You are here

Does Mugabe's record mean that anti-colonialists were wrong?

This forum began as my response to a comment made by Marisa in the discussion arising from her article Immigration in Italy: love it, hate it of 25 Jul 08.

Contents: Does Mugabe's record mean that anti-colonialists were wrong?, Anti-Mugabe Hysteria, Land-rights, population problems & Mugabe, Mugabe Mugabe Mugabe (1), Damage caused by colonial legacy often understated, A way forward for Zimbabwe?, Overdevelopment and Cultural Superiority, Mugabe Mugabe Mugabe (2).

Does Mugabe's record mean that anti-colonialists were wrong?

James Sinnamon wrote on 10 Aug 08: Thanks for your comments, Tim and Marisa.

In regard to Zimbabwe. I think it would be wrong to conclude from the outcome that the struggle of Black Zimbabweans against the minority white Government of Rhodesia as it was then called was wrong. Zimbabwe is not the only country in which anti-colonial struggles have had disappointing outcomes. Others, from memory, include neighbouring South Africa, Angola and Eritrea. Black ruled countries which appear to have done well as a result of anti-colonial forces coming to power include Namibia and neighbouring Botswana.

I think we need to take into account the ongoing effects of globalised capitalism. Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" shows how, in behind-the-scenes negotiations, the African National Congress negotiators gave in to negotiators representing the interests of South African and international corporations, thereby ensuring that after the formal end of the the Apartheid system in South Africa, the new government had little scope to improve the living circumstances of ordinary South Africans. Whether or not the outcome in Zimbabwe is the result of a similar process or is purely the fault of Mugabe, I am unable to say at this stage.

Anti-Mugabe Hysteria

cacofonix wrote on 11 Aug 08: Mugabe has been demonised to such an extent that any defence is futile. However, I doubt the majority of Zmbabweans would be much better off under any other leader, as the underlying problems are environmental, i.e. the population has risen from 7 to 12 million since black majority rule was finally conceded in 1980. More important Zimbabwe has suffered immensely from low raw material prices and has traditionally earned billions from tobacco crops. In just two decades it's gone from being a net exporter, the bread basket of Southern Africa, to a net importer of food. It's almost inevitable that with diminishing per capita resources and over a century of colonial and neocolonial control, a power struggle would ensue with winners and losers. What are the real motives of the West in seeking to regain control of their former African colonies. Energy resources, maybe? There are a number of proxy wars raging in Africa with China and US vying for control of oil, gas, bauxite, uranium, diamonds and other goodies.

Land-rights, population problems & Mugabe

Sheila Newman wrote on 11 Aug 08: I am also not aware of the specifics, however, with regard to your comments about the African National Congress negotiators, as reported in The Shock Doctrine - the problem was above all that they promised to return land to the people; they promised land-rights. Klein describes how the laws were actually drafted by shock doctrine practitioners to make private land titles virtually unassailable,so that, when they came to power, it was impossible to fulfill their promises.

The 'overpopulation' of Africa and most third world countries, is historically tied up with land-rights and dispossession. Landless people had only their labour to sell, and, where there were no laws against it, their children's as well. Africans did not always have their high rates of child birth; they had many small steady state societies, until the 1750s. Land-rights are the key to the restoration of local economies and local empowerment, and, I would suggest, responsive decisions about family sizes. Big Business and globalisation don't want that. They want cheap labour. Preferably from children as well. The UN doesn't go near the land-rights issue. Mugabe does, doesn't he. So does Chavez.

Something very similar is now happening to Australia, Canada, the US; loss of land-rights as housing is priced beyond most people and they must remain in a labouring culture, just when debt is blowing out, immigration (another form of colonisation) is up, and wages are going to be pushed down. I often wonder how long it will take in the Anglophone countries before the child labour laws are abolished along with compulsory schooling.

Yes, I know that sounds very far out to a lot of people still, but if you observe the privatisation of resources, concentrating power away from the majority, that's usually a sign of deep trouble.

