Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Zimbabwe

What a sad place Zimbabwe now is. When I lived there back in the 60s, Rhodesia, as it then was, was a thriving country, the breadbasket of southern Africa. Everybody had enough to eat and it had a thriving economy based on mining, small manufacturing and exports of raw materials and food. Yes the best farms were all white owned and yes there was a white only government but the constitution that was in force, certainly whilst Garfield Todd was prime minister, allowed local Africans to gain the vote when they reached certain educational or financial levels. Had this system progressed slowly as was envisaged the Africans would have gained a majority, it was calculated, in about 50 years. That would have been about now and it would have happened peacefully and in a manner where true democracy would have prevailed.

There were at the time two main African parties, Z.A.N.U. and Z.A.P.U. Unfortunately they were split down tribal lines. This has been a problem for most emerging African countries. They were, and in most cases still do consist of tribes that truly disliked each other but were banded together by their white masters in the nineteenth century. The colonialists drew the boundaries to suite themselves without any consideration for the local inhabitants.

When Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Mugabe won out and he was the leader of ZANU and that was the party of the Shona tribe. They were the main tribe inhabiting the eastern half of the country. ZAPU, on the other hand, were mainly Matabele, an off shoot of the Zulu tribe, who inhabited the western pert of the country. Historically the Matabele had always looked upon the Shona as a subject people who were there to be raided as and when they needed more cattle or women. The enmity between the two tribes was palpable even when I was there.

When Mugabe came to power he used his army and police force to literally wipe out all opposition in Matabeleland and many thousands of Matabeles were murdered. ZAPU was banned and he made quite sure that any inkling of opposition was crushed before it had a chance to be a force. Since he came to power all the elections have been rigged, mainly by violence and intimidation. The last election was done in a very clever way. It probably was the most peaceful since he came to power so that most of the observers would be fooled. What he did was to add over 200,000 voters to the roll whose birth dates indicated that they were over 100 years old, a practical impossibility. But it has had the effect of making the old man look legitimate and his African neighbours, who sent observers, were quick to accept the results.

So Zimbabwe remains a sad country. The biggest diamond mine is run by the Chinese who employ virtually no locals and pay Mugabe directly. Nearly all the white owned farms have been given to Mugabe cronies, without compensation. They know nothing about farming but want the prestige of owning the land. Furthermore, they have moved all the local workers off the farms, in case they still held loyalties to their former masters, creating massive unemployment and severe hardship. Mugabe has brought a once prosperous country to its knees. He has no care for the majority of his people who live in great poverty. Added to all this he is a racist but nobody seems willing to say so openly. Many of the white Rhodesians, born and bred there took Zimbabwean citizenship hoping that all would be well for them. The old dictator promised that it would be when he came to power. However, his Africanisation process means that all businesses must be run by Zimbabweans, black ones, not white. White Zimbabweans along with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of what little open opposition there is, can 'go hang'.

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