Category Archives: South Africa

Reagan’s embrace of apartheid South Africa

His foreign policy legacy includes an alliance with a racist government

By Justin Elliott

The regime of apartheid in South Africa, under which nonwhites were systematically oppressed and deprived of their rights, is remembered as one of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century.

Despite a growing international movement to topple apartheid in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan maintained a close alliance with a South African government that was showing no signs of serious reform. And the Reagan administration demonized opponents of apartheid, most notably the African National Congress, as dangerous and pro-communist. Reagan even vetoed a bill to impose sanctions on South Africa, only to be overruled by Congress.

On a trip to the United States after winning the Nobel Prize in 1984, Bishop Desmond Tutu memorably declared that Reagan’s policy was ”immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.” Reagan’s record on South Africa was also marked by at least one embarrassing gaffe, when he told a radio interviewer in 1985: “They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country — the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated — that has all been eliminated.” Of course, that was simply not true, and Reagan later walked the statement back.

To learn more about Reagan’s policy on South Africa, I spoke with David Schmitz, a historian at Whitman College who has written widely on U.S. foreign policy. His new book is a biography of Brent Scowcroft. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Where did things stand between the U.S. and South Africa when Reagan entered office in 1981?

Carter had imposed sanctions and restrictions on South Africa and also had publicly criticized the South African government many times. Reagan went back to supporting the government, and he did it under the guise of the policy of “constructive engagement.” This policy had been worked out by Chester Crocker, later a Reagan State Department official, who wrote about it in Foreign Affairs in 1980.

Can you define that term, constructive engagement?

The idea of constructive engagement was that there were moderates in the South African government and so you wanted to encourage them. And if you constructively engaged with them, they would promote gradual change, political reform and so on. But to just oppose the government would make it intransigent and that would create greater polarization, and that was a situation that only extremists would benefit from. The Reagan administration saw the African National Congress (ANC) as a dangerous, pro-communist movement. So the notion of constructive engagement was gradual reform. It was also linked to Reagan supporting the Sullivan principles as a proper way to bring about change.

What were the Sullivan principles?

They were an idea promoted by an American religious leader, Reverend Leon Sullivan, a Baptist minister in Philadelphia. What he said was that, if corporations agree to certain standards of fair employment in South Africa, they shouldn’t be subjected to protests or divestiture. At that time there were a lot of protests in the United States demanding that universities and corporations divest from South Africa. Sullivan argued that these principles would be part of a middle ground between two extremes that would allow for change and betterment of the conditions of blacks in South Africa. Reagan seized upon that. Constructive engagement was presented as a middle ground between apartheid forever and those that wanted immediate change — which Reagan and Crocker argued would lead to chaos that the Soviets would take advantage of.

So what did that policy mean on the ground? Were the two governments close?

Yes, the Reagan administration worked very closely with [South African Prime Minister] P.W. Botha. He came to Washington and there were meetings in Europe as well. Reagan gave a lot of public support to the South African government, portraying Botha as a moderate who was willing to start political reforms and would stay on the side of the United States and help us block Soviet influence in southern Africa.

How did that square with what was actually going on in South Africa?

Nothing was going on. The reforms were cosmetic at best. Sullivan would eventually say in 1987 that it didn’t work. The crackdown of 1986 and the reimposition of martial law just made a total lie out of the notion that there were moderates in the Afrikaner government.

Talk about that crackdown and the U.S. response to it.

There was a lot of pressure building up in the United States, and Congress was threatening to pass legislation that would put sanctions on South Africa and restrict the flow of American aid to South Africa. Reagan always said he would veto that. Then Botha gave a speech on Aug. 15, 1985, in the face of increasing unrest in South Africa — this known as the “Rubicon speech.” And he said that South Africa would never accept one man, one vote in a unitary system. Real democracy, he said, would lead to chaos. This disappointed Reagan. But he stuck with Botha. Pressure built both inside of South Africa and outside, and the protest inside of South Africa led to the imposition of martial law. Congress then voted sanctions.

Was this the incident in which sanctions were voted and Reagan vetoed and was then overruled?

Yes. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum took the lead of the Republicans. She said that the situation in South Africa was virtually beyond hope and that constructive engagement was irrelevant. This regime was not going to change unless forced to. The United States was just party to this continued oppression. That sort of broke the Republican unity behind Reagan on this policy. The larger context was that Reagan had just failed in the Philippines in trying to back [Ferdinand] Marcos to the end. The Reagan doctrine was collapsing in Central America as well, with opposition growing to his interventions there. So that was also now happening in South Africa. The House vote wasn’t even recorded, it was so overwhelming in favor of imposing sanctions. The Senate vote was more than enough to override the veto, which it did.

What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?

They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you’re going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don’t work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.

By the end of the Reagan years, had the policy changed?

Well, Reagan’s attitudes hadn’t changed, but the policy changed because Congress changed it and voted sanctions. That cut off a lot of the flow of American capital. Sullivan renounced his position. Bishop Desmond Tutu came to the United States in 1984 after being awarded the Nobel Prize. He speaks in the House of Representatives and says that constructive engagement is a farce, and that it just entrenched the existing order. He said Reagan’s policy was “immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.”

After Reagan met with Tutu, he was asked at a press conference to talk about their meeting. Reagan said, “It is counterproductive for one country to splash itself all over the headlines, demanding that another government do something.” Then he claimed that black tribal leaders had expressed their support for American investment. He was trying to discredit Tutu’s argument that U.S. policy had hurt blacks. Anti-communism trumped so much in Reagan’s view of the non-Western world.

Would you argue that Reagan’s foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?

Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in ’86 and ’87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.

I think a lot of well-meaning people in the United States bought the Sullivan principles and constructive engagement, because it seems reasonable. Reagan would say, “If we’re willing to talk to the Russians, why aren’t we willing to talk to the South African government?” We’re going to encourage them to moderate and reform — it sounds reasonable. But there was no real pressure. It was all talk. And it was exposed as that.

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Kwame Nkrumah: “I Speak of Freedom”

I Speak of Freedom

1961

For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to “civilise”Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.

All this makes a sad story, but now we must be prepared to bury the past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future. All we ask of the former colonial powers is their goodwill and cooperation to remedy past mistakes and injustices and to grant independence to the colonies in Africa….

It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems,and that this can only be found in African unity.

Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.

Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown any where. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance.

Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people. Together, by mutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic development of the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole. A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would not provide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong political union can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people.

The political situation in Africa today is heartening and at the same time disturbing. It is heartening to see so many new flags hoisted in place of the old; it is disturbing to see so many countries of varying sizes and at different levels of development, weak and, in some cases, almost helpless. If this terrible state of fragmentation is allowed to continue it may well be disastrous for us all.