Anyone knowing the ins and outs with Mugabe, please post here.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page

Mugabe Mugabe Mugabe (1)

marisa wrote on 28 Aug 08: Surprisingly, I send an article about immigration in Italy and what did I get ? a load of posts about... Mugabe !
I must have touched a raw nerve. Maybe, it is the automatic response of left-wing inspired tier-mondisme , for which Africans ( or anyone who is not an evil European ) can never do wrong ; or if they do it is our fault!

Unfortunately for all the defenders of the indefensible, I have some knowledge in things African, through the involvement of my husband, who lived in South African, has friends both blacks and whites, extensive knowledge of the country, its history and the tribal rivalries that afflict that part of the world.
Here it is:

Mugabe destroyed one of Africa's few successful economies,

Robert Mugabe, a Marxist guerrilla who fought against Rhodesia's white-led Ian Smith government, was allied with Nkomo, of the Ndebele tribe. In 1979 he had the support of the British Government ( Margaret Tatcher) , because he threatened to continue the civil war if he lost. He won in 1980, the second general election ( the first was won by the moderate bishop Abel Muzorewa ) in a tribal fight ,where the Shona majority was decisive in electing him prime minister. He won 64% of the vote, with the help of para-military forces chosen exclusively from his Shona ethnic group, after a campaign of violent intimidation to eliminate other ethnic groups by committing genocide. In 1981 , Mugabe asked North-Korean instructors to train and equip his private army, the Fifth Brigade or Gukurahundi, to carry out another ethnic massacres, which costed the lives of more than 20,000 Ndebele civilians in the provinces of Matabeleland and the Midlands, who had no means to defend themselves.
Nkomo ( like all the world, which choose to close an eye ) knew the elections were a fraud, but he continued to cooperate, until Mugabe dismissed him from his cabinet in 1982, just two years after independence, proving that tribal hostilities prevailed ( and still do ) in Zimbabwe's political life
After he massacre by Gukurahundi thugs Nkomo left the country into exile.
When Mugabe became prime minister, and was recognised by the international community and media as a respectable African leader, Britain agrees to provide funds to purchase the land of British farmers willing to sell, for a much-needed land distribution programme. Unfortunately, that promise was frustrated by the following government: Britain's ruling Labour Party felt no obligation to continue paying white farmers compensation.
Things got out of hand. Meanwhile, The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were pressing for agricultural reform, that Mugabe couldn't deliver, because it crushed with the "war veterans" to whom he promised the farms of the white owners. Self-styled "war veterans", led by Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, began invading white-owned farms.
A vicious campaign started against the white farmers, who were responsible for the success of the country's economic prosperity. The farmers who did not leave voluntarily were subjected to harassment, tortures and sometimes killed. In 2000, Parliament allowed the seizure of white-owned farmlands, which produced 75 percent of agricultural output, without due reimbursement. White farmers had employed the country's largest work force and their ejection led to the displacement of 300,000 families, which were suddenly in charge of small plots of land divided between many members, without the preparation or the skills to run it. The environmental fragility of the natural resource base was suddenly charged by a growing population without experienced farming practices. They had lost farming tradition suitable for smaller population without acquiring any successful farming tecnique.
The UN reported that the re-distribution of land resulted in the loss of home or livelihood for more than 700,000 Zimbabweans and negatively affected 2.4 million more.
Less than 25 years ago, Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, was a net food exporter and these white farmers were driven off their land, some of the most productive in all of Africa. The story is documented in Cathy Buckles book on the Zimbabwe land grabs entitled, "African Tears: The Zimbabwe Land Invasions."
With time ,the situation is getting more dramatic.
According to world relief agencies, including the World Food Program, the U.N. and Oxfam, 1 million Zimbabweans will be in urgent need of food aid. But lately the government would not allow foreign aid agencies from distributing humanitarian food aid.
From news agencies and Buckles witness, , Zimbabwe is now facing a shortage of some 1.2 million tons of corn. The rains have come to the land of northern Matabeleland the bread basket of Zimbabwe and the seed should be in the ground by now. But instead the rural poor are starving. Mugabe plans to evict thousands of farmers and the consequence will be that many of their crops will not be properly harvested. The reason for such crisis is land resettlement programme, a slow death by starvation - orchestrated by Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front , who are refusing food to anyone suspected of supporting the MDC. ( Movement for Democratic Change) The government ordered the destruction of shantytowns, squatter camps and street markets from the outskirts of Harare , and the poorest people have nowhere to go.
Children are among the first to suffer, with one in four Zimbabwean children orphaned and more than 2 million vulnerable to starvation, the U.N. Children's Fund says.
The land is given to government officials, relatives, cronies and young thugs from the ruling party. Today, the same land lies fallow .
Grace Mugabe the wife of Mugabe, turned up at John and Eva Matthews' farm north of Harare, one of at least 190 white-owned farms that are being handed over to relatives and close associates of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, arresting 78-year-old John Matthews. As of September 2006, Mugabe's family owns three farms: Highfield Estate in Norton, 45 km west of Harare, Iron Mask Estate in Mazowe, about 40 km from Harare, and Foyle Farm in Mazowe, formerly owned by Ian Webster and adjacent to Iron Mask Farm, renamed to Gushungo Farm after Mugabe's own clan name, all seized forcibly from their previous owners.

