Mine Killings: South African Black Freedom Questioned
Clashes between mineworkers and police at the Marikana mines where platinum is extracted. Official reports indicate around 44 have died over the last week., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Mine killings: SA black freedom questioned
Saturday, 18 August 2012 22:26
Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
As I write, I still dread to turn on my television set to watch the live scenes of armed South African police brazenly firing live bullets into a rag-tag crowd of protesting miners.
The unrepentant white rule nostalgists have lost no time in gloating over this tragic incident and are drawing comparisons with the notorious apartheid-era Sharpeville Massacre, their logic being to whitewash their consciences for the systematic and institutionalised oppressive segregation of the black majority in their ancestral homeland.
President Zuma has had to cut short a diplomatic visit to a sub-regional Sadc summit in Maputo to go and handle this politically sensitive massacre at a time he is fighting hard to get his ANC party to accord him a second presidential term.
Politics being what it is, I doubt if his many opponents will let him off lightly. Thirty-eight dead miners and scores of others injured is just too grave an issue.
All right-thinking Zimbabweans are at one mind of sympathy with their big neighbour to the south at this hour of pain and grieving over this unfortunate incident. That is how it should be because of the recent shared experiences in the struggle to rid the sub-region of the scourge of colonialism, racism and apartheid.
We emerged strong to cement multi-faceted bonds even further.
Only yesterday in Harare, Sadc ambassadors and their staff teemed together with the host Government of Zimbabwe and other well-wishers to celebrate Sadc in a splendid extravaganza of speeches, drama, music, poetry and very tasty dishes of varied sub-regional cuisine for the scores who were at the National Gallery in the capital city of Harare.
Whether in sorrow or in joy, Sadc people empathise with each other as one region linked as much by geography as it is by shared culture as well as common history. On the African continent, we have that distinct identity of the re-birth of a new type of African state that is a product of slain bodies, lost limbs and blinded eyes as the valiant Soweto ’70s generation took to armed confrontation of foreign and racist invaders.
The armies of the sub-region are an issue of the national liberation movements that organised the various national populaces across the whole swathe of land from the Indian to the Atlantic Oceans, from Cape to Quelemane and from Maputo to Luanda into armed resistance to eject imperial and apartheid aggressors from power forever.
Post-victory revisionist history has sought to rob the sub-region of the many battlefield successes that dealt heavy blows to Portuguese colonialist fascism in Angola and Mozambique, to Rhodesian unrepentant minority racists and to the apartheid extension in Namibia in the heroic confrontation with the apartheid bastion.
Instead, great play has of late been given to demonstrations by well-wishers from far off capitals in the West as they pressured their won governments to desist from giving succour to the white minority monsters of the sub-region.
Those of us who were at the frontline of the struggle are quite appreciative of all the support we got from progressive humanity across the globe. It played an important part in improving our very difficult condition of deprivation and hardship while also boosting our morale. However, it is important to note that we were not typical refugees like those that stream out of the Rwanda-engendered mayhem of the Great Lakes region.
Rather, we were young people with a mission to get weapons from those countries that were ready to arm us so we could go back to confront the foreign invaders and racist white minority rulers in our home countries. Naturally, those who gave us those guns and bullets were much closer to our hearts and that gratitude goes to Communist China, Soviet Russia and its Warsaw Pact allies and other nations that stood four square with the then Organisation of African Unity and its Liberation Committee in support of the gallant duo of Zambia and Tanzania to host the various armed freedom fighter groupings.
We were overjoyed when progressive victories expanded the sphere of freedom in the sub-region as we tightened the noose around the apartheid bastion of South Africa.
At this juncture, it is important to highlight the two decisive battles that would shatter the notions of racist armed superiority and demoralise the ruling prospects of entrenched white minority.
The battle of Quito Cunavale in 1987-88 in southern Angola when the internationalist Cuban forces helped the Angolan army deliver telling blows on the much-vaunted South African apartheid invading force is etched in our memories of glory.
