Mhambi has been redeployed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hitchens on Zimbabwe and South Africa

The former left wing polemicist Christopher Hitchens this week published a very interesting piece about Zimbabwe, Mugabe and South Africa.

He said that the actions of the Durban dock workers (Satawu) "made me remember very piercingly how good it sometimes felt to be a socialist."

Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left wing publications, Hitchens departed from the consensus of the political left in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie.

Hitchens recently courted further controversy by supporting the Iraq War. He is a vociferous critic of what he calls "fascism with an Islamic face".

Hitchens said of the South African Union action in Durban: " improves the chances of democracy worldwide. This is how socialism began, with Karl Marx and his allies organizing a boycott of Confederate slave-harvested cotton during the American Civil War, and however often a thieving megalomaniac like Robert Mugabe claims to be a socialist, there are still brave and honest workers who, by contemptuously folding their arms, can deny him the sinews of oppression."

Hitchens also sheds light on the different roots of Zanu PF, the ANC and the non racial influence of South Africa's Communist pParty.

"...the distinction between the Zimbabwe African National Union (Robert Mugabe's vaunted ZANU-PF or Patriotic Front) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union, or ZAPU, which had been led by veteran Joshua Nkomo. Not only did this division reflect the ethnic makeup of Zimbabwe as between the majority Shona and the minority Matabele, respectively. It also involved the Russo-Chinese split in the world Communist movement, with Nkomo being backed by Moscow and Mugabe by Beijing. The same split was evident in the larger South African liberation movement, though in that case Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, with its heavy Communist Party influence, effectively dwarfed the renegade Maoist forces of the Pan Africanist Congress, which stood for an unreconstructed form of blacks-only Stalinism and which was to be obliterated in the first South African elections."

Hitchens remembers when Mbeki and other ANC members settled in liberated Zimbabwe. "Thabo had come to Zimbabwe to be as close to the dramatic developments across the frontier as he could manage. But the life of an ANC official in Robert Mugabe's Harare was not an easy one. "The regime openly prefers the PAC," he told me, "and they treat us with contempt." At the time, also, supporters of Joshua Nkomo, an old friend of the ANC, were going in fear of their lives as Mugabe's North Korean-trained special forces vengefully roamed Matabeleland.

So all this invites a question: Knowing what they knew about his primitive politics and even more primitive methods, why did the leaders of the ANC continue to tolerate Mugabe when they themselves succeeded in coming to power democratically in the post-apartheid state? The answers are both illuminating and depressing."

One reason is says Hitchens that Nkomo sought help from white South Africa. This alienated him from the ANC who felt betrayed.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

On ahistoric inventions, patronising and China

Sometimes, the most interesting things you read are within the comments on blogs.

This week I found two, which I think its worth highlighting. The first relates to the Bullard saga and was made by Michael Osborn on the Constitutionally Speaking blog in reaction to a debate under the post On free speech and the firing of David Bullard.

Osborn argues forcefully that whites are indulging black myths which in itself is patronising.

This is very pertinent in the light of Xolela Mangcu's article today Bullard’s apology and other white lies.

Re: Dlamini contra Bullard

Take a look at Jacob Dlamini’s swipe at Bullard in the Sunday Independent today (“White SA’s Pride is Misplaced,” p. 7.)

Dlamini is a very thoughtful columnist. His sophistication sometimes puts Bullard to shame. Yet today, Dlamini responds to Bullard by spinning a tall tale about a pre-colonial “transportation network.” He rhetorically asks: “[H]ow do you think Africans transported ivory and gold mined in the lowveld and
today’s Zimbabwe to the Mozambican coast for trade with east India, Omanis, the Chinese and Indians in pre-colonial times?”

But it is just absurd to compare the system of roads, bridges and rail constructed in the 19th Century with a pre-colonial “transportation network” — one that operated without the benefit of the wheel. Yet anyone who dares point that out runs the risk of being dismissed as another Bullard.

To indulge Dlamini’s flights of fancy is itself a patronising racism. Bullard depicts “tribal” Africans as simple-minded children. Yet, when liberals panders to Africanist mythology, they too treat blacks as infants. (Don’t tell the kids Santa does not exist, lest we damage their fragile dreams and hopes.) If the white chattering class does not challenge people like Dlamini and Mangu when they are plainly talking rubbish, they are in effect refusing to black writers seriously. That is liberal racism more insidious than anything Bullard is guilty of.

