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Mugabeism: A model for African liberation

By Garikai Chengu
THIS week marks the 90th birthday of one of Africa's greatest leaders: Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe. When Europeans came to Africa toward the turn of the 15th century, they found a prosperous civilisation of enormous wealth.

Agriculture and cattle rearing, pottery, iron-work, fisheries, salt-mining, gold refining and ornament making, weaving, hunting, and long-distance trading were all well advanced at a time when Europe was still relatively backward. From the 15th century on, however, the fate of the two continents reversed. Africa stagnated for over three centuries as a direct result of slavery and colonial conquests.

This significant part of global history, for the sake of maintaining a correct historical perspective on Africa and Europe, must always be kept in mind when looking at the contemporary African situation. Mugabeism is an ideology that appreciates that the only way to allow Africa to surpass its former glory, is to undergo the three stages of any true African revolution: political, agrarian and economic.

All African nations have achieved political independence from the West, but Zimbabwe, under Robert Mugabe, is one of the few to push for agrarian and economic freedom. President Mugabe's Land democratisation and economic Indigenisation policies form the cornerstone of Mugabeism. The goal of colonialism was certainly not to teach natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping;

nor was colonialism merely created to ensure that white settlers simply retained power for power's sake. Colonialism is an economic system designed to systematically exploit indigenous Africans for the betterment of Europeans. Thus, the election of a black president constitutes neither freedom nor decolonisation. The true form of post-colonial independence is defined by African economic policies that promote land democratisation and economic indigenisation. Land democratisation is the second stage of any true African revolution.

Only 90 years ago, the British South Africa Company owned every square inch of Zimbabwe.

By robbing the Native of his or her right to any meaningful inheritance, Britain secured its most significant legacy of colonialism; consequently, Britain annihilated the platform from which to advance the Natives' economic freedom. Zimbabwe's land democratisation program is designed to restore that platform for many indigenous generations to come.

At independence, a staggering 42 percent of Zimbabwe's land area was owned by only 4 000 white farmers. Today that land has been divided up among 413 000 black households. The effects of land democratisation benefits over one million people, who have been part of the largest demographic movement in southern Africa in the past decade.

The World Bank estimates that a staggering 65 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's best arable land is still controlled by white settlers or multinational corporations. Recent studies by British and Zimbabwean academics suggest that Zimbabwe's new form of Socialist democratic agriculture is more economically productive than the previous whiteled, Capitalist modes of agricultural ownership and production. Last year, Zimbabwe raked in over half a billion dollars from tobacco sales. Before Land Indigenisation, a handful of rich, white farmers would have greedily divided these profits, moving the money away from African pockets and into Western bank accounts.

Land reform is now possible in all African countries after Zimbabwe's successful example. At face value, Zimbabwe's agrarian revolution may appear to be simply about land. But it is about so much more. Land is not merely land. Land is a place to be born, a place to grow up, a place to call home, and a place to be buried. Land is a source of food, a livelihood, and an asset to bequeath to our next generations. Above all else, land is a source of African pride. Land is never merely land.

The final phase of any true African revolution is economic democratisation. In the past, the top 10 percent of businesspeople in Zimbabwe - a great deal of whom were foreigners or whites - owned 40.3 percent of the nation's wealth, according to the World Bank.

Over the next five years, President Mugabe's Indigenisation policy has primed itself to redistribute $3 billion from foreign investors to local community trusts, in order to ensure the development of clinics, roads, and schools. Indigenisation will also create over one million jobs. In short, Indigenisation will re-orient Zimbabwe's democratic economy to empower and benefit the Native first and the foreign profiteer second.

The World Bank estimates that as much as 70 percent of the net wealth in Sub-Saharan Africa is owned by non-indigenous Africans or foreigners. In fact, the World Bank estimated that, "nearly 40 percent of Africa's aggregate wealth has fled to foreign bank accounts." Indigenisation will combat this outflow of wealth by creating more African corporate owners. These local shareholders are more likely to save their rent in local banks, spend their dividends on domestic goods, and invest their profits in local businesses. Indigenisation is the much needed bridge between poverty and industrialisation, and therefore, transforming Africa into a first world power.

Mugabeism is a new brand of African Democratic Socialism that is becoming increasingly resurgent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Candidates who espouse African Democratic Socialism won recent Presidential elections in Kenya and Zambia. Their opponents, who favored pro-Western, neo-liberal policies, dismally lost their elections. Mugabeism is an ideology that believes in not only the transference of political power, but also an unwavering commitment to shift the means of production-land, minerals, and corporations-from the privileged white minority to the Zimbabwean majority.

Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. He writes in his personal capacity





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