The Sunday Mail
President E.D. Mnangagwa
Our history of collective struggles
In a few days time, we shall be celebrating Africa Day to mark the founding of our continental body, the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, now African Union, AU, far back in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Then, only a handful of African countries had attained sovereign independence, with the greater part of Africa yet to end colonialism. In the case of our Zimbabwe, Independence would only come some 17 years later, following a bloody, protracted armed liberation struggle. For Namibia and South Africa, Independence only came in the last decade of the 20th Century, in 1990 and 1994 respectively. For us and sister countries like Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, armed liberation struggle was the modus operandi of decolonisation.
Frontline States as focal point
About the same time the OAU was formed, many of us were already encamped in Tanzania, or had left for countries like Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, China, the Soviet Union, Romania and many other Eastern Bloc countries, to receive advanced military training for national liberation. Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana became focal States for our struggles during those early days, with Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and later Zimbabwe joining the league of Frontline States, FLS.
Nationalism and Pan-Africanism
The prime force which drove all of us to join the struggle for the Independence of our respective countries, and to sacrifice for National Liberation, was Nationalism. What enlisted many African countries to stand by us to the bitter end was Pan-Africanism, which an early generation of founding fathers of our continent had adopted as a material force for freeing African peoples, and for decolonising Africa. The Liberation Centre which was head-quartered in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, become the expression, vehicle and launching pad of that overriding Pan-African spirit and force. Whether at Itumbi, Konga or Bagamoyo, we all lived, mixed, mingled and trained as freedom fighters across nationalities and Liberation Movements, because we shared the same spirit of nationalism and transcendent Pan-Africanism. Africa was united and fought as one.
Internationalism and global solidarities
Beyond our African continent, countries, nations and peoples who supported us, both diplomatically and materially, were driven by a strong spirit of progressive internationalism. That spirit universally abhorred the subjugation of any one race by another, and asserted every people’s right to self-determination and sovereign self-rule in accordance with the United Nations Charter. There was thus a convergence of strong progressive sentiment here on our African continent, and internationalism abroad which united diverse non-Western nations and peoples behind our struggles. These two forces thus became the hammer and the anvil of Africa’s struggles.
Tricks and subterfuges by the West
In the course of all those long struggles in our countries, Western imperialism tried every trick in the book to hold back and even defeat this wind of African change. It called us names, armed its kith and kin on our territories, despatched mercenaries to reinforce the occupying racists, assassinated our leaders, and mounted and made several false overtures to derail genuine decolonisation. In our case, we had Geneva in 1976, Malta and Nairobi a year later. Above all, we had the notorious Internal Settlement and sham elections it begot between 1978 and 1979. Because of our strong grounding in patriotism and genuine nationalism, all these tricks failed. Genuine settlement only came in 1979 through the Lancaster House Conference, during which our rights were asserted and defended. This is the Independence we enjoy and cherish to this day.
Mining interests above African freedoms
Throughout Struggles for African Liberation, Western governments led by the United States of America never supported us. With the exception of a few Nordic countries which offered humanitarian assistance, Western governments instead armed the racist colonial regimes in Angola, Mozambique, the then Rhodesia, Namibia and in South Africa. They defended their kith and kin while putting their vested interests above our freedoms. To them African nationalism as an evil force. Here in Zimbabwe, the United States of America applied to be exempt from applying United Nations sanctions against UDI Rhodesia in order to continue to extract chrome from our country, which she regarded as a strategic mineral. Millions of tonnes of our chrome were extracted and stockpiled in the US. Proceeds from the sale of our chrome were used to buy arms used by the Smith regime against us. It was the same story with many other western countries whose transnational companies were and still are active on our continent. They continue to exploit our non-renewable resources.
Assistance with no strings attached
The arms that liberated us came from Africa, and from progressive countries of the world, primarily those who comprised the then Eastern Bloc. To the liberated African country, we were never made to pay for those arms, both before and after our freedoms. It remains a great gesture of compassion and solidarity unmatched by any other in human history. By contrast, western interests which had depleted our finite natural resources for nothing in return, and for over a century of occupation, have never paid reparations to us. Not even a dime for all those years of resource pillage.