For there is nothing racist in noticing that, on any index of science, technology and economic development, sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind Europe. No more does it insults whites to point out that Europe was stone age backwater for 4000 years, while civilizations flourished in North Africa, Sumeria, Persia and China. Anyone who thinks that Europe’s subsequent ascendancy reflects white racial superiority, or that Africa’s having falling behind demonstrates blacks’ inherent inferiority, is indeed a racist, and an abject idiot to boot.

The Nazis felt the need to need to invent stories about an ancient Aryan civilization, fearing that to admit that their ancestors huddled in caves while non-European civilization flowered would be a grievous attack upon the dignity of the white “race.” Is it inevitable that Africa’s renaissance be bolstered by equally ahistoric inventions?

A while back I wrote a post on what South Africa could learn from China. Well the following post from the BBC's blog Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?) by somebody called rymnd2008 makes my point in a different way:

'The entire western world has the following mis-conceptions about China

Chinese people can only be happy by adopting western style of democracy. False.

Chinese people desire to have right to vote to decide their own government. False.

Chinese government has not done a single useful to the country it governs. False.

Westerners enjoy unlimited freedom. But Chinese think you earn your freedom. Freedom comes at a price tag.

This is why when westerners lecturing Chinese people about Freedom. The Chinese has not got a clue what they mean.

Nowadays, ordinary Chinese can choose their work, can choose the way they live their life, can go aboard, can travel freely, can get passport, can own proprety, can publish books, can go to TV shows.

Comparing with life 30 years ago, ordinary Chinese enjoy unprecedent freedom. Most importantly, China's political system is evolving all the time at slow pace.

Finally, my point is that a country where you can travel by trains running every hour for 350km in 2 hours , is not a poorly managed country. China just started building a railway link between Beijing and Shanghai. The train will run 350km/hr and takes 5 hours to cover a distance of 1200km running every 5 mins. Breath taking.'

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

SATAWU makes us proud

Viva Satawu Viva
Long live international solidarity
Viva Rubin Phillip Viva!
Panzi lamsak Mbeki panzi
Viva Afriforum Viva!
Amandla ngawethu!

Mhambi feels so pround of Satawu (The South African Transport and Allied workers Union) today. But not only them, but plaudits go to Rubin Phillip, the Anglican archbishop of KwaZulu-Natal, and Gerald Patrick Kearney, ably assisted by the Southern African Litigation Center and Judge Pillay.

Consider the evidence. When the Chinese 'gun' ship An Yeu Jiang's deadly Zimbabwe bound cargo was exposed, our president Mbeki was asked if he knew:

"Well, ask the Chinese ambassador," he said. "Durban harbour handles goods for many countries on the continent. If you say there are weapons that have arrived from China in the Durban harbour, I think you should ask the Chinese. There might be a consignment of coal that is being exported to the Congo or something; it is a port, those weapons would have had nothing to do with South Africa. I really don't know what Zimbabwe imports from China or what China imports from Zimbabwe."

Cue Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union. He said the dock workers had no intention of allowing the cargo to be unloaded. “If they bring in replacement labor to do the work, our members will not stand and look at them and smile,” he said.

Very refreshing and to the point. Not a little Macho. On the side of right. I like it. Bravo!

“For the South African government to actively facilitate the transfer of arms in these circumstances is a violation of its constitutional obligations and an abdication of its regionally mandated role to bring about a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” said Nicole Fritz, who heads the litigation center. Say it again sister.

The government had not only approved the shipments, they had arranged for their transport. And one Sydney Mufamadi, one of the mediators in the crises was involved in approving the shipment.

It's almost a pity that the arms was never allowed to leave port. Because Afriforum, the Afrikaner civil rights organisation had promised to make life hard for it all the way to the border. What a tantalising visual spectical that would have been.

As rugby has shown, theres nothing like a bit of controlled violence for a good cause to bring South Africans together.


This was an important victory for civil society in this country and more proof of how strong it is. Sociologist Andries Bezuidenhout has said before that it was a blessing that the ANC 's Mk was such a poor military force, and that the UDF was forced to make the case against apartheid internally and did so successfully.

Compare with Zimbabwe, where Mugabe won power by military means, and not by the people. How seductive that military instrument became.

Power through the people tends to be a bit harder to control. It has a mind of its own.