The World Food Program recently predicted that as many as 6 million Zimbabweans will soon face starvation. The government counts on the CNN factor'' (images of starving children) which will influence policy decisions in the West and that a flood of aid will pour in.

Besides, the state exercises total control over media and movement inside Zimbabwe. The last two dissenting voices, SW Radio Africa and the Daily News have been forced to close.
Independent journalists have been arrested, their offices bombed.

Mugabe's jingoism is absurd: he blames the food shortages on drought and Zimbabwe's state-owned press accuses former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of using chemical weapons to incite droughts and famines in Africa!
Meanwhile President Robert Mugabe celebrates his 83rd birthday with champagne and cake at a US$1.2 million (euro910,000) party while hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans struggle to survive on bread and water.
President Mugabe in 1995 denounced gays and lesbians as "lower than dogs and pigs and charged that homosexuality was unnatural and un-African, an alien culture only practised by a "few whites"

Damage caused by colonial legacy often understated

Sheila Newman wrote on 28 Aug 08: It is all very well saying that white farmers were at the base of a significant export economy, but Africa did not have an over population problem until Britain became involved in it. At that time Britain had an overpopulation problem, with many dispossessed, which it exported, via its land-use planning system, all over the world, creating what we now call, the 'third world'.

Africa's problems go back to horrendous dispossession and disorganisation of many tribes and villages which lived long term in an area of rich biodiversity. With the industrial revolution, which began in Britain (a land famous for dispossessing its own and then exporting them as soldiers, convicts and settlers) that biodiversity came under widescale attack.

Your argument only covers 25 years and injustices go so much further back.
Now, I don't pretend that immigration is a solution for these injustices.
What you say about Britain failing to compensate the 'white' land-owners is of enormous importance in the whole ghastly tragedy.

The owners under the old system need compensation from the countries which derived a profit from the system they imposed.

And then, IMHO, we have to stop global trading, since it only perpetuates unsustainable extractive economies in the so-called third world and because it encourages further dispossession, whereby the ONLY way that people can make a living is by wage-earning, which, in Africa, is an apalling option.

If the rules for child labour are lax then it makes sense for people who have only their labour to sell to have more children to bring in an income. Note that the dispossessed English also had lots of children for the same reason until child labour was not an option. Child labour is a symptom of an avoidable system, not a symptom of race or climate. Education programs and anti-child labour laws are a long term program against this, but land-ownership and the cessation of exporting staples is the first step.

Hope these observations don't bother you too much. I realise that you are sincere. It's just that I go back further and I think one must.

What you are posting is an important step in the discussion of these problems. Immigration is a solution which keeps the same problems ongoing.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page
Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.