There are at present some 28 states in Africa, excluding the Union of South Africa, and those countries not yet free. No less than nine of these states have a population of less than three million. Can we seriously believe that the colonial powers meant these countries to be independent, viable states? The example of South America, which has as much wealth, if not more than North America, and yet remains weak and dependent on outside interests, is one which every African would do well to study.

Critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa. This is true, but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans,and have a common interest in the independence of Africa. The difficulties presented by questions of language, culture and different political systems are not insuperable. If the need for political union is agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born;and where there’s a will there’s a way.

The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes. To suggest that the time is not yet ripe for considering a political union of Africa is to evade the facts and ignore realities in Africa today.

The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, stand as an example to a divided world. A Union of African states will project more effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a world that has regard only for size and influence. The scant attention paid to African opposition to the French atomic tests in the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N. in the Congo quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callous disregard of African Independence by the Great Powers.

We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpiles of atom bombs. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear,envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

The emergence of such a mighty stabilising force in this strife-worn world should be regarded not as the shadowy dream of a visionary, but as a practical proposition, which the peoples of Africa can, and should, translate into reality. There is a tide in the affairs of every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was the moment in the history of the United States of America when the Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of the separate states and created a Union. This is our chance. We must act now. Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and with it the hope of free Africa’s survival.

 — From Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1961), pp. xi-xiv.

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Obituary: Jonas Savimbi, UNITA’s local boy

Jonas Savimbi: Spent most of his adult life as a guerrilla leader. Savimbi was said to run Unita's territory as a personal fiefdom

By Chris Simpson
Former BBC correspondent in Angola

Jonas Savimbi founded his Unita movement in March 1966 in Muangai, in Angola’s eastern province, Moxico.

According to Unita’s own official history, 200 delegates, including dozens of local chiefs, attended.

Muangai supposedly marked the beginning of Savimbi’s career as a guerrilla leader.

Thirty-six years later his corpse was put on display at Lucusse, just 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Muangai.

Quixotic

Savimbi has died a pariah.

Over the past decade his Unita movement has become increasingly isolated, accused of perpetuating a bloody civil war for its own interests and exposed to international sanctions as a consequence.

Unita’s deteriorating image owed much to Savimbi’s autocratic and quixotic style of leadership.

White House visit

But in his heyday, Savimbi had a formidable selection of allies and acolytes.

Fighting against an Angolan Government which deployed thousands of Cuban troops and enjoyed strong support from the former Soviet Union, Unita’s cause was taken up by apartheid South Africa and by the United States under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior.

In 1986 Mr Reagan welcomed Savimbi to the White House and talked of Unita winning “a victory that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom”.

African leaders, like Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire were open supporters, other presidents cultivated strong diplomatic and commercial ties right until the end.

Savimbi assiduously courted western journalists as well as politicians, presenting his bush headquarters in Jamba in the far south-eastern corner of Angola as the centre of a huge struggle against communism.

Some visitors returned deeply impressed by Savimbi’s leadership qualities and the dedication of his cadres, others hinted at a much darker regime, dismissing Savimbi as a power-hungry propagandist.

Modest beginnings

Jonas Savimbi was born and raised in the province of Bie, a lush, green region of rolling hills and small rivers, now once again devastated by war.

Savimbi made much of his roots in Angola’s Central Highlands. The station-master’s son – whose childhood home can still be found near the town of Andulo – always presented himself as a local boy made good, and later as the region’s representative, champion and leader.

Savimbi’s life breaks into several chapters, with much of the detail still in dispute and many questions unanswered. It was always wise to address him as “Doctor”.

But the PhD in question, supposedly from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, was probably never awarded. Unita’s own official biography of Savimbi claims he spent two years as a medical student in Portugal, but abandoned his studies to engage in the anti-colonial struggle.

‘Fictitious campaigns’

Savimbi formed Unita after failing to find common ground with other nationalist movements, notably the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Savimbi’s critics say Unita’s military campaigns against the Portuguese regime were fictitious and later published documents linking Savimbi to Portuguese intelligence, suggesting he was a paid informer.

Savimbi’s first chance of power came with the end of Portuguese colonialism. But though promised a share in a transitional government Unita lost out as full-blown civil war broke out.

Despite the backing of South Africa and the United States, Unita was unable to compete with the Cuban troops and Soviet firepower put at the disposal of the MPLA.

A new government was proclaimed in Luanda, while Unita retreated deep into the interior.

Savimbi, once a self-proclaimed Maoist, described Unita as having embarked on its own “long march” at this point, recovering slowly from defeat and betrayal to rediscover itself as a movement, drawing on the courage of a few dozen survivors.

Peace

But Unita’s survival owed much to its alliance with South Africa, which remained at war with Angola for much of the next 15 years, and to the US.

With the ending of the Cold War and the steady erosion of apartheid, southern Africa became less of a battle-ground and there was an opportunity for peace.

Savimbi and Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signed a peace agreement in Bicesse in Portugal in May 1991, paving the way for elections 16 months later.

Savimbi returned to the capital, Luanda, for the first time in 15 years and began campaigning for the presidency.

Thousands dead

As the news broke of his own and Unita’s election defeat, Savimbi refused to accept the results and flew to Huambo, Angola’s second city.

The UN, backed by Russia, Portugal and the United States, tried to keep the peace, but in vain.

The conflict which followed was infinitely worse than anything which had gone before, with thousands of civilians perishing.

Savimbi was widely blamed for the catastrophe, particularly after he scuppered a six-week round of peace talks in Ivory Coast in 1993.

But while the UN imposed oil and arms embargoes on Unita and President Bill Clinton formally recognised the government in Luanda, Savimbi laughed off international condemnation, establishing his capital in Huambo.

Unita’s military fortunes dipped as the government reorganised, clawing back territory.

Facing military humiliation, Unita signed a UN-brokered peace deal in Lusaka in November 1994. Savimbi was not there in person, his absence showing a distaste for compromise.

Once again, the UN was mandated to keep the peace, this time with 7,000 troops. Unita agreed to demobilise its forces. National reconciliation became the key objective.

Damning critiques

The peace process limped on for close to four years, marked by endless delays and recriminations.

But despite the offer of the vice-presidency, along with a new house in Luanda, Savimbi remained in the Central Highlands and Angola drifted back to war.

By the end, Savimbi had lost much of his lustre.

Most of the obituaries have been predictably damning. Some of the harshest criticism has come from those who once knew and admired Savimbi, but have since admitted they were duped by his charisma into overlooking serious character flaws.

A former backer in Washington once conceded ruefully: “Savimbi is probably the most brilliant man I’ve ever met, but he’s also dangerous, even psychotic”.