As Frederik van Zyl Slabbert says, we don't even know who is head of the SA army is today. We are not a militarised society. Were a society where citizens can have their say. So say it loud and clear.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Xolela Mangcu and the flames of anger

The whole David Bullard incident has put South African 'white' racism on the post mortem table again. It's prodded, dissected, analyzed. It's very repulsive everybody says. And part of the problem is that its not dead.

I agree.

My own view is that Bullard should never have been allowed to write the article, because of its extreme offensive and vicious tone. Given our history it is unacceptable and he should have been fired.

I agree with basically everything that the Caxton Professor, Anton Harber has said in regard to the Bullard incident.

I also share the view expressed by Xolela Mangcau, that it was the offensive and crude insinuations of lazyness and violence, and not the notion that Africans have benefited from colonialism that is the problem with the article.

Mhambi has made no secret of the fact that I dig Xolela Mangcu's columns. Mangcu is deeply hurt about the Bullard incident and especially many white people's reaction to it. I can understand why.

Today he wrote a piece Racism relapse: white SA on brink which is very worrying.

Mangcu says: "I still have the hope that sanity will prevail in the white world. I still have the hope that the all-too-easy defensive reflexes of racism will give way to long-term thinking about the safety of all those defenceless children, who will be left to reap the whirlwind of hate.

But right now, racism is not a black people’s problem, ridiculous charges of reverse racism notwithstanding. No white people are being sent to the guillotines in this country, which was routine practice throughout all those years they kept quiet as we survived the hellhole of the real racism of apartheid. We need visible action from the white community, perhaps a march against racism organised and led by white people.

But is it really possible that the events of the past week would not rouse white people into action? If so, then I’m afraid my friends will have been proved right. There will be no coconuts left to defend white folks from the flames of anger that could still come to engulf us all in “the fire next time”.

Mangcu extols Max du Preez as a leader who whites should follow.

"Max du Preez responded to this social reality thus: “The Polokwane show and Zuma-mania didn’t upset me, nor did the Selebi/Pikoli/Scorpions debacles. Not even Eskom’s disastrous outages shook my faith in my nation’s future. But the possibility that there is a large section of our nation still producing the likes of the Video of Shame Four, the Skielik killer, the Waterkloof Four, is the most depressing thought I’ve had in decades. Especially because that community is my own.” "

Mhambi hoped the Afrikaans community to react strongly to the Reitz video, which thankfully they did. I have had a careful look at the nature of Afrikaans racism on this blog. It's rife and its ugly.

But I think Mangcu and Du Preez are expecting whites to behave in a manner which just does not accord with how humans are.

I have said this before and I will say this again. In the UK, a country that sees itself as a model of racial tolerance, if all the things happened that Du Preez list here, racial incidents will ignite. The army would be on the streets.

Why do 'white' South Africans have to act to a different standard?

It's not just Eskom, Selebi, Pikoli cases thats fueling the flames. Even more damaging of white perceptions of black government is Mbeki's Aids denial, the Frere incident, the collapse of our schools, the xenophobic killings of African migrants and now again the callous behaviour towards Zimbabwe. If an ANC government does not care for black people, what kind of a message does that send out?

For Mangcu to say racism is not a black problem is to take a very limited view of the way South Africans treat each other. Racism does not have to aimed against whites for whites to take note of it and draw the obvious conclusions.

I spent a month in Yeoville recently and many black South Africans admitted brazenly - in a manner that would raise an eyebrow in a Ventersdop kroeg - that they were going to wipe out all the African foreigners there. We must just wait and see I was told.

As I have said before, I think racism is indeed on the increase. And we should fight it. A march against all racism is a very good idea.

What we are seeing is not a relapse. Although very nasty people will latch on to these moments. The Bullards will out. But we have something new as well.

I have witnessed grave doubts and even bitterness in whites about the ANC government from the most unlikely sources. From people who when I was a student reached out to black South Africa, who physically battled right wing students bigots. Who went into the townships, and wore African pendants and ANC colours proudly around their necks at risk of their personal safety, at right wing universities in an Afrikaner Pretoria.

It's a whole new tribe of 'racists', Rian Malan style. They like black South Africa but have ever decreasing faith that the ANC can govern the country and a rising fear.

And now these doubts are being expressed by the likes of Ferial Haffajee.

In some ways its strange we have not reached this point earlier. Writers like Anthony Altbeker has warned for some time now that crime is driving us apart. Andre Brink predicted a massacre two years ago.

