Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Africa’s legend of political flip flops

By Bill Saidi

The most unforgettable quote for Zimbabweans, with the memory of the elephant, was uttered by Robert Mugabe: “After all, who is Joshua Nkomo?”

Robert Mugabe seen here with the late Joshua Nkomo
Robert Mugabe seen here with the late Joshua Nkomo

He uttered this at the start of Gukurahundi, in which 20 000 people were killed.

Nkomo was then leader of PF-Zapu, and Mugabe of Zanu. The parties ended up in a coalition government.

The conflict ended with the two men signing a peace treaty which included the formation of a coalition government in 1987.

But his contempt of Nkomo was an unforgettable insult.

The man had played a key role at the start in 1957 of the struggle for independence.

Mugabe was not in the first such movement, the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC).

He was studying in the Gold Coast, before that country gained independence from the British as Ghana in 1957 under Kwame Nkrumah.

In many other countries, also fighting colonialism, there were political flip-flops too, notably in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

There were bloody conflicts, in which many people died.Peace and independence were eventually achieved, though.

The countries included Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya, where the Mau Mau fought the British army.

Zimbabweans who had lived in African countries preparing for their own independence had close-up scenes of utter, but deadly foolishness before the big day arrived.

In a number of countries, there was bloodshed only a few days before Freedom Day. Innocent citizens were massacred.

Some leaders, having lost the election preceding independence, took revenge.

They claimed the winning party had rigged the election.

The post-independence festivities were marred by more bloodshed, with one group determined to extract revenge.

Having gladly returned to their countries when their independence was in the air, such citizens warned Zimbabwean leaders: “Be careful to let everyone vote freely and without hindrance or intimidation. Everyone must know the elections will be free and fair.”

The habitual agitators turned up, though, like bad pennies. They stirred up trouble and unarmed people were killed.

Before tranquillity was achieved, there were many burials of innocents.

For years before absolute peace reigned, there was bloodshed in the course of revenge.

The young may not remember any of this.

When you refer to Zimbabwe, you cannot forget Gukurahundi’s 20 000 lives.

You might be among those who complain loudly about “people trying to remind us of bad things”. There is utter insincerity here.

Many such critics in and out of the country insist dialogue could have avoided murder.

Today, there is disparaging language of “Who does he think he is?” In whispers, others would not condemn such people.

They would claim: “He organised guerillas for military training. He was not a traitor.”

But in the end, he is discredited: there is no mention of his heroism in the struggle.

In a number of African countries, there were also people publicly portrayed as traitors, when they were not.

In Zimbabwe, the combined toll of the struggle is estimated at 60 000.

Many live with memories of their relatives on photographs on shelves or dressing tables and on walls and in graves.

All over the continent, there are unidentified corpses in unmarked graves in forests, victims of political flip-flops.

It must be true people were recruited without an offer of reward. Nobody would promise them boodle.

The reason for the war was not embroidered in colourful language. War would bring freedom and happiness.

If today’s leaders believe only THEY deserve boodle and happiness, they should be told: “Your time is up, you rotter!” Daily News