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Video – CIA Archives: Apartheid in South Africa – Raw Documentary Footage

ANC Celebrates 100 Years

Republic of South Africa President Jacob Zuma arrives to address over 100,000 at the ruling African National Congress centenary celebrations. The ANC is the oldest national liberation movement in Africa., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

8 January 2012

ANC at 100: Thousands attend celebration rally

Jacob Zuma spoke of “the building of a united democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society”

South African President Jacob Zuma has addressed a rally to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress.

He said the occasion was a joyous celebration for all the people of South Africa, not just for the ANC and its members.

Tens of thousands of South Africans are attending the rally in Bloemfontein to mark the centenary.

Frail health has prevented Nelson Mandela from attending the events.

President Zuma paid tribute to all his predecessors as ANC leader, including the 93 year old, who led the party to power after the end of apartheid. Nelson Mandela has not attended any public engagements since the start of the 2010 World Cup.

The crowd responded with a huge cheer when Mr Mandela’s name was read out.

Mr Zuma said the centenary was an emotional and yet very exciting and moving occasion.

The celebration was for “all the people of South Africa who with the support of the continent and the world destroyed colonial oppression and apartheid and are building a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa together,” he said.

President Zuma said the ANC was a “broad church” which was home to all
The president added that it had been a long road since 1652 when settlers first arrived in South Africa.

Looking back at the development of the ANC, Mr Zuma said it now stood for the democratic values of equality. He quoted the preamble to the ANC’s freedom charter: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”

‘Broad church’

Jacob Zuma paid tribute to the many people and organisations who worked together to bring about a non-racial South Africa.

He said the ANC was “a disciplined force of the left with a bias towards the poor,” but was also a broad church that was home to all.

One of the biggest strengths of the movement was the fact that its supporters were “nationalists, Marxists, Africanists, workers, capitalists, women, men, youth, rural and urban, rich and poor,” he said.

The president told the crowd that the ANC had achieved a 1942 resolution that by its centenary the movement should have one million members. The ANC now has 1,027,389 members, he announced, to cheers from the stadium.

In 2012 the ANC would be taking “urgent and practical steps” to revitalise its grass roots and once again place itself at the forefront of a progressive pace of change, he said.

Education and skills development would be at the centre of its transformation, said Mr Zuma. The party would seek to stamp out factionalism and “promote political discipline,” he added.

Criticism

African and world leaders, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and African-American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, are also in Bloemfontein for the celebrations.

They attended a gala dinner on Saturday night, and an interfaith service on Sunday at the Wesleyan Church in Mangaung, just outside Bloemfontein, where chiefs, church leaders and other prominent people gathered on 8 January 1912 to create the liberation movement.

A torch carrying the centenary flame, lit by Mr Zuma at midnight, was housed in a glass case at the front of the church.

The flame was brought to the stadium for the rally at Bloemfontein’s Free State stadium.

Mr Zuma began Saturday’s celebrations by leading the ritual slaughter of a black bull to remember, he said, “our ancestors, to remember our own gods in a traditional way”.

The weekend of events in Bloemfontein began on Friday with a golf tournament. Andrew Mlangeni, who joined the party in 1951 and spent years in prison on Robben Island with Mr Mandela, took the opening shot.

The tournament was criticised by commentators as a sign of the ruling party’s growing elitism – accusations dismissed by ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu who said the party embraced “all sporting codes”.

The opposition has also criticised the amount of money being spent on the year-long ANC centenary celebrations – a total of $12m (£8m).

While the ANC is hailed as Africa’s oldest and most famous liberation movement, its reputation is being tarnished by corruption scandals, political infighting and reports of officials leading flashy lifestyles – and many South Africans believe the party has not done enough to improve the lives of the poor.

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African alibi: What we learn from Anglo-Saxon fear of Lumumba, President

AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona Mahoso
Sunday, March 07, 2010 – sundaymail.co.zw

Despite the nominal co-optation and ascendancy of an African-American, Barrack Obama, to the presidency of the leading Anglo-Saxon power on earth, the intensity of Anglo-Saxon fear of an African revolution in 2010 is at the same level if not worse than it was in 1961 during the Congo crisis.

This is the context in which renewals of illegal US and EU sanctions against Zimbabwe must be viewed.

One indicator of that fear is the frantic search for African masks and alibis to cover up the white man even so many centuries after the slave holocaust. For instance, Anglo-Saxon crimes against the Congo (DRC) in 1960 and Zimbabwe in 2010 are comparable:

— Both have for a long time been considered too rich to be left alone; and Zimbabwe can use the Congo experience in 1960 to defend itself better in 2010.

— Both have been subjected to multiple, well-documented Anglo-Saxon crimes which require and deserve massive reparations as well as prosecutions of the living criminals for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is these well-documented crimes together with the natural riches of the two countries which make the Anglo-Saxon powers scared and yet unable to let go. For DRC some of the crimes are as follows:

Between the end of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) and 1908, the people of the Congo were subjected to a holocaust and to modern slavery where they were forced to produce certain quotas of rubber on pain of having their fingers, toes and arms chopped off if they failed to meet those quotas.

During the Hitler wars, Belgium was over-run by the Nazis and the Belgian state wiped out. Belgians established a government in exile in London which subsisted on looted Congolese natural resources and minerals. Re-establishment of the Belgian state after 1945 was made possible through Congolese resources. Between 1960 and 1998, the people of the Congo were subjected to successive stooge regimes sponsored by the same Western powers and intelligence agencies which destroyed the first Congolese government and revolution and murdered Congo’s popular and first prime minister Patrice Lumumba on January 17 1961. Between 1998 and 2003 the same Western powers interfered in the internal affairs of the DRC by opposing Sadc’s intervention against their proxies and Zimbabwe was particularly singled out for punishment for leading the Sadc intervention and stopping genocide against the Congolese people. In the Zimbabwe case, British settlers and companies dispossessed the people of their land and minerals for a hundred years; and when the people reclaimed that land between 1992 and 2002 they were put under illegal Anglo-Saxon sanctions which Europe and the US renewed in February and March 2010 respectively. For the people of Zimbabwe to be able to reclaim their land between 1992 and 2002, they had to wage a protracted guerilla war from 1965 to 1980 in which Europe, the US and white South Africa supported the white Rhodesian settler side.

"Homeland" under South African apartheid

 In 1973 the Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid made it clear that the punishable crimes of apartheid were committed not only in South Africa but throughout the Southern African region and against most of the indigenous people and nations of the region by white Rhodesia, white South Africa and their Anglo-Saxon supporters who provided arms, mercenaries, trade and finance to all the white settler regimes and to their puppet regimes in the then Zaire (DRC) and to Jonas Savimbi’s Unita in Angola.