Perhaps the only reason racist whites have been quiet is exactly the fear of what Mangcu is threatening.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ferial Haffajee - Our government can not govern

There is in Mhambi's opinion only a few South African commentators that ask the really difficult questions.

Facile excuses and clever theories for the abyss were staring down come a plenty. There are those that claim that a form of apartheid and colonialism still reigns our country. This explains our falling per capital income ratio, our increasing inequality, the falling standards in our schools, the rising violence.

Patrick Bond and Ferial Haffajee
Originally uploaded by BOOKphotoSA.

A small minority amazingly still think the ANC is some Marxist front.

Ferial Haffajee, Mail & Guardian editor says its time to ask the really hard questions. Apartheid, colonialism and right wing government is no more she says. She points to the fact that SA spends more on schooling and health that Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution.

Government policies are not to blame. It's the execution of these policies which is the problem.

We have to admit says Haffajee, 'our government cannot govern'.

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Mugabe worse than Smith, Verwoerd, Vorster, Botha

Peter Thatchel the prominent gay left wing activist who twice tried to execute citizens arrests on Robert Mugabe while the latter was in London has written a hard hitting piece comparing Mugabe to apartheid leaders and finding him worse.

'Mbeki wanted international solidarity when he and the ANC needed it, but he is denying solidarity to Zimbabweans when they need it. This is rank hypocrisy.

For me, it is a big personal disappointment. I liaised with Thabo Mbeki in the struggle against apartheid during the 1980s. He even sent me a telegram thanking me for my (rather modest) campaigning against the white racist regime. I saw him as a man of vision, compassion and sincerity. Power, it seems, has since corrupted him, like so many others. His principles and idealism have faded fast.

Mbeki cannot feign ignorance. Mugabe's human rights abuses stretch back many years. The writing was already on the wall in the mid-1980s, when Mugabe's men slaughtered 20,000 civilians in Matabeleland. This is the equivalent of a Sharpeville massacre every day for over nine months. Yet Thabo Mbeki and most other top ANC leaders said nothing about this bloodfest - and nothing about the many subsequent murders by Zanu-PF.

Mugabe is worse than the white supremacist leader, Ian Smith, who he overthrew. He has murdered more black Africans than the apartheid villains Hendrik Verwoerd, John Forster and P W Botha. Yet we never hear a squeak of protest against Mugabe from Mbeki. He and his fellow ANC leaders sit on their hands and look the other way while Zimbabwe burns.'

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

China move into Congo while Zim farmers go Nigeria

Two very interesting documentaries by the BBC came out this week. In one, a video about the massive investment by China in the Congo there is talk of much optimism.

China is promising to build about 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 hospitals, 145 health centres and two universities in the war ravaged country. In return they want access to the vast mineral wealth.

Large sections of the Congo is impassible today after its roads and railways have falen into disrepair.

There's also been a radio documentary about white Zimbabweans farmers in Nigeria who lost their land in Zimbabwe's political turmoil. They have been invited into Nigeria in the hope that their expertise will help to kick-start commercial agriculture.

Nigeria imports much of its food from Europe while it can be self sufficient.

A month ago the BBC's excellent From our own Correspondent series reported from Cape Town. It featured disgruntled ANC members, energy crisis, corruption and emigration.

'Another friend said she went to a leaving party almost every weekend.'

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Afrikaner vs Cuban: the irony of Cuito Cuanavale

Once tentative talks between South Africa, Cuba, Russia, and America commenced early 1987 about the end of the Angolan War and Independence for Namibia, Pik Botha, South Africa's long serving foreign minister thought it time for the Cubans to get a history lecture.

This article continues from Cuito Cuanavale - background to a Battle.

In a rhetorical flourish at one of their meetings Botha made it abundantly clear to the astonished Cubans that Afrikaners have a proud history on the battlefield. After all, they had withstood the might of the British Empire, no less than a half a million troops, for 3 years. Don't underestimate our resolve, don't mess with us, was the message.

But Afrikaners would have done well to also learn and understand the history of their opponents, the Cubans.

The Nationalists had form in this regard. They had consistently underestimated the role of the Cubans, thinking they were mere pawns of the Soviets. When in 1975 Cuba jumped to the rescue of the Angolan MPLA, Pretoria thought it was at Russia's bidding. In fact it was, at least originally against Russia's wishes.

But to be fair, neither did the US believe the Cubans were acting on their own initiative. Nobody believed that such a small developing country would project military power at such a range.

