Mugabe and the Continuing White Supremacist Narrative 268

Robert Mugabe makes an easy hate figure for the right wing media, and the cruelty, corruption and absurdities of the latter part of his overlong rule justify much of the hate. But the slightest analysis of the media expression of this hatred reveals it to feed a variety of British imperialist tropes which persist to an alarming degree into the 21st century – that Africans cannot govern themselves and were better off under white rule and even that black people cannot farm.

The justified criticisms of human rights abuses perpetrated by Mugabe very seldom recount the atrocities perpetrated by white rule in Zimbabwe. Mugabe himself was incarcerated without trial for over ten years, in dreadful conditions, merely for speaking out against the colonial government, a fact that must have had a major psychological impact. It is also worth emphasising that Mugabe was imprisoned without trial by the British authorities of Souther Rhodesia, before the declaration of UDI – a fact I struggle to find in any of the MSM obituaries.

The accepted narrative on Mugabe in power is that for over ten years he governed well, following western economic norms and rubbing along with the white population as though they were all fine English gentlemen together, notably patronising cricket and crucially making no effort to redress white economic privilege. Yet it was this “good” Mugabe who turned on the minority Ndebele tribe, massacring over 10,000 and ousting his Ndebele deputy, Joshua Nkomo (who had arguably contributed rather more to the liberation struggle). But as this did not especially annoy the IMF or compromise the interests of British American Tobacco, western criticism was very muted. To be fair, Mugabe’s government did make notable advances in education and in healthcare in this period.

Mugabe had to stop playing the English gentleman when popular discontent at the failure of Independence to improve the economic position of the ordinary Zimbabwean led to the unthinkable possibility of electoral defeat. The dual strategy of harsh repression of critics and a populist and highly corrupt programme of land seizures was a panicked response that ushered in two decades of spiraling decline for the country.

But consider this.

In Zimbabwe, as in highland Kenya, the sub-tropical climate was suitable for white colonists and their agriculture. All of the best arable land had been ruthlessly seized by white colonists from the African population. At the time of Independence, over half of the seizures and enclosures were still within the living memory of elders.

In Zimbabwe as in Kenya, a prime cause of the tribal conflict, in Zimbabwe principally between Shona and Ndbele, was that white land seizures had broken traditional boundaries and had forced migration of peoples onto each other’s land, the parcels of which unoccupied by white farmers were ever shrinking. For the west to sneer at African tribalism when brutal western settlers were at the root of much of the conflict, is ludicrous hypocrisy.

Land reform was, and is, essential in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s tragedy was that his desire to ingratiate with Western elites led him to accept for far too long their insistence that the white colonists keep their massive land holdings. The popular demand for the land was a perfectly natural desire for justice. That there was no dynamic land reform programme for the start, and pent-up resentment was allowed to explode into an unplanned wave of violence, destruction and massive corruption, was Mugabe’s greatest failure. Mugabe saw in the resulting situation only opportunities for personal enrichment and to consolidate his power.

Land reform in both Zimbabwe and South Africa is an urgent priority. I do not accept the argument that because it was a white settler’s grandfather or great grandfather who seized the land, legally under racist colonial land grab legislation, that the descendants now have a right to it. I also do not accept the notion that Africans cannot farm. I discuss this subject quite extensively in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (which almost nobody has read but I strongly believe is my best book). It is ironic that climate awareness now brings more of an acceptance that traditional African smallholder farming techniques, with their emphasis on intercropping, embody thousands of years of wisdom and are much more sustainable in Africa than the western monocrop techniques of clearing and leveling vast tracts and replenishing the soil through massive use of industrial fertiliser.

Robert Mugabe was a man who did terrible things. But he had suffered greatly in struggling against white rule and the great evil that was the imperial legacy in Africa. His life and memory must not be allowed to feed a racist meme of African cruelty and incompetence.


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268 thoughts on “Mugabe and the Continuing White Supremacist Narrative

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  • RuilleBuille

    Also the ‘successful’ farming methods of the colonialists relied on a vast army of poorly paid natives.