Overdevelopment and Cultural Superiority

cacofonix wrote on 31 Aug 08: As I see it, the current consumption and population overshoot may be more aptly considered overdevelopment. The kind of problems we witness in Zimbabwe and elsewhere are a mere consequence, but we might try to address the causes. Without the colonisation and economic domination of Africa (and elsewhere) of Western colonial powers and later largely Western multinationals (and only recently of Chinese interests too), Africa would have remained self-sufficient with a naturally stabilising population. IMHO we have no right to suggest this culture was inferior in any way to our own at the time, but merely different. In the absence of colonialism the technnological advances of one community would have filtered through to other communities anyway, but probably over a longer time span, thus allowing people more time to adapt and synchronise new lifestyles with their environment.

I find it highly suspect that the neo-liberal Western media has chosen to highlight Zanu-PF's human rights abuses just when they begin, belatedly and inequitably, to redistribute land from the country's dwindling white minority to sections of the black majority. I also hear no mention in the Anglo-American media of the background to the 130 year-old feud between the Shona and Ndebele peoples, the latter being Zulu migrants encouraged to emigrate by Cecil Rhodes' comtemporaries as the British conquered what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal province, indeed Sindebele remains largely mutually intelligible with Zulu to this day. The Brits manipulated differences between these peoples in a classic divide and conquer manner.

Zimbabwe's economy evolved to service the British Empire and enrich the European minority, often seeing themselves as missionaries with a duty to civilise the indigenous population before they could be trusted to take on managerial and administrative roles. I would call imperialism, whether French, Portuguese, Spanish, British or whatever, as the first phase of modern corporate globalisation. While the imperial powers of yesterday would talk of spreading christianity and European civilisation, today's corporate forces talk of spreading democracy and upholding human rights. Yet such rhetoric is nothing but a ploy to gain greater control of resources and render all communities totally subservient to corporate forces.

Whether Mugabe is more or less corrupt than other African leaders misses the point, his regime is a product of a growth-addicted model of development exported largely by white colonialists. How will letting the MDC, supported almost unanimously by the global media outside Zimbabwe, bring in Chicago school shock therapy and thus letting Western multinationals have free reign in Zimbabwe alleviate the poverty of 12 million Zimbabweans? How many more examples do we need of freedom movements woed by the Anglo-American media and inevitably end up implementing the diktat of international bankers? Look no further than neighbouring South Africa and Zambia as documented beautifully in Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Without substantial aid there is no way out of Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis. To those who claim that White Rhodesians turned formerly barren land into Southern Africa's bread basket, just consider that most of Zimbabwe hard cash was earned by tobacco plantations. Also in 1999 I saw first-hand the effects of dought in much of Western and Central Zimbabwe with dwindling but increasingly polluted water in the Zambezi, a product of global overconsumption. The seeds of this crisis were sown long before Mugabe came to power.

A way forward for Zimbabwe?

James Sinnamon wrote on 31 Aug 08: Thanks, cacofonix for a helpful and informative contribution.

What you are saying is that the Zimbabwean people are caught between a rock and a hard place.

My own view, notwithstanding your well-founded fears for a future Zimbabwe ruled by Morgan Tsvangirei being subject to shock therapy, is that the path out of Zimbabwe's current crisis still lies with supporting the election of the MDC which clearly enjoys overwhelming electoral support, as far as I can tell.

What the MDC almost certainly does not not have and will not get from the Zimbabwean people is a mandate to implement Chicago school shock therapy should they win government. I don't believe that that is what the MDC set out to do and I don't believe that that is what most of its supporters, or possibly even Morgan Tsvangirei himself, truly wants. I recall reading that Tsvangirei was an outspoken supporter of the British Miners' strike from 1984-1985, which was essentially a struggle to prevent shock therapy under Margaret Thatcher. (Can you confirm this?) Embracing shock therapy today would sit oddly with such a past, even if Tsvangirei were to attempt now to dismiss it as being naive youthful radicalism.

