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Much ado about Zimbabwe
18 March 2003
Over the last few years our government has been under a lot domestic and international pressure to act against the Government of Zimbabwe. The most recent attempt to apply pressure on Zimbabwe is the call made by the governments of the UK and Australia on their teams not to play cricket in Zimbabwe during this year`s ICC World Cup.
These governments and others have sought to present themselves as being the greatest upholders of everything ethical in the conduct of public affairs. On the contrary, we have been presented as collaborators with tyranny.
Perhaps because we sought to respect some rules of diplomacy, we, the ANC Youth League, have also avoided speaking our mind about the true intentions of those who have criticized our government`s policies towards Zimbabwe. In the process, lies and distortions have been told about the true story of Zimbabwe, the real intention being to distract public attention and influence public opinion. Of this, in Shakespeare`s Henry V, King Henry V says to Lord Scrope, the Earl of Cambridge, and Sit Thomas Grey: "`Tis so strange that though the truth of it stands off as gross as black on white, my eye will scarcely see it".
Therefore, time has come that the naked truth, which stands off as gross as black on white, is told.
Mugabe must go!
Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Howard of the United Kingdom and Australia (the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth) have appointed themselves as the lead international campaigners against President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
They have a simple message - Mugabe must go!
They say this because they want their own political outfit, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to take over and govern Zimbabwe, in the place of Comrade President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF.
In an article published by The Guardian on March 7, 2002, headed "Colonialism and the new the world order", Seumas Milne wrote:
"Now the British government (through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy) and the Tories (through the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust) along with white farmers and corporations - are all funding the MDC, committed as it is to free-market policies and the restoration of white farms to their owners."
The UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth is determined to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe. It has its clients and placemen standing by to take over as soon as the Government of President Robert Mugabe is brought down.
This UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth presents itself as the greatest defender of the democratic and human rights of the people of Zimbabwe that the world has ever seen, even more than the people of Zimbabwe themselves.
It has therefore lost no opportunity in its campaign to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe and to promote the fortunes of its clients, who have undertaken to carry out the wishes of the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth. As part of its campaign, among other things, this section of the white Commonwealth wants everybody to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Tony, John and Musharraf
And yet these great democrats are strangely quite about another member-state of the Commonwealth, Pakistan. The great British and Australian democrats know that the present Head of State of Pakistan, a military man, overthrew the democratically elected government of Pakistan and took power by force.
They know that he has sought to legitimise his armed seizure of power by organising Presidential and Parliamentary elections that neither the Commonwealth nor European Union could declare to have been free and fair.
Knowing all this, the great British and Australian democrats are not campaigning for any regime change in Pakistan. They are not calling for the imposition for any sanctions against Pakistan. They have no problem with their national teams competing against Pakistan. Only safety considerations deter them from playing in Pakistan.
Whereas both Pakistan and Zimbabwe are suspended from the Commonwealth, and whereas they are calling for additional measures in the form of sanctions in Zimbabwe, the same is not the case in Pakistan.
The requirement of honesty and integrity in the conduct of public affairs require that the great democrats, Tony Blair and John Howard, explain why they treat the Government of Zimbabwe as the very representation of evil, while they work with the Government of Pakistan as a credible and acceptable partner.
The wishes of Tony and John
However, their track record suggests that they are unlikely to tell us the truth. Fortunately, all thinking persons know why the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth has behaved the way it has done over Zimbabwe.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy and human rights. It has nothing whatsoever to do with newfound love for the black people of Zimbabwe.
It has everything to do with an old loyalty to those Zimbabweans who are seen and described by this section of the white Commonwealth as their kith-and kin. It has everything to do with racism!
Like other British governments before, British Labour Government policy is predicated on the central notion that the interests of kith-and-kin come first. In this it enjoys the enthusiastic, rabid and unequivocal support its Australian kith-and-kin.
On January 18, 2002 the British newspaper, The Guardian, published an article by veteran journalist, Jonathan Steele, headed, "Zimbabwe moves us mainly because whites are suffering". He wrote:
"The issue is racism. Zimbabwe`s best land is still in white hands, and this provokes inordinate interest in Britain. Mugabe`s approach to land reform has been inconsistent and volatile. His methods have been violent and unlawful. But for largely racist reasons he had very little support from successive British governments. They put a 10-year block on changes in the land tenure system in the constitution drawn up at independence, and have failed to provide much cash for the international fund which they promised to set up to buy the settlers out. Racism pervades other aspects of Whitehall`s approach."
What went wrong between President Mugabe on the one hand, and Tony and John on the other, is that he, President Mugabe, committed the cardinal sin of challenging white property rights.