  • Muscleguy

    I’m working my way through Jared Diamond’s Collapse. In it he recounts the tale of the White European agronomist who was looking at Highland New Guinea agriculture. He looked at their vertical drains and was appalled, drains should follow the contours of the land. The New Guineans were in awe of him so they changed their drains worked out over literally thousands of years.

    The next big rains (it rains prodigiously) the fields fell down the hillsides. THAT is why they used vertical drains.

    I agree that African traditional farming techniques are likely to be more appropriate for African conditions than trying to impose European techniques on an African landscape, climate and soils. In other parts of East Africa traditional farmers have real time market information on their phones and can sell their cash crops without middlemen direct to the market at the most profitable time for them.

    There is thus no reason to think African agriculture cannot be productive.

    Science has a role to play, preferably from African scientists but always in partnership with the farmers and listening to them. Solar powered electric fences bolstering traditional thorn fences keep both lions and elephants out reducing rebuilding from elephant damage. They can keep their animals from the lions etc and their crops from elephants. Coupled with appropriate reserves for the wildlife humans and the megafauna can coexist on at least one landmass. It is not an accident that it’s the landmass humans evolved on in concert with the megafauna.

      • bevin

        Your choice of reading is enthusiastically seconded. All Scott’s books are good, Against the Grain, The Art of Not Being Governed and the Moral Economy of the Peasant are all very good.

      • conjunction

        Fascinating article and very relevant to Craig’s points about the land issues in Zimbabwe, and incidentally to any useful discussion about globalisation.

      • Ort

        I just want to add to the chorus of thanks to RogerDodger for recommending this informative and insightful review.

        In doing so, I am ruthlessly repressing the counter-urge to shake my fist at him for tempting me with another book and author to add to my Must-Read list; it grows faster than Jack’s Magic Beanstalk, and is increasingly honored in the breach. 😉

    • Steve Ambartzakis

      “There is thus no reason to think African agriculture cannot be productive” unless, that is, it is empirically proven not to be

  • Skye Mull

    Surely it’s the case that colonialists, just like their predecessors in North America, did not perceive that the native populations were the owners of land to be seized, but they saw many as nomadic, with the land available for the fixed farming methods of the incomers. That’s not to say that there weren’t great injustices, but you have to try to think how things were viewed 100-200 years ago.

    • Brian c

      How do you think the native inhabitants viewed the Englishmen’s claims to be the rightful owner?

  • Jimmeh

    You don’t have to subscribe to racist, colonialist prejudices to be able to see that Mugabe was an incompetent, vain, murderous tyrant. The ouster of Nkomo was the first really bad sign – I think Nkomo was a decent man. The slaughter in Matabeleland sealed it, as far as I was concerned; it was intended as a signal that this is what happens to those who oppose the leader. He was a nasty despot, with no conscience. I’m glad he’s died.

    Unfortunately his legacy is corruption, ZANU/PF control, division, poverty, fear and hatred. The country is still run by the party he built, and it’s not at all clear how they can be got rid of.

  • Clark

    Thank you Craig, what an excellent article. It reminds me of the work of

    Further to our chat on the subject of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, I am both sad and sorry that I have read so little of it, despite hosting it for years to (eventually) defeat its censorship-by-libel-threat. I really must get a paper copy; (“unlike your adversaries including…” etc,) I can only spend so much time in front of a screen.

  • Mr Shigemitsu

    Mugabe should have simply nationalised the land, and rented it back to white, or black, farmers.

    A white ex-farmer I once met told me that they could still have farmed profitably, even if the land had been rented from the Zimbabwean state.

    Of course many Africans can farm, but the problem was that land was handed over not necessarily to experienced farmers, but to political cronies, and “veterans” who were often nothing if the kind, being far too young to have fought in the independence struggle, and who had no farming experience whatsoever. It was simple corruption and gross mismanagement of the nation’s economic resources.

