REJOINDER TO WILLIAM MPOFU’S ‘SCOURAGE OF AFRICAN TYRANTS’

Kwame Nkrumah, the First President of Ghana

William Mpofu’s misleading article which appeared in the Sowetan newspaper of 22 September titled “the scourge of African tyrants” should not and must not be allowed to go unchallenged because it is a compendium of misinformation and factual errors. It is also misleading and contains historical inaccuracies. Mpofu wrote that, “From Kwame Nkrumah to Robert Mugabe, African dictators have invoked the spirit of African unity and black solidarity against the vampiric Western imperialism with the right hand while with the left subjecting their people to cruel bondage and violence”.

Those who have read Walter Rodney‘s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” will understand that cruel bondage and violence in West Africa were introduced by leaders of Western countries during the Atlantic slave trade. At the time Mpofu’s article was published, the US and some Western countries under the auspices of NATO were on their sixth month of bombing Libya for the sake of accessing that country’s resources so that China should be dependent on the US for oil. Mpofu continued, “another truism of the underdevelopment and impoverishment of Africa is that African despots have looted natural resources, plundered economies for personal enrichment and deployed violence of the worst magnitude to crush opponents”.

Most African countries became independent about fifty years ago with Ghana three years earlier, Zimbabwe thirty years ago, Namibia twenty-one years and South Africa seventeen years ago. What these despots looted and plundered in that relatively short period of time (about half-a-century and less) is a drop in the ocean compared to what the West looted and plundered for about five-hundred years and continues to loot and plunder.

Mpofu also writes, “Nkrumah is still being presented in mainstream African historiography as a role model of good leadership and governance. But a closer look at Nkrumah’s political legacy reveals an alarming dictatorship and a saddening poverty of thought of a leader who suffered a debilitating god complex that left Ghana in particular and Africa in general poorer”. For Mpofu’s information, Nkrumah was truly an inspiration to Africans at home and abroad. He is one of Africa’s shining stars. One writer put it like this, “…the name of Nkrumah became the beacon that led us to the quest for national liberation and ignited anew our desire to reclaim our heritage and our national pride”.

Nkrumah’s vision for Africa and his analysis of neo-colonialism left us analytically richer. We are poorer today because of his absence and not because of his poverty of thought. Paying tribute to Nkrumah after his death, Ghana’s head of state at the time Colonel Acheampong said, “In his lifetime he waged a relentless war against colonialism and racism, and even after his death his spirit will, no doubt, continue to inspire the valiant fighters against the twin enemies of Africa. Today we mourn the loss of a great leader whose place in history is well assured. We join world leaders in paying tribute to this worthy son of the soil”.

Now Mpofu wants us to erase all that with the stroke of a pen. There is no doubt in my mind that Nkrumah made blunders. He is fallible just like everybody else. After all, he was human. The dismissal of the Chief Justice after some persons accused of plotting against his life were acquitted by the courts and demanded that the National Assembly bring an amending act that made the acquittals null and void are examples. It has also been argued that another factor that undermined Nkrumah’s government was corruption among the government and party members at the highest levels.

The declaration of Ghana as a one-party state made the situation worse and opened him up for criticism by locals and foreigners alike. Nkrumah’s problems were exacerbated by divisions in society, the difficulty of turning around in nine years, an economic system that had served the interests of the colonial powers for a century, the intransigence of an educated elite that was concerned only with its own advancement, and a civil service of colonial bureaucrats whose loyalty was to the mother country rather than the local populace made it difficult for Nkrumah to accomplish all that he had hoped.

Mpofu claims that, “At some point under the leadership of Nkrumah, Ghana had more political prisoners than apartheid South Africa jails”. In my book every person not classified as white in apartheid South Africa was a political prisoner. Mpofu also fails to mention that on December 23, 1962 Nkrumah ordered the release of all political prisoners who were detained under the Preventive Detention Act of 1958. Finally, there is documentary evidence that Nkrumah was toppled by the CIA and not the people of Ghana as Mpofu want us to believe. I refer your readers to Karl Evanzz’s book The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X which is based on more than 300,000 declassified CIA and FBI documents.

By Sam Ditshego