Secondly, to add insult to injury, during the commission of the sin, some white people died or were injured.
Thirdly, President Mugabe had the cheek to act in defiance of the wishes of the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth, and its supporters.
And fourth, he and his friends did not allow the Zimbabwe friends of Tony and John, including the kith-and-kin of the latter, to take power.
Perhaps he should have known that he and his friends could not act in this manner, and expect that Tony and John would merely stand and watch. But perhaps he did!
Everything for kith-and-kin
The line was drawn as early as 1965, when the British Government refused to suppress the rebellion of their Rhodesian kith-and-kin against the British Crown, when they unilaterally proclaimed themselves independent of the United Kingdom.
Elsewhere, successive British governments had not hesitated to use force to assert their authority. They readily took up arms against both the Africans and Boers in our country, against the Indian liberation movement, against the liberation struggles of Kenya and Cyprus.
In 1965, the UK had a Labour Government. It was therefore this government that refused to suppress the rebellion of its Rhodesian kith-and-kin. In 2003 the UK has a Labour Government. It is this government that has taken upon itself the task to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe, something it would not countenance in the Rhodesia of 1965, something quite antithetical with progressive social democracy.
Between 1965 and 2003, successive British governments did everything they could to look after their kith-and-kin in Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe. To frustrate genuine change, they worked hard, together with their kith-and-kin and their henchmen, to impose a puppet regime on the people of Zimbabwe and thus turn this great African State into a client State that owed its allegiance to the UK and that did not pursue progressive land reform programmes that would, eventually, threaten the material interests of the white minority.
When these schemes failed, they made certain that the privileges of their kith-and-kin, which accrued to them as a result of settler colonialism, were protected for as long as possible. They persuaded the Zimbabwe liberation movements to accept a Lancaster House Constitution that guaranteed white minority privileges.
Britain`s kith-and-kin in the civil service were granted reserved seats in the independence legislature far in excess of their numbers, relative to the African population. Britain`s kith-and-kin in the civil service were granted job security, as well as the right to be paid any severance packages and pension in any currency and country of their choice.
But above all, Britain`s kith-and-kin were guaranteed security of their landed property for an entire decade. The Government of Zimbabwe could only redistribute the land owned by the white settlers on the basis of the so-called willing seller, willing buyer principle.
This was deliberately to entrench the land dispossession of the Africans, carried out through the barrel of the gun during the period of the seizure and colonisation of Zimbabwe and its transformation into a British colony.
Great Britain thus sought further to protect the immoral colonial material gains of its kith-and-kin in Zimbabwe at the expense of the very same Africans it now claims to love so much. Everything it did during the period of the transfer of power to the indigenous people of Zimbabwe sought to advantage its kith-and-kin and to disadvantage the Africans.
The reason that the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth has now decided to work for regime change in Zimbabwe, is because the Government of Zimbabwe decided to commit the crime to end these immoral colonial material gains, which had resulted in the continued landlessness and impoverishment of millions of black Zimbabweans.
Tony and John love the black Zimbabweans
Because of its love for these black Zimbabweans, this section of the Commonwealth has decided that it must help overthrow the Government of Zimbabwe, for the crime that this government has sought to return the land to the same black Zimbabweans that are so much loved in London and Canberra!
To express their love for the black Zimbabweans, London and Canberra are doing all they can to ensure that their kith-and-kin hold on to as much of their ill-gotten colonial gains as possible.
They have been joined in this venture by the most backward political forces in our country, those who are most determined to obstruct and block the process of the eradication of colonialism apartheid in our country.
So does our rightwing
The defenders of white privilege in South Africa have, like the defenders of white privilege in Zimbabwe, fallen seriously in love with the black people of Zimbabwe. They so love them that they too are demanding the overthrow of the Government of Zimbabwe and the accession to power of their placemen.
Try as they might, it is somewhat difficult for the South African beneficiaries of the apartheid system successfully to pretend that they want regime change in Zimbabwe for purely altruistic reasons.
During rare moments of candour, they confess that they want this change in Zimbabwe as a practical indication that nothing will threaten their ownership of property in South- Africa, including the land.
They want the government of President Mugabe to be removed so that our own government should know that white property is sacrosanct. Thus it should know that if it tampered with white property, accumulated as a result of the dispossession and exploitation of the black majority during a long period of colonialism and apartheid, it would itself be overthrown.
To make certain that our government understands this well, these beneficiaries of white minority rule do not hesitate to demand that our government should act as an instrument in their hands, to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe.