    This destruction of the productive capacity of the country is what led to the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe which then further ruined the economy, as it was too weak to absorb any extra currency creation. Same issue that affected Weimar, as Germany lost its productive capacity in the Ruhr, post WWl.

    Currency creation *in itself* is not inflationary; it’s the *spending* of that currency, and the capacity of the *real* economy (labour, materials, land and energy) being of sufficient size to absorb that spending without causing a boom, which determines whether or not increased currency creation becomes inflationary.

    The larger the capacity of the real economy, the greater levels of public spending it can absorb; Zimbabwe under Mugabe very foolishly all but destroyed the capacity of its real economy – a huge and terrible mistake for its long suffering people.

  • fwl

    Good article and worth reading a few times.

    I also found The Catholic Orangemen of Togo a real eye opener, just as I found Murder in Samarkand before that.

    It reminds me that there is so much of our history which I don’t know, which has been obscured and which I would like to know. Iain Cobain’s The History Thieves was another eye opener as are the writings of Robin Ramsay and (when it comes to the US) Peter Dale Scott.

    I have not subscribed to this blog and so haven’t paid for a say in the content. It is in any event it up Craig to decide what he writes but here is my hypothetical tuppence worth anyway.

    Can we have less nationalist polemic and calls for the break up of UK polemic please and more articles like this.

    Just because we have behaved badly doesn’t mean we (UK) have to divide ourselves up like some iron curtain between East and West Germany.

    • Andrew Ingram

      Breaking up the UK would not be like dividing Europe or Germany with an Iron Curtain. Rather it would be like disolving the Warsaw Pact group – a union dominated by a an imperialist bully.

  • Athanasius

    I understood that part of the settlement in 1980 was that all the farms held by white people had to be offered back to the new government. Many of these offers were not taken up and the farmers have documents to this effect from the Zimbabwe government. Was I misinformed?

  • Chris Palmer

    This argument, taken to it’s logical conclusion, would mean the USA handing back most of it’s land to the Natives.

    • craig Post author

      Sadly not practical as the vast majority of them were of course wiped out. But massive compensation is certainly due to those who remain.

      • Dan

        and the same principle could be applied to the Palestinians who were forced off their land by the state of Israel, and Aboriginal Australians who lost their traditional hunting grounds to settlers, and many other groups around the world. The incoming settler-farmers generally use the land more productively than the people who lived there before, which enables cheaper food for all, but the original occupiers of the land lost out terribly. Their descendants should either be paid for the land outright (at today’s prices) or receive a regular income in lieu of rent.

    • giyane

      Chris Palmer

      My understanding of justice in recompensing historic crimes is that I can’t be held responsible for what my father did or what his family or country did. On the Day of Judgement every soul will be accountable for their own crime. In Christianity it has always been taught that all are equal in the eyes of God, so it was always known by Christians that colonisation is a crime so everybody who committed that crime will be personally held accountable for it. Darwin invented a retrospective fake science that black people were different from white but it has since become known that we are all descended from black people and the only difference is the pigmentation of the skin which adapts to exposure to the sun.

      i really don’t believe anybody is justified in hating me personally because of what other former white people might have done to them or their people. That is an invention by Islamism to justify the modern colonisation of sovereign countries like Syria by proxy terrorists in the pay of the old colonisers who are now prevented from colonising by international laws like the Geneva Convention. I do believe that it was white orientalists who fed the Muslims this false creed, notably in the Muslim Brotherhood to foment destruction and upheaval in Muslim sovereign lands. Or sovereign to the Caliphate that governed them.

      i watched some programmes about Lenny Henry visiting his roots in the Caribbean and was astonished to see the heirs of the slave-owners still in their houses and still owning the land. IMHO they should have been thrown out decades ago because it was stolen land. My point is that whoever committed crimes, even justifications for like Darwin’s, will be held responsible by the See er and Knower of all things, because we have no knowledge of the complete facts. but where the facts are obvious , that the land is stolen , then it should be re=distributed to the local mpopulation from which it was stolen.