It demonstrated once and for all that the Africans had finally mastered the art and science of modern warfare.
Zimbabwe’s gallant forces would add another heroic chapter when for a full week of pitched battles, they blunted and then repulsed a massive Rhodesian combined ground and aerial assault on the Mavonde military redoubt in the Hauna border area north of Mutare in 1979.
This Mavonde Battle became the last major encounter of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War. In its wake, Britain ordered General Peter Walls, the commander of its rebel surrogate Rhodesian Army, to London to join the ceasefire talks he had scorned under mistaken military bravado.
On arrival in London, he was forced to salute General Josiah Tongogara, the illustrious commander of the Mozambique-based Zanla Forces, as they worked on the disengagement of the ground forces, leading to a ceasefire and the subsequent solution of Zimbabwe’s independence. Among the surviving heroes of this epic military encounter is General Paradzai Zimondi, who was the Camp Commander at Mavonde in charge of the intricate maze of underground trenches and other defences that foiled the combined ground and air assault of the Rhodesian army.
These two signature military encounters belied a qualitative build-up of military capability based on the concept of the classic guerilla tradition of the People’s War where a whole populace was politicised and organised into a potent force that would offset the technologi edge of Nato-trained colonial armies.
The two battles announced loudly and clearly to the minority apartheid rulers that notwithstanding their perception of military superiority, they stood to eventually face similar defeat should they persist in defying the will of the black majority in South Africa. They created a military environment that forced the apartheid white rulers to seek the path of negotiation well ahead of a desultory military confrontation they were now sure of eventually losing.
It is this tradition of the People’s Army that is the foundation of the new political and governance order of the Sadc sub-region. It is the bond that runs through the defence and security architecture of the countries that make up Sadc. These armies are a far cry from the majority of their counterparts on the African continent that were bequeathed to post-independence governments with express indoctrination to carry out anti-populist military coups that claimed a host of early African radical government leaders, Nkrumah included. Indeed a coup d’etat is an alien concept in the core Sadc nations associated with the national liberation movement. For the armies of these states, politics always command the gun.
In the instance of Zimbabwe, the guerilla war became so pervasive that no family was left untouched across the land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo. While it is accepted that independence created conditions for the armies to be professional in line with the new defence and security assignments, the People’s Army outlook remained ingrained courtesy of the core guerilla identity of the pioneer cadres.
It is the strong populist ethic of the People’s War that has been troubling to the West as it tries to retain its economic dominance of the Sadc region in the age of resource nationalism and an increasingly competitive global economic environment.
All along, the multinational corporations of the West could always count on the neo-colonial state apparatus to defend their business interests in the face of any popular challenge.
The likes of Joseph Mobutu and Idi Amin would remove elected rulers, the police would readily shoot land peasants reclaiming land stolen by colonial settlers and/or protesting workers. That way the stranglehold of multinationals on resources was assured while super profits were assured collusive monopolies.
From such an ideological stance, it is inconceivable that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, their sister Zimbabwe Republic Police and other related services would find themselves readily disposed to shoot at
workers on strike because that strikes at their core orientation as a force of the people, from the people, for the people. That is precisely the reason why the people of Svosve could move in to occupy land still occupied by recalcitrant white colonial settlers long after independence in 1980. They did not need to factor in the prospect of the army and the police joining the fray on the side of those remnants of the defeated colonial order.
It is also the same reason that the small-scale gold miners can now agitate for official recognition as legal economic players. Even the mine workers can strike without ever fearing that they can be mowed down by State guns in cold blood.
In Zimbabwe, it is common understanding that the State enforcement authority in not exercised at the behest of hostile foreign economic interests against popular wishes.
Neither is it within the psyche of the individual soldiers that they can shoot demonstrating workers and peasants confronting foreign economic interests.
That is precisely why the mujibha and chimbwido association with war veterans continues to endure because it was the basis of the common touch with the community.