 Therefore in both Zimbabwe and Congo (DRC), because of the historical realities of racism, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of mass dispossession and looting — the Anglo-Saxon powers have always been eager to use African masks and alibis. Before Jonas Savimbi of Angola, the biggest mask for white racist interests and the biggest provider of alibis for Anglo-Saxon imperialism was Moise Tshombe, the puppet African prime minister of the white corporate breakaway province of Katanga. With the agreement of all the key Western powers, the Belgians arranged a system where Tshombe himself and all the ministers of his puppet government were controlled and run by white Belgian private secretaries. The police and military structures were also managed by white officers in the same way. The Western powers figured that all the crimes and atrocities required to destroy Lumumba’s government and reverse the small gains of the Congo National Movement (MNC) could be blamed on Tshombe and his stooge ministers, or on the African population itself, while maintaining the image of the white powers and their looting corporations as civilised, humane and well-meaning.

Coming to Zimbabwe, on Tuesday March 2 2010, the media reported that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had finally stated bluntly that all illegal Anglo-Saxon sanctions against Zimbabwe must be lifted. This was followed by passage of a double motion in the House of Assembly praising the Prime Minister for his decision to call the illegal sanctions by their real name and asking him and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to proceed to lobby the Anglo-Saxon powers for the complete removal of the same sanctions. These events mark a new stage in the struggle to unite the people against the illegal and racist sanctions in order to strip the Anglo-Saxon powers of the criminal mask and alibi which they have enjoyed through the MDC formations for the last 10 years. This is the moment to unite all people for Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai and MDC-T had reached a new stage indeed:

— First, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was going to the UK to deliver two messages: that South Africa under the ANC government will never play for imperialism in Zimbabwe the same role which South Africa under apartheid played for imperialism in Rhodesia; and that it makes no sense for the Anglo-Saxon powers to retain illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe in the hope that sanctions will motivate the liberation movement in the inclusive Government to implement the so-called GPA to its fullest, since the GPA document itself requires the very same illegal sanctions to be condemned and defeated or lifted before the GPA can be considered complete. How can the same evil sanctions condemned in the GPA be considered an incentive to encourage completion of the GPA?

— Second, the demonstration against sanctions by the Zanu-PF Youth League which was followed by the music gala celebrating President Mugabe’s 86th birthday in Bulawayo on February 26 2010 helped spread the anti-sanctions campaign from the realm of political commentary and party politics to the realm of popular Pan-African culture. Having Jamaican reggae musician Sizzla Kalonji as the focus of the gala and having him condemn the sanctions on behalf of both Rastafarians and Pan-Africanists was indeed the stroke of genius which crowned all the communiqués of Sadc, AU, ACP and NAM, which had condemned the same sanctions in the last seven years!

Linked to Bob Marley’s performance of “Zimbabwe” and “Africa Unite” on April 18 1980, Kalonji’s performance against white racist sanctions in Bulawayo truly globalised the struggle to defend Zimbabwe’s sovereign independence and economic empowerment.

Popularising the defence of Zimbabwe’s sovereign independence and economic empowerment at the same level as Bob Marley’s 1980 visit increased pressure for the Anglo-Saxon powers to look for cover or for an alibi. Mr Tsvangirai, too, had to take cover because on January 19 2010, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband sought to reinforce imperialism’s criminal mask by claiming a false alibi. He claimed that the sanctions were not hurting ordinary Zimbabweans because they had no impact on the economy. That was the alibi. But Miliband went further to say that the same illegal and racist sanctions, which supposedly did not hurt anyone, would, however, be lifted only when Tsvangirai’s MDC-T (who originally begged for them to be imposed) came out and asked the same sanctions to be lifted. The Standard, through its UK-based writer Alex Magaisa, correctly sensed danger for Mr Tsvangirai in David Miliband’s alibi and mask. In fact, he felt that Miliband should not have revealed that for the last 10 years the Anglo-Saxon powers had been using the MDC formations to create an alibi for their intrusive and illegal intervention in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe. Magaisa felt that the MDC-T as a British mask in Zimbabwe would no longer be able to perform its function once Miliband pointed to it and identified it as a British-EU mask. Magaisa’s Standard article was entitled “A case of the embarrassing uncle”.

Magaisa is worth quoting at length to demonstrate the importance of the present moment for patriots in Zimbabwe.

“It doesn’t matter that Sekuru Rameki’s (David Miliband’s) speeches may contain a grain of truth. Often he says it as it is. The trouble (for whom?) is that he knows neither the location nor the time to make his utterances . . . I was reminded of the likes of Sekuru Rameki last week when the furore broke over the statements made by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in relation to the contentions issue of sanctions in Zimbabwe.”

It is obvious that Magaisa has painted a picture of the relationship between MDC-T and the white racist Anglo-Saxon powers which is meant to flatter MDC-T and dismiss Miliband as a drunken uncle. Yet it is significant that even Magaisa recognises or imagines that a family relationship does exist. Where in 2000 Mr Tsvangirai called the Rhodies “cousins” of the MDC formations, Magaisa says the Anglo-Saxons, represented by Miliband, are the same family as MDC-T, Miliband is the uncle of MDC-T who mis-spoke! History shows otherwise. The issue involved is more serious than a slip of the tongue. First it shows that the sanctions are illegal and racist. Therefore the people of Zimbabwe have the right to be compensated for the economic terror and damage caused. Tsvangirai cannot end by calling only for all the sanctions to go. Why must the sanctions be lifted immediately? Because they are evil and destructive. Why were they imposed in the first place? Well, to restore white Rhodesian property in land and minerals which the British stole from the African majority in 1890 and gave to their Rhodie children. So, how has the African nation been injured? Well, it has been doubly injured because it lost the use of its land and minerals for 100 years and then got 10 years of illegal and racist sanctions for reclaiming and redeeming that same stolen land!

Such serious crimes have always required alibis. When the slave holocaust against Africa came under moral attack, the Anglo-Saxon powers said they were not responsible because some African chiefs sold their people to white slave-catchers. What that was meant to hide was the fact that whites waged wars to capture African slaves.

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Opposition MDC was formed to revive colonial domination

Never before, at any point in the history of this country, has the subject of elections haunted people’s minds as did the 2002 presidential elections.

The final week preceeding these elections was taken up by national debate during which the electorate was concerned over who would win.

What each one of the five candidates stood for had become universal knowledge.

However, victory by Zanu-PF over the MDC was certain. The ruling party had the strong advantage that it was a revolutionary Africanist party which fought the war of liberation.

Predictions about the Zanu-PF victory were not based on moral issues only, but also on the political experiences in Mozambique and Angola as well as other countries of the Sadc region.

The imperialist countries, however, only conceived their defeat as a temporary setback. Forces of imperialism soon sought re-entry into the liberated countries through the more insidious strategy of creating and establishing constellations of power in the form of client political parties. The experiences in Mozambique and Angola were, however, that the puppet parties were rejected at elections. The people of the sub-region have an awareness of the West’s strategy of perpetuating imperialist hegemony by using blacks as fronts.