What I think should be done is:

  • any evidence, circumstantial or concrete, of deals between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on the one hand and multinationals, the World Bank and others on the other be exposed;
  • If, as is most likely, the MDC's political program (like the South African African National Congress's (ANC) did) precluded any 'shock doctrine' policies, that its supporters hold the leaders of the MDC to that program. MDC supporters should be warned in advance what the outcome of any secret negotiations are likely to be and should not be bound to honour such deals.

Also, do you have any further information about Zambia? Whilst the appalling capitulation of the ANC leaders, including, most of all, by Joe Slovo of the South African 'Communist' Party, to the multinationals and the white elites, was described very lucidly by Naomi Klein as you say, I don't recall at the moment reading anything in "The Shock Doctrine" about Zambia, and can't find any entry in the index about Zambia.

Mugabe Mugabe Mugabe (2)

marisa wrote on 3 Sep 08: OK, Sheila, hurrah, what a success was my post!

First of all, do not think for a moment that I get offended by you. I know that you know things that I DON'T KNOW. And anyway, I like you ( send photo with dog !)

Well, for a start, I thought that the subject was Mugabe: is he evil or not ?
All evidences point to the conclusion that he is,yes, evil.

I didn't think it was necessary to go through all the historical vicissitudes, sources, roots, causation, external or internal, I didn't think that we had to search and exhume our-everybody's -past and when and why an how and at what point they intersect, making complicated inroads like cat's cradles.
After such laborious search, we have to give it an interpretation which reflects besides historical truth - which are so multiple! -our own version and prejudices.
And that brings us to that sort of conversation we are having here, with the reasons why one is evil or not evil, depending on which colour glasses we use ... Has anybody thought that Hitler was actually a victim - of his father, mother, a bit of neurosis ( it was the content of Norman Mailer's last book), and what about the Germans that voted for him? Were they deluded victims of the rough treatment of the powers at Versailles, or Nazis anti-literam- ? ... What about Pol Pot ? This is even clearer - well, for some people anyway! It's the entire Yankees fault.

And why them ? Were they not the descendants of the wicked European conquistadores.? Colombo opened the way for every kind of exploitation. After the Spaniards, the British followed and they, too, disposed of the Indians, which, as everybody knows, were nature lovers, in spite of the fact that they destroyed, in turn, all the big game of North America.
I stop here, but there are many books to consult ( besides the acclaimed Naomi Klein, the blessed author of the New Bible. But does anybody reads something else ? Demonic males and the origins of human violence, or War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, for example )
That should prove that the peaceful societies, before the advent of the White Man, were not that peaceful, but only on a smaller dimension, because there were not too many of them to kill and the size of the boot non very big. The earth wasn't that populate yet. Not even the Western part, if I can safely say it. But still people killed each other with gusto. And sometimes, eat each other.

What I do not like is the twisting of facts to suit one's preconceived view of the world, divided into bad (whites!) and good (everybody else): is it genetic? Is it a virus? Is it some form of self-flagellation ritual that has substituted human need for religion and deliverance ?
Do not worry: this little tirade isn't directed at you.
In order to save time, I include the answers to cacofonix (well chosen synonym )

The history of the world is the history of colonisation.
Just look at the map and everything will become clear. Not just Europeans, who have a very bloody history - but everybody ,everywhere. For over 600 years before Europeans arrived in Africa, black Africans were transported by Arab traders from West Africa, from Chad, from East Africa, to the Islamic empire across the Sahara, to Libya, to the Persian Gulf, rapidly expanding Islam across North Africa. And immigration on a big scale was going on in the Black Continent, driven by internal fights for land and pastures.
Some of the most victimized tribes were the San hunter-gatherers the peaceful people, authors of left thousands of paintings - rock art, and displaced by each successive wave of immigrants.

The aggressive pastoralist Khoikhoi whose grazing herds increased and the meek San competed for land -. Bands of San were occasionally taken prisoners and were discriminated as low-status people, without the option of owning land or animals. Those San who remained as hunter-gathers were 'culled' or driven into more inhospitable lands. The main reason for their defeat was their low number and their pacific ( or pacifist, we would say) attitude. They had no idea of ownership of property. Even the spoils of a hunt are divided according to customary allocation. A San Bushman never takes from the soil or a herd of game more than he needs to stay alive. Evidently, for an evolutionary point of view, they are the born losers.

