Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

Free Press, Ghana, July 5, 1985

Of national holidays

In every nation's calendar are set certain days of national observance and celebration...

It should not be difficult for Ghanaians to refer to a similar date of significance in our history. Undeniably, March 6 and July 1 are to us what other dates are to other nations.

The beginning of modern Ghana was March 6, when we won independence, a process that was given logical conclusion with the attainment of republican status on July 1, and yet see how successive governments in Ghana celebrate these dates.

There are times when the two dates have been downplayed and observed without keen interest and participation by the government of the day.

We have also witnessed a few occasions when attempts have been made to distort the real significance of the dates and play equally down the contributions of the architects of Ghana's independence.

In contrast to June 4, March 6 and July 1, were this year celebrated without the importance they deserve. June 4, however, was celebrated amidst such pomp, pageantry and fanfare as to make it appear the most important date in Ghana's history.

Incidentally Ghana has in the past seen certain dates overplayed to the fore by men in government.


February 24, the date the National Liberation Council overthrew Nkrumah used to be celebrated with exaggerated fanfare unproportional to its real significance.

Acheampong's redemption day, January 13, the date he overthrew Busia's regime used to be celebrated at the same over-exaggerated level.

Today the emphasis seems to be on June 4 and related dates like December 31 and even May 15, but one wonders whether these hallowed dates would not suffer the same fate as Acheampong's redemption hour or Afrifa-Kotoka's Iberation time.

Who celebrates those days now? No matter who writes the history of Ghana, March 6 and July I would have eternal significance to the black race. March 6 as the watershed of Ghana's and Africa's dependence symbolises all our hopes, our aspirations, indeed our entire history.

It is by March 6 that we can fully measure our achievements and failures.

Dates like February 24, January 13 and June 4 may be with. interred bones of their architects because they invariably epitomize the history of individuals and sectional interests.

March 6 is, however, a national heritage that unites all Ghanaians evoking in us bonds of unity and fires of pride in our common nationhood.

We are not suggesting other days may not be celebrated but we must begin to accord March 6 and July 1 their proper place on the national calendar.

The Punch, Nigeria, July 12 1985

The second coming of Mugabe

After a tortuous electioneering campaign which featured large scale terrorism, acrimony and mistrust, Mr Robert Mugabe emerged from the dust last week to become Zimbabwe's Prime Minister for a second term. For the next four years, the world would be treated once again to Mugabe's characteristic and flourishing demagoguery.

His success at the polls was quite as predictable as that of any African leader in power contesting an election. Mugabe's success fits into the monotonous and rather pain- ful political refrain that it is quite easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an African leader to lose a 'democratic' election. Mugabe had all the variables for success: He is of the majority ethnic stock, he has bullied Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU-PF into brutal submission through persistent state-sponsored terrorism and he has since begun to sip from the sweetness of dictatorial powers.

In spite of this, Mr Mugabe should not assume that his success at the polls this time around offers a carte blanche to continue treading the hateful path which would lead to doom. He should change course and reconcile with the other five nationalist parties that conceded victory to him. The Nkomo's ZAPU party which is the official opposition party should be given a chance to survive. We make this special plea because it is apparent that, in Mr Mugabe's bid to impose a one-party state on Zimbabwe, he had deliberately set out to destablise and probably crush the ZAPU. We recall that in November last year a ZAPU/MP was shot dead by supporters of ZANU. In the same month, the police opened fire at demonstrators in Matabeleland wounding several people. Matabele is the home base of Joshua Nkomo and the only area where the blacks are solidly against Mugabe.

Also last year, fracas broke out in the border town of Beitbridge in which 184 people were injured and 20 people killed. From 1982 when the Nkomo/Mugabe coalition broke down, to 1984, several people, mostly Nkomo's supporters, lost their lives in internecine crises. In the face of this socio-political dislocation, Mr Mugabe has threatened to impose a one-party state, a step that is bound to precipitate grave crisis unless he treads softly, softly.

There is no doubt that barring the state terrorism Mr Mugabe's first term showed that he is a fine administrator and a statesman. The term witnessed an upsurge in schools' enrolment at all levels while he has also improved, considerably, the food situation in the country through an imaginative agricultural revolution. He has also offered solid support to Mozambique and other frontline states. However, Mr Mugabe's political record as earlier enumerated in the preceding paragraphs, is sickening. And we believe that a good administrator must be pliant enough. to accommodate views which he might not necessarily agree with.

As Mugabe kicks off in his second term, we urge him not to impose a one-party state in Zimbabwe. An adoption of a one-party state must be preceded by a referendum, and such must not become an escape valve through which the majority tribe imposes its thinking on the rest of the nation.

As for Mugabe's intention to make the seats reserved for the white Zimbabweans reflect their population vis-a-vis the rest of the nation, he has our support. But again, this he must not do through unconstitutional means.

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