Dashiki Dialogues: Wearing Mugabe’s electoral dashiki

2013-08-13 10:00

The Zimbabwean election results were received by some as a patriotic vote by millions of Zimbabweans endorsing Zanu-PF, the party of liberation and the wealth and land redistribution struggle.

Equally so, many read the results as a signal of the election’s illegitimacy. Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change vowed to challenge these results in court.

Speaking to South Africans only reveals how complex the Zimbabwe question is.

Start with an article by my namesake at the Mail & Guardian, Percy Zvomuya, remembering his father’s words: “My child, Mugabe might be a dictator.

In fact, I do not care whether he stays or goes, but as far as the land issue is concerned, I think he has a point. I was already a young boy when the Rhodesian government moved us from our fertile ancestral land to this rocky wilderness. What Mugabe is doing is right. It is called justice.”

Then there are the contrasting views, which are held by many. Ronald Suresh Roberts once wrote that Zimbabwe “becomes a prism through which apartheid liberals project their deepest and darkest South African preoccupations,” that South Africa might become Zimbabwe.

The contrasting views encapsulate much of the passion or confusion over Mugabe’s apparent continued support. The suffering endured by Zimbabweans, cited as the reason why he should be toppled, is understood within the logic of a continued liberation struggle by many.

Punitive economic sanctions instituted by the Western world seem to have caused suffering for civilians without effecting regime change. How is this possible?

These are likened to those endured by many former colonies, like Haiti following its slave revolution. There, the former French slave owners, through the French government and warships stationed along the Haitian coast, insisted Haiti pay its former coloniser 150?million gold francs, 10 times the fledgling new black nation’s total annual revenues. Haiti still hasn’t recovered economically from that ­punishment.

The comparison with South Africa is unavoidable here too. Perhaps Adam Hochschild, the American journalist and writer, can be useful.

He holds the view that “if when the ANC took over in 1994, they had said we want not just a political revolution but an economic one?.?.?.?to radically redistribute the wealth of this country, they would not have been allowed to be part of the international economic system. The majority of the whites would have left the country and, economically, that would have been disastrous.”

When reports and dialogues on Zimbabwe’s elections are coupled with success stories in land redistribution, we’ll all wear Mugabe’s dashikis.

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