Indeed Air-Marshall Perrance Shiri’s recent interview succinctly captured this people-centred outlook that resisted moving out of barracks in face of the adversity of sanctions on the welfare of soldiers during the 2007-8 economic meltdown. Even as the armed men went hungry and without pay, it never came to pass that they march to nearby State House, much to the chagrin of the United Kingdom and its Western allies.
We have gone through a decade during which every excuse has been contrived or invented to “get at Mugabe and his Zanu-PF”. There been spirited efforts by the USA, UK, EU and Anglo-Saxon to husband regional diplomacy to this cause with illegally imposed sanctions crafted to hasten this desired goal.
Within Zimbabwe, there is a cacophony of the ingrates from the post-independence education boom who are recruited to despise the unique historical achievements of a brave generation.
The charge is led by the legion of politico-lawyers spawned by reactionary instruction at the University of Zimbabwe Law Department.
Given a chance to draft a home-grown constitution for Zimbabwe, they resort to littering the document with infections of Rhodesianisis, a virulent form of obnoxious racist restitution of land and citizenship rights, to the detriment of the victorious black majority. Such is the work of those in the ilk of Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Douglas Mwonzora, Paul Mangwana, et al.
They want ex-Rhodesian nostalgists gratified ahead of the generality of the people of Zimbabwe. I bet their ingratitude may extend to the fact that they may still owe society the arrears on the post-independent student loan bonanza that gave me their erudite yet wayward elucidations.
It is from the same quarters that there is this litany of calls on so-called security sector reform. They clamour around President Zuma so he can abuse the heavyweight status of his nation so he will be made to impose an army, police and security service of their imagination at the behest of defeated imperialist forces.
And their hiding behind misplaced notions of popular will to reform a state whose origin and birth is popular sacrifice on a national scale.
My foot, no vote or referendum was conducted to form Zanla and Zipra. People left for Zambia, Botswana and later Mozambique as individuals to go and sacrifice to form the army of the two armies that made it possible to have a new Zimbabwe state.
They sacrificed their once-only gift of life for the welfare and benefit of all subsequent generations of Zimbabweans; not just for sulky post-independence spoilt brats. Now we have this reckless coterie of sanctimonious legal minds that would arrogate to itself the singular role of refashioning by pen and paper the defence and security apparatus born of rivers of blood.
It is a fact that America had a civil war in the 1860s after independence, that it had segregation as recently as the Second World War (1939-45) and the Korean War (1951-3) with black battalions and black pilots fighting separately. All of these shortcomings have never been used to denigrate the heroism at the heart of the victory of George Washington and Minutemen as they founded modern America. Neither have they ever been used as a excuse to call for the restoration of the British rule of a vanquished King George III and his successors.
Now that the Marikana Massacre has happened, may our busybody legal midgets working under the rubric of negotiators finally take stock of their misdirected efforts that place extra-territorial heavy loads on the shoulders of the South African leadership.
With 34 fatalities and other scores wounded and so many dependent families deprived of a breadwinner, these busybodies should now be jolted out of crowding Zuma’s leadership. I can assure you many South Africans would be thankful for that. Their hands are full, trying to re-build a nation shattered to the core by centuries of racist white rule and decades of apartheid. They need all the time possible to restructure their state apparatus out of the trigger-happy if gratuitous killing of many black strikers working for the good of foreign multi-national corporations.
Such conduct by our busybody negotiators would be a great act of solidarity to our black sisters and brethren in South Africa. It would be in keeping with our earlier tradition when we had wages and salaries deducted for the South African National Liberation Fund of the anti-apartheid struggle.
As for all other Zimbabweans, beware when such quarters clamour for Security Sector Reform. Dismiss the false accusations of a politicised army, police and security apparatus that are bandied about by Biti, Ncube, Mwonzora and Mangwana. You must be forever grateful that your sacrifice as a people in the glorious era of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s gave issue to a defence and security establishment of politically conscious cadres who will never turn their guns on you for the benefit of foreign economic interests.
Such a vocation on their part will continue to create boundless opportunities for your prosperity for generations to come. We just do not need Marikana-type massacres in Zimbabwe.