Nevertheless, a bit more knowledge about the Cubans could have given the Afrikaner Nationalists pause for thought about the motives that drove their enemy. Perhaps a clue as to their intent, their determination and the way they would react in battle.

More importantly it could have given them a glimpse of what Afrikaners themselves could have been. A chance imagining themselves differently.

But why would Cuban history have resonance with Afrikaners?

Come the mid 1980's Afrikaner leaders might not have admitted it, but they felt sullied. Their intellectuals were decrying them, their writers were claiming 'Ons is nie almal so nie'. (Were not all like that).

Strange because Afrikaners had part of their identity a grand sense of being a people battling injustice. They had, as Pik pointed out, fought a fierce anti-colonial war of liberation against a European superpower. An act that had become part of the core of Afrikaner identity.

But so had the Cubans. And at more or less the same time at the turn of the previous century. In fact the Cuban and Afrikaner struggle dovetailed and even influenced each other.

But for all his huffing and puffing Botha knew they were not seen as freedom fighters but as apartheid: they were racial domination and colonialism personified.

The Cuban delegation lead by Jorge Risquest did not suffer this fate. Increasingly they reveled in the role as the anti-colonial, anti-racist revolutionary force in the world.

Considering all this, that it came to be that from 1975 Afrikaner and Cuban came to face each other in Angola, is a surpreme irony. An irony that both sides were blissfully unaware of.

Cuito Cuanavale the last big battle of the Cold War would be a fitting grand finale.

Raising the stakes

Make no mistake, although the MPLA's Fapla, and UNITA's army represented by far the majority of troops on the ground, and suffered the majority of the casualties, they were the light weights in this crowded ring. The SADF's Colonel Breytenbach had famously described his allies Unita as "useless". No doubt thought the same of the MPLA's troops who he routinely routed. The only Angolans in the conflict whose military prowess he valued was those fighting in his 32 battalion.

The Soviets's never really stepped into the ring but preferred to provided ample resources, intelligence training and weapons. The US also provided resources and weapons, but they did it in secret and at a much smaller scale.

It was the Cuban and South African army that raised the military game at crucial junctures. Without one of them the war would be over in weeks. The South African army was made up mostly of both English and Afrikaans speaking whites. But it was Afrikaner controlled, it spoke Afrikaans and had gone into this conflict at least partly at the behest of Afrikaner interests.

But where is the irony?

But lets go back to 1901 to the second Anglo Boer War. South Africa's Boers' military guerilla exploits were making world news. But the world was also startled about the shocking reports of non combatant mortalities.

Boer Commandos

In a report Concentration camps in November 1901 in the New York Times the link between South Africa and Cuba is made.

The nearest prototype of the camps of concentration established by Lord KITCHENER in South Africa were those established by Gen. WEYLER in Cuba.

The newspaper speculates that at the rate of mortality all the South African "reconcentrados", (the Spanish word used in Cuba) will be dead in 4 years time:
'When South Africa ceases to be in a "disturbed condition" It seems that it will be because the invaders "made a solitude and called it peace." '

The New York Times were of course comparing events in South Africa in 1901 to those that had gone before in Cuba's Third War for Independence from Spain that started in 1895.

Spanish tactics were remarkably similar to what the British followed in South Africa from 1900. Most probably because the British emulated them. First they used trochas to limit the movement of the Cuban rebel army. The History of Cuba website explains the trocha system.

The trocha was "a broad belt across the island," about two hundred yards wide and fifty miles long, designed to limit rebel movement to the eastern provinces. Down the center, a single-track military railroad was equipped with armor-clad cars, and various forts and fortified blockhouses were built alongside. A maze of barbed wire was placed so that every twelve yards of posts had 450 yards of barbed-wire fencing. The fortified houses featured loopholes and trenches on the outside, and many encircled windows from which Spanish soldiers could observe and fire.

This was not at all dissimilar to the British Blockhouses that carved up the South Africa landscape, when the Boers started their guerrilla campaign. The British linked the blockhouses with barbed wire fences to parcel up the wide veld into smaller areas easier to control the marauding Boer Commandos.

Next came a "Scorched Earth" policy under which they targeted everything within the controlled areas that could give sustenance to the Boer guerrillas with a view to making it harder and harder for the Boers to survive.

As British troops swept the countryside, they systematically destroyed crops, burned homesteads and farms, poisoned wells, and interned women, children and workers in concentration camps.