Debt trap and illegal sanctions
Nor have they been forthcoming in assisting us with the development which they denied us during those long years of colonial occupation. Instead, many African nations continue to be trapped by them through debts which cannot be repaid. In our case, the same countries which robbed us of our freedoms and our finite resources, have gone further to slap us with undeserved and illegal, punitive sanctions for recovering our God-given land. This is how they have chosen to repay us. Nothing could be more cynical, indeed worse than adding insult to long injury.
New game-changing partnerships
Against such persistent efforts to hamstring our sovereign Independence, the same countries which supported us in our struggles for national independence have now come back to join us in gainful partnerships in the second phase of our Struggle, that of Economic Development.
Apart from generous grants, interest-free or light loans, they have now come back to the continent they helped liberate as new, non-traditional investors. Read against time and historical circumstances, they are new and late comers in this domain, unlike Western interests which have been exploiting our continent even well before its formal occupation.
China in Zimbabwe and Africa
Yet their recent, late entry has already made a telling difference in so short a time. They have brought value and employment to our economies and societies, enabled through mutually gainful partnerships never experienced before in our troubled history as a continent. We have seen Chinese capital supporting landmark and iconic infrastructural projects across the African continent. Here in Zimbabwe, China has helped fund and implement several projects in the sectors of energy, air transport, water, real estate, industrial value addition, mining and defence. All these have secured and bolstered our Independence, while changing the structure of our Economy in this season of punitive western sanctions.
Advice we must spurn and reject
Expectedly, the West is not impressed. Apart from feeling challenged by alternative capital which now provides new opportunities to Africa, the West still views our continent as its colonial dependence, even though we have long become independent and sovereign states.
This is a reflex rooted in colonial history which we rejected and continue to reject. Daily, African leaders are bombarded with unsolicited advice by those who occupied us for over a century, but with nothing to show for it. They advise us to be wary of the Chinese, the Russians, the Indians, the Brazilians, the Arabs, etc, etc. These new investors, we are daily told, are out to finish our depletable natural resources.
Rewriting global partnerships
It is as if Western miners have been growing those same non-renewables as they mined and exported them as ore for over a century. Their advice to us is false and cynical; we reject it with utter contempt it deserves. In sharp contrast, these alternative players we are daily being advised against, have rewritten global relations as never before, all the time putting accent on mutually gainful partnerships and local beneficiation of our resources which we never saw in all those long years Western capital prowled on our continent. This is incontestable, both now and in history.
Threats and coercive diplomacy
What startles us as leaders in our region is how this Western fear of competition from non-traditional, non-Western capital is beginning to assume a belligerent tone. Just last week, the United States of America’s Legislature introduced a Bill which seeks to make it a punishable offence for any country, African countries especially, not to support the West in its bid to encircle Russia. Relating to Russia which, alongside Ukraine, accounts for over 30 percent of global cereals, and nearly 70 percent of global phosphates, is now deemed an international crime and punishable offence by the United States of America! Not too long ago, US set up a war chest to roll back Chinese influence globally, and especially from Africa, itself the last known resource frontier. We thus feel embattled and besieged by our erstwhile colonisers and exploiters.
Good for the goose, bad for the gander
Until recently, America imported fossil fuels, gas, phosphates and several other minerals and grain from both Russia and Ukraine. Except it was never a punishable sin when she did. The European Union absorbs nearly half of Russia’s fuels and petroleum products.
Until recently, Russian capital has been active in Europe, in Britain especially, while Chinese capital under the Belt and Road Initiative continues to transform Europe, principally ports of Greece and massive highways in former Soviet States now under the EU umbrella.
It is very disturbing when legal coercion and even threats are used against smaller states to force partnerships of the unwilling, or to stop gainful partnerships between willing sovereign states. This is against basic tenets of international relations under the United Nations Charter. Our rights as sovereign nations, principally the right of self-determination, are being threatened.
Southern African region has witnessed a more sinister dimension to this coercive economic diplomacy by the West. Including here in Zimbabwe, we have seen some Western governments sponsoring several false environmental and mining advocacy groups which seek to agitate communities against non-Western mining interests. Peasants are being roused and mobilised to fight battles in which they have neither stake nor gain either way. Here in our country, we have seen such sponsored lobbies active in Hwange, Uzumba, Mutoko, Makaha, Marange and, lately, in Bikita.
