Exactly 40 years ago, Zimbabwe cut ties with South Africa – Why?

Nii Ntreh September 03, 2020
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his counterpart from South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa in a hearty conversation. Photo Credit: Newsbeezer

On September 3, 1980, the new nation of Zimbabwe severed diplomatic ties with its conspicuously problematic neighbors to the south, South Africa, a Black majority nation led by white men.

Zimbabwe, which had fought its own bitter war of independence against British colonial rule, was following in on the path of a few other African countries that looked to shun South Africa until apartheid was displaced.

Mission offices in Cape Town and Pretoria were shut down and agents were recalled to Harare, then known as Salisbury, that very afternoon. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, an uncompromising Pan-Africanist, had been expected to take that decision but this was a big personal for Mugabe.

Mugabe sought retribution for what white colonizers had taken Africans through. There was no hiding the fact that Mugabe wanted Africa’s pound of flesh for centuries of painful exploitation, and if an independent Zimbabwe had to join the chorus against a racist government on the continent, then Zimbabwe would, even if just five months after its own independence.

With South Africa, Mugabe hoped for more than freedom for that country’s Black majority. He wished they would serve the world a lesson on African political renaissance, Mugabe-style.

He was the man who said: “Europeans must realize that unless the legitimate demands of African nationalism are recognized, then racial conflict is inevitable.”

Every bit of Mugabe’s anti-colonial philosophy was racially-animated. But South Africa had Nelson Mandela, the forgiver of sins and a unifier of the oppressed and the oppressor.

Mugabe was not a fan of Mandela and intimated more than once that Mandela’s reconciliatory tone was a let-down for Black Africa.

Accrording to the AFP, Mubage once blurted: “Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks).”

In 2017, the Nelson Mandela Foundation had to respond to another criticism of the post-apartheid Black leader by Mugabe, who hit out at what he thought was a failure to show strength on behalf on South Africa’s Black people.

Both Mugabe and Mandela persevered until their deaths in how they separately chose to address Africa’s relationship with former colonizers. Mandela’s approach seems to have won global praise but that is exactly why Mugabe and others like him would say Africa’s boycott of apartheid South Africa has been for naught.

Last Edited by:Nii Ntreh Updated: September 3, 2020


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