The strategy is the revival of colonial domination by replacing white actors with black actors, making it easier to enter and control the geopolitics of the region. White liberals and black victims of imperialist nostalgia were recruited into the revival project for imperialism.

Taking advantage of the national decline in radical nationalism, following the leftist ideological thaw, the MDC party was formed to revive the ideals of conquest and domination.

In its formative stages, the MDC activists hid behind labour, as members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions ZCTU harassed the Government through the organisation of mass strikes. They also hid behind the constitutional reform movement. Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was the National Constitutional Assembly chairman during its inauguration. Mr Tendai Biti, Mr Munyaradzi Gwisai, and Professor Welshman Ncube were among the key figures of the NCA who subsequently became key figures in the MDC.

Apart from Mr Gwisai’s socialist rhetoric, the prevailing discourses emerging during and after the formation of the opposition party were leaning towards friendship with capitalism. The MDC was easily integrated into the imperialist system under the broad strategy of the West in which comprador parties are seeded in the local political systems.

Like the Renamo and Unita movements in Mozambique and Angola respectively, which were controlled by imperialists, the MDC set to use the electorate to implement in Zimbabwe, anti-African policies that resumed the dispossession and alienation of blacks. The party symbolised the tenacity and the relentless aspirations of the British in their quest for reviving white privileges in Zimbabwe.

The imperialist tactics used in Mozambique and Angola in the form of Renamo and Unita were being renovated for redeployment as democracy in Zimbabwe. Mr Tsvangirai completed the ill-conceived tripartite in the sub- region comprising himself, Alfonso Dhlakama and the late Jonas Savimbi. These represent the offals of our three nations.

As happened in Angola, Mozambique and later in Namibia, Zimbabweans emerged from racial oppression through a fierce blood-letting struggle. In return for the struggle, the blacks set to restore all that was lost. The return of stolen land, for instance, began in earnest. Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa completed the historical military struggle of their people through elections, making the institution of elections important as a political conflict resolution instrument.

The concept of elections and democracy are intrinsically associated. Holding elections, and participating in elections usually evokes notions of democracy. Democracy evokes notions about the rule of law. It is generally accepted that governments that ascend to power through popular elections are legitimate institutions that rule by the permission of the people. These governments have the mandate of the people. Mandate may include, among other things, agrarian reforms which may be popular at home and unacceptable elsewhere.

By its very character and origin, imperialism is not a local persuasion and, on the whole, inherently contradictory to local views on the accumulation of wealth. For Zimbabwe, cultural, economic and political development policies of the Government have a national character and inexorably anti-imperialist. Elections as vehicles to State power and its legitimation have become the sine qua non of reactionary interests in the geopolitical system of Zimbabwe.

Through the MDC as a comprador party, the British government of Tony Blair hoped to institute imperialist policies using the local electoral system. Another dimension of elections and also by association of democracy, is revealed in the institution’s susceptibility to political and ideological intrigues of foreign elements. The 2002 presidential elections were for imperialism the finest opportunity for retrograde voting by the Zimbabwean electorate. It was to be in the history of Zimbabwe a period of the “legitimate return” to the ideas of colonialism.

The Zimbabwean electorate as a reasoning public rejected the MDC in the same way their counterparts in Mozambique and Angola rejected Renamo and Unita. Renamo could not be rewarded for waging the most barbarous war on the African continent, destroying lives, property and infrastructure on which the Mozambicans socially and economically depended for their livelihood.

The Angolans did not vote for Savimbi to reward him for destroying the country. The sophisticated British propaganda machine at the MDC service attempted in vain both within Zimbabwe and on the international scene to poach the true meaning of the liberation struggle and reconstruct the old ideologies of the white man. Mr Tsvangirai could not be rewarded for betraying the nation.

Despite the presence of the Western narcissus in the local political arena, the MDC lost the elections.

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Cold War: a Marxist view

The Revolutionary Highway Has No Exits – The History of the Cold War

By Arlen Tracey

The Cold War, a global conflict between the United States and its allies in Western Europe, against the Soviet Union and its allies around the world, was a conflict that evolved and twisted itself over its decades of existence.

It is important to acknowledge that throughout the war, the emphasis and goals of both sides changed numerous times. A historical record must be made of the evolving positions of the Soviet, Chinese, Albanian, Yugoslavian, and United States governments.

Stalin Wanted Peace

The “Cold War” began, according to historians, at the end of World War Two, when the Soviet Union and the United States ended their war-time alliance.

The most ignored aspect of the opening of the cold war was the fact that the Soviet Union had calculated the opposite occurrence. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union predicted, expected, and hoped for period of “peace” among the “Democratic Powers.”

The actions of the Soviet Union even as the war was still in the process of ending, but especially in the few years immediately following it, were devoted to doing its best to prevent any conflict between the US and the USSR.

The Tehran Accords, signed by Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, made clear that these “democratic powers” were to be united after the war. Soviet-American-British cooperation was to be the order of the day following the war, according to the accords.

In order to appease the British and Americans, the Soviets demanded that the French Communist Party agree to withdraw from the French Government, even though it had won a clear majority in the post-war elections. The Italian Partisan Brigades, which had fought the Nazis and were led by Communists, laid down their arms without a shot, and allowed a “democratic government” which excluded to them to take hold.

In the U.S., the Communist Party dissolved itself and became the “Communist Political Association.”

But this was not enough for the imperialists. They never intended to have unity with the “democratic powers” of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s attempts to appease the capitalists in the post war period were of no avail.

Hitler’s staunch allies who led the fascist regimes Spain and Portugal were embraced by the United States and Britain. The forces fighting for democracy against the Pro-Fascist Greek Monarchy found the U.S. and Britain sending guns to their oppressors.

In China, though the Chinese Communist Party had done the bulk of the fighting against the Japanese Imperialists, it was blocked from the government, and again suffering persecution by U.S. backed despot named Chiang Kia-shek.

U.S. military bases were set up in West Germany. U.S. Communists endured the horrific “McCarthy Period” in which they were forced into semi-underground status, and the entire leadership of their organizations were jailed.

In response to this, Stalin’s mild policies of peace and cooperation with the west reversed. The Soviet Union led the World Communist Movement into a “left turn.”

In Response to Aggression, Stalin Turns Left

It was in response to this that the USSR turned away from it post-war “world democratic peace” policies and became a cold warrior. The Chinese Communist Party took up arms and defeated the U.S. backed “nationalist” government and established a socialist regime. The Warsaw Pact created unity among the “People’s Democracies” of Eastern Europe, who rapidly moved to place the Communist Parties in command of the “Democratic Fronts” created during WWII.

In 1949, Chinese Communist Party, due to its popular support was victorious, and removed the U.S. backed dictatorship of the Nationalists.

