By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
PERHAPS I could start by inviting The Patriot readers to compare and contrast Cuba’s national response to the US blockade against that country starting 1959-1960 and lasting beyond the life of Cuba’s then President Fidel Castro, on one hand, and, on the other hand, Zimbabwe’s lack of coherent and strategic national response to US-EU sanctions on this country lasting 20 years now.
Cuba used the reality of the US blockade to strengthen itself so much so that by the new millennium, Cuba was a global power of cultural, scientific and diplomatic significance despite its small size.
One reason was the overwhelming majority of Cubans told the whole world the truth about effects of the US-led blockade on every aspect of Cuban life; education, technology, medicine, agriculture, science, research, infrastructure and communications.
As we mark 39 years of Zimbabwe’s independence, two of the most critical districts in the fight for that independence, namely Chimanimani and Chipinge, are reeling under a catastrophic emergency precipitated by Cyclone Idai.
The medicines, health equipment, earth-moving equipment as well as road and air transport systems required in the reconstruction of these disaster areas have all been drastically compromised by US-EU sanctions.
A few days into the reconstruction effort, everyone exposed to mass media in Zimbabwe or listening to Voice of America was told about the US Government’s donation of US$2,5 million!
But at the very same time that Zimbabwe was supposedly benefitting from this US$2,5 million, the same US Government took US$18 million away from this country through an illegal ‘fine’ charged against Standard Chartered Bank for helping to clear certain payments on behalf of Zimbabwe which ‘violated’ the US sanctions ‘law’ against Zimbabwe called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) of 2001.
The difference between Cuba and us is that too many of us collaborate with the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which the US Government uses to collect all this modern-day loot from poor people.
Too many of ‘us’ look the other way when it comes to huge sums being taken away from us by the US Government.
But we shout and celebrate when a tiny fraction of what has been looted is donated back to us as disaster relief, forgetting that the sanctions are an integral part of the disaster.
The US played a critical role in tarnishing Zimbabwe’s diamonds as ‘blood diamonds’ and at one time it seized more than US$30 million in one heist using the same OFAC.
Last week, on April 10 2019, the current US Ambassador to Zimbabwe was allowed to lie to Zimbabweans on Capital FM radio talk show, saying that US-EU sanctions did not affect the living conditions of ordinary Zimbabweans!
On June 27 2016 The Financial Gazette carried a story of critical importance for the entire economy and relevant to the national currency question.
It was misleadingly called ‘Banks seek Chinese help: As (German’s) Commerzbank shuts down Nostro Accounts’.
For lack of space, let me summarise the significance of this story as follows:
– The so-called ‘liquidity crunch’ was likely to get worse because of a recent decision by Germany’s Commerzbank to stop serving as a correspondent bank for several of Zimbabwe’s financial institutions. In layman language, the German bank decided to stop providing US dollar notes to Zimbabwe because it had been fined US$1,4 billion for breaking US sanctions against Zimbabwe.
-The US $1,4 billion fine against Commerzbank in May 2016 followed on the heels of a similar US$2,5 million fine against Barclays Bank in February 2016, specifically for clearing Zimbabwe’s foreign transactions forbidden by the US Government.
– As a result of the US actions and the Western banking industry’s response, it was becoming more and more difficult to move US dollar notes and payments into and out of Zimbabwe for normal and transparent business.
– After the German banks, South African banks were this year also told not to allow US dollar notes into this country!
-Because Zimbabwe does not have its own currency, the difficulties of moving US dollar notes into and out of the country precipitated by the US actions automatically cause difficulties for Zimbabweans just wanting to transact business for and among themselves.
– Because of effects of sanctions, foreign banks keen to supply Zimbabwe with US dollar notes had noted with concern that the volume of such notes being ordered by the country were not tallying with the degree of internal productive economic activity, thereby raising suspicions that there was rampant money laundering in Zimbabwe using the US dollar.
-The profile of Zimbabwe as an importer of US dollar notes was unusual when compared to countries of similar size in population or in GDP, precisely because Zimbabwe was under sanctions and yet relying on the same US dollar notes as national currency.
-Using US dollar notes as national currency made it extremely hard for authorities to account for the foreign currency, let alone to control its movement in and out of the country. In other words, MaDzimbahwe were using scarce foreign exchange as commonly disposable cash, making it easy for neighbouring states to access US dollar notes via Zimbabwe, even at a time when the majority of the people of Zimbabwe were failing to transact business for lack of cash.
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 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 then Organisation 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 Bantustans in the lowvelds;
-And that, finally, the interests of the Eastern bloc countries who 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, confirms 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 nationalisms 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 rightwing anti-communism.
The US-sponsored form of global white supremacy considered itself to be above German racism, Italian fascism and 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.
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.”
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 Frances Bolton.
The team travelled through Africa from Addis Ababa, 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:
“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.
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.
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 ZANU in Zambia and proceeded to pass the Indemnity and Compensation Act which exempted all armed personnel 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 Convention.
Western powers knew and accepted that position because of racism.
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 papers and the US Ambassador claim that they do not hurt anyone.
These lies will continue as long as the people of Zimbabwe do not unite against the sanctions.
Independence time is the best time to rally all Africans against the white racist sanctions meant to protect the white-settler minority’s material interests against those of the African majority.
Our children do not know this history because we stopped teaching it at the time of demobilisation at the end of the liberation war!