      Sufficient is God as a Witness. Which also means that we who live now are expected to deliver the justice that is within our knowledge and means. the colonisers always claim that they have paid compensation.
      maybe the tiny amounts of compensation paid over time should be paid back but the value of the land would easily cover the cost of that returned compensation. All colonised land should be returned, in fact even the heirs of William the Conqueror. the British monarchy should forfeit all land stolen by the false doctrine of the Divine right of Kings.

      • N_

        No person is responsible for what their parents did, but that does not mean that they should be allowed to keep hold of stolen goods.

        Huge reparations should also be paid for the devastation that western military action has wrought in Iraq and Syria, and for Zionist crimes in Palestine.

  • Deepgreenpuddock

    Well done. tet again you provide an alternative narrative which is much more persuasive than the grossly simplified (absent of nuance depiction that is so common in the common press

  • John2o2o

    “Robert Mugabe was a man who did terrible things. But he had suffered greatly in struggling against white rule and the great evil that was the imperial legacy in Africa. His life and memory must not be allowed to feed a racist meme of African cruelty and incompetence.”

    Well that strikes me as a very fair point Craig. I must read your book.

  • Eamonn de Paor

    “Mugabe’s tragedy was that his desire to ingratiate with Western elites led him to accept for far too long their insistence that the white colonists keep their massive land holdings.”

    This is mistaken.

    Mugabe was educated by Irish teachers. He learned from them how Irish farmers obtained possession of their farms from the class of colonial landlords. After an intense land struggle the British colonial government in Ireland advanced loans to the farmers to provide purchase money, and then compelled the landlords to sell. At the Lancaster House talks the British government promised Mugabe that it would similarly expedite a peaceful resolution of the Rhodesian land issue. The British government reneged, hence the Zimbabwe problem.

  • Peter

    Your postings continue to be a mix of rational arguments and absolute drivel. In this post you have just made a case for throwing Scots out of Northern Ireland.
    God forbid that the Scotish province will be ruled by this bunch of Mugabe admiring Scotish National Socialists.

    • giyane

      Oh dear the Queen and other landowners in Scotland will be upset by weird idea that they are not the rightful owners of Scotland. Maybe this would help. A picture is worth 1000 words:

      As to the re-colonisation of Israel by the Zionists, The land of israel was conditional upon their keeping the message of the Oneness of God and obeying the prophets pbut he sent to them. So when they suggested to Jesus, pbuh that he might be a Hindu-style reincarnation of a former prophet and tried to kill him, the contract was broken.

      There is a strong feeling amongst a non-religious UK population that the monarchy should end and its property should be handed back to the nation. The monarchy is rubber-stamping the crimes of the Tories leaving disabled people abandoned and workers without rights. Any part of any government that ceases to protect the rights of the people will inevitably be destroyed. That includes the rights of indigenous peoples.

  • Ben

    Dear Craig
    I will read the whole article later this afternoon but I wanted to quickly share with you some thoughts I had at the time Mugabe was put in position as Zimbabwean leader.
    As we all know, the Rhodesian problem had continually dogged politicians of all parties since at least 1965, when the “apartheid inclined” government of Ian Smith declared unilateral independence and we were able to do very little about it other than push for sanctions. Smith was helped to survive by the neighbouring apartheid South African government at the time.
    Eventually there was increasingly organised guerilla activity against Smith’s government and the problem became more acute under the 74-79 Labour government, with Dr David Owen as foreign secretary apparently agonising over negotiations.
    At some stage Smith seemed to accept that his days were numbered and a working arrangement with indigenous African leaders would have to be found. It was a boiling hot media issue, with the predictable elements of the UK press being very critical of anything Owen tried to do to pick out a future government of a fully enfranchised country.
    Awareness grew that the leader with most support would be chosen from Nkomo or Mugabe. At the time Nkomo came across as a slightly gentler person and Mugabe less so and more warlike, and there was concern about ensuing inter-tribal war post independence.

