By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
Once upon a time, African liberation movements were the only hope for the oppressed majority – who were denied a voice and universal suffrage in their own countries, were persecuted for standing up against repression and subjugation, and excluded from partaking in the fruits of the God-given wealth of their motherlands.
Liberation movements, such as ZANU and ZAPU in Zimbabwe, ANC and PAC in South Africa, SWAPO in Namibia, FRELIMO in Mozambique, MPLN and UNITA in Angola, and others, were the cornerstone of the emancipation of the majority of their nations – giving hope to the hopeless, and a promise of a bright future for all.
They fought for such wonderful principles as ‘one man, one vote’, ‘majority rule’, and ‘freedom, development and emancipation for all’.
As no one particular liberation movement could achieve these goals in isolation, they adopted a united approach, thereby, establishing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and the Frontline States.
This united front paid off dividends, as nearly all countries in Africa gained their independence from colonial rule – except the Saharawi Arab People’s Republic, which is still under Morocco’s occupation.
However, decades after the attainment of this independence from colonial domination, most of these liberation movements have metamorphosised into images of the erstwhile colonial masters – becoming the new oppressors, thereby, betraying the very struggle they fought for.
After the deaths, maiming, arrests and torture of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, across the continent – due to repression at the hands of colonial settlers, and during the liberation struggles themselves – one would have expected these liberation movements to continue and maintain the spirit of emancipation.
However, that has never been the case, as they so easily and readily embraced the very nature and tenets of the colonisers.
Today, who are the greatest oppressors and abusers on the continent – subjecting their nationals to untold suffering, killings, torture, disappearances, and persecution?
Who are the leaders in subverting the will of the people by rigging and stealing elections?
Which political parties are at the forefront of refusing to relinquish power, considering themselves entitled to perpetual rule – due to their role in the fight for liberation.
Which political parties are the most corrupt – brazenly plundering their nations’ resources for their own self-aggrandizement – regarding all wealth as their own personal property, whilst the majority of the populace is left in abject poverty?
What has the ANC in South Africa done for the majority of its people – most of whom, since 1994, still have no land, live in shacks, are exploited by multi-national companies, or unemployed – yet, their liberation movement leaders live lavishly, mostly through corruption?
Political killings are nearly the order of the day in South Africa, such that this has been normalized!
In Zimbabwe, ZANU PF has all but singlehandedly turned the once breadbasket of the region into a basket case – with record-breaking unemployment, those employed not being paid, lack of cash in banks – but, above all this, widespread oppression, persecution and killing of political rivals, subversion of the people’s voices, and unfair elections.
What difference is there between apartheid South Africa, and the ‘liberated’ South Africa under the ANC?
What is the difference between colonial Rhodesia, and ‘independent’ Zimbabwe under ZANU PF?
Is there any marked differences between the National Party and the ANC, or the Rhodesia Front and ZANU PF?
In fact, some might even argue that life for the majority could probably have been economically better under colonial rule than in those ‘liberated’ countries!
At least, they had jobs, there was cash in the economy, they were paid all their salaries and benefits, and they had a place to stay – especially, when it comes to Rhodesia.
Therefore, indeed, these former liberation movements have become nothing more than replicas of our erstwhile oppressors – even adopting similar laws that were used during colonialism to subjugate the majority.
Even state media, such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), and Zimbabwe Newspapers Group – which were used by the Rhodesian minority regime to oppress the majority, and referred to liberation fighters as terrorists – have continued this role under ‘independent’ Zimbabwe, whereby, any opposition voices are regarded as enemies, and are either ignored or vilified, whilst the ruling ZANU PF is blindly and unfairly glorified.
Yet, all those who criticise, oppose, or insult the ruling elite are arrested, tortured, persecuted, or even disappear, or are killed.
After all has been said and done, these former liberation movements still band together – this time, not to fight oppression, but to oppress their own people.
That is why it so unfortunate that these political parties hardly hold each other to account for the misrule, corruption, and oppression in each other’s countries.
When was the last time anyone heard such organisations as the African Union (AU) – formerly OAU – or, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – formerly Frontline States – critisizing fellow liberation counterparts who have clearly betrayed the spirit and purpose of the struggle, by oppressing the people, destroying the economy, especially through corruption, and even unfair elections – Zimbabwe being a case in point?
These former liberation movements would rather look aside, and pretend that all is well, whilst their brethren and sisters continue with colonial policies – that they purportedly fought against.
It is time that Africa had genuine liberation movements that truly have the plight of the people in their hearts and souls.
I am not calling for the waging of any armed struggle, but the coming together of genuine liberation movements that will use legal and constitutional means to bring about REAL freedom and independence to their countries.
A quick look at the ANC’s freedom charter from decades ago is enough to shed light on what true freedom means – but, has been, unfortunately, thrown into the dustbin by the former liberation movement.
The nationals of Africa, especially Zimbabwe and South Africa, have suffered enough, and desperately need genuine liberation movements that will put the interests of the people above their own selfish self-aggrandizement.
The still oppressed and disadvantaged people should now stand together and reject these former liberation movements, and choose a better life for themselves.
There are no excuses for the destruction of our nations and the oppression of the people by these political parties – as corruption, repression and stealing of elections has absolutely nothing to do with the legacy of colonialism, or apartheid, or even so-called sanctions on such countries as Zimbabwe.
We, the people, are suffering solely at the hands of these former liberation movements’ own selfishness and evil nature.
We need genuine liberation movements that appreciate that they are owed nothing for their fight against colonialism and apartheid – and that true sacrifice has no sense of entitlement.
If one does something for someone because they honestly want the best for that person, then they should not expect – let alone, demand – any form of gratitude.
That is what sincere selfless sacrifice means!
We, the people, are our own liberators and it is time that we banded together across the continent to break the shackles of colonialism, apartheid and repression – and finally enjoy the true meaning of independence and freedom for the first time since Europeans landed on this continent.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice).