Friday, February 23, 2007

Zimbabwe Update: President Mugabe Celebrates 83rd Birthday

CNS: Cybercast News “Spin”

By Netfa Freeman
February 22nd, 2007
[Op-Ed: Media]

The extent of hypocrisy in American news media can be astounding, even when knowing that it’s a society that places profit over people.

The degree of sophistication of wolves dressed in “news” clothing is very instructive. Particularly regarding Western designs for Zimbabwe. Let us take note.

On January 17th, 2007 Cybercast News Service (CNS News) published an article centered on an event in which my program, the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) was involved. The article, “MLK Would Have Supported Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Activists Say” by Monisha Bansal is largely based on blatantly false and misleading information.

See: (

While I also take issue with many misrepresentations regarding complexity and context of the situation in Zimbabwe, I will confine this response to the falsehoods perpetrated against SALSA, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and myself.

Because I was called by CNS’ staff writer Bansal and interviewed over the phone about the event, it is hard to fathom how certain things were misrepresented. The extent of the false and misleading information in the article is a patent violation of CNS’ claim to serve “as a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin”. The article is so classic an example of “spin” that it could serve as such in any school of journalism. The article is completely contrary to any “endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story and debunk popular, albeit incorrect, myths about cultural and policy issues”, another claim of CNS News.

Given the obvious political slant and bias of the article it is not hard to determine the motivations behind resorting to such falsehoods. In short, I, SALSA and IPS were used as a straw man to demonize Zimbabwe’s leading party ZANU-PF and President Robert Mugabe.

Let’s begin with the title of the article, which implies I or someone else at IPS had asserted Martin Luther King would support President Mugabe. This was not something I ever said and I am certain no one else at IPS said such a thing since many of my colleagues respectfully disagree with my position on Zimbabwe.

It’s worth noting that IPS as a whole never takes positions as an institution and any opinions belong only to the person involved. I did say to Bansal that I believed Dr. King would have opposed the sanctions against Zimbabwe, which is a completely different assertion.

The first false statement in the article is “The Social Action and Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) raised some eyebrows when it hosted a representative of President Robert Mugabe's government at its annual Martin Luther King Day event on Monday.”

I explicitly told Bansal that SALSA was not the host of the program but that we were only helping to promote it. We were not even considered a co-sponsor. I told her that the program was hosted and organized by the Contee African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, where it was held.

I even gave Bansal the name and phone number of the contact person in the church responsible for the event but she neglected to contact them. The falsification of this key fact is of course the fundamental basis that condemns the article. It seems I was an easier target than the church, given the successes of the broad and largely church-based anti-sanctions movement regarding Iraq, which had to fight against similarly irresponsible journalists who defined opposition to those sanctions as "support for Saddam Hussein".

A second statement that further perpetuates false information and also demonstrates the article’s bias was “SALSA, a project of the ‘progressive’ Institute for Policy Studies, hosts the event each year, focusing on ‘some aspect of social justice’ that they believe would embody the ideals of Dr. King.”

Of course I never told the interviewer that SALSA hosts such an event each year because it is the church that does so. Her cute use of quotations around the word “progressive” seems to be a way of denigrating IPS. Because my personal analysis and convictions about Zimbabwe are not endorsed by IPS, nor shared by most of my colleagues, it is obvious that this article will grossly mislead its readers and will continue to do so as long as it appears on their website.

The third lie is the statement “Nefta Freeman, the organization’s director, told Cybercast News Service that this year’s keynote speaker, Zimbabwean Ambassador Machivanyika Mapuranga, ‘was the best person we could think of to talk about those kind of things.’” Maybe that my first name is spelled incorrectly—it is Netfa—is an indication that the “journalist”, Bansal was not listening closely enough to what I was saying.

Again, I did not organize the program—however this statement makes it appear as though I did and that I believed no other person except the Ambassador was the best to speak about Dr. King’s legacy of social justice. Furthermore, I am not “the organization’s director”. I am the program director for SALSA.

No reflection on Ambassador Mapuranga, whom I respect for his knowledge but I can think of and personally know many people who can speak on such a topic. What I did say, but probably should have left to the event’s organizer, was that the organizer chose the Ambassador because he was the best person to give the public the perspective and analysis of ZANU PF and the Zimbabwe government.

This of course this is a completely different and perfectly reasonable statement. Also, given the Ambassador’s academic and lecturing credentials, he was very appropriate for speaking on the event’s topic, Dr. King’s Impact on Africa. The topic of the event was not mentioned once in the CNS article. Because of the political stigma being attached to Zimbabwe, I can see no other objective for this falsehood than a veiled attempt to belittle my personal political character and understanding.

It is a lie when the article states the following: “‘The Land Reclamation Program in Zimbabwe...has bought land to over 250,000 indigenous families’, the Institute for Policy Studies said on its website.” While I do not dispute the veracity of this statement, it has never appeared on the IPS website. It had appeared as part of the wording of the promo for the event on SALSA’s website. Again, I remind the reader we did not organize it.

Lastly, the statement, “Freeman of SALSA said that even if the sanctions against Zimbabwe were imposed for sound reasons, ‘what they're doing really hurts the average, everyday people in Zimbabwe,’” is a misrepresentation of what I said because I do not think the reasons for sanctions against Zimbabwe are sound, and would not have said so.

The lesson here is how imperialist news media is used to advance its hegemony. The article has so many falsehoods about the event, about IPS, SALSA and myself that time and space will not allow me address in this response the slanderous politics included against Zimbabwe herself.

For that is subject matter for another article, all together.

Netfa Freeman is the Director of the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists at the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with PALO, the Pan-African Liberation Organization. He is also co-author of the Black Star News article "Zimbabwe: Psychosis Of Denial." He can be reached at

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President Robert Mugabe: Legacy of a freedom fighter

THIS is the first of a five-part series in which The Herald looks at the legacy of President Mugabe focusing on the principles of liberation, reconciliation, democracy, education, health, and land reform. In the introductory article today, Caesar Zvayi looks at President Mugabe, the Freedom Fighter, not only for Zimbabwe, but the entire continent.

WHEN New African magazine launched an online international survey to find the three greatest Africans of all time, Zimbabwean President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was voted the third greatest in a poll that spanned nine months.

The survey that ran from December 2003 to August 2004 saw President Mugabe gracing third place after former South African president Nelson Mandela and Ghana’s founding president Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

In analysing the results, the magazine said: ‘‘President Mugabe’s high score is particularly interesting given that in the last four years a high profile campaign in the (international) media has painted him in bad light.’’

Taking nothing from the other two leaders, President Mugabe’s high score at a time he was being demonised on a daily basis by the global Weapons of Mass Deception — CNN, BBC and other Western agencies — implies that, all things being equal, he would have emerged overall winner.

This view is buttressed by the fact that Dr Nkrumah and Madiba lasted no more than five years at the helm thus they did not create many detractors.

Because of this, analysts were, therefore, agreed that the greatest African of all time is actually President Mugabe who has become the embodiment of the aspirations of the entire developing world.

The pollsters hailed him for his aptitude, resilience, independence, bravery and unflinching commitment to the goals and objectives of the Second Chimurenga.

He was extolled for being a great freedom fighter and principled revolutionary who has remained true to his people in spite of having been at the helm for over 20 years then — a tenure that would have seen lesser men submit to the trappings of power.

Even British premier Tony Blair had to voice his frustrations at his failure to get Africa to demonise President Mugabe saying African leaders revere him as a freedom fighter.

President Mugabe led Zimbabwe to independence after a 14-year war of attrition brought Ian Smith’s settler regime to its knees.

He spent 11 of those years incarcerated by the Smith regime in dehumanising conditions, but that did not break his spirit.

Through it all, he refused to compromise with the regime as he maintained that only its complete capitulation was acceptable.

His resolve was understandable given the irrationality of the colonial regime’s excesses that were aptly summed by New African Editor — Baffour Ankomah — in his special report on the Silver Jubilee celebrations as follows:

--No African was allowed to keep more than six herd of cattle; any Rhodesian government official was empowered to seize the excess.

The impact of this spurious edict in a country whose major economic activity was agriculture can not be over emphasised.

--No African was allowed to go out after 6pm without a letter (deemed as a pass) written by a European giving the date and time limits of the travel or outing.

--No African was allowed to sell his maize produce directly to the state-owned Grain Marketing Board. That was reserved for white farmers. The African sold his produce only to the Farmers Co-operatives run by white farmers, who then sold on the maize at huge profit to the GMB.