Also the Herero and the Himba of Namibia migrated from the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, during the 16th century. They migrate with their herds to the different waterholes from season to season, and the pasture lands became hopelessly overgrazed due to the high number of cattle. They started clashing from 1830 onwards, with the northward moving Nama who allied with the Afrikaneers, which drove them from their southernmost settlement.

History has also an anthropological and evolutionary point of view, not only economic
A more interesting question would be instead: is Western man more cruel, more greedy, than the so called more primitive societies on which he visited his violence ? I think that it is fundamental to observe that accumulation- either private or part of a group- belongs to an animal instinct: the dog hides the bone, the squirrel puts aside the nuts, etc.,and who doesn't follow this logic - of providing for later- must bear some consequences, like being subjugated by more combative groups.
I don't whitewash the faults of European civilisation. But rationalisation has come to an impasse. We do not know, until we are looking for guilt. For example, capitalism has been often the culprit. It begs the question: why did capitalism flourished here and not somewhere else? Were not, for example, the wars fought during pre-capitalism era just as bloody or even more ? What about Alexander, Genghis Khan, the Aztecs, Attila the Hun, the slaughter of the Cathars, to mention only the best known? Pre-capitalist history is actually the history of calamities, both natural and man-made.

What about the higher birthrate of Africa? It is not a later phenomenon. In all Conferences where I met African delegates, they agreed with one voice that to have many children was their equivalent to our pension insurance. It sounded logical.
But, when copulating, people do not think "Ah, that's my pension!" It comes naturally to them, as they do not have access to contraception. Has anybody thought about this very simple explanation ? It is surprising that, in spite of the presumed one hundred million sex acts a day, there are not more children born.
High birthrates do not occur only in Africa, but in every peasant society. It is CUSTOMARY, in families of Indian villages to need at least two sons and one daughter. In any case, the more children, the more hands there are to work. For Europeans, it's the government that urges us to have more children, to furnish our pensions. An old custom adapted to a modern world.

But in Africa the logic isn't so evident, because , under the traditional system of inheritance and sub-division, having more children means that each successive generation inherits a smaller and smaller plot and average farm size per household declines, thus contributing to starvation....
The ignored truth is that Africa now produces nearly 30% less food per person than in 1967. (Sept 1999 ...Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs )
Certainly, traditional methods suited a small population. For generations, African farmers have used slash-and-burn methods, clearing a small section of land and burn the underlying brush. At the end of each harvest, farmers burn again to clear the undergrowth, depleting soil nutrients, while rain washes away the topsoil from bare fields. After a few years, the soil crops no longer thrive. But then the farmer moves on another plot.

It is obvious that such a traditional method cannot anymore be viable-

I pick from remarks by cacofonix:
"I find it highly suspect that the neo-liberal Western media has chosen to highlight Zanu-PF's human rights abuses just when they begin, belatedly and inequitably, to redistribute land from the country's dwindling white minority to sections of the black majority."

Well, I FIND STRANGE that you ignored that land distribution (James take note ! Cacofonix is not the great expert you think he is ) started already in the 1992 with the Land Acquisition Act, which empowered the government to buy land compulsorily for redistribution, and a fair compensation was to be paid for land acquired. Opposition by white landowners increased throughout the period from 1992 to 1997. At that time, British contribution in terms of aid to Zimbabwe stood at a half billion pounds since independence. Furthermore, £47 million of that was specifically targeted for land reform, and approximately £100 million was budgetary support which could have been used for land reform.
While some land was purchased by this fund, few families were resettled, while, I repeat from my previous post, hundreds of abandoned and expropriated white farms ended up in the hands of cabinet ministers, senior government officials and wealthy indigenous businessmen.
By the end of the "phase one" of the resettlement program in 1997, the government had resettled 71,000 families (against a target of 162,000) on almost 3.5 million hectares of land.
The population of lower-class laborers within the "tribal reserves", increased. They were the ones who enjoyed some kind of security and better conditions, working on the white-owned farms.

