Lahai J Samboma in Africa Politics
I have been meaning to write to you for some time now, but what with the mass murder by Bush and Blair in Iraq and all manner of grotesqueries spawned by that dastardly act, I have been somewhat otherwise occupied.
However, I said to myself just today, “This pushing-it-off business ends now. I have to drop Robbie a line - and what better time than the present.”
So, here it is. It’s a bit long so, if you want, do get a glass of whatever it is that presidents-for-life drink.
Knowing you, I believe you will take particular exception to my addressing you as “Robbie” - I mean, what with all that Father of the Nation and President-for-Life shit, it would be understandable. It’s not that I have a Little David complex that likes to get up the noses of the rich and powerful and corrupt and irredeemably bad; it’s just that I feel I know you. I was even a fan during the early part of your incumbency.
You will not remember me, of course, but we have met - sort of. And you scared the living daylights out of me. I believe it was in ‘93 or ‘94 or thereabouts, at a news conference organised at the Centrepoint building in Central London. You were in Britain trying to drum up investment for your tail-spinning economy and I was there to cover the event for InterPress Service (IPS).
The news conference was really a scream. Cast your mind back. Here were assembled the crème de la crème of Britain’s media establishment, the self-same ones that had been saying how bad you were, that you were a ruthless dictator and killer who was running the Zimbabwean economy into the ground. And there you were, literally in their sights, ready to be quartered and skewered. And what did they do?
One after another they stood up to ask you interminable questions about what you were doing to foster investor confidence, the size of the previous year’s harvests and the intricacies of endogenous growth theory. True, you were there to raise investment, but I felt you were being given too-smooth-a-ride. At least they could have asked more probing questions and the moderator, whose job it was, could have put proceedings back on course if he felt some of the questions were inappropriate.
You must have been thrilled, to see Britain’s finest being so nice - just like your muzzled press back home. Who needs a media censor when this intrepid bunch would give him a run for his money! I had had enough of this farce. Do you remember the little guy who stood up towards the end and asked you, “Mr President, you have been accused of being a dictator and locking up political opponents. Is this true - and will this not drive away investment?” Well, I was that little guy.
I remember you raising your eyes to look into mine - and my heart stopped. My whole body broke out in a cold sweat. My heart felt constricted. It was like I could hear the boom-boom-boom of my heart. Your bloodshot eyes, your cold stare had that effect on me. I still don’t know what your answer was to that question. I saw your mouth moving, saying something. But I was petrified to even hear, or to make sense of, your words. No doubt, you must have thought, if this guy was in Zimbabwe my boys would have enjoyed playing with him.
You are one tough cookie
We all like to think we are tough. But, like they say, there is always one tougher. And you, Robbie, are one tough cookie. If your stare can immobilise me like that, one can just imagine you in your younger days of guerrilla struggle. I uniquely understand why Britain’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, shook your hand last year - a “gaffe” for which he was heavily criticised. Did he have a choice? He must have felt like a hare caught in the headlamps of a juggernaut.
Well, enough of that. Now you know how, when and where we met. We’re like old friends. No, acquaintances.
I remember with fondness that day in 1980 when you became President of an independent Zimbabwe, after years of struggle against Rhodesian white supremacy. You held promise, your new country held promise. Here was a golden opportunity for you to rule in the interests of your long-suffering people, to right all the historical wrongs. But what have you done with it? You’ve pissed it all in the wind.
Neocolonialist policies fronted by the IMF
At the start you did well. Your policies helped to raise the standards of health and education of the people, jobs were created and all was going swimmingly - until you came head-to-head with the dictates of Western economic orthodoxy as represented by the prescriptive policies of the IMF and World Bank.
You railed against their policy prescriptions, even refused to implement them. I would be the first to defend your stand against them. Like the younger Mugabe, I am a socialist, a PanAfricanist and hate IMF and World Bank. They have done much to underdevelop Africa, but you went about things the wrong way. You took it personal. Your feeling of being under siege increased year-on-year, as did your attempts to weed out those you saw as “fifth columnists”, among them erstwhile comrades-in-struggle. You became a dictator.
The more you resisted the neocolonialist policies fronted by the IMF, the more misinformation about you was spewed out by the Western media, and the more you clamped down on real and imagined opponents. It became a vicious circle, your very own prison from which release has become well-nigh impossible. Only your natural death or forcible removal will free you.
Okay, so Britain reneged on the Lancaster House agreement to assist in land redistribution to your poor. What did you expect? The hope you represented was a threat to the whole geopolitical status quo. Were they going to allow you to succeed? You had to be made an example of, so they helped run your economy into the ground - you made matters worse by seizing white land. Then you started raving on television like a madman. You have not helped your case. You are your worst enemy.
Example to South Africa
I know, there is a lot of Western propaganda about about you. The white farmers did not produce food; they farmed the more lucrative tobacco crop, but your expropriation of their land - let’s face it, it’s their land - enabled the western media to say that it’s your policies that have ruined the agricultural economy. And it’s not going to stop. Remember that neighbouring South Africa has a similar history as yours. You have to fail, as a reminder to Mbeki and his successors of the fate that awaits them should they decide to follow your (bad) example. Robbie, listen to me, pack up your bags now and go!
One of my colleagues, a magazine editor who is still a fan, believes that the way you are being treated by the “international community” is not unlike that African titan Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of independent Ghana. (By the way, are you following the World Cup? Brilliant, innit? Ghana gave us the Osagyefo. Ghana, fingers crossed, will give us our first World Cup!)
With all due respects, Robbie, you are not fit to lick the soles of Nkrumah’s shoes, not to mention wear them! He is a god. You are profanity incarnated. An Nkrumah in your position, ie your position in the late ‘80s, would have rallied other African nations to the laudable goal of forming a bulwark against the forces of neo-colonialism and imperialism. No, all that concerned you was maintaining power. And see what you’ve done with it.
You have let me down. You have let your long-suffering people down. Just go.
Yours , Jay
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