via View from the Left | The Zimbabwean 18.12.13
The recent death of Nelson Mandela has brought with it some obvious comparisons.
Why, for instance, is South Africa working and Zimbabwe is not?
Mandela, despite a personality cult which tells us the contrary, did not liberate South Africa on his own, but was a member of a party with a programme. That party is the ANC and that programme is the ‘Freedom Charter’.
How does the Freedom Charter begin?
“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;”
“South Africa belongs to all that live in it”. This is the fundamental principle of nation building: a nation is not a tribe or an ethnic group.
Is this not very different from what we are taught in Zimbabwe?
All whites are foreigners, as are people of Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican origin who came to work in the mines and on the farms. Ndebeles are invaders from South Africa – the only real Zimbabweans are Shonas and the cream of the Shonas are the Zezuru. As for Coloureds – not being ‘racially pure’ according to this ideology, they do not count.
But hang on – even the Shonas came from elsewhere, some groups will tell you explicitly “Our ancestors came from Tanzania.” or “Our ancestors came from Mozambique.”
The logic of this argument is that Zimbabwe should revert to the ownership of its original people, the San. To my knowledge there are three groups remaining in Zimbabwe, one in Bulilima Distict, one in Tsholotsho District and one in Hwange District. I am sure they would be very happy if, as the original inhabitants of Zimbabwe, they were asked to form a government to the exclusion of all later invaders.
Hence today, Zimbabweans think of themselves as Shona or Ndebele or whatever else first, and as Zimbabweans second. Or as I tell tribalist Zimbabweans in South Africa, “While even here you are concerned about who is Shona and who is Ndebele, in South Africa you are all Makwerekwere, and while you continue to talk the language of Shona/Ndebele, you will die here as Makwerekwere.
Now this word ‘Makwerekwere’ shows – perversely – that South Africans – almost all South Africans – think of themselves as a nation in opposition to other nations. But in hating other nations they have not got it quite right.
There was one Zimbabwean leader who did have it right, that is the late Joseph Msika. More than once at rallies I heard him say, “I am a Nationalist. I am a Pan-Africanist. I am a Proletarian Internationalist.
What does this mean?
It means that I love my nation and wish to build it. It means that I see my nation as part of Africa and that Africa must unite with a common purpose. Lastly, being a Proletarian Internationalist means that I recognize the common interests of the working-class and its allies against racialists, narrow-nationalists and most of all the ‘internationalism’ of monopoly capitalism.
It is forgotten that Joseph Msika, a carpenter by trade, was the main founder of the modern nationalist movement in Zimbabwe, it is he who brought J.Z. Moyo, James Chikerema and George Nyandoro together to revive the Southern Rhodesian ANC and make it into a militant fighting organization. It is he who recruited the Father of Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo to lead the struggle (just as Nelson Mandela was recruited by Walter Sisulu). The SRANC was banned and the National Democratic Party was formed. The NDP was banned and ZAPU was formed in 1961. In 1963 some members broke away from ZAPU and formed ZANU. See you next year.