    Then Labour lost the 1979 election. The Tory government had media support now to do whatever they liked, and it was as if Thatcher had told her Foreign Secretary to just hand over quickly to the most powerful group and have done with it. And so within a few months, that was how Mugabe became leader. Nkomo was persecuted and nearly lost his life, turning up at Heathrow without a passport, pointing to his face saying “This is my passport”. His chauffeur had been murdered.

    • Misbah

      “As we all know, the Rhodesian problem had continually dogged politicians of all parties since at least 1965, when the “apartheid inclined” government of Ian Smith declared unilateral independence and we were able to do very little about it other than push for sanctions.”
      White leaders declaring unilateral independence our hands are tied. We choose when to act.
      Dark skinned leaders? We weren’t so reticent.
      Must be the psychological condition known as white supremacism.
      Strange how all the Christians in the UK went along with it at the time. Possibly Christian in name only?

      • Stonky

        Strange how all the Christians in the UK went along with it at the time…

        My grandmother and my aunt both belonged to a Methodist church that tried to organise a mass migration of Christians from the UK to go to Zimbabwe and protest in the streets about UDI. Both of them were planning to go. The protest was blocked and never took place.

        What did you do?

    • Hatuey

      “Smith was helped to survive by the neighbouring apartheid South African government at the time.”

      True, but Portugal of all countries probably played a bigger supportive role.

    • craig Post author

      That’s all we need, a lunatic racist. Where precisely is the evidence that Neanderthals were genetically predisposed to effective systems of governance compared to homo sapiens?

      • Johnny Rottenborough

        craig—The evidence is that peoples with Neanderthal DNA have produced more ‘effective systems of governance’ than sub-Saharan Africans, and that sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other continents. I realize this is a sensitive subject for progressives.

        • nevermind

          Neanderthals also inherited a very dark skin from their African ancestors and Johnny’s DNA does probably show this up as well. As for trying to make out that there is a superiority of governance, is aspirational thinking.
          It has been evidenced that African habits to shelter in caves, has been retained in the Neanderthals, for safety from animals and their neighbours clubs. To make out that hunting methods of Neanderthals living along the Coa river, in moderate and colder climes, for a period of over 5000 years, can still be observed today in some indegenous African tribes and their hunting parties.
          Grow up Johnny.

      • Ian

        Craig, this is your blog, let you allow out and out racists to peddle this kind of stuff here, and he’s not the only one. DNA conferring the right to rule is the very essence of racism.

        [ Mod: Those commenters clearly do not speak for Craig. As you can see, they are quickly denounced by others (including you).

        Please bear in mind that the comments in the comments section do not represent Craig’s opinions. They represent other people’s comments on Craig’s articles, as well as reflections and debates inspired thereby. ]

    • .Peter

      Another ignorant post by someone without a clue of African history. Too stupid not to expose himself as an idiot no nothing racist.
      Songhai, Kush, Mali, Aksum, Zimbabwe, Ghana….check the bloody history you nutter

  • conjunction

    Thankyou Craig for a very illuminating article.

    Without I hope accepting the white supremacist narrative, at least not in its entirety, I have like many including such a noted Africa hand as the late Doris Lessing who wrote one of the best books, ‘The Sweetest Dream’ about the mismanagement of aid in West Africa, wondered why it was that there were so many dictators in Africa who seemed to be unwilling or unable to govern in the interests of their people.

    Craig’s analysis sheds a lot of light on this. His book ‘The Catholic Orangemen of Togo’ (Dare I suggest that the brilliant ittle, whilst being utterly gorgeous, may not have dropped too many hints as to the depth of its subject matter?) is one of the very few books I have read, along with the Lessing piece and especially Chinua Achebe’s first few novels, which attempt to explore, map and analyse the disjuncture between western and tribal cultures in Africa.

    Of course with hindsight it shouldn’t hve seemed like rocket science – trash a culture and then abandon it to be ‘independent’ – we have seen that disaster repeatedly with US imperialism too.