London and Canberra will not be so honest and open. Rather, they will continue to present themselves as principled champions of democracy, Human rights, the rule of the law, and the welfare of the starving masses of Zimbabwe.
However, as we have said, their true purposes are demonstrated by the fact that with regard to Pakistan, for instance, we do not see them acting as principled champions of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare of the starving masses of Pakistan.
But, of course, military rule in Pakistan threatens neither white property nor white lives! Of course, other than to reciprocate Musharraf`s support for the so-called `war against terrorism`, they would rather live with a despotic regime than accept the undertakings by an African country to redress land injustice in order to improve the quality of life of the impoverished majority and thus dare white property.
Zimbabwe has committed the sin not to conform to London`s dictates expectations to preserve minority racial privileges, rule and dominance at all cost. For this reason, it is subjected to shameless undermining of its Constitution and national sovereignty.
Not all is right in Zimbabwe
It is obvious that a number of things have gone wrong in Zimbabwe. These include the manner in which the land question was handled, the response to the political challenge posed to ZANU-PF by the opposition MDC, and economic policies pursued since independence.
The UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth has seized on these to construct its anti-Mugabe platform, making absolutely certain that it is never heard to speak openly of the fundamental reality that its central concern is the protection of the material interest of its kith-and-kin.
This central concern is hidden behind a barrage of propaganda designed to project President Mugabe as being guilty of the most heinous crimes against humanity. In this regard, the British state media, the BBC, excelled itself.
The media join the fight
It managed to convince many that President Mugabe was the devil incarnate. On the contrary, the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth were devoted servants of the black people of Zimbabwe.
But of course, neither of these assertions had anything to do with the straightforward reality of racist support for kith-and-kin! After all, one of the goals of the propaganda was precisely to hide the fact of the racist platform that has informed the policies of successive British governments towards Zimbabwe.
So determined was the propaganda campaign against President Mugabe in particular that, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian, BBC journalists protested that with regards to the Zimbabwe issue, they had been forced to abandon all notion of objective, fair and balanced reporting.
In its issue of March 12, 2002, The Guardian carried an article by Matt Wells in which he wrote:
"Senior figures at the BBC World Service have expressed concern to the domestic news division that the coverage of the Zimbabwe elections had been driven by a `colonial` agenda, potentially causing damage to the corporation`s reputation for impartiality.
"There were worries about the tone of coverage on the Today programme, which, according to some at World Service, has made a conscious attempt to `illegitimise` the Robert Mugabe administration with the use of pejorative terms such as `regime` and adjectives such as tough, fierce and brutal.
"It is suggested that the interest in the Zimbabwe elections is being driven by the `residual British interest and the presence of white farmers`, according to one Bush House (BBC headquarters) source. Another said the agenda was characterized by `latent and unwitting colonialism`.
A few days earlier, on March 7, 2002, The Guardian had carried the article by Seumas Milne we have already cited in which, commenting on the matter of the British Media, he wrote:
"Perhaps taking its cue from the government, most mainstream British media coverage of the Zimbabwean crisis has now abandoned even a veneer of even-handedness, as reporters and presenters have become cheerleaders for the opposition MDC. In a BBC television interview on Sunday with foreign office minister Baroness Amos, David Frost talked blithely of `100,000 people being killed by Mugabe supporters over the last years.`
In fact, human rights groups estimate the total number killed on both sides during that period at around 160. Frost and the shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, went on to denounce Mugabe as a `fascist dictator` and `black racist`, both urging more decisive British action. The same day an unrelentingly hostile BBC correspondent programme passed without a single balancing interview."
Of course, the whole world is aware of the song and dance that Tony and his friend John have made about the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, presenting themselves as the very origin of the concept of press freedom.
But sometimes it is difficult to hide the shameless and boundless hypocrisy of the UK/Australia section of the white commonwealth. Let us take for instance, the matter of sport.
The Cricket World Cup
Last year the Commonwealth Games took place in Manchester, UK. Zimbabwe athletes participated fully in these Games. Tony and John never said a word about imposing sports sanctions against Zimbabwe.
This year the Cricket World Cup will take place in Africa, with South Africa as the principal host. The Zimbabwe Cricket team will participate in this tournament and Zimbabwe will host some of the matches. Tony and John are now making the loudest noise possible about imposing sports sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The simple fact is that Tony and John could not jeopardise the Manchester Games by calling for sports sanction against Zimbabwe. But now, they do not care a damn if the African-hosted Cricket World Cup collapses because of their call for sports sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Yet these, who said that Manchester must succeed, while Africa may fail for all they care, are the principled defenders of everything that is good in public life, and the devoted friends of the black people of Zimbabwe!
