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Mandela v Mugabe - Whos Your Favourite Black Power Icon?

By Phil Thornton 


Two black African leaders, two very different representations in the media. Mandela has, since his release, become some kind of Dalai Lama type figure revered by pop stars, actors politicians and other parasites as a kind of saintly figure, a non-committal cypher of innate goodness, wisdom and nobility for those who dont like their personal political and spiritual beliefs interfere with their total self-obsession and greed. Mugabe, on the other hand, is portrayed as the very essence of evil; an Idi Amin type bogie man for the colonialist told you so brigade.


The racist undertone to the Zimbabwean elections implies that these tinpot dictators are so utterly corrupt and degenerate that only the paternal hand of their former white rulers will raise them from self-imposed starvation. Yet just as the neo-Nazi white supremacists in charge of South Africa for most of the 20th century were openly supported by Britain, the US and other western democracies and a nightmare of chaos was predicted in an era of black majority rule, so the western media lapped up the so-called genocide when Mugabes So-Called War Veterans - in all reports they were always referred to as So-Called War Veterans as if any BBC reporter knew if they were or not - burned out a few white farmers. These poor white farmers were of course the last remnants of Old Rhodesias colonial rump, Colonel Blimps who refused to accept that they had lived on stolen land for generations and their time was finally up. If only we could unleash some of the So-Called War Veterans to clear Britain of her land thieves, I for one would be a very happy man.


Africa is invariably depicted as a continent beyond hope, a place ravaged with corruption and incompetence, never mind that America, Europe, Asia and everywhere else is as equally corrupt and incompetent. You want corruption? Look no further than the Senate, you want incompetence look no further than Brussels, you want sheer brass balls hypocrisy, look no further than Westminster. African resources both human and material have been ravaged for centuries so its no wonder that these states fail with what meagre resources that have been left them. If much of the economic mess is the result of internecine tribal warfare, military violence and economic mismanagement is it any worse than what happened in America and Western Europe during the 30s, South America during the 70s or Eastern Europe in the 90s? Money makes money and black Africa has never had any of its own that didnt get siphoned to the west.


South Africas gold and diamond mines have been kept more or less in the hands of the same hands as before the ANC too power. Mandela gets praised for his restraint when the Truth and Reconciliation committee absolved some of the worst torturers and murderers of the Apartheid regime of their obscene crimes. How the likes of Botha mustve breathed a sigh of relief as the burning necklaces were reserved for the poverty stricken gangs of Soweto, whose living conditions remain as bad if not worse than ever before. Mandelas such an untouchable these days that his old chum PW Botha even wrote the opening eulogy to him in the Guardians recent Great Speeches of the 20th Century booklet. Thats like getting Trotsky to pen a few nice words for Tsar Nicholas II or getting Alex Ferguson to give a speech praising Arsene Wenger. Could you imagine Ian Smith if he were still alive doing something similar for Mugabe?


It could be argued that Mandela is the bigger man, that he has freed himself from the taint of his terrorist/liberationist past by letting bygones be bygones and whilst no-one can argue with the time he spent in prison fighting the cause for black majority rule,  whilst he was incarcerated he didnt witness the everyday cruelties of apartheid, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that a far more radical and vengeful wind is blowing through the townships these days. One far closer to Mugabes model of slash and burn economics than Mandelas appeasement policy. Both men are old and younger, less fearful and angrier leaders are coming to the fore. But lets not judge Mandela and Mugabe by the cold facts of history, when there are far better methods of assessing their influence upon not only African but world events.


Colourful Shirts


Mugabe - favours psychedelic patterned efforts for rallies but more often than not dons a Burtons suit for various Pan African Congress pow wows and the like.            




Mandela - the Timmy Mallet of pan-global politics, wacky shirts were Nelsons trademark for much of the past 20 years. Has toned em down recently but he is 90 so fair dos.






Mugabe - had a pop at the Archbishop of Canterbury for rejecting God and embracing geese (or gays?) -long record of anti-gay statements not quite in tune with his shirt policy. Probably pays for rent boys to tickle his arse with ostrich feathers.




Mandela - accused of deliberately underfunding SAs anti-Aids programme, resulting in millions of unnecessary deaths.




Uncle Tom traits


Mugabe - talks a good anti-colonial game but the fact that he was stripped of his honorary knighthood only highlighted the fact that he still accepted it. Has a soft spot for Her madge apparently. Hardly the actions of a black power icon.




Mandela -  shamelessly courts royals, celebrities, shite pop groups, anyone infact wholl sit in awe and say how boss he is. Hes the Pele of politics (as well as the Timmy Mallet of politics) telling everyone what they want to hear.




Big Glasses


Mugabe - rocks Run DMC style gigs with aplomb.




Mandela - rocks Peacocks Value reading specs now n then.





The Winner - Nelson Mugabe!








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