  • Pete

    Very informative article Craig, I was waiting to see what you’d have to say about Mugabe as you clearly know far more about Africa than the usual MSM parrots. I believe you’re especially familiar with Ghana, what is the state of agriculture there? Is it mostly small farms and if so who owns them and how are they doing at present? Are the Ghanaians finding ways to integrate traditional methods based on long experience with modern scientific knowledge? Do they have agricultural colleges or something similar and if so do they meet the real needs of the farmers?

  • Julian Evans

    I’d add to this that all land that is ‘owned’ – including, for example, in the UK – was stolen by the ancestors of those who now benefit from it.

    The land belongs to the people.

  • David Moore

    Two wrongs never make a right Mugabe was corrupt and a dictator with blood on his hands who ruined his countrgD

  • Hatuey

    It’s funny this subject. It seems to turn otherwise sane people into crazies. It’s actually one of the very few subjects that I think Chomsky even got wrong.

    I was unlucky enough to form an interest in Mugabe about 20 years ago and you really only need to scratch the surface to see that he was for the most part a very typical neo-colonial plant ( or “moderate”).

    The history of post-colonialism is littered with people like Mugabe. If he’s in any way exceptional, it’s because he turned on those who put him there where most just do what’s asked and expected of them and the riches continue to flow, out of the country into western banks.

    If this is a trial then it’s Neo-Colonial London in the dock, not Mugabe, and “exhibit A” is the election that put Mugabe in power in 1980 in the first place. Britain arranged that election and like all such managed democratic elections they chose the winner in advance. If I remember correctly there was all sorts of corruption and violence involved too but nothing that anyone at the time wanted to give focus to… for obvious reasons.

    London turned a blind eye to Mugabe’s “shortcomings” then, just as they turned a blind eye to those of Ian Smith’s racist regime beforehand. If Britain was in any way neutral, it would have deposed Smith in the 1960s and forced democratic elections. You can be sure that Britain would have intervened militarily if blacks had seized control in the 60s. Smith, of course, wasn’t black.

    Everything that has happened since stems from that “error”.

    • Jimmeh

      Oh, really.

      Why are Mugabe’s “shortcomings” in quotes?

      Do you regard his propensity for murder and racist slaughter to be a “shortcoming”?

      Are you really saying that the “blind eye” turned on him by the former colonial government is a more serious failing than the gross and obvious crimes of Mugabe? What should the former colonial government have done instead? Invade? Should the UK have tried to invade Smith’s UDI government, for that matter?

      The fact that the former colonial power discharged its responsibilities poorly doesn’t diminish Mugabe’s unvarnished nastiness.

      And I was very sorry (but not surprised) to see Cyril Ramaphosa giving a generous peroration for Mugabe; AIUI it is the custom in that part of the world for elderly politicians to show respect for even older politicians. Mugabe was the oldest of the lot; no sub-saharan leader ever criticised him. Given those customs, it’s no wonder that dictators in that part of the world tend to die in harness.

      Ramaphosa was bought-off from contesting the leadership of the ANC on Mandela’s release by the gift of a rather lucrative business.

  • .Peter

    “I do not accept the argument that because it was a white settler’s grandfather or great grandfather who seized the land, legally under racist colonial land grab legislation, that the descendants now have a right to it.”

    Agreed, but I find it unjustifiable to expropriate without compensation for the work that was done to develop the land, buildings, infrastructure.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Nothing about Mugabe refusing to turn swords into plow-shares when Thatcher and other scum were working to kill him and replace his regime.

    • Trowbridge H. Ford

      Read the crap that Gordon Corera had to say about Rhodesia or the lack of it after Larry Devlin left the scene, leaving it to old school officers and white setters to settle scores in a particularly painful chapter in MI6 history. (p. 131) Not even a mention of Mugabe and Zimbabwe. More like unadulterated shit.

  • Smiling Through

    A good, balanced piece, Craig.