The Koreans attempted to re-unify their country, and overthrow the U.S. backed dictator, Syngman Rhee, who held power in the South. The U.S. imperialists could not tolerate Korean Re-Unification and the “Korean War” erupted.

In 1948, the U.S. Communist Party, directed by the Soviet Union, abandoned the Democratic Party, which it had supported since 1936. Since 1936, the Communist had always run independent candidates for symbolic purposes, but voted for the Democratic Party in the name of creating a “people’s coalition”, but in 1948, the Communist devoted all their forces to the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace.

Aid to people in Africa and Asia from the Soviet Union increased. The feeling of the Soviet Union was that “peaceful co-existence”, once offered at the end of the war, had been met with betrayal, and that the only hope for survival of the USSR was a stronger, world revolution.

No summing up or self-criticism of the earlier policies with Italy, France, and elsewhere was made publicly, however, it should be noted. However, this can be justified by an understanding that doing so might undermine the credibility of the leaders who made the errors, who still held power.

In 1945, the U.S. Communist Party did expelled Earl Browder, who was the symbol of the classless, pro-imperialist, “democracy” brand of Socialism that marked the war years.

The only internally known vocal opponent of Stalin’s turn toward world revolution within the socialist camp was Tito. Tito headed Yugoslavia, and in 1948, at the same time Stalin was embracing revolution as a response to aggression, announced the opposite position.

Tito proclaimed his opposition to “Stalinist Expansionism” and “Soviet Domination.” He aligned himself with the United States during the Korean Conflict, and in response was given millions of dollars in “aid.” Tito also began to implement “workplace democracy”, which in reality, meant the break up of the state industries created after the war, into small, capitalist corporations.

Tito denounced world revolution as “aggression” and socialist economics as “dogmatism”, throwing Stalin’s name in with both. The words of Stalin for Tito were fiery and critical. Albania’s criticism was equally fiery.

Mao briefly flirted with Tito, before shortly afterward condemning him.

The 20th Party Congress and Revisionism

When Stalin died in 1954 this opened the floodgates for an internal Communist Party fight that had been under the surface for decades, heating up most intensely at that moment.

The “right opposition” of Bukharin, who had opposed a socialist economy for a “market socialism”, and had opposed world revolution but wanted “peaceful co-existence” still existed. They had been suppressed while Stalin was alive, and had no following as Stalin opposed them, and Stalin was so beloved by all who fought against U.S. imperialism and Nazism.

The fight went on for 2 years after Stalin’s death as no longer did the forces defending world revolution and socialist economics have Stalin’s leadership to rally behind.

In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Neo-Bukharinists, gave the “secret speech” at the 20th Party Congress. His speech went into detail attacking Stalin on personal grounds, repeating the very content of Hearst Newspaper and Anti-Communist slander.

The speech was “secret” from the people of the Soviet Union, but was circulated throughout the world in order to make clear that the new Soviet leaders were not “revolutionaries” like Stalin, but believers in “peaceful co-existence” and “cooperation.”

Pro-Stalin leaders were jailed and executed. Pro-Stalin literature was burned. China and Albania were silent about the policies at first, hoping they could be corrected without a huge conflict.

The first acts of Khrushchev was to attempt to restore the relationship with Tito in Yugoslavia. Khrushchev had numerous meetings with Tito, and did all he could, unsuccessfully to win Yugoslavia to being friendly toward the Soviet Union.

In 1956, rightists and fascist rose up in Hungary to overthrow socialism and install a pro-western dictatorship. Khrushchev attempted to have dialogue with openly Pro-Nazi Priests and other Neo-Fascists within the regime. Khrushchev also refused to receive the input from the Hungarian leaders about how to deal with the counter-revolutionary uprising.

Finally, he sent in the Red Army to crush them, and symbolically, the Chinese Communist Party sent some of its own troops as well.

China & Albania Speak Out and are Punished

In response to Khrushchev’s open lack of support revolution around the world, Mao Zedong and Enver Hoxha loudly denounced the ideology of Khrushchev. They praised Stalin for the left turn prior to his death, and preached that it was the duty of Communists to support people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere who wanted revolution against colonialism.

They denounced the manner in which Khrushchev sought to negotiate and make peace with capitalism, and his various scheming attempts to de-socialize the Soviet economy and move toward “market socialism” as Tito had done.

China and Albania’s calls were not hostile denunciation, but rather soft spoken critiques. But this was too much for Khrushchev.

While Khrushchev always wanted dialogue and negotiation with the U.S. imperialists and with rightists like Tito and the elements in Hungary, he offered no such understanding to China and Albania.

The USSR cut off diplomatic relations with Albania and China, something never even done to the Nazis. In both China and Albania, soviet engineers and technicians burned their blueprints, and left buildings half built.

In China, the economy had depended on foreign aid from the USSR, and the punishing vengeance of Khrushchev forced an economic disaster as the country was forced to re-organize its economy at the drop of hat.

USSR and USA align for “Peace” Against World Revolution

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union announced that Kennedy was their friend. The battle cry of the Soviet leadership became “world peace.” All who opposed world peace, whether they be the Africans who fought against colonial domination, or the people of Indonesia who sought to elect a socialist government, were the enemy.

Mao, Hoxha, and Che Guevara thunderously preached that it was the duty of third world people to fight against imperialism. Khrushchev and the leaders of the USSR were convinced that “world peace” depended on them keeping these “ultra-lefts” in line.

Khrushchev called for Mao and Hoxha’s overthrow as they were “brutal dictators.” Khrushchev denounced China for seeking atomic weapons.

The USSR urged the people of Vietnam to drop their weapons and “negotiate” the continued existence of the U.S. backed dictatorship in South Vietnam.

It seemed that in their desire to suppress world revolution there was a temporary alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union’s leaders.

The Soviet leaders, acting as social democratic sellouts always do, lectured the figures within their own movement to “slow down” and “stop being so extreme.” It is likely that Khrushchev wanted to go even further with this betrayal, which is why he was removed in coup, and replaced by Kosygin and Brezhnev in 1964. But for the moment, the policies continued.

China and Albania were the fire of the left screaming for world revolution. Cuba, Korea, and the German Democratic Republic walked the “middle of the road”, trying to negotiate with both sides.

The USSR continued to say that revolution was immoral, as it would “provoke” the U.S. imperialists to use atomic weapons.

The Shift of 1972

In 1972, there was a rapid shift in the cold war. No longer were the Soviet and U.S. leaders united in their opposition to world revolution. Now, China was actively fighting the cold war on the side of the U.S., Albania was confused and silent, and the Soviet Union became the main target of U.S. hatred.

In 1972, Nixon was welcomed into China and greeted as a hero. The Chinese government proclaimed that the “main danger” was the Soviet Union. China proclaimed that supporting Marxist-Leninist parties in third world countries was “Social Imperialism.”

