Liberation rules Southern Africa

> Lovemore Ranga Mataire

The recent triumph of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in the just ended Tanzania presidential elections is a pointer to the solidity and enduring support that former liberation movements in Southern Africa still enjoy in the Southern African region almost two decades after dismantling apartheid in South Africa, analysts say.

John Magufuli of the CCM won the Tanzanian presidential election last month with 58 percent of the vote, beating his main rival Edward Lowassa of Chadema party who polled 40 percent of the ballots cast.

While Lowassa, who represented a coalition of opposition parties, cried foul over the election results, observers say the uncontestable truth is that Chama Cha Mapinduzi still rules the roost in Tanzanian politics.

Despite losing its monopoly following the introduction of the multiparty system, CCM continues to dominate Tanzania’s politics and no other political party has managed to surpass it. Similarly, other former liberation movements in the region continue to rule the roost in their respective countries despite intermittent periodic challenges from opposition parties most of which have emerged out of the post-liberation milieu.

The former liberation movements now governing their countries in the region are Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, Frelimo in Mozambique, Swapo in Namibia, ANC in South Africa and MPLA in Angola.

It seems as though the dominance by the former liberation movements is derived from the strong affinity that the electorate has on them. It is the same electorate that views opposition parties as ideologically alien to African ethos and values that formed the building blocs for a nationalist fervour that was instrumental in the mobilisation of masses against colonialism.

Yet despite the dominance, the forces against liberation movements are not relenting. Conscious of that menacing threat of the West which is keen on rolling back the map of liberation in the region, Tanzania has taken the lead in a project that seeks to coalesce all former liberation movements to build strong synergies and exchange ideas on how best to protect the legacy of the liberation struggle.

It is out of that realisation that exactly two years ago, Tanzania hosted former liberation movements to exchange notes on the best strategies to turn their political independence into real economic independence and also to build defence mechanisms to repel neo-colonial forces. The meeting, which was attended by secretaries-general of former liberation movements in the southern African region, met in Dar es Salaam to map the way forward in the face of the resurgence of neo-colonialist forces that continue to threaten peace and independence in the region.

The meeting brought together Zanu-PF, ANC, Frelimo, MPLA, Swapo and Chama Cha Mapinduzi.

Despite devising common strategies to safeguard their independence, the former liberation movements are keen on ensuring that the liberation struggle legacy is protected for posterity. As a way of ensuring that the past does not die in the present, the former liberation movements have concretised their deliberations by establishing an ideological party school at Iringa in Tanzania, which played host to many liberation movements during the independence struggles of southern Africa.

Although the school could have come much earlier, there is no ambiguity about its symbolical importance. Among other fundamental issues the school is meant to immortalise the region’s shared historical heritage of colonial resistance and triumph and this will act as an inspirational reference for future generations.

Without doubt, one of the core factors for the consummation of the forum was to ensure that the liberation map is not rolled back into the hands of puppet regimes. It is an established fact that most Western nations are wary of former liberation movements running affairs of their respective countries given their inflexibility and indefatigability in safeguarding their political independence and sovereignty.

Unlike most post-liberation parties that have sprouted across the region, former liberation movements have generally remained resolute and impervious to Western machinations designed to have unfettered access to resources of their former colonies. Despite being structurally strong and having a clear ideological grounding, former liberation movements still face formidable challenges that need urgent address.

In the words of Paul T. Shipale, the challenge facing liberation movements is to reinvent themselves into vanguard progressive centre left-mass parties that provide informed analysis of a strategic transformational ground and ensure that they don’t play into the hands of those who implement regime change in Africa through intellectualised exclusive oligopolistic cartelised elite parties. The reinvention is crucial in as far as it seeks to find ways of keeping the memory of the liberation struggle alive – its essence and its noble values especially for the young generation clearly lacking an inert emotional attachment to the struggle in the advent of new information technology that has replaced both oral and written record as a primary source of information.

It is surely not enough to just meet and reminisce about a glorious past and issue statements devoid of concrete course of action. Is it not Chinweizu Ibekwe (Nigerian critic, author and journalist) who contends that we must discuss and debate and criticise everything, including ourselves, so as to minimise error through harvesting our collective wisdom?

Liberation movements must come to terms with the fact that they are far from being homogenous and must be able to look themselves in the mirror and thrash out their differences for in the words of Mao Ze Dong, “thrashing out our differences is part of the active ideological struggle and a weapon for ensuring unity within the movement.”

Liberation movements need to clearly define the paradigm that governs their interactions including clearly defining the ideological framework within which they have continued to exist.

It is inevitable for them to talk about unity without any reference to pan-Africanism for pan-Africanism or African renaissance must find expression within the framework of using it as a rallying tool and as an ideological basis upon which future struggles must be anchored on.

It is prudent that liberation movements be cognisant of the fact that there cannot be any economic independence before the construction of a pan-African identity derived from a shared goal and common social historical experiences struggling to lift Africa from its current status as marginal, oppressed and largely written off continent. Just as it was the rallying point in the liberation of Africa, pan-Africanism must continue being the major adhesive component for bringing and keeping Africans together.

The challenge facing liberation movements is not just to safeguard the ideals of the liberation struggle but the formulation of an African confident of himself and be able to exist as an equal being in the community of nations.

There is need therefore for an urgent need to develop a shared sense of identity that recognises these multiple identities and multiple claims without destabilizing the essence of the pan-African unity.

Liberation movements must be able to build fortresses strong enough to deal with Afro-pessimists who stress the enormity of the problems that divide them rather than things that unite them and start with presumption of self-defeat thereby clouding their judgment and limit their imagination.

Since the liberation movements have their history dating back to the formation by Julius Nyerere of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East, Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA), it is critical that they continue reasserting their footholds in the ideological structure and direction taken by such regional bodies as SADC. Safety nests must be put in place to monitor the emergence of reactionary forces whose main aim is to undermine the sanctity of the armed struggle as the basis for nationhood.

It is also significant for liberation movements to devise ways and means of synergising their economies through various ways including coming up with a single currency with the sole aim of uplifting the once marginalised majority. Already, Zimbabwe has led the way through its land reform programme and the indigenisation programme whose main thrust is to make the black man the owner of the means of production. While it is acknowledged that individual nations have varying economic dynamics, the imperative of equitable land reform is more than apparent.

One of the issues that liberation movements need to do is to be able to speak with one voice on international forums because for a long time the African voice has always come out fragmented.

The lack of unity has made it easier for agents of neo-colonialism to entrench themselves in the political systems of individual countries and in turn pose as serious threats to the survival of liberation movements.

In the long term, southern African liberation movements must find common ground with other former liberation movements in and outside the continent.

This will make their continued struggle for political and economic autonomy have a global appeal.

November 2015
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