Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

‘Ghosts of change’ : Gamal Nkrumah on Mugabe

Posted by CM on April 3, 2007

Writing in an Egyptian periodical, with an Egyptian first name and a Ghanaian last name, I am guessing Gamal Nkrumah is the son of the late Ghanaian “founding father,” Kwame Nkrumah with his Egyptian wife.

Nkrumah is clearly sympathetic to Mugabe but makes grudging admissions that he has a rather blemished record, to put it mildly. “It seems that his principal crime is that he expropriated white-owned land,” says Nkrumah of Mugabe.

At another point in his essay in Al Ahram, after mentioning how the Zimbabwean economy “is in shambles,” Nkrumah rhetorically asks, “Who, however, is to blame? The West points an accusing finger at Mugabe, who is systematically portrayed as a veritable ‘bête noir’ in the Western media. It is a calculating move, and nothing short of character assassination. After all, he legitimised African civil rights, including the right to own and farm the most fertile lands of the country that in the past were the exclusive preserve of the European settler minority. At least he will go down in history as having smashed the phalanx of racial prejudice.”

Continues Nkrumah, “Zimbabwe is a democracy where political, religious and civic groups have political clout. However much the West tarnishes Mugabe’s image, his stature is quite high in Africa, and few African leaders would dare say a bad word about him. Indeed, they can hardly criticise Mugabe since many of them also habitually beat up boorish opposition figures. It would be a case of the kettle calling the pot black.”

” The beatings may have a practical purpose, but they do Mugabe’s image no good,” writes Nkrumah. “But there are risks in a situation in which all opposition politicians owe their positions to foreign intervention or the moral and financial backing of the European settler minority.”

Perhaps with his pedigree it is understandable that Nkrumah would have as hard a time as his article betrays in acknowledging that Mugabe has “betrayed the revolution.” Many of the criticisms of how Mugabe seemingly started well and then lost it, drunk with power lust, have been made against Ghana’s founding president, Gamal’s father.

We will have made progress when fighting for social and economic justice in peace time is not considered to be license for a government to brutally suppress the very people on whose behalf it claims to be fighting for that justice! Nkrumah seems more worried about the self-inflicted injury to Mugabe’s image caused by the internationally publicised images of police beatings, than he is at the abrogation of citizens’ rights to peacefully protest. “The beatings may have had a practical purpose,” my ass!

Nkrumah is right, however, when he implies that African leaders whose countries and records are not as much under the spotlight of Western attention may for the most part be not much better at respecting civil liberties than Mugabe. The present-day Mugabe is particularly easy for the West to hate and demonize, and not necessarily just for reasons of how he is trampling on his people.

As for “legitimising African civil rights,” why does “the right to own and farm the most fertile lands of the country” have to be at the expense of the right to political affiliation and protest? Is it a case of one or the other right, but not both at the same time?And what does it mean to have “stature” based on an anti-colonial history and stance, when you now show utter contempt for the people you helped “liberate?”

Mugabe’s “stature” has for too long been based on nothing more than being able to so well articulate the many resentments of the African world. Those resentments may be widely and deeply held, but looking for never-ending forms of emotional release for them is not enough.

“Stature” must be earned on the basis of more concrete achievements than being able to humiliate and dispossess “the white settlers” and hurl abuse at George Bush and Tony Blair. It would be one thing if this kind of juvenile “stature” was accompanied by an improvement of the situation of Zimbabweans. But when it comes at the cost of their material well being and dignity, to hell with this kind of “stature!”

It is time for stature based on achievement and progress, not on resentment and wallowing in self-pity over the past.

Chido Makunike

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One Response to “‘Ghosts of change’ : Gamal Nkrumah on Mugabe”

  1. […] 12:07 AM check out gamal nkrumahs opinion on zimbw. gamal nkrumah opinion ‘Ghosts of change’ : Gamal Nkrumah on Mugabe Zimbabwe Review […]

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