Mugabe: prophecy vs propaganda

‘Bob Mugabe Becoming A Bit Of An Embarrassment’ was not a headline that appeared in newspapers last week, but it did in my mind. You see, I have a confession: I am a fan of African leaders who stand up to the UK, the US, the IMF and the World Bank. I admit it. I want them to succeed. I want to defend black leaders in post-colonial Africa because I think they have a virtually impossible job in trying to build, on broken foundations, a society that satisfies international definitions of success and stability while still serving the interests of people downtrodden for centuries. I want to defend them because I am all too aware of the bias against them. Perhaps I am defensive and paranoid, but I simply don’t buy that we are as free of racism in our hearts as we like to believe, and I suspect that those attitudes make us all too willing to say and report the worst about black African leaders.

For many, Mugabe justifies this. From genocide in the 1980s (death-toll: over 6,000 people) to his corruption of the land reform programme of more recent years, Mugabe has proved those who want to discredit every strong African leader right. And that annoys me. Yes, reports on Zimbabwe are often embarrassingly biased and that bias goes largely unquestioned. Yes, it took white people losing land to make anyone care about Zimbabwe. Yes, there are worse tyrants, more oppressive governments, less democratic countries and places where leaders have killed many more people that Mugabe and we know or care little about them. But that does not change the fact that Robert Mugabe has disgraced himself as a leader and should leave. His corruption, killings, and oppression make it imperative, but so does the fact that every day he stays in power is another day when those below-the-surface racist beliefs of white or self-hating black people are confirmed: Africans cannot govern themselves.

Mugabe is doing to the image of African leaders what Tony Blair last week did for faith. The former PM was quoted in a speech about his faith’s impact on his policies saying he had no regrets. Columnists lambasted him. But the right to faith informing politics is not undermined by the fact that the architects of the Iraq invasion (independently estimated civilian death-toll: 80,000 people) exercised that right. It proves the importance of that faith being tested, accountable and rooted in the teaching and Spirit of Jesus. The fact that a thug in Zimbabwe continually rants about the West interfering in the affairs of Africa does not make the acknowledged and unacknowledged 20th century history of European and American-supported coups, invasions, wars and despots in Africa disappear.

So let me ask a question: if we’re praying publicly and prophetically for the MDC to win, what are their policies? If they turn out to be despots in the Mugabe mould, are we going to shrug shoulders, muttering ‘that’s Africa,’ and absolve ourselves of involvement? And if they do what they are no doubt being pressured to by Western allies who’ve unquestioningly supported them (privatise state assets and sell them to American and European corporations, introduce GM crops only available from overseas, liberalise their markets in a way that would make Christian Aid’s trade justice campaign scream), will we still be praying for change and justice? Will we retain our prophetic zeal when this particular bogeyman is gone? More importantly, will we ever have the courage to pray and preach and write and speak against our country’s allies rather than our enemies? Because if we are unwilling to point the finger of blame at them and at ourselves, it’s not prophecy, it’s propaganda.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: