ZANU-PF election poster in Zimbabwe during early 2008. The Party contested the run-off presidential elections despite the withdrawal of the western-backed opposition MDC-T party., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
PresidentMugabe: Last bastion of Africanism
Thursday, 30 June 2011 01:00
Reprinted From The Zimbabwe Herald
BAFFOUR Ankomah (BA), editor of New African, a Pan-African magazine published by IC Publications in London is currently in Zimbabwe.
HILDEGARDE MANZVANZVIKE (HM) had an interview with the scribe she believes is one of Africa's most respected journalists. This is Part 1 of the interview.
HM: Thank you for taking time to have this interview. I started reading New African in the 80s and that was when a friend, an academic recommended that I should never skip reading Baffour's beefs. With such a long history, I have so much to ask, but I will limit myself.
We were at Gwanzura Stadium on March 28, 2008 when President Mugabe held his last rally before the harmonised elections the following day. You made a remark that I will never forget - when you said that Zimbabweans did not know and understand what they were doing. What was it that you had observed and why were you concerned knowing that people were going to the polls the following day?
BA: Thank you for being a long-time New African reader. Yes, Baffour's Beefs goes back a long way - in fact to July 1988, and it has allowed me room to vent my spleen and write about anything that came to my bald head.
It's been on and off, of late, because sustaining the column and making it relevant over this long period - is it 23 years? - is not easy.
I write out of inspiration, but sometimes I am so dry of inspiration that I feel it is not worth putting anything in that column. But it's been wonderful having it.
Regarding March 28, 2008 and President Mugabe's last election rally: As I stood in Gwanzura Stadium amidst all the cheering and chanting of party slogans, I felt that most Zimbabweans in and outside the stadium had not yet understood the "war" their country was in.
Perhaps, because it was not a hot war with bombs and airplanes flying about, most Zimbabweans had not factored - for lack of a better term - "cold war" that the imperial powers had unleashed on their country.
I had earlier spoken to the former Zimbabwean foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, who had told me what Robin Cook, the now deceased foreign secretary of Britain, had told him years before. "Stan," Cook had told Mudenge, "you guys must get rid of Bob (President Mugabe)."
Stan said he had told Cook back: "For the same reasons that you guys want him out, we want him in."
Cook then went on the offensive: "OK, you guys must not say we didn't warn you: If you don't get rid of Bob, what will hit you will make your people stone you in the streets."
What Cook said was pregnant with meaning. And, as a Ghanaian who had studied in depth how the imperial powers had overthrown our first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and succeeded in getting Ghana back in their sphere of influence, and also having then lived in Britain for 23 years and watched how Britain and its allies were so hung on bringing Zimbabwe down in the vain hope that it would spur the people to take to the streets and overthrow President Mugabe's Government, my soul was grieving that most Zimbabweans in 2008 did not appreciate the enormity of the war confronting their country.
Perhaps, the fact that a multi-million rate of inflation can be wiped out overnight by the inauguration of an inclusive Government and, the adoption of the US dollar as the main medium of exchange in Zimbabwe, should tell the people who were pulling the strings behind their suffering.
HM. So much has happened on Zimbabwe's political landscape, including the formation of the inclusive Government that includes both formations of the MDC. Before, and after that you personally, and New African have never stopped telling the Zimbabwean story? Why the passion for Zimbabwe, and what is that untold Zimbabwean story that you feel the world and Zimbabweans should know?
BA: It goes back to what I have just said. The imperial powers had unleashed a silent and unseen war on Zimbabwe, and they had mobilised all their media in the effort to crush Zimbabwe.
As an African who knew the value of land - both the spiritual and economic aspects - to our people, I watched in utter horror, from my base in London, how the British (and the Western media in general) had drawn a line in the sand and were standing on one, the white side, saying we will support our people - the British and European-descended people of Zimbabwe - willy nilly.
It made it impossible for the Africans at New African to cross the line to the white side. We told ourselves: "We will do likewise and equally support our people - the nationalists of Zimbabwe - who were fighting for a piece of their own country."
The whole thing was about land and who controlled it. The human rights issues and the alleged economic mismanagement, though important, were just a convenient digression.
The imperial powers had calculated that if they could get President Mugabe out of power, the land issue would be dead and buried. And they nearly, very nearly, got him in the March 2008 elections.
For me, the passion for Zimbabwe that you talk about, comes from a philosophical base. If we all don't support Zimbabwe and the country is crushed by the imperial powers that will be the end of the aspirations of the African people who face the same skewed land ownership problems in Southern African and elsewhere.
I may be dead and lying in my grave, but one fine day the people of South Africa and Namibia will rise up and fight for their land, hugely encouraged by the Zimbabwean example.
That was one of the main reasons why the imperial powers wanted a failure in Zimbabwe - the contagion effect. But God bless their poor hearts, it's too late now; the train has already left the station.
And whether they like it or not, it might be two or three or even ten generations down the road, the people of South Africa and Namibia will rise up and sort out their land problem.
And, that is the untold story that we at New African want the world to know about Zimbabwe - the pride and shining example that Zimbabwe gives to African nationalists across the continent.
I have looked throughout history - both the pre and post independence history of Africa - every African leader (and he could have been traditional or political) who was assailed by the imperial powers was defeated in the long run. Except President Mugabe!