But this too had its antecedent in Cuba. Spanish General Weyler implemented a system of what he called “re-concentration”. In this system various fortified areas were designated, and all inhabitants were given eight days to move in, including cattle and other animals. Anyone caught outside was considered the enemy and killed. It is estimated that up to 200,000 Cubans died in these Concentration camps.

By the end of 1897, there were 240,000 regulars and 60,000 Spanish irregulars on the island. Like the Boers, numerically the Cubans was supposed to have no chance.

Winston Churchill had travelled to South Africa to cover the Boer war. But a few years earlier he was in Cuba.

Writing in New York's Saturday Review, Winston Churchill expressed reluctant concern at the fact that "two-thirds of the Cuban rebels were black," adding that it would be beneficial to US. interests if Spain kept control of the island.

Cuban figthers

But the Americans were concerned by the deaths and suffering in Cuba. But the way in which this concern was expressed had made the Cuban rebels suspicious. Not that the USA would follow Churchillian advice and support the Spanish mind you.

They suspected that the Americans had other ulterior motives. The fears proved well founded when the US joined the War against Spain and annexed the island.

By then Cuban commanders had realised the importance of sizing the west of the island. Failing to get the west was partly why they had not managed to won in the previous wars of independence. In a daring mission lasting ninety days, the invading army went from its eastern tip to the western end traveling a total of 1,700 kilometers and fighting 27 battles against numerically superior forces.

The History of Cuba website explains the situation when the US entered the War:
'By the time the US entered the war in 1898, Spain was running for cover, and a Cuban victory was certain. The Spanish troops had been forced back into the urban areas, making them easy targets. The rebels controlled the countryside, and the Spaniards found it impossible to retreat.'
On August 11 Spain accepted the peace terms, in which the US received control of 4 new territories: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.

Although the treaty officially granted Cuba's independence (anti-imperialists in the Senate had made sure that laws were passed excluding Cuba from becoming a US territory), it was the US flag, not the Cuban flag, that was raised over Havana, and during the surrender ceremonies in Santiago de Cuba, US General William R. Shafter refused to allow Cuban General Calixto García and his rebel forces to participate.

In December 1898, one year before Boer forces thwarted British dreams to be home in Britain in time for Christmas, Cuba faced a new invasion.

A US newspaper wrote “Whatever may be decided as to the political future of Cuba, it’s industrial and commercial future will be directed by American enterprise with American capital.”

The American provisional military governments, which controlled Cuban money, refused to provide loans to farmers and landowners.

Foner a historian wrote:

“This was the legacy of American military occupation, and the refusal to permit the use of the funds belonging to the Cuban people to assist the small farmers and planters to retain their land and rebuild their properties, damaged or destroyed during the Revolution.

…Americans were most ‘energetic’ in picking up land at low prices from people who were without means, and for whom the Occupation government refused to provide loans so that they could develop their property.”

Concessions for the railway was won by American companies, and soon the sugar and tobacco industries once controlled by the Spanish was American. American newspapers and Generals urged their government to incorporate the island into the US against earlier legal provisions.

Like Lord Milner who governed South Africa after the Boer War, and who regarded Afrikaners as ignorant and who wanted the country to be incorporated into an English Empire for its own good, US news papers were plugging for much the same in the case of Cuba.

An editorial in the New York Sun, on April 13 1900, summed up the pro US point of view. “The attitude of the people of Cuba toward annexation seems to be this in brief; the wealth and intelligence of the island are generally in favor of it, and the agitators and their tools, the ignorant Negroes, are opposed to it.”

Black or mixed race Cubans had allot to worry about. The US view on race now held sway on the island. It was even suggested that black Cubans had not made an equal contribution to the war.

In 1901, US military governor Wood expressed the need to "whiten" the Cuban population.

Governor Wood's attempt to create an all-white-Cuban artillery corps led to strong opposition from veteran leaders of the Liberation Army. According to Pérez, "white (Cuban) veterans made it clear that there was a blatant contradiction between the integrationism of Cuban nationalist discourse and the segregationist policy of the U.S. Government of Occupation."

In the objection of white veterans to this attempt to exclude black Cubans lies much of what makes Cuba exceptional, not just to South Africans, but to other nations as well.

Cuba had already long history of struggle for racial unity. In fact it could be said that this search for racial unity had already by 1901 become integral to Cuban identity.

But why was Cuba so different? Why this commitment to non racialism that has bedevilled so much of the rest of the world? A comparison with the identity formation of Afrikaners is instructive.

