By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s current leadership of SADC and the AU happily coincides with the rebellion of African students at the University of Cape Town whose rallying cry is “Rhodes Must Fall”.
What the students have expressed symbolically, President Mugabe is illustrating in economic and geostrategic terms through SADC and AU summits; through COMESA; and through the India-Africa Summit and China-Africa Summit.
Cecil John Rhodes and the Berlin Conference of 1884 represent the forcible incorporation of African economies into apartheid; just as George Washington represents the forcible incorporation of Africans into chattel slavery. The IMF is the Deputy Sheriff of the waning Washington Consensus just as NATO in Libya and Syria becomes the North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation.
President Mugabe’s message, like the University of Cape Town students’ message, is clear: Forcible incorporation through apartheid or through the Berlin Conference and IMF impositions is neither economic integration nor development. Economic integration and development is when nations of the world rediscover or create their own economic and geostrategic alliances and synergies with other freely trading nations.
This is what links President Mugabe’s public diplomacy to the “Rhodes Must Fall” rebellion in that white city at the tip of the African continent which prides itself of being beyond African history and beyond the Pan-African ethos. This is the final repudiation of the Berlin Conference agenda and the Anglo-Saxon’s “Cape-to-Cairo” megalomania which Rhodes so clearly articulated.
President Mugabe has inaugurated for the entire continent of Africa the third phase of Africa’s natural trade relationship with the East.
The first phase subsisted before the days of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.
If one examines maps of Africa’s economic history, it is clear that Southern and Eastern Africa especially traded with China, India and Persia (now Iran) long before the Europeans disrupted and severed those mutual relationships.
These natural trade routes and relationships were forcibly replaced by the European slave hunting wars and the so-called “Middle Passage,” which was in fact a slave holocaust against Africa, transferring tens of millions of Africans from the continent to North and South America and to the Caribbean.
Slavery was followed by colonialism and the partition of Africa, pronounced so loudly and so unashamedly at Berlin Conference in 1884.
These disasters were followed by further holocausts against the Congo, against Namibia and lastly against South Africa, in the form of apartheid and its policy of deprivation and the forced removal of Africans from their land into Bantustans.
So the second phase of mutual solidary relations with the East had to be initiated in the 1960s, as African nationalists took advantage of a small geostrategic opening in the world system created by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, who also created space for Yugoslavia, Cuba and Organisation for African Unity, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement.
The West recognised the geostrategic contributions of the East to African political liberation, but they swore that there was no way the East could contribute meaningfully to African economic independence as well.
This belief, that the East would never contribute to African economic independence, was expressed in the most disparaging terms by US columnist Patrick J Buchanan in a piece called “It’s time someone talked tough to the Third World Countries” in The Philadelphia Inquirer of May 12 1979.
The author imagined himself writing a speech for John Connolly to deliver to Heads of State of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Manila, Philippines. The speech said in part:
“The United States never had any colonies in Asia, Africa or Latin America–and we don’t owe you a nickel [that is 5 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 UN.”
“The poor of this world are not starving because (North) Americans eat too much. The two causes of malnutrition in the Third World are the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Were they not wedded to unworkable systems…they would be regular exporters of food and grain as Russia was under the Czars.”
In the same vein, when Zimbabwe under President Mugabe dared to embark on a land revolution and to look East again for support, the regime change media and politicians said Zimbabwe was doomed; Zimbabwe could not survive without the British Commonwealth and without IMF and World Bank support which could be obtained only by obeying the US and its Anglo-Saxon allies.
So on April 22 1999, the Business News Editor for The Financial Gazette Nqobile Nyathi published a long feature called “Zimbabwe set to take the donkey path to oblivion.”
This was followed by scores of similar articles in other papers:
“Zimbabwe doomed,” Megabuck magazine, November 2000;
“African Union joins Zim condemnation,” Financial Gazette, January 5 2006;
“UN slams Mugabe,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 5 2006;
“Zimbabwe races towards meltdown,” Sunday Times, February 11 2007;
“Report says Mugabe offered Malaysia exile,” Daily News, January 17 2003;
“Mugabe out (of power) by July (2001),” Daily News, February 21 2001.
But President Mugabe saw a new economic and geostrategic opening being created by China, India, Russia, Brazil, Iran and even Cuba, which could enable a small country such as Zimbabwe to get away with a land revolution against the will of the big white imperialist powers.
Sure enough, even the Western powers themselves also adopted “Look East” policies.
And, in the latest development, the EU countries have also defied the US and its IMF and World Bank and rushed to subscribe to China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This is the meaning of the cry “Rhodes Must Fall” in economic and geostrategic terms. In the place of Rhodes’ Cape-to-Cairo, we now have Nairobi to Nanjing; Harare to Hanoi; Kinshasa to Kazan; Shurugwi to Shenzhen and Dodoma to Delhi.
Indeed, “Rhodes Must Fall.”