--No African was allowed in a supermarket. There was a hole in the wall where all African shoppers were made to queue for hours, and from where they shouted at the African shop assistants inside the supermarket what they wanted to buy.

--No African was allowed in First Street in the heart of the capital, Salisbury (now Harare) where all the big banks, owned by white companies, were situated. In this way, Africans were denied capital to start their own businesses.

The place for the African was on white-owned farms and homes where they toiled for hours as labourers and domestics for very little pay. Pavements were reserved for white people, and no African was allowed to walk on them even when there were no whites around. Africans walked on the road, which they shared with cars owned by white people.

If an African saw a white person on the pavement, he stood aside, at attention, until the white person walked past.

--No African was allowed to vote. That was reserved for whites. It took a bitter war of liberation in which precious African blood was shed in copious quantities to get the ballot others take for granted.

--No African was allowed to drink European beer."

In the end, President Mugabe had to accept some compromises at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, only because leaders of the Frontline States indicated that their fragile post-independence economies could not continue sustaining the war effort where Peace was an option.

His unwavering commitment to the total independence of Zimbabwe is actually the reason why the West, that harbours hopes of recolonising the continent by proxy, want him out as they consider him a stumbling block to their designs.

President Mugabe’s image as a liberation icon is evident in the way he has defended other African countries as well, and his principled stand at all international forums.

In the mid-80s, Zimbabwe’s intervention in the Mozambican civil war helped stave off American designs to recolonise the country under the guise of the rebel Renamo of Alfonso Dhlakama.

The rebels were kept at bay till they had the good sense to reform and transform themselves into a political party that sought to attain power through democratic means.

Renamo has since contested several polls in Mozambique.

In 1997 President Mugabe, who was then chair of the Sadc Organ on Defence and Security Co-operation, sent troops into the DRC along with Angola and Namibia during a campaign code-named Operation Sovereign Legitimacy.

This followed the invasion of the DRC by troops backed by Rwanda and Uganda at the behest of the Americans who are accused of orchestrating the assassination of President Laurent Desire Kabila so that they could continue looting the country’s resources.

Zimbabwe’s intervention, that drew the ire of the rabble-rousing Western nations, provided the foundation for the stability that saw the DRC, late last year, hold its first democratic elections in 45 years.

Analysts are agreed that apart from the land reform programme, Zimbabwe’s intervention in the DRC also accounts for the Western backlash on Harare.

On March 7 2003, Zimbabwe again etched another notch on its liberation sabre when it foiled a coup bid in Equatorial Guinea.

In an operation that spanned several months, Zimbabwean security forces arrested 67 mercenaries at Harare International Airport when their Boeing 727 landed in attempt to pick up a consignment of arms they wanted to use to overthrow the government of President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Malabo.

Where lesser leaders would have capitulated in the face of Western onslaught President Mugabe has remained resolute and actually took the fight to his persecutors who responded by imposing a travel ban on him reminiscent of the colonial pass law, highlighted above.

In recognition of his enduring liberation legacy, President Mugabe has been honoured by several countries among them Britain that is currently at the forefront of trying to trash his legacy.

In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, entitling him to use the post-nominal letters KCB, after his name.

On September 15 1988, the US-based Hunger Project honoured him with the Africa Price for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger.

Cuba conferred him the Jose Marti International Award for his sterling contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe. Created in 1994, the Martí award was instituted by Unesco’s Executive Board "at the initiative of the Government of Cuba."

And "promotes and rewards an activity of outstanding merit in accordance with the ideals and spirit of José Martí. By embodying a nation’s aspiration to sovereignty and its struggle for liberty."

On November 7 2004, President Nguema decorated President Mugabe with the Great Ring of the Independence of Equatorial Guinea, that country’s highest honour for foiling the coup bid.

On May 4 last year, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi named his country’s main highway that links Blantyre and Mulanje after President Mugabe, describing him as a fighter and democrat in the true sense of the word.

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez also conferred President Mugabe with his country’s highest honour.

Today Zimbabweans are enjoying total independence, due to President Mugabe’s resolve to complete the last lap of Independence started by the nation’s forebears during the First Chimurenga III years ago.

His constant refrain, "Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again," is a source of inspiration to millions of Zimbabweans who defiantly hold their clenched fists aloft sending a strong message to would be aggressors that they would never betray his legacy.

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