Many Zimbabweans do not know or have forgotten that some of the first substantial arms that launched the country’s war of independence were given by Ghana to ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU, then headed by a youthful Robert Mugabe.
And not only that, Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, made Zimbabwe (then called Southern Rhodesia) a cause célèbre in international forums at a time white rule had become entrenched and arrogant in Rhodesia.
Speaking at the celebration of Ghana’s 62nd independence anniversary in Harare yesterday, Ghana’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr E. Odoi-Anim, reminded a well-attended anniversary event that Ghana and Zimbabwe have had, and continue to have, longstanding and strong bilateral ties traceable to the early years of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle.
“Ghana’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah constantly raised the issue of Rhodesia at world gatherings including the United Nations and the then Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) to the great annoyance of the white rulers of Rhodesia,” Ambassador Odoi-Anim said.
When Ian Smith announced his unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia in November 1965 and Britain refused to do anything to reverse it, Nkrumah led Ghana to break diplomatic relations with Britain in protest, at great cost to a then Ghana whose umbilical cord was still attached to the British colonial master.
Well before 1965, to help the black people’s struggle in Rhodesia, Nkrumah had written a fat book on Rhodesian affairs, exposing the Western links that was sustaining white rule in Rhodesia. At the time UN sanctions were supposed to ban such Western support to Rhodesia.
The book was still in draft form when Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup d’etat in February 1966, and as part of the pillage of his office in Accra, the soldiers who overthrew him handed the book-in-draft-form to the CIA, thus depriving Nkrumah of the joy of publishing it for the world to see the chicanery then going on in Rhodesia.
But not to be beaten, though pained by the loss of the draft of the book, Nkrumah proceeded to use the contents of the Rhodesian file in Ghana’s embassy in Conakry, Guinea, to draft yet another but smaller book on Rhodesia which he published under the title, Rhodesian File.
Ambassador Odoi-Anim said Nkrumah’s fight on behalf of black Zimbabweans was on a higher plane. For example, Nkrumah used his first speech at the opening session of the OAU Summit in Addis Ababa in 1963 to tell the world: “As I speak to you the situation in Southern Rhodesia poses a grave threat to the peace of Africa. But we in Africa cannot remain indifferent to the fate of four million Africans in that territory, and cannot allow an extension of the vile, inhuman system of apartheid to be extended to other parts of Africa”. On the vexed land issue, Nkrumah told the world: “The African peoples of Rhodesia are the rightful owners of the land, hence they deserve to have the final say on who gets the land.”
“These and others too long to be stated at present, provide a clear indication of the determination of the government of Ghana to see fellow Africans in the then Rhodesia able to govern themselves and be masters of their destiny,” Ambassador Odoi-Anim said. “It is from these foundations that Ghana and Zimbabwe have forged bonds of enduring friendship and of course, mat rimonial companionship.
“Nkrumah further invited many Zimbabwean cadres to study in Ghanaian educational institutions, at government expense, and provided other forms of material assistance to the Zimbabwean struggle, including military training and arms. As a result I have many classmates in Zimbabwe who attended the same school with me in Ghana.
“It is therefore, of great significance that the present leadership of our countries have emphasised the urgent need to further expand the existing ties between our countries to include strong economic cooperation and partnership, with emphasis on trade and investment, and to also share expertise in specific areas of each other’s national economy for mutual benefit,” Ambassador OdoiAnim said.
Towards this end, important steps have been undertaken at organisational level to promote trade and investment, encourage educational and cultural exchanges between Ghana and Zimbabwe, and also engage in joint research programmes in institutions of higher learning for mutual benefit. This year, for example, preparatory work to accelerate the establishment of a Ghana-Zimbabwe Permanent Commission for Cooperation (PJCC) will be completed, and within that framework important actors in the national economies of the two countries will have the requisite institutional and legal framework to pursue economic and investment opportunities between Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Other sectors such as trade, energy, agriculture, and mining will also be explored for mutual benefit, using the framework of the PJCC. Already, in areas of tourism, conservation, and wildlife management, work is ongoing to promote the exchange of best practices between Ghana and Zimbabwe. “Indeed, there can be no better time for the expansion of trade and economic ties between Ghana and Zimbabwe than under the new dispensation when Zimbabwe is open for business and Ghana is taking steps to move beyond Aid,” Ambassador Odoi-Anim said.
Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African Country to attain independence on 6 March 1957. At the time, Nkrumah described Ghana’s independence as being meaningless unless it was linked to the total liberation of the African continent.
Ghana’s contributions to the struggles of other African countries, against foreign domination and occupation, were immeasurable. This was what impressed former President Robert Mugabe, as a youth, to emigrate to Ghana where he met his first wife, Sally Mugabe (nee Hayfron). That union has today led to many such enduring “matrimonial companionships” between Ghanaians and Zimbabweans.