China instead embraced leaders like the Shah of Iran who represented the “indigenous identity of the people.” It was better to have a pro-U.S. capitalist leader than to have a revolutionary one who was loyal to the USSR.

China was aligned with the U.S., not against world revolution, but against the Soviet Union.

Chinese allied rebel groups in the third world, which had been constructed in order to defy the Soviet policy of “peace”, suddenly were embracing U.S. dictators as “defense” from the “Soviet Social Imperialists.”

The only “revolution” that China would support would be a revolution to overthrow a pro-Soviet government. China’s internal policy no longer spoke of revolution or Communism, but of “third world unity” against “Soviet Social Imperialism.”

This policy began in 1972, but continued after Mao’s death. In 1979 China invaded Vietnam to “liberate” it from “Soviet Social Imperialism.” China funded the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan along with the U.S. China sent weapons and aid to the Shah of Iran, and denounced the Iranian revolution as a “Social Imperialist Plot.”

Albania denounced this, an as resulted in a period of isolation with horrific economic consequences. China, Albania’s only ally, was gone. Albania was a lone, small, isolated nation, which claimed to be the only socialist country in the world amidst “Soviet and Chinese Social Imperialism.”

The USSR’s Response

In response to China openly siding with the United States, the USSR began to no longer distance itself from revolutionary causes around the world. The Soviet Union, which had previously discouraged people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia from fighting back, instead, openly championed such things.

The African National Congress, which the USSR had discouraged from taking up arms against apartheid, now received Soviet money and weapons. The Cubans became the icon of the Soviet Union’s world revolutionary camp, as did the Koreans.

The USSR embraced U.S. revolutionary Angela Davis and highlighted her as a symbol of Black Liberation in the U.S.

The USSR began to “talk left”, while at the same accusing all who criticized them of being “Maoists”, a world that would that became synonymous with “Trotskyite.”

The response of the U.S. was to intensify its brutality toward the USSR. Contra death squads were sent throughout Latin America to commit fascistic crimes against the people.

Reagan waved his arms preaching about a “world crusade against Bolshevism” in ways that would make Adolph Hitler jealous.

The Crack of 1989

The cold war ended officially in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR, but by 1989 the battle was lost. Gorbachev led a section of the Communist Party that was politically to the right of Khrushchev. They denounced the “working class” in favor “universal humanism” and other nonsensical, non-Marxist ideas.

Margaret Thatcher and Reagan found in Gorbachev’s and his followers to be “Communist leaders we can do business with” because they weren’t “war mongering” like their predecessors, i.e. they were open to surrender.

Gorbachev opened the economy, and let the west pour in. His “market socialism” made Yugoslavia’s look dogmatic.

The cold war ended because China and the USSR had both become dominated by leaders who abandoned any will to fight. With Pro-U.S. forces in power in Russia and China, there was no arms race to be had.

Why?

The cold war was ended, not by a flaw in Communism, not by a lack of ability to “negotiate” on the part of the Soviet leaders, but the opposite.

Neither the leaders of the USSR nor of China were purely committed to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. They had both become infected with careerism and revisionism. They both found comfort and peace, and abandoned their will to fight.

It was treason and lack of endurance that caused the horrific events of 1991.

The majority of the Communist Parties were filled elements without principles. The parties were also disconnected from the masses, so even the non-revisionist elements within them could not mobilize a defense of the revolution properly.

The only way the imperialists were able to instill the massive set backs of 1991 was because of the very “revisionism” we see in modern times.

It is always easier to be wrong than to be right. It is always a more comfortable life to accommodate and befriend the oppressors.

The most successful period of the cold war was Stalin’s left turn before his death. Sure, he got caught up in illusions during the war. But Stalin’s response to U.S. imperialist backstabbing was different than Khrushchev or Mao.

Stalin saw that being attacked by the imperialists called not for being more moderate, but for being more radical and hostile.

Did this make his life easier? Did this make them like him more?

No. But it strengthened world revolution like nothing else.

Life in 1930s Germany was much easier for “Good Germans” than for underground resistance fighters. Now “good Germans” live in shame.

Life in the Southern U.S. in the early 1960s was much easier for members of the KKK, than for Civil Rights Movement. But now there is Martin Luther King holiday, while the KKK is the subject of jokes, denial, and ridicule.

Progress comes through struggle and confrontation.

The essence of revisionism is refusal to accept the reality of being a revolutionary.

Revolution is a difficult life. It is an uphill battle. It is a road without short-cuts.

Its final victory is the most glorious of all.

But the journey does not end. As long as oppression exists, revolutionaries must fight oppression.

The revolutionary highway has no exits.

The journey must continue until Communism is reached. Reaction will inevitably begin, when the thrust for progress halts.

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Jonas Savimbi: Washington’s Freedom Fighter, Africa’s Terrorist

Peace is back on the agenda, if not yet on the horizon in Angola. With the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi and the state visit to Washington by Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, there is again a glimmer of hope that the country’s 27-year-long civil war may finally be coming to a real end. As Salih Booker, Director of Africa Action, puts it, “Savimbi’s death removes the principal obstacle to peace in that country. So long as he was alive, it seemed virtually impossible that Angolans would ever be able to conclude and implement a peace settlement. But his death does not automatically ensure that peace will follow.”

Following the February 22nd ambush and murder of the 67-year-old veteran rebel leader by the Angolan army, obituaries in the American press have described his remarkable charisma and ferocious drive for power. He is, indeed, an African paradox, who as leader of sub-Saharan Africa’s longest running civil war, continues to perplex and shame many of his own co-conspirators. Savimbi is widely seen as responsible for a nearly nonstop war that has taken nearly one million lives and as the principal spoiler of the Angolan elections and United Nations-backed peace plans in the early 1990s. As the Namibian government said in announcing his death, “Savimbi chose the way of terrorism and turned Angola into a land of many killing fields.” When news of Savimbi’s death reached the Angolan capital of Luanda, people took to the streets chanting, “The terrorist is gone.”

The United States bears some blame for Angola’s brutal civil war because Savimbi was long the darling of American right-wing, conservative politicians and the CIA. Some fifteen years ago, President Ronald Reagan invited Savimbi to the White House and hailed him a “freedom fighter” for his efforts to oust dos Santos and the leftist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)–the party that has ruled Angola since its independence in 1975.

President George W. Bush’s meeting with dos Santos, just four days after Savimbi’s death is both illustrative of the Washington’s erratic involvement in Angola and a signal that these days Washington is more interested in Angola’s resources–oil and diamonds–than its ideology. But, if war is to end in this troubled country, the international community must work quickly and persistently to broker a peace deal and disarm the rebel combatants.

