Magazine article New African

What Is 'Normal Competitive Politics'? from the Zimbabwean Capital, Harare, Mwalimu Mate-Kole Takes Issue with Onyekachi Wambu's December 2012 Column in Which He Suggested That Liberation Parties in Southern Africa Should Split and Create Room for "Normal Competitive Politics to Resume"

Magazine article New African

What Is 'Normal Competitive Politics'? from the Zimbabwean Capital, Harare, Mwalimu Mate-Kole Takes Issue with Onyekachi Wambu's December 2012 Column in Which He Suggested That Liberation Parties in Southern Africa Should Split and Create Room for "Normal Competitive Politics to Resume"

Article excerpt

I READ ONYEKACHI WAMBU'S COLUMN, "From Liberation to Normal Politics" (NA, Dec 2012) initially with some misgivings, and later with mounting frustration and anger. Wambu seemed to argue that Southern African liberation parties--the ANC of South Africa, Frelimo of Mozambique, the MPLA of Angola, Swapo of Namibia and Zanu-PF of Zimbabwe--should "split" and create space for (4 norm al competitive politics to resume'', or there is the implied threat that the new opposition parties would tear apart the fabric of the state--as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) nearly did in Zimbabwe in 2008.

What, Citizen Wambu, is "normal competitive politics" in post-colonial Africa? Would "normal competitive politics" be like the Rwandan type, where three presidential opponents were found murdered by "unknown assailants" just before the last presidential election in that great country?

Or would "normal competitive politics" be like the Ivorian variety, where the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, was declared the winner of the disputed election by the Constitutional Court, only for him to be forcibly removed from office by French troops on the orders of the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague?

What about the "normal competitive politics" in Kenya in 2007? The result of that election was hotly disputed by the "credible opposition". In the clashes that ensued, over 1,300 Kenyan civilians lost their lives! The major flaw in Wambu's article was the total disregard of contemporary African history. As an African "griot", writing for New African magazine, Wambu should act as the repository of the "collective memory" of Africans. He should not fall into the Western habit of totally ignoring the historical context in which a particular episode occurs.

Wambu's ahistorical approach to African politics totally neglects what Nobert Elias, the great German sociologist, calls "the state and nation formation process". Elias posits that every nation has, to a greater or lesser degree, to be invented. The cardinal function of the new nation state is to integrate the people, grow the economy, and to extend the regulating functions of the central institutions to ensure the monopoly of violence, taxation, and the conduct of foreign affairs by the state.

While the state is focused on infrastructure and economic development, the process of development leads to specialisation and more complex divisions of labour. Eventually there will emerge groups in industry, finance, academia, etc. The different political and social interests of the founding fathers of India, Taiwan and the former Yugoslavia would clearly confirm this phenomenon.

It is an undisputed fact that by 1963, 33-odd African nations had attained political independence by negotiations. A few countries, like Cote d'Ivoire, actually initially refused independence but were forced by a bankrupt and exhausted France to accept it!

In Southern Africa (then called "White Africa"), the decolonisation process came through the "barrel of the gun" (pardon me, Ruth First). The liberation parties of Southern Africa had to form armies--Zanla and Zipra in Zimbabwe, Swapo in Namibia, and Umkontho we Sizwe in South Africa, to confront the racist settler regimes. In the liberation war of Angola, apartheid South Africa intervened but it took heroic Cuban internationalist troops to crush the racist forces in the decisive Battle of Quito Cuanavale. That permanently removed the apartheid forces from Angola and Namibia. The war in Angola in fact ended only in 2002 when Jonas Savimbi was killed. Angola lost between two and three million souls in its liberation struggle. …

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