Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prof. George Ayittey on Zimbabwe

Here's a reply I received from the Ghanaian economist & African reformer, Professor George Ayittey. It's about the ongoing crisis in my native Zimbabwe. I had to post this piece to my blog (with his permission), since Prof. George Ayittey clearly expostulated what most rational Africans think in private, but are sometimes loathe to spout in public. Read below (his words).



These are dangerous times Zimbabwe faces. One thing I have consistently faulted Zimbabwean politicians for and which I have constantly railed at is their stubborn refusal to learn from the experiences of other African countries. They think theirs is the only country on the continent facing a political crisis. They should continue to ignore the experiences of other African countries – at their own peril.

Post colonial African history shows clearly that if the politicians fail to resolve a political crisis for years, sooner or later, a Charles Taylor, a Foday Sankoh, a Mohammed Farar Aideed, a Laurent Kabila, or some rebel leader will emerge to resolve the crisis by force. And we all know the consequences of taking that route. As I write, I know or rebel training camps in Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa, operated by Zimbabwean exiles. Not something I would support or get involved in.

The problem as I see it revolves around the whites in the MDC. It is the only credible and largest opposition party in Zimbabwe. But its agenda, policies and strategies have been dominated, controlled or “hijacked” by whites and Morgan Tsvangirai is too weak to check this. He has become something like a “puppet.” As a result, the MDC has lost its “African touch” or character. I suspect this was one reason why Arthur Mutambara broke away, although personal ambition could have been a major motivating factor. It is also one reason why the regional leaders find it difficult to embrace the MDC because they don’t see it as “African.”

As you already know, there are two gnawing issues in Zimbabwe: the land issue and political tyranny. On these issues, the MDC waffled and was outfoxed by a wily old despot who insisted on making the land issue the sole, over-arching political issue.. Following the violent and forcible seizures of white commercial farmlands, the whites saw the MDC as a vehicle to stem those seizures and farm invasions. They acted rationally and I don’t blame them for that. But in so doing, they ended up “hijacking” the MDC and its primary message of DEMOCRATIC CHANGE got lost in the shuffle.

Second, the whites wanted to play it safe and I don’t fault them for that. For that reason, they preferred external pressure – in particular, from Britain -- to be brought to bear on Mugabe; hence, the near-exclusive reliance on external solutions, which flies in the face of recent African political history.

The third was a serious misjudgment on the part of the whites in the MDC. They misread southern African history. Southern Africa is not like West Africa, where the wounds from colonialism have nearly healed. They are still raw in southern Africa, which is yet to shed its liberation theology. For this reason, the whites should have played a less prominent, low-key role in the MDC. They should look at the travails of the Democratic Alliance party of South Africa. I could not for the life of understand why the MDC insisted on making Roy Bennett a deputy Agricultural Minister. Didn’t the MDC know that such an appointment played right into the hands of Mugabe and SADC leaders?

Mind you, I have nothing against Roy Bennett. I met him in Aspen, Colorado, and he is such a fine and intelligent person. But as deputy agric minister? Not at this time when memories are still too raw.

Fourth, because it is controlled by whites, the MDC never bothered to look at “African solutions” that have worked in other African countries such as Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Zambia and even South Africa. It preferred the “Westminster” or Western model (free and fair elections).

Nonetheless, there is still an ALTERNATIVE WAY to pull Zimbabwe back from the brink. Call it African diplomacy. Set up a body of eminent Zimbabweans. Not more than 10 people but they must be apolitical. Leave the politicians out of it. Include church leaders and retired military generals, if you will. They must be able to reach stalwarts in both the MDC and ZANU-PF. Call this group a Council of Elders or Eminent Elders, if you will, to give an African ring to it. Its main task will be to break the political impasse and come up with a solution acceptable to both sides. Pretoria or Johannesburg is not the place to do this; nor can SADC be such a “council.”

The destiny of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of its own people, not in the hands of South Africa or SADC.

George Ayittey,

Washington, DC

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