In response to my recent article that appeared in The Sunday Standard, Tanonoka Whande labels me an apologist – this for having expressed my views on the current volatile situation in Zimbabwe.
While I appreciate and respect his view, I must also point out that to me Whande himself is not only an apologist but an escapist as he deliberately chooses to avoid reality and indulges in fantasies.
For Whande to have the slightest hope that Khama’s position towards Mugabe might be different from the rest of the SADC leaders is a big joke indeed.
Whande should know that irrespective of what individual SADC leaders may be feeling about Mugabe, the fact of the matter is that they are bound by the SADC protocol of collective responsibility.
Khama, or indeed any of these leaders, is not above the SADC, so don’t expect him to say anything that contradicts the protocol when he takes over from President Mogae in 2008.
As Whande rightly points out, we were all encouraged and elated when President Levy Mwanawasa expressed concern about the prevailing ugly situation in Zimbabwe, as that gave us hope that at long last there was a high possibility that our leaders would for the first time take Mugabe to task. We all know what happened subsequent to the meeting; President Mwanawasa came out singing from the same hymn book with the rest of the other leaders. Of course, this is a matter of great concern but it is the reality of the situation on the ground; the SADC leaders have proved beyond doubt that they are not prepared to abandon their colleague.
I just hope that Whande’s reference to former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere’s invasion of Uganda is not a suggestion of war as a possible solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.
If indeed that’s what he is intimating, then another person might also suggest that people such as Whande should go back to the bush and wage a liberation war as they did against the Smith regime.
My view based on current global trends however, is that Nyerere’s style, armed struggle or whatever military intervention are not necessarily best options in such circumstance, and in the Zimbabwean situation that will certainly not work.
The most powerful country in the world, America, working closely with other super powers made the most misguided conclusion that their military mighty would not only bring down Saddam but further end any possibility of conflict in Iraq, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Such intervention has turned out to be a nightmare, especially to the Americans and proven to be the worst mistake humanity has ever committed in recent years.
The war in Iraq is proving to be a complete disaster and we don’t want that to happen in Southern Africa.
Whande feels very strongly that the reasons I advanced for the SADC leaders’ failure to castigate Mugabe for his despotic leadership are not in anyway convincing. I beg to differ and further maintain my position until somebody comes up with some more convincing justification to the contrary. I find the only reason advanced by Whande to be completely sloppy and unpersuasive more so that he fails to elucidate his argument.
Whande’s contention that “many countries benefit from the wretched situation in Zimbabwe” is just another joke and an exaggeration. Whande is well aware that currently there isn’t anything much to benefit from a country with such hyperinflation and political instability.
Instead, Zimbabwe has become a liability of the African continent and the rest of the world as it is completely in disarray.
As I however, previously pointed out in the article to which Whande responded, I still reiterate that countries especially those in the SADC region would certainly benefit from a more democratic Zimbabwe which is more economically and politically stable. We all know Zimbabwe has the resources to make it big in the global economy. At the moment however the situation in Zimbabwe is catastrophic, with no indication that Mugabe and his cronies will be dislodged in the near future for the country to recover.
Whande expresses concern that I implied that members of the international community, especially those of us in the region should not assist Zimbabweans in their fight against dictatorship and bring back sanity to their country.
That is far from the truth; in the contrary I entirely believe that we all have an obligation to rally behind the people of Zimbabwe in this struggle in whatever way possible. However, on the other hand, I strongly believe Zimbabweans themselves have no choice but to lead in this battle.
That is a reality, and, of course, this calls for people such as Whande and others to put their lives on the line to liberate their country from dictatorship.
Whande seems to have concluded that elections in Zimbabwe will not work, and we are in agreement on this point, as any elections are highly likely to be rigged anyway.
Both of us should, nonetheless, also agree that the split in the MDC has further weakened the opposition to be able to cause any threat to the Mugabe regime in the event of an election.
The question then is, what other options are available for the people of Zimbabwe, given that elections will not bring down the regime; any form of military intervention is not an option; and of course the SADC leaders in particular have continued to show solidarity with Mugabe? The answer is that there are lessons to learn from other countries where citizens were compelled to find alternatives of dealing with dictatorial regimes such as that of Mugabe.
In recent years, we have witnessed the downfall of several dictators due to people’s power. I recall in the mid-1980s the people of Haiti were confronted with another dictator in the name of “Baby-Doc”, Jean-Claude Duvalier having been handed the reins of power by his father. Duvalier instilled so much fear in his people, and, as in Zimbabwe, the media in Haiti was completely silenced, and people like Priest Aristide, who openly denounced such abuses of power and the muzzling of the press, were expelled from the country. Faced with this monster, the people of Haiti decided that the best way out was to put their lives in line by engaging in huge protests and demonstrations which went on unabated, disregarding the ever presence of the heavily armed forces loyal to Duvalier.
Confronted with such rising popular discontent amongst his own people, Duvalier had no choice but to flee the country. The only thing the international community did then was to offer their support by way of condemning the regime for its human rights abuses as is the case now in Zimbabwe. The Haitians being the people directly affected by the day-to-day hardships of life got fed up and had to take this high risk as they realised the dictator was never going to succumb to international pressure alone.
It’s not only in Haiti but there are similar cases, especially in countries which were previously part of the former Soviet Union. In Georgia such mass demonstrations twice brought down dictators who had become law unto themselves. In Kyrgyzstan the country’s former President, Mr. Askar Akaev, fled the country in 2005 amid unrest and protests against his government. The protests in the instances I have cited were so massive and sustained that even the usually trigger happy security forces had no capacity to intervene, but only to give way to the will of the people.
This is exactly what I meant when I suggested that Zimbabweans themselves should take responsibility. By active participation of the church, I didn’t mean intervention by way of trying to reconcile Mugabe with the opposition. The church has tried it before but that hasn’t worked, and it will never work as Mugabe, like all dictators, will not listen. The only option left for the church now is to join forces with the opposition, NGOs, workers, students, journalists and others to mobilise the masses into big protests in all the country’s major centres to force the regime into succumbing to the people’s power. This is exactly the route that the church took in South Africa to put pressure on the apartheid regime to surrender power to a democratically elected government. Morgan Tsvangirai, of course, should be applauded for having been trying to get people together to engage in protests of some sort.
But he lacks the numbers to make any meaningful impact.
That’s where the country needs people like Whande to assist in the mobilisation of the masses.
So, Whande my brother, my article was never intended to blame the victims in any way.
Fighting for freedom is all about sacrifice, and condemnation from the international community can only complement sustained, well coordinated and massive uprisings by Zimbabweans themselves to put enormous pressure on the regime to crumble.
For this to happen you, my brother Whande, need to be in the forefront of a protracted uprising against the Mugabe regime, bearing in mind that this has profound consequences including death, but you would have liberated your people from the onslaught they are currently going through. That’s what sacrifice is all about.
Philip Bulawa, a BCP Central Committee Member responsible for Public Education writes from Townsville, Australia