evict blacks from their land and give it to the so-called ‘brave’ white veterans returning from the war as reward. The black soldiers on the other hand would at most be given a watch, a tie and the outstanding ones, a bicycle. For example, in 1938, Luke Matidenha from Murehwa was taken while in Standard Five at St Pauls Musami Primary School along with a group of other boys and flown to Salisbury for military training. Despite being promised big rewards for fighting for the Queen, he got nothing besides tins of beef, while their white counterparts were handsomely rewarded with farms. At the Kremlin, President Mugabe thanked President Putin for Russia’s assistance in order for Zimbabwe to attain independence. “When our country celebrated its independence in 1980, we paid tribute to the support of the Soviet Union and China, who helped us in our liberation,” he said Not surprising, the West did not turn up for the celebrations in Moscow, citing democracy and human rights over Russia’s alleged annexation of Crimea. President Mugabe reaffirmed his solidarity with the Russian government as they both face a similar difficulties. “We are happy that you have resisted the onslaught from the British and the West,” he said. “You have sanctions we have sanctions, it is the reason why we should come together.” The Americans and the EU have imposed sanctions on Russian banks and companies and this does not allow them access to European capital markets. One of the most damaging was the banning of companies or entities to export technologies required for deep sea drilling and oil production. The economic sanctions have also contributed to the decline of the Russian Ruble, forcing companies to exchange their Rubles for US dollars or other foreign currencies on the open market to meet their interest payment obligations on existing debt. The Russian Ruble, however, has begun to stabilise as the government grapples the economic onslaught. As Zimbabwe and Russia continue to strengthen their bi-lateral relations, the billion dollar Darwendale platinum project is a concrete demonstration of that partnership.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here