By The Solutions Tower Staff.
It is a fact that the former oppressors made President Robert Mugabe. They created an environment that enabled bright kids like him to have a chance of a decent education. He received a government scholarship to study in South Africa and when he graduated and wanted to create a career for himself back home in Rhodesia, he found that teaching and politics was what was on offer.
This made Mugabe, Zimbabwe and the former oppressors an inseparable troika. It’s a fact that there was need for land redistribution, it’s unbalanced racial distribution was all too clearly a real and present point of conflict. Despite spending 47 million pounds granted by the British government on the land issue since 1980, the problem remained. The political need was there, what was lacking was the political will. In its place comes political expediency and corruption. However, Mugabe and his political party Zanu Pf, continue to insist to the world that Britain renegaded on 1980 promises to support land reform, which is something many people still accept to this day.
The brutal and chaotic seizure of farms under Mugabe’s direction was both an act of spite (for the treachery of the whites by supporting the opposition in the first serious elections that he had to face since independence) and a desperate bid for political popularity (without massive fiddling he would have lost his job). These facts should not be overlooked.
Before working through the roots of this calamity, it is worth briefly setting out again the magic way in which wealth can be created using land and banks. It arises from giving a value to land that was previously under communal ownership. Once owned, land can be sold, leased, swapped, and critically used as a security against a loan from a banking institution. Banks lend out money that depositors put in, so creating wealth. The administrators of the blacks in Rhodesia may have come late to this concept but their political masters never cottoned on it. Mugabe knew what to do but decided to do the opposite.
Taking you back in 1979 when Bishop Abel Muzorewa was made Prime Minister, his United Party’s slogan was “vote for us and we will stop the war “.The Zanu approach was rather different “if you don’t vote for us the war will continue “Zanu and Mugabe won by a landslide. The landslide was widely noted but not the threatening semantics that caused it. The white Rhodesians in Zimbabwe not only made Mugabe but they gave him the excuse to destroy them through jambanja farm invasions. It is often argued that communal land ownership does not preclude tenure.
Because land is a finite resource and it’s ownership symbolic of wealth, social status and political power, even communal land holding involves ownership of a diluted sort. For example, rights to the crop are private whereas rights to the stubble after harvesting are communal. In some parts of Africa, land and tree tenure are separate. If you cannot sell something it’s not yours. You cannot sell land held communally. Thus, what you grow on it, the trees and grazing that exists there may well belong to you but they cannot provide a way out. You are trapped and you and your ever-growing family are to struggle forever on your own private piece of desertification.
So, it was for the people of Zimbabwe. And just over the way was a vast expanse of land, much of it still virgin belonging, really belonging to One Man. A white man. Not only did the whites give Mugabe a reason to hate them but they gave him an excuse to destroy them. And jambanja or violence has been his weapon of choice. For the average white Zimbabwean, the idea of having their farms seized for resettlement was not part of the resettlement equation. There was the Lancaster House Agreement between the British government and Mugabe that protected property rights, and there was the new constitution, there was also the rule of law.
There was a requirement that any land transaction had to get a government certificate of “no interest “before it could be enacted. All this was about to change because Mugabe had a different game plan. Despite all the money spent on development, Zimbabweans had been poorer not richer, and not just from the start of Mugabe’s insane farm seizure programme. The donors were spending around 500 million dollars yearly but Mugabe’s policies have been hurting Zimbabwe and its people. As years rolled on, so corruption became more and more entrenched.
Zanu liked to portray itself as a stern vanguard party modelled on Chinese and North Korean communist party lines. Mugabe also wanted a one-party state and began justifying plans for it in 1980. There was Zapu which was led by Joshua Nkomo and was supported by the Russians. This represented the Matabele people living in the South. After independence, the Rhodesian, Zapu and Zanu forces were amalgamated into one army which became the Zimbabwe National Army ZNA.
Zapu soldiers deserted the Army and Mugabe exacted his revenge, sending loyal troops in Matabeleland in 1983 and 84. In addition to killing Zapu members, a slaughter of civilians estimated at over 20000. Savagery was shown by one unit, the 5th brigade which had been trained by North Koreans. Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo escaped into Botswana disguised as a woman. The massacres were ignored by the West.
Later on Mugabe came under pressure from the West so in 1987 they signed the Unity Accord which marked the formal submission of the Matabele people and the end of that bloody period. Joshua Nkomo was made Vice President of Zimbabwe. In 1990 parliament approved legislation allowing the compulsory acquisition of white owned land by the government for resettlement. Britain stopped further payments arguing that the farms with its money had been given to Zanu big wigs and senior officers in the service.
Zanu and Mugabe Shared the belief of many of the rural electorate that they were institutionally Entitled to rule forever. In 1997 Mugabe under pressure from the war veterans handed out the equivalent of USD 13 million to the elite for non-existent “war disabilities “A typical case was the President’s brother in law who received USD 80 000 for ulcers and a scarred knee. The extent of thus looting became public knowledge in early 1997 and its hasty suspension before it was extended to the majority of war veterans. There were around 30000 war veterans when the cease fire Was negotiated in 1979 but by 2003 they were thought be around 65000 invading and occupying farms. How can they be increasing in number instead of reducing? Only Mugabe Knows.
Mugabe under pressure again from the war veterans handed out to each war vet bonuses, a once-off payment Z$50000 and pensions of Z$2000 a month, equivalent to USD 165 million at the then exchange rate. The Zimbabwean dollar then slid from 11 to 18 against the USD. A year later in August 1998 the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC had become a recent member of SADC following Kabila’s accession to power and he asked Mugabe for help to fight the Rwandese.
Thereafter for four years until late 2002, Zimbabwean soldiers were stationed in the DRC. The DRC government granted diamond, timber and trading concessions to Zimbabwe as it had no cash of its own. Unfortunately, money generated from these concessions, was looted by Zimbabwe’s politically connected elite. An unbudgeted USD 300 million dollars was spent on the DRC war, with perhaps 150 deaths and around 300 wounded.
In 1998 the National Constitutional Assembly was formed and it gave birth to The Movement for Democratic Change MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The constitutional referendum of February 2000 was a disaster for Mugabe. Unprepared for the possibility of its rejection, he lost the opportunity to personally rewrite the constitution by losing 55:45 The NO vote was solid in towns. Immediately after receiving this slap in the face, Mugabe launched his Fast Track Land Reform Or Third Chimurenga.
This was “jambanja”, planned violence.
Hundreds of farms were seized and their inhabitants, black or white brutally expelled. Those who resisted were beaten or worse. To reinforce his authority over the rural folks, Mugabe introduced Legislation to increase authority over chiefs and Headmen. Tribal leaders now enjoyed sweeping powers to arrest and expel disloyal trouble makers. Inflation was rising everyday and Mugabe broke the world record by printing a 100 trillion note. From 2000 to date Mugabe has been rigging elections and in 2008 he was defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC but he refused to concede defeat.
There is no reason why Zimbabwe should not ultimately be as prosperous as South Africa. Zimbabweans on average are better educated and more motivated than the average South African. Time and again, Mugabe has missed opportunities for peace and prosperity to be squandered.
The former oppressors loosened their segregation just sufficiently to ensure that the new ruling black elite learned enough to understand what the former oppressors had denied them. When as inevitably happened, took power and every idea adopted was the opposite of their proven recipes for economic success. They created a monster: Robert Mugabe, the absolute tyrannical ruler and Zimbabweans are to blame for not being bold enough to stand up to his ruinous rule.
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