Sunday, December 21, 2008



By Dominic Odipo

Our Members of Parliament just don’t get it: They can win against one or two media houses, if they take them on one by one. But they cannot win against all of the media houses combined.

What they are now doing is as futile as trying to intimidate or ban the Catholic Church. If these ‘Right Horrible’ MPs do not believe this, let them read the dark history of Mexico at the beginning of the 20th Century or, easier still, Graham Greene’s classic The Power and the Glory.

Having said that, let us now turn to Zimbabwe and our once fascinating but now disenchanting hero of yesteryear, Robert Gabriel Mugabe or, as he is better known by his cronies, Bob.

There can be no further question about it: Like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at the beginning of 1940, Mugabe has outlived his usefulness. Or, to paraphrase Oliver Cromwell in his famous reference to the English Long Parliament of the mid-17th Century, Mugabe has "been there too long for any good he might have been doing. Depart, Bob, and be done with you. In the name of God, go!"

Forget the nonsense the grand old men of the African Union (AU) are murmuring. They, too, like our MPs, are just not getting it. In a cynical effort to save their own skins by not setting a precedent that could return to haunt them, they have voted, or agreed by some nauseating consensus, to allow Mugabe to continue lording it over the hapless Zimbabwean people.

In the process, the Addis Ababa-based AU has abandoned the Zimbabwean masses and proved, once again, that it is just as toothless and as boneless as its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

"We’re prepared to bring black people into our government and to work with them. We have to accept that, in future, Rhodesia is a country of blacks and whites, and that it will be governed by blacks and whites. But I don’t believe in majority rule, black majority rule, ever for Rhodesia, not in a thousand years."

The statement quoted above was not made by Mugabe. It was made in December 1975 by Ian Smith, then the racist prime minister of Rhodesia, today known as Zimbabwe. It was published in every leading newspaper in Africa, including this one. Smith had unilaterally grabbed and dug into power and stayed put, just like Mugabe is now doing. The OAU found itself toothless and boneless against him, just like its successor, the AU, which is now murmuring inanities about the Zimbabwean situation.

Smith did not believe in majority government — certainly not in a black majority government in Rhodesia — just like Mugabe does not believe in any majority government in Zimbabwe. History appears to be repeating itself, page by page.

Hardly five years after Smith made that outrageously arrogant statement about his vision of Rhodesian democracy in a thousand years, he was forced out of office by forces and systems much more focused and powerful than the OAU.

It was determined, not by the OAU or any other international organisation, that Smith had to leave office to pave way for black majority rule. The best interests of the people of Rhodesia then demanded that Smith leave office, by force if necessary.

Today, the best interests of the people of Zimbabwe demand that Mugabe has to leave office — by force if necessary.

At a meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa, towards the end of 1976, Henry Kissinger, then the United States Secretary of State, handed Smith a brief note with five no-nonsense conditionalities on it. The first of these was less than ten words long: "Rhodesia agrees to black majority rule within two years."

As one can imagine, Smith could not believe what he was reading. Here was a man who did not believe in black majority rule, "not in a thousand years" having it forced down his throat in just two years! Here, in effect, was a man being asked to sign his own suicide note!

Yet the die had been cast. Racist South African Prime Minister John Vorster and Kissinger had already decided, probably for their own selfish reasons, that Smith had to go. And out he went, the OAU and other boneless African leaders notwithstanding.

Zimbabwe does not have a coastline and it does not produce any oil. Its oil comes almost exclusively through South African ports. If the South African government finally sees the light and liaises with the American government, history can beautifully repeat itself. Mugabe can be forced out of power within weeks.

Since the AU has failed to see the light, let South Africa and the United States now move in and sort out this mess.

History is on their side.