Savimbi first took to the bush in the early 1960s as Angolans began organizing against 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule. Billed as an anticommunist during the height of the cold war, Savimbi was actually no more than a power-hungry opportunist who changed his colors to suit the tastes of his particular financial backers. His enigmatic character confounded a great number of powerful people over the years. In 1999, for instance, one former U.S. diplomat told me in an informal conversation just how unsettling Savimbi’s personality could be. This official, who had met the rebel leader over 25 times while he was in hiding, conceded each time he felt that he was in the presence of “pure evil.” He explained that Savimbi was “so charming, intelligent, articulate, and dangerous” that he frequently had to spend return flights to Luanda “deprogramming African-American delegations who were charmed into thinking that Savimbi’s vision for Angola was the right one.”

UNITA soldier

Jonas Savimbi, a member of Angola’s largest ethnic group, the Ovimbundu, was born and raised in the southern Angolan province of Moxico. A bright, charismatic, former doctorate student, Savimbi became fluent in more than six languages–including Portuguese, French, and English. His knack for learning languages boosted his credibility among the various groups with whom he negotiated. His gift in European languages facilitated his dealings with political opponents, diplomats, and foreign reporters, while he switched into Umbundo when rallying his followers among the Angolan people.

At the start of the Angolan independence struggle in 1961, Savimbi originally tried to acquire a leadership post within the MPLA, the principal national liberation group. However, the MPLA, which was backed by the Soviet Union, only offered him a rank-and-file militant position. Feeling rebuffed, Savimbi aligned with rebel commander Holden Roberto’s anti-colonial group, the Union of Peoples of Angola (UPA), as it offered him a more prestigious rank as minister in its government in exile.

By 1964, Savimbi decided to resign from the UPA, claiming that Roberto (who was related to and backed by Zaire’s pro-American dictator Mobutu Sese Seko) was a stooge for the “American imperialists.” In 1966, Savimbi launched a third movement, the United Front for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Savimbi and other top UNITA leaders had received guerrilla warfare training in China from 1965 to 1966. And, over the next decade, China supplied the rebel movement with weapons and war material.

Since the start of the Angolan liberation struggle, Savimbi had touted himself as a nationalist fighting for independence from Portuguese colonialism. However, Savimbi showed more hostility toward the other indigenous freedom parties and forged a clandestine alliance with the Portuguese colonial government and its secret police, PIDE, according to University of Southern California professor Gerald Bender and a series of subsequently released documents. As part of this alliance, code-named “Operation Timber,” Savimbi and PIDE engaged in military actions against rival movements, and Savimbi provided the Portuguese with information regarding the activities of the opposition forces. After the Portuguese withdrew from Angola in 1974, Savimbi thwarted an agreement for multiparty, nationwide elections in November 1975, returned to the bush, and plunged the nation into another two decades-plus of war.

During the liberation struggle when Savimbi was receiving most of his aid from China, he boasted to reporters of his Maoist ideology. However, following independence, Savimbi strove to cut a better deal in the West. Declaring himself a capitalist, the charismatic rebel leader had, within a short time, joined Holden Roberto on the CIA’s payroll in a civil war against the Soviet-backed MPLA.

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South Africa: Still Struggling 50 Years After Sharpeville Massacre

Squatter camp in "post-liberation" South Africa

MRzine, March 29, 2010

Still Struggling, Still Protesting, Fifty Years after the Sharpeville Massacre

by Jennifer Dohrn

It is amazing that I am now at last again on South African soil, since my previous trip here was in December. I am at home in my soul in a way that is unique for my travels. I am breathing in the salty air from the Indian Ocean, feeling the hot rays of the sun greet me from my porch every morning, admiring the lushness of the flowers and bushes, and most of all, reconnecting with the many amazing people with whom I have come to share lives over these past years. My heart is full.

I arrived in East London on Tuesday late morning after the New York-Johannesburg-East London journey of 18 hours. I am here with two colleagues from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health who work with me on the nurse capacity initiative (INCI) that began April 2009. We are here to support a large workshop for nursing educators in Eastern Cape on HIV knowledge, clinical skills, and health systems strengthening. The workshop is entitled “A Hands-on Workshop in HIV Care and Health Systems Strengthening through Nurse Mentorship.” We are expecting eighty nursing tutors from 14 campuses. During the workshop we will officially launch the INCI’s Center of Excellence which is a center for communications and exchange amongst INCI countries. I have been running trips to the airport since yesterday, picking up the delegation from Swaziland (who somehow got separated and arrived on 3 different flights!). Everyone is taking the high road and in the best of spirits as it is such a great opportunity to have us all here together.

The timing of the workshop has increased in auspiciousness because on April 1 the new guidelines for HIV care and treatment will go into effect in South Africa. Nurses will now be authorized to initiate and manage antiretroviral treatment for adults and children; people who are HIV+ will be allowed to begin these lifesaving medications earlier in the progression of HIV disease and with safer regimens. Counseling for HIV testing has been changed from VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) to CT (counseling and testing), because it will now be policy that everyone who goes to a health care facility will be encouraged to test. These changes have been long fought for, and come at the price of nearly half a million avoidable deaths due to delays or unavailability of medications over the past eight years. Now comes the time for stepping up the skills of nurses, for stocking enough medications, for reorganizing the health care team to maximize community involvement with the hoped-for result of reduction of stigma. This is an historic time in South Africa in its struggle with HIV/AIDS and needs full recognition, particularly dramatic within the context of the years of the politics of denialism, the consequences of which now make their impact on every segment of life here.

I think we need to acknowledge the victories, especially those that were hard fought, those for which many sacrificed. That is even more so given the continuing disparities between the rich and poor, the increasing gaps between white and black South Africans — economically, educationally, socially — with the small exception of those in power who have amassed wealth. Headlines in the papers report the expanding business empire of the Zuma family. Townships are up in flames protesting the failure of service deliveries. Corruption at the highest levels does not seem to be abating. I arrived on the marking of the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre. On March 21, 1960, 20,000 residents of this township marched on the police station to protest the apartheid pass laws. The police opened fire, killing 69 people and wounding 178. One half century later only 3 roads have been tarred since 1994; two schools were recently closed down. No sports facilities exist. The site where the Constitution of 1996 was signed, the George Thabe Stadium, is in disrepair. Unemployment continues to rise. Recently Sharpeville residents protested against the failure of service delivery and clashed with police. Though the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre is now a national holiday called Human Rights Day, a resident of Sharpeville stated: “We are still struggling, we are still protesting and we are still burning tires. . . . At some state, hell is going to break loose and we do not know when” (Mail and Guardian, March 19-25, 2010).

Yet a luta continua. The nurses I meet and work with band together, support each other, have hope. Now we can roll up our sleeves and really get to work, with the authority that we can make a difference.

Jennifer Dohrn, DNP, is Assistant Professor of Nursing at Columbis University.