    Mugabe’s regime became extremely corrupt and violent, but remember Zimbabwe was born into both in southern Africa at the time it became independent. Portugese colonialism was still influential in Angola and Mozambique and apartheid South Africa south of the Limpopo was a malign, interfering influence on the young nation supported by its Cold War allies.

    I worked there soon after independence with one of Mugabe’s wartime comrades. She feared then that the cruelty directed at him while imprisoned – especially denying him attendance at his young son’s funeral – would embitter him the older he became.

    • Gary Littlejohn

      You have got it wrong about the influence of Portuguese colonialism in its former colonies at the time of the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. Both had been independent since 1975, and while South Africa invaded Angola repeatedly after that, and Mozambique was subject to destabilisation by South African proxy forces (Renamo) Mozambique provided direct support to both ZAPU and ZANU. It provided them with bases in Mozambique that were never found even by incursions of the infamous Rhodesian Selous Scouts. In addition, while denying it, Mozambique provided direct assistance in the form of arms smuggled across the border into Rhodesia. I used to know the man who had been in charge of the logistics of that operation. Mozambique also imposed sanctions on Rhodesia in 1975, despite the damage to its own economy. This was in line with earlier anti-colonial solidarity such as Julius Nyerere secretly supplying helicopters to FRELIMO in order for them to get across Malawi into what was then the Tete District of Mozambique. That enabled FRELIMO to outflank the Portuguese forces and, while deceiving them into defending the unfinished dam at Cabora Bassa, move fairly rapidly into the centre of the country.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    In 1972 I came to England for schooling. Completed that with 4 A levels and attended London University and went on to post-grad and a career in the law.

    Now, during that period I was a bit of an activist ( not with a capital ‘A’) but active enough to write and go on protests, Apartheid and Trafalgar Square on a Saturday, or a sense a pride when Zimbabwe became independent, were parts of my political sensibilities.
    So far as Mugabe is concerned, I have mixed feelings. At University, there was a Black Zimbabwean in the chemistry department and we became friends and would talk a lot about ‘politics back home’. Funny how things were, for he had a good White friend who read geology and spoke the Shona language, and there was I – the stranger from the Caribbean not able to understand in their midst. Such is life.

    Mugabe started off O.K. with good intentions. I believe that Britain double-crossed him on the land deal. Zimbabwe was to get compensated relative to the White farmers and the use of large tracts of land and the payment deal involved a deferral of a decade. When the time came for Britain to uphold her part of the deal – she reneged. Maybe that too was a trigger for Mugabe.

    I am old enough to recall the rule of Julius Nyerere ( his honesty, dignity, intelligence and humility) and his close friendship with Jamaica’s Prime Michael Manley Michael Manley, and they too linked along with Mandela and Jamaica played a huge part ( for a small island playing a big part in a critical UN vote) – and then under Fidel Castro the Cuban troops went into Southern Africa and Angola, Mozambique and South Africa found that they were no match for Cuba on the march, and then those African states achieved through the barrel of guns, their independence ( despite resistance from the likes of Reagan and Thatcher). Take it from there Craig for mistakes have been made. Told three young medical students a couple years ago in Havana, that Mandela must be reeling in the grave when he looks on and observes the ANC today compare to when he was leader, more particularly, President Zuma’s corruption.

    Mugabe tasted power and it became the kind of sweetness that took him off track from the mission he had in a promising way initially embarked upon. In other regards, your points are noted and are well made.

