Yes, some Africans admire Margaret Thatcher

Today is Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, to which guests have been asked to “wear full day ceremonial dress without swords.” Remember when we blogged about Margaret Thatcher’s terrible legacy? Read it again here and here. In that post, we were emphatic that “Africans don’t remember Margaret Thatcher fondly.” Well, we were wrong. Some Africans do like Margaret Thatcher. Here’s a gallery of 10 of them, some of whose words have been repeated across Western media:

* Ibrahim Babangida, the former “military president” of Nigeria for much of the 1980s, who in a radio interview  talked about taking advice from Thatcher (she visited the dictator in 1988, above) to have a policy of “constructive engagement” with South Africa. On her advice he then invited the white South African ruler FW de Klerk to Nigeria. I can’t only imagine what they discussed.

* Talk of FW de Klerk. He was one of the first people to RSVP for Mrs Thatcher’s funeral. He called her “a friend.” De Klerk can’t stop himself. If you can remember, as late as 2012 de Klerk still publicly expressed an opinion (on CNN) that Apartheid was a good idea. He later came up with a half apology.

* Then there’s Dambisa Moyo, Zambian former banker, who gave us the badly researched book “Dead Aid” and who frequently argues that what Africa needs right now is more free market capitalism. She tweeted that Thatcher was a “leader and pioneer.” We’re not sure for what.

* President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan–who has a record himself of disregarding the wishes of his subjects–said Thatcher was “one of the greatest world leaders of our time.” What? Goodluck also thanked Thatcher on behalf of all Nigerians and those “whose lives were positively touched by her dynamic and forward-looking policies.”

* Daniel arap Moi, former Life President of Kenya and now also a noted feminist: Mrs Thatcher “was a great role model for women who want to join politics.” Moi continued: “As the first British female Prime Minister and political party leader, Mrs Thatcher has inspired many women worldwide to venture into political leadership.” Oh yeah? Go tell that to Glenda Jackson.

* Uhuru Kenyatta, the new President of Kenya (and a man of peace, wink) wanted to best Moi. A cynical person once remarked the electoral choices in Kenya are between different rightwing variants? Here’s Uhuru waxing approvingly about Madame Thatcher: “Lady Thatcher was a decisive and firm leader who will be remembered across the world for the role she played in pushing for free market economic ideology. To everyone who knew Lady Thatcher and had the opportunity to work and interact with her, the former Prime Minister was well respected as an iron lady of outstanding ability.” Sounds like he just watched the Meryl Streep movie (him and everybody who reads Linda Ikeji’s blog).

* A lot of other South African politicians made the cut. Apart from de Klerk there’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, which party fought a proxy war on behalf of the Apartheid dictatorship (disguised as “black on black” violence and “Zulu tribal war”) against opponents of the white dictatorship in the 1980s and early 1990s. Buthelezi will be in London today. Before he left, he mumbled on about two of them being “kindred spirits” and being committed to “a non-communist outcome to the South African liberation.”

* Helen Zille, the very populist leader of small South African political party, the Democratic Alliance  (and a self-styled ‘Iron Lady”) said: “[Mrs  Thatcher] did not allow populist politics to define her position on anything.” Zille was not referring to herself of course.

* Commenters on South African news websites deserve their own special mention. See how the privileged readers of the daily Business Day reacted to a piece (just scroll down for their comments) by ANC intellectual Pallo Jordan on Thatcher’s legacy.

* Finally, there was Idi Amin when he was still alive.

Sean Jacobs

Sean Jacobs is the Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country. He is on faculty of The New School in New York.

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