That Robert Mugabe was an African hero and stood for the emancipation of the blackman is undeniable. Indeed, the SADC region, the African continent and the rest of the Third World has lost a gallant son and fighter who fought for freedom from colonial oppression, racial equality, justice, and economic empowerment for the downtrodden.
The voice of Robert Mugabe became synonymous with the struggles of the oppressed peoples of the world and at such gatherings like the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union, SADC and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summits, many looked forward to hearing him speak on their behalf.
After the political independence of Africa, Mugabe spoke for the economic emancipation and empowerment of the African as he believed political independence was meaningless without economic empowerment. He spoke strongly of the need for Africa to exploit its vast resources to empower its peoples. He spoke about the need to utilise these resources to industrialise nations on the continent and urged Africa to redouble its efforts towards economic well-being for the peoples of the continent.
As we have said before, the continent is endowed with vast quantities of natural resources – from oil, rubber, timber, gold, copper, platinum, nickel, coal, uranium and precious stones such as diamonds and emeralds – yet its peoples wallow in abject poverty and thousands drown each year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to seek opportunities in Europe. That is why Mugabe vigorously pursued the need for beneficiation of these resources to create employment opportunities for the Africans. He believed in processing of the minerals which would lead to industrialization of African countries, and this culminated in SADC in 2015 endorsing this as part of its agenda.
The man believed might is not always right as he spoke out strongly against the unipolar world enforced by the United States of America. He believed African countries needed to speak with one voice on the democratisation of the UN system, especially the Security Council, so that Africa also has a voice in world affairs. The AU a few years ago adopted a resolution, known as the Ezulwini Consensus, reaffirming the continent’s stance that it should get two permanent seats with veto powers and two non-permanent seats on an expanded United Nations Security Council. We believe the death of Robert Mugabe must not mean the end of this call.
As world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly later this month, African leaders must therefore continue pushing for meaningful and wide-ranging reforms of the Security Council. The continent is against cosmetic changes which will perpetuate its current position on the fringes of decision-making.
Surviving African leaders must not let down Robert Mugabe and such Pan-African luminaries like Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie who died fighting for the freedom and economic emancipation of the African.
We believe the reform of the UN presents an opportunity for the former imperialists, who have plundered the continent’s resources to enrich themselves while under-developing Africa, to atone for their evil past and accept the continent as an equal partner in world affairs. This is what Robert Mugabe stood for.
At the same, it must be categorically stated that the political independence that the likes of Mugabe, Sam Nujoma, Oliver Tambo, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere and other Pan-Africanists - both living and dead - fought for must never be taken for granted as it never came on a silver platter. Indeed, thousands who took up arms to fight the oppressive and racist colonial governments of the time died fighting and their fight was not in vain.
As we join the rest of Africa in mourning the death of Mugabe, and at the same time celebrating his life, we note the great strides made towards African unity. The signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in May is a step towards achieving the goals for which Mugabe and other revolutionaries on the continent fought for, which is not only political independence, but economic empowerment for the people of Africa.
Strides must therefore continue to be taken to ensure Africans own the means of production, namely the land, which is the basis upon which any economic empowerment takes place. But as Mugabe and Zimbabweans experienced, the former colonisers will not easily give up the ownership of the land and steps must be made to address the imbalances in the ownership of the resource in countries like South Africa and Namibia. The land issue is not only an issue for Southern Africa, but the entire African continent, moreso where former colonialists since have a strong say in land ownership. In South Africa, there is talk of expropriation without compensation and it remains to be seen whether this would be the best model to resolve this burning issue in Africa’s largest economy.
We believe a delay in addressing the land issue is a time bomb and the sooner this is addressed the better for the region. But as Robert Mugabe and Zimbabweans learnt, addressing the land issue and economically empowering the previously marginalised communities is not going to be a walk in the park. Those who have benefitted under the colonial and apartheid systems will obviously oppose radical land reform as they are comfortable with the willing-buyer, willing-seller basis which has, however, proven to be unworkable over the years.
As we celebrate the life of Robert Mugabe, we are guided by the fact that many in Africa and in the Third World agree that he is indeed a hero, a revolutionary on the African continent who sought to address the colonial injustices inflicted not only on his country, but on the blackman across the world. The man played his part and it is now up to those surviving and the next generations to carry the baton forward.
Of course, as a human being he had his own weaknesses, but the good that he did for Africans and the oppressed peoples of the world must not be interred with his bones.