The Zimbabwe government ( ZANU ) accused the European donors of not putting up the promised funds (a repetitive defect of Western donors!) and of protecting the interests of white-owned agribusiness. In 1999, representatives of a wide range of interest groups formed a new political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC, that created a genuinely national movement, which attracted support from white Zimbabweans, representing a threat to the ruling party.,
A national referendum was called in February 2000,to extend the powers of the governing ZANU PF Party . The government was defeated by the MDC, by 53 percent of the 1.3 million votes cast.

The referendum and the parliamentary elections were marked by violence and intimidation, supported by public statements by senior Zanu-PF figures, directed against MDC candidates and supporters, white farm owners and black farm workers, teachers, civil servants, journalists, and residents of rural areas believed to support opposition parties.
The government has repeatedly failed to abide by court orders. Several judges on the court, including the chief justice, had been forced to retire and replaced with individuals perceived to be loyal to Zanu-PF.

Assessment of the level of satisfaction of those resettled under the last fast "track programme" with their land is difficult, since access to those areas for outsiders is regulated by militia supporting the ruling party, and thus hard to achieve. Some journalists and NGO workers have been assaulted or narrowly escaped assault by these militia on trying to visit resettled farms.
Some areas remained without schools within walking distance or water supplies more than a decade after resettlement. The resettlement programme was also seen to endanger food security for the rural population. Meanwhile, "the war veterans on the farms in areas that are settled, are just drinking beer. In many cases, farm workers and farm owners said war veterans were occupying commercial farm land without using it, other than to harvest crops and kill and eat livestock already on the farm. "On some farms they are planting maize and sunflowers and beans, but on the farm where I work they are just sitting there causing problems. Sometimes they stop the workers going to work; sometimes they are killing cattle to feed themselves." Farm workers and peasant farmers from communal areas repeatedly expressed to Human Rights Watch their dismay at the wastage caused by occupations of efficiently run commercial farms, when there was unused land that could be allocated to new settlers instead.

.( I resumed most of the report from:, where to find complete information)
Land Reform in the Twenty Years After Independence
Human Right Watch

Moreover, always quoting from cacofonix :

" I also hear no mention in the Anglo-American media of the background to the 130 year-old feud between the Shona and Ndebele peoples, the latter being Zulu migrants encouraged to emigrate by Cecil Rhodes' contemporaries as the British conquered what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal province... The Brits manipulated differences between these peoples in a classic divide and conquer manner."

And I FIND very disturbing
1) the false allegation about the historical origin of the migration of the Ndebele north of Zululand, completely biased and manipulative;
2) the implication that the same black people who belong to the Ndebele tribe are considered second class citizens. Of course, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

I have quoted the tribal origin of the land reform problem, a division between the Shona and the Ndebele (formerly Matabele).
The Ndebele were part of the Nguni tribes , semi- nomadic pastoralists . They began to settle at the beginning of the 19th century and the breeding success culminated in conflict over access to water and good land. ( aside: is it my obsession, or is it obvious that whenever there are disputes and wars, it is because of population crushing over resources ?)
A more bellicose group called Zulu formed a powerful army, and became the most powerful African state in southern Africa, conquered by wars. In fratricidal wars, in 1823, the NDEBELE, an offspring of the ZULU, under King Mzilikazi, fled north/west across the Drakensberg Mountains rather than accept Zulu authority. About 1840 they , conquered as part of the Zulu wars what is Southern Zimbabwe today and established the MATABELE KINGDOM, from the Mashona ( or Shona) people, ultimately settling in Matebeleland, around the city of Bulawayo .
Now, to affirm that they were " Zulu migrants encouraged to emigrate by Cecil Rhodes' contemporaries as the British conquered what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal province" is a travesty of facts.

