God, Mugabe and the West


Indeed, Mugabe was being punished for usurping the natural order. There was no outcry when the Southern Rhodesian government expelled 14 blacks, half of them of South African origin, from the commercial farms that they had bought in the 1920s when they were placed under European (white) area jurisdiction.

There was no outcry when Ian Smith kicked out black commercial farmers who had bought land during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (which united countries now known as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and lasted 10 years from 1953 to 1963) without any compensation. Smith declared unilateral independence in 1965 and ordered the black farmers out because he did not want any blacks in what he declared was white land. He did not care how they moved out or where they went. He just did not want them in white areas. Britain did nothing though Rhodesia was a British colony.

I know this story quite well because I was a victim. My uncle was one of those who had bought a commercial farm near Mhondoro which he named Mambo Ranch. When he was kicked out, he had to buy two small African Purchase Area farms in Nyahunda, Bikita, to accommodate his cattle. He also had to sell goods in his shops to pay for the move. My father had to help his brother out as he had set him up but because of the huge cost involved, both ended up broke. This was a bitter experience for me because my father had been running a thriving business but after the sale, he had to struggle to pay my fees to enable me to complete high school.

When my uncle approached the first black government at independence to see if he could get his farm back, he was told by then Deputy Minister of Lands Moven Mahachi that he could not because the new government had declared a policy of reconciliation. When I tried to trace the farm through the Deeds Office years later I discovered that the title deed for the farm only dated back to 1971. There was no mention at all that the farm had ever belonged to Jonathan Mbengo Rukuni. Ironically, although my uncle had been denied his farm, it was one of the first to be sold to the government in 1981 under the willing-seller-willing-buyer scheme agreed at Lancaster House in 1979 to resettle people.

To prove that black lives did not count much, during the 2000 farm invasions, a number of black commercial farmers who had bought their own land were also assaulted and even killed by the invaders, but none was mentioned by name even in the local black-owned press yet every white farmer that was beaten up or killed was named and photographed and the surviving members of the family interviewed. Black lives mattered very little even to fellow blacks.

Monbiot explained why the West hated Mugabe and his land reform. "The governments of the rich world don't like land reform. It requires state intervention, which offends the god of free markets, and it hurts big farmers and the companies which supply them. Indeed, it was Britain's refusal either to permit or to fund an adequate reform programme in Zimbabwe which created the political opportunities Mugabe has so ruthlessly exploited. The Lancaster House agreement gave the state to the black people but the nation to the whites. Mugabe manipulates the genuine frustrations of a dispossessed people.

"The president of Zimbabwe is a very minor devil in the hellish politics of land and food. The sainted Nelson Mandela has arguably done just as much harm to the people of Africa, by surrendering his powers to the IMF as soon as he had wrested them from apartheid. Let us condemn Mugabe's racist attacks upon Zimbabwe's whites by all means, but only if we are also prepared to condemn the far bloodier war which the rich world wages against the poor."

Indeed, Mugabe is a very minor devil, but his story is not really about Zimbabwe. It is about its bigger southern neighbour, South Africa, a first world country in a third-world continent. The West cannot allow Mugabe's land reform and indigenisation programmes to succeed because that would spell disaster for South Africa especially with rabble-rousers like Julius Malema clamouring for land reform and nationalisation of mines. As Monbiot said, this offends the god of free markets.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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