    • Gary Littlejohn

      Cuban troops never went into Mozambique, although after independence, a lot of doctors and dentists did. The Cuban troops who arrived in Angola in very late October 1975 did so on the request of the new President Agostinho Neto after Angolan independence had been agreed with Portugal in the Lusaka Accords in 1974, but in June 1975, that is, before the actual independence celebrations on 11th November 1975. The Cubans arrived and got going just in time to stop an invading South African force from taking the capital Luanda. In fact the gunfire from the Cuban artillery could be heard in Luanda over the sound of the fireworks at the independence celebrations. That’s how close South Africa came to shutting off Angolan independence. They had invaded precisely for that purpose, realising that the Western-backed party UNITA was not recognised by the government of Portugal as the legitimate government. The Soviet Union knew nothing about the Cuban intervention until the Cuban fleet arrived at a west African port for food and fuel resupply and the Soviet Ambassador there telegraphed Moscow. Moscow was then later persuaded to sell arms to Angola on a commercial basis while the Cubans trained the Angolans in conventional warfare until they were able to fight the South African Defence Force to a stalemate at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in about May 1988. That led to an agreement between the Soviet Union and the USA regarding the independence of Namibia, a peace agreement in Angola, and the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Although some secret negotiations had already been taking place in England (see Alistair |Sparks, Tomorrow is Another Country) the Soviets turned up at St. Antony’s College Oxford in September 1988 and told the ANC in the presence of US representatives that they must now negotiate seriously. That is the real story of the end of Apartheid. I was present in the room. A lot of South African dirty tricks during the Namibian elections in March 1990 prevented SWAPO from getting a 2/3 majority and so stopped any Constitutional change there for a while. The ANC negotiations nearly collapsed a couple of times, but were notably saved at one point by the Communist Joe Slovo, who later became housing minister.

  • Cam Bowie

    Stephen Carr* told me that as the World Bank agricultural adviser in Africa he visited Zimbabwe at independence and while encouraging land reform failed to persuade Mugabe to split the white farms into 10 acre plots for local farmers, an appropriate size for successful farming in other African countries. Mugabe had been advised by local experts, who had only experienced commercial farming, that 100 acres was the smallest size to achieve economic success. If Mugabe had been more radical Zimbabwe could well have remained the bread basket of Southern Africa.

  • SteveF

    “I do not accept the argument that because it was a white settler’s grandfather or great grandfather who seized the land, legally under racist colonial land grab legislation, that the descendants now have a right to it.”
    I think a similar statement could also be applied to the UK. Time for land reforms, give the large, stolen, estates back to the people ?

  • bevin

    “This argument, taken to it’s logical conclusion, would mean the USA handing back most of it’s land to the Natives.”
    The same applies to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as, do far as I understand the matter, South Africa.
    Those who insist that these are ancient wrongs and that it is too late to right them are encouraging Israel in its actual daily repetition of these offences.
    The reality is that until we recognise that dispossession of this kind is the basis of our own societies it is unlikely that we will ever graduate to democracy. I suppose that most Scots understand how they came to be ‘surplus’ population and where the vast landholdings of the aristocracy came from. Few English people seem to realise that enclosure was a means of stealing their lands just as surely as was done in the White Highlands, Manitoba and Zimbabwe. And then of course there is Ireland.
    The entire basis of private property is as Proudhon remarked “theft.” And theft with violence, too.
    It must be understood too that the transfer of land from peasants to landlords, whether in Ireland, Dorset or Africa took place in order to facilitate the transformation of lands used for feeding the population into plantations for producing export commodities. Thus we had Irish peasants starving while the lands taken from them produced bumper crops of grain and dairy products-exported to England and the West Indies. In Zimbabwe land that had supported thousands of people with food, shelter and clothing, under ‘efficient’ white management produced cheap tobacco, a foreign crop of which the locals knew nothing. In The Philippines land long used for food production now bears crops of flowers cut and rushed to airports for sale in distant markets.
    Those who say that capitalism helps feed the world have a wicked sense of humour.

    • Hatuey

      Very philosophical. You hint at a superior system without really defining it. Proudhon was a great writer but he said all “property is theft” not just private property or land. I am not certain that humanity is ready to give up property — from what I can gather, most of us are engaged trying to acquire it rather than give it up.

      I’m not sure what to call it, but the system we have right now isn’t any more capitalist than the Soviet Union was communist. I understand you don’t win any prizes in here for pointing these things out but that system, whatever you call it, somehow manages to keep about 8 billion people alive.

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