(To be continued)

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

What's Mbeki doing in Watford?

This Saturday saw a Progressive Governance Conference of centre left leaders in leafy Watford.

And Thabo Mbeki, the single person with most influence on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe was there, surreally opting to be in the Hertfordshire county rather than in Southern Africa.

What on earth could he achieve there, the lamest of all lame duck presidents with no support of his party ain't going to get to do allot of progressive governance in his last remaining year.

At least Zimbabwe presents an opportunity to salvage a bit of his reputation before he retires. But that is proving a forlorn hope.

Mr Mbeki did tell eager journalists that the present situation in Zimbabwe is “manageable” and this is “not the time to interfere”.

He refused to criticise Zimbabwe's conduct of the elections and rejected a call by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for international intervention to prevent bloodshed.

Mind you, Mbeki did claim that a previously dubious election was free and fair. Mr. Mbeki is consistently unfathomably horrendous in matters of morality, governance and statecraft if nothing else.

According to AP the closing press conference he became increasingly exasperated at the repeated questions on the issue, declaring: "Zimbabwe is not a South African province, Can we agree about that?"

Nope, but Mbeki will most certainly be au fait with what a previous South African leader, John Vorster, did in precipitating regime change across the Limpopo. He simply cut off all supplies but in particularly oil.

Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa, but the power to do something about this tragedy lies within Mbeki's hands.

In today's UK Guardian the MDC makes a credible claim that Mbeki is seeking to protect Zanu PF.

The MDC feels badly let down by South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, and other regional leaders, in particular. In the party's view, Mbeki has played a deceptive role in which he has projected himself as an honest broker but sought to engineer a result in which Mugabe leaves office but Zanu-PF remains in power.

A summary of Mbeki's legacy can now be headlined:

  • Responsible for at least 300,000 avoidable aids deaths;

  • Leader of the ANC and Government when it became infested with corruption;

  • Leader of the Government when it mismanaged the countries power supply, health and educational system;

  • Second most responsible person after Robert Mugabe for the crisis in Zimbabwe.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A new dawn in Zimbabwe?

By the time you read this Robert Mugabe may have stepped down. We already know that Zany PF, the party that ruled Zimbabwe with Stalinist intent no longer has the majority in parliament.

President Robert Mugabe and first lady Grace during the run up to the March 29, 2008 national elections in Zimbabwe.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

Mhambi has just been listening to an interview by John Simpson with a senior member of Zanu PF. His analysis was simple. Mugabe had made a strategic mistake by not claiming victory earlier.

It was a moment of weakness. A moment in which doubt settled in the minds of state aparatchiks. And so Mugabe fell fowl of the golden rule of African politics - be ruthless.

Now suddenly these erstwhile sycophantic bureaucrats are falling over themselves trying to demonstrate how even handed and fair they are. Not a little reminiscent of recent events in the post Polokwane South African parliament.

The best Mugabe can hold out for now is a run off AND an intervention by the military. Because in a a run off he is even more likely to loose.

Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

In March 2007 I opined in an article titled In Cosatu the ANC sees a potential MDC:

'Allot of people are often depressed by events in Zimbabwe, but Mhambi sees reasons for optimism. A largely non-tribal city based middleclass is revolting against the party and leader of liberation. This is largely because Zimbabwe has (or had) substantial industry and therefore a middelclass and organised labour.'

Recent events in both South Africa and Zimbabwe had me beginning to loose faith. But some commentators like Steven Friedman kept banging the drum - the struggle in Zim, Kenya and Polokwane are the birth pangs of genuine democracy in Africa he said. Not many were listening.
'The pattern is clear. The “right” of African presidents to rule for as long as they like, regardless of what their people may think, is under threat.'

If indeed this is the end of Mugabe it is very good news for Africa and South Africa. Already investors are looking to move back into the stricken economy. Consensus is that their economy can be rehabilitated fast.

Many Zimbabweans will be overjoyed at the opportunity to move back over the border from an increasingly xenophobic South Africa. Many South Africans will be glad that they won't have to compete with Zimbabweans over jobs.

But its in the realm of ideas that a huge shift is occurring. An MDC government's foreign policy is likely to put South Africa's foreign policies in an even more unflattering light.

Internally its likely to seek racial reconciliation and economic harmony before the ideology of racial exclusivity at the cost of the economy.

Beware ANC.

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