Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mansudae Art Hall Snubbed!

There has not been much good to say about Zimbabwe in recent years, since Robert Mugabe lost the last remnants of his legitimacy in an ill-advised and economically crippling wave of farm redistributions to people who, by and large, had no idea how to farm.

Since then, I will be honest, I have found it hard in South Korea to keep a handle on the revival of the country; a coalition government of national unity took control a couple of years ago, but Mugabe remains in power. That is pretty much all I am sure of.

Nevertheless, if this is any guide, Mugabe's power has been circumscribed and a measure of sense has returned to the body politic.

It has the makings of an interesting story; in the 1980s Kim Il Sung, in the spirit of comradeship, sent a hundred or so North Korean advisers to train a special unit of the Zimbabwean military, the 5th Brigade, one which turned out to be extremely brutal as it was unleashed on Matabeleland during the "Gukurahundi", in Shona meaning the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains, killing thousands upon thousands of the ethnic Ndebele people who were fighting an insurgency against Mugabe.

So when the pre-national unity Mugabe regime handed a contract to Mansudae Art Institute to build a statue of Joshua Nkomo, one of the first rebels against the white rule of Ian Smith in the 1960s and a native of Matabeleland, in Bulawayo, the provincial capital, its leader was obviously still operating in the blinkered belief that he could do whatever he wanted. Not so.

Recent protests by the family, including present day Vice President John Nkomo, a ZANU-PF stalwart with a chequered history, have apparently led to a government decision to dismantle the statue.

Not a great loss, one might say. Without getting embroiled in the rights and wrongs of the fight against Ian Smith, all I will say is that there are ways and means of fomenting an uprising, but I would prefer to live in a world where people who order missiles be put in civilian aircraft do not get commemorated with statues.

- Flight RH825
- Flight RH827

Despite this setback, Mansudae, with their reputation for cheap but high quality statuary, seem not to be running out of customers. They recently completed the 164-foot high, $27 million “Monument to the African Renaissance” in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

The Democratic Republic of Congo also seems not to have been put off by this, which is surely just a Kim body with a Robert Kabila head, also commissioning this more recent work.

Back in Zimbabwe, Mugabe was apparently not interested in the family's protests, which is hardly surprising. He is not known for his listening skills these days.

A senior government source revealed Mohadi had spoken to President Robert Mugabe after the tense meeting with Nkomo’s family.

“The President told Mohadi to ‘leave them (Nkomo’s family)’. He also said he was disappointed with John Nkomo for failing to take a principled stand,” the source said.

However, the family won, and the statue goes.

I want to leave the final word on this unseemly mess to the finely tuned sense of irony of political analyst Grace Mutandwa;

It was highly insensitive of the government to have hired the North Koreans to produce the statue without consulting Nkomo's family or the people of Matabeleland.

Let's just say the North Koreans are not the Ndebele's favourite people.


No comments:

Post a Comment