False, Fake Resource Nationalism
Surprisingly, all these mining concerns are not new. They are old claims which have only changed hands as broke Western miners who owned them previously voluntarily disinvest. While those mining properties were in Western hands, both long before our Independence and after, not once did host communities benefit. Nor were host communities incited, mobilised and sponsored to defend their depletable resource and environment. The NGOs which now proliferate were nowhere in sight. Not even the false doctrine of resource or environmental justice for Africans and Africa was there. Our struggles would have taken much shorter if such level of agitation was there as we fought for Independence. What has changed now and opened these long closed eyes? Clearly, it is the rise of countries like China as global players.
Rehashing colonial spheres of influence
The same wave of false activism we lately witness in Zimbabwe is also gaining traction in neighbouring countries like Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, and elsewhere on our continent.
On the face of it, this new sentiment looks like a second wave of genuine people-nationalism, led by radical African cadres seeking to defend and protect African heritage, resources and interests. Yet on deeper examination, it reveals a sinister, deceitful and manipulative hand of the West. It, too, is staked against our sovereignties.
The West now seeks to sponsor and instigate false and fake African community nationalisms as potent tools in its fight against China, Russia and other actors who are now challenging its exclusive historical dominance on our continent whose roots lie in colonialism.
This is a false and bastardised form of nationalism which does not benefit Africa or Africans. Rather, it only seeks to weaponise Africans, while making Africa an exclusive and uncontested frontier for the West’s sole resource exploitation. Africa stands to gain nothing from this parody of genuine resource nationalism.
False nationalism, case of Namibia
Sub-regionally, this Western-sponsored, anti-African form of fake nationalism has assumed both absurd and deadly dimensions. In the sister Republic of Namibia, it extends to shutting down little Chinese retail outlets in the name of protecting Namibian consumers against “fake” Chinese products. The underlying assumption is that the Namibian consumer is too simple and infantile to distinguish between fake and usable items for his or her gainful purchase. The assumption, too, is that genuine goods come from Western manufacturers. Yet China exports to the same West!
False Nationalism, Case of South Africa
In South Africa, a whole violent and often lethal movement against African immigrants has now taken root. We have witnessed wanton acts of black-on-black, African-on-African violence, all in the name of protecting South African jobs or even vending sites. Yet no white immigrants are affected, even though South Africa’s Economy largely remains in white and foreign hands, as is also the case in many African countries. This is a racialised war of black African underdogs, couched as nationalism, a fight for servitude by equally disempowered Africans, whatever their countries of origin. This attacks the very heart and soul of our solidarity as Africans uniformly objectified by long colonialism.
False Nationalism, Case of Zimbabwe
Here in Zimbabwe, the opposition has been paid to mobilise their supporters to demonstrate against Chinese investments, including at Bikita Minerals.
Ironically, Bikita Minerals was only taken over by a Chinese investor earlier in the year, after being owned and exploited by Western interests for many years since the resource was discovered back in colonial days. The mine has been teetering on the brink, until this new Chinese investors coming to the rescue injecting fresh capital with which to expand operations, thereby securing jobs for Zimbabweans. When the mine was in western hands, those who now raise protests, sat contended silence.
Global western racism hidden as African nationalism
Throughout our whole region, our peoples and communities are being weaponised in the name of resource nationalism, all for fights in which they do not have even an iota of interest or gain. The time may have come for us in leadership to take a firm stance against this insidious form of false and fake nationalism, in reality a resurgence in a more aggressive form of recolonisation.
It threatens the Pan-African spirit which won us our Independence and freedoms; it also threatens the spirit of internationalism which laid a firm bedrock upon which we pursue our interests worldwide, guided by mutually gainful partnerships by whomsoever is ready to work with us.
Above all, it gives a racist ring to our mantra of Zimbabwe is open for business. That mantra must never be understood to refer to Western business interests alone. We have opened up to the whole world, with the West electing to place impediments in its way through needless sanctions and other restrictive measures. That negative stance by the West should not hold us back. Or block alternative capital from flowing in. We run free economies which are not indentured to the West or any other power. We pursue our interests, free from disabling histories and legacies.
Our responsibilities as leaders
As the generation of Liberation, we cannot be indifferent to this wave of disruptive fake nationalism I have alluded to, which the West has been sponsoring to draw a wedge between us and investors from other regions, and between our historically-rooted sister countries.
That would be a great disservice to our founding values which won us independence. Long Live Africa!