He is the only African leader still standing, after 10 years of sustained and intensive assault by the combined might (and I use "combined" advisedly) of the imperial powers. That needs a PhD course to unravel.
HM: Other journalists have decided to tell the Zimbabwean story with an overdose of Western flavour - demonising the Zimbabwe leader and his party, Zanu-PF. When the West slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe, some journalists were directly affected.
Correspondents writing for Zimbabwean publications like The Herald, eg Peter Mavunga and others were threatened with deportation from the UK. However, as a Ghanaian, you live in London, and New African publishes from there.
Hasn't this affected you as well? Have there been attempts to stop you from reporting on Zimbabwe?
BA: No, New African has not broken any British law, and as they say they are a democratic country, we take them by their word, and as such, we haven't suffered or been threatened by the British state to close down.
Yes, they don't like our reporting of Zimbabwe, telling the story from the African point of view, but so long as we haven't broken any of their laws, they allow us to operate in peace.
Rather, there are other ways to kill a publication of our nature, without closing it down. Between 2002 and 2006, they nearly got us when the Western multi-national companies that used to advertise with us, pulled (out) their business.
It started with Mercedes Benz in May 2002 when we ran a cover story with the headline: "Land issue: Mugabe is right!" Mercedes Benz headquartered in Germany that had booked six months adverts with New African, pulled it (out), with the excuse that they "don't advertise in a magazine that supports violence".
But were we supporting violence? We were supporting the African people of Zimbabwe who were fighting for their land.
Soon after the Mercedes Benz action, all the other car makers, including even the Japanese ones, who used to advertise with us, stopped.
The other multi-nationals followed suit. And, we were in real trouble. Being a Pan-African magazine based in London, much of our advertising came from, and still comes from companies that have cross-border operations, and they happened to be the multi-nationals, so when they stopped advertising with us, we really stared death in the face.
It was then that I vowed that if I ever got any money and wanted to buy a car, I would never ever buy a Mercedes Benz! In return for their stand against the African people! And it so happened, that in 2005 I came to Zimbabwe and attended the 25th anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, and every car that was used by the army officers and Government officials that day - starting from "Zim 1" by the President to the lowliest military officer in that stadium was a Mercedes Benz!
The irony was not lost on me. I turned to one of my friends standing to my right and said: "Well, this is a funny world, isn't it? Mercedes Benz is starving New African of adverts because they say we support Zimbabwe, and here we are - Zimbabwe giving its money to Mercedes Benz by buying all this long line of cars from them."
I still find the situation very funny: Our magazine was dying because of our support for Zimbabwe, and yet Zimbabwe was subsidising Mercedes Benz by buying a fleet of their cars! But my vow still stands. Until I die,
I will never ever give my hard-earned money to Mercedes Benz by buying one of their cars.
They may make the best cars in the world, God bless them, but for what they did to us and their non-support of the African people when it mattered most, they have truly lost me as a customer!
HM: A few months ago while talking to journalists about reporting and the national interest, you made reference to Kwame Nkrumah's legacy which Ghanaians and Africans are beginning to realise. Then you said that you don't mind being one person to be associated with President Mugabe 40 years from now when people realise his net worth. What did you mean?
BA: One day, President Mugabe will be rehabilitated as President Kwame Nkrumah has been. Nkrumah became a demon and monster after the 1966 coup that overthrew his government.
Even the books he had written were put in a huge heap and set alight in Accra. A British headmaster led the burning of Nkrumah's books at one of the country's elite secondary schools, Achimota. The West mobilised its media to drag Nkrumah's name in the mud, so much so that only the foolish and the damn crazy associated themselves with Nkrumah in those days.
Today, 45 years after his overthrow, Nkrumah has become a hero again, not only in Ghana but across Africa and the world. And everybody now wants to associate with him. Even his shoe-shine boy wants people to know that he was Nkrumah's shoe-shine boy.
The same will happen to President Mugabe. This man who has been turned into a demon and monster overnight by the West will some day in the future be rehabilitated!
It could be 10 years, 20 years or 30 years from now when the land issue would have proved an absolute winner in Zimbabwe. By then President Mugabe's shoe-shine boy would be proud to be known as the shoe-shine boy of President Mugabe.
HM: Since the Tunisian uprisings, people are claiming that the United States of America, the EU and their allies are trying to recolonise Africa, especially considering what is happening in Libya. To use the term from New African, is Africa being carved up again, and why would such a scenario take place?
BA: It was former President Thabo Mbeki who so poignantly asked the question in a recent article for the US-based Foreign Policy magazine: "Why is the UN entrenching former colonial powers on our continent?"
Mbeki asked the question following the UN and French action in Cote d'Ivoire that overthrew the substantive president, Laurent Gbagbo, and the installation of what many consider as a "Western puppet" in his place.
Is Africa being carved up again? I think we are already carved up - there are some African countries who today are in the French sphere of influence, and others in the British, American or Portuguese spheres of influence.
For Africa to have participated in the disgrace going on in Libya - I mean our UN Security Council temporary members, South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon - to have voted for a "no-fly zone" in Libya and in effect what is now happening there, is a disgrace that will haunt those three countries forever!