Cecil Rhodes didn't have anything to do with that, because the Ndebele were in a power struggle with the other Zulu tribe, but the plot mentality never dies and pops up all the time under different skies.

By the 1880s, Europeans believed that there was gold in Matabeleland, and the Matabele leader Lobenguela used diplomacy to pit European powers against each other, and eventually granted all mining concessions to Cecil Rhodes , in exchange for £100 a month, and a large stock of ammunition, believing that all he wanted was gold Matabele were especially cruel to the Mashonas who were collaborating with the white men, and they also freely raided the settlers' cattle. If I remember right, afterwards Cecil Rhodes squashed their rights and took over the whole country.
Eventually they became citizens of Zimbabwe. With independence and the ( unlawful) rise to power of Mugabe, its ruling party of ZANU ( Shona), is denying access to resources to the Matabele rival group, clustered around Bulawajo.
Apart from this historical details, I also regret the expanding of Western corporate influence in Africa, and not just in Zimbabwe. I am especially worried by the facility with which any more primitive society is exposed to all what is BAD, it is a sinister attraction of the Ugly, the Vulgar, the Materialistic. Do all the cities in the world have to look like New York ? If there was a necessity, a cultural and economic climate that required the vertical building- some of them real impressive- in America, there's no reason to do a worst version in Lagos or Abuja. The world becomes flattened, uniform, visually and culturally homogeneous, a monoculture of the spirit, or an absence of.

I am glad that I been offered the occasion to revive and refresh my knowledge of African history, that Africa which, through my husband, I learned to love.
We sponsored for a while a post-apartheid school in the Cape and our association sponsored children from KwaZulu for the most successful project of "Peace with Nature" which gathered children of 62 nationalities in Assisi, Italy. There were also Kenyan and Ugandan children, They were so well-behaved, they prayed before dinner, were never getting into trouble . I felt ashamed for our (Western) educationally "liberated" children !!!!

But we must not hide the truth, no matter how we feel: there are faults and weakness in all human beings and the lure of gain isn't solely a trait of Western man. ( sorry, I know it is politically incorrect to say "man", but, from a literary and aesthetic point of view, it sounds better, though they say that men wants to become rich for the love of women... )

P.S. I won't say anything more on this subject: we may run parallel tracks that won't meet and therefore it is an illusion.

Image icon r25robert.jpg3.83 KB

Capitalism started in Britain from a
Confluence of:

male primogeniture inheritance (product of Salic then Norman invaders)
large landless population (due to inherited dispossession)
bullion from South America created unentailed capital
dissolution of monasteries creates unentailed land
commodification of land and wood
over-exploitation of woodlands
presence of coal and iron in close proximity create "Capital"
Massive changes to land-use and land tenure driven by motive of extreme wealth

landless population was forced to work for the landed and for factories as whole cities were subsumed to iron production
Population fanned out and took over lands in other places

Slavery has existed just about everywhere; Africa was not the only place.
Throughout Britain there were slaves, even in the monasteries.
Slavery only stopped in the 19th C in Georgia and Russia.

Large family sizes are an artefact of disorganisation. First there is a die off, then, if you have intensification of settlement then the invaded peoples lose their lands and are educated to have many children because the economy needs workers and that is how they may survive.

All the rest is propaganda, IMHO. Including the black/white stuff. It covers up the land-stealing.

Coal and oil have made us unaware of how similar all economies once were. In the 16th Century the character Othello had the same status as any other king.
It is easier to steal from a country if you stigmatise its peoples and say that you are developing them or educating them or cultivating them, which presupposes superiority. The British did exactly the same to the Irish as they did to the Africans, Indians and Australians. You didn't have to be black to be stigmatised. The British did it to their own poor.

Just because it started in Britain is not to say that it was an intrinsically British attribute, that of exploitation under the pressure cooker of unentailed capital. But the British acquired system of land commodification and of overpopulation made the exploitation and settlement by massive numbers of people in foreign lands possible.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world. Unfortunately for everyone but a small minority of people who derive the ultimate profits today.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
home page
Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.