This is even despite the advert by 30 national sports associations in Zimbabwe carried by The Daily News on January 4, 2003, in support of the hosting of some cricket world cup matches by Zimbabwe. In this advert, this is what they said:
"We, the Zimbabwe national sports associations, do hereby express our full support for the Zimbabwe Cricket Union`s hosting of the six matches of the International Cricket Council World Cup 2003...We have supported and will continue to support the ZCU over what we see as purely a sporting matter. Resultantly, we hold it most unfortunate that there are efforts being made now within and outside Zimbabwe to politicise the event."
Robert`s traditional enemies
But, of course, we cannot pretend that we are not familiar with this kind of sickening hypocrisy which makes the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth be so determined to wreck the Africa-hosted Cricket World Cup whereas no such attempts were made during the Manchester games.
In our country, those who are opposed to President Mugabe today are the same people and forces who were opposed to the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
They wanted the perpetuation of colonialism in Zimbabwe, but pose today as the best friends of the formerly colonised people of Zimbabwe.
They opposed sanctions against the Smith regime in Rhodesia, and now demand sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe on the basis that they are the best friends of the black masses of Zimbabwe.
They are as opposed to a genuine resolution of the land question in our country, to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, as they are to a similar outcome in Zimbabwe. Yet they claim to be among the greatest defenders of the interests of the black people of Zimbabwe.
These forces have opposed every single initiative our country has taken since 1994 to bring about fundamental social change, for the benefit of all South Africans. They have done this because their task is to defend white privilege as much as they can, for the benefit of a minority of our people.
And yet these very defenders of white minority privilege at home are most vocal in their denunciation of the Government of Zimbabwe, pretending that they are passionately committed to act in solidarity with the masses of the people of Zimbabwe for progressive change.
The Democratic Party/ Democratic Alliance and its friends are intent on the perpetuation of white minority privileges both in South Africa and Zimbabwe, forever devoted to kith-and-kin. Their attempt to camouflage themselves as non-racist and democratic, by waging a strident campaign against President Mugabe, will not hide their true nature and intent.
South Africa must become the shop-steward for colonialism
Those whose principal task is to advance their kith-and-kin in Zimbabwe, both in our country and in UK/Australia, have the expectation that this progressive African government in our country, whose own struggle was in great measure about land justice, as in Zimbabwe, will for strange reasons become their shop-stewards and spokespersons against a sister people also fighting injustice!
They hope that our movement will abandon the honour it has earned as the champion and custodian for the rights and aspirations of the African majority!
Accordingly, they demand that this African country should join the fray, led by the UK/Australia section of the white Commonwealth that shouts and hurls insults at the Zimbabwean government for daring white minority property. South Africa gets accused of `silent diplomacy` and being soft on Zimbabwe as though there was anything such as `loud diplomacy`.
Regardless of the fact that nobody has demonstrated evidence of the achievements of so-called aggressive strategy towards Zimbabwe, nevertheless the point continues to be made that the South African government must become Tony and John`s foreign ministers in Zimbabwe.
Surely, they know as well as we do that agreeing to do this once will surrender forever South Africa`s independence and sovereignty.
It must be boldly re-stated here that the principal problem in Zimbabwe is not the lack of respect for the rule of law or property rights, but it is the persisting landlessness of the African majority! Solve this problem, other resultant problems shall be resolved!
But, this problem and its related problems shall not be resolved by pursuing that old, dead and stinking colonial stratagem of creating client States in Africa formed of the political outfits of colonialism, pseudo-democratic parties of all sorts.
Across the Indian Ocean to Australia
We will now cross the Indian Ocean and proceed to Australia. The positions adopted by Prime Minister John Howard with regard to Zimbabwe should also not surprise us. The political school of thought to which he belongs has traditionally seen the defence of kith-and-kin as one of its central and distinguishing features.
The long-standing Keep-Australia-White immigration policy derives from this. This accounts for the gross inhumanity towards Asian refugees shown by the Government of Australia.
When 400,000 people marched in Sydney to extend an apology and a hand of reconciliation to the aboriginal people of Australia, Prime Minister John Howard refused to join them.
And yet when ugly stories were told of how Australians had abused and mistreated British orphans sent to Australia during and after the Second World War, Prime Minister John Howard did not hesitate immediately to extend apologies to his British kith-and-kin.
In a January 29, 2002 article in ZNET, entitled "Australia: Apartheid?", the journalist John Pilger wrote about the inhumane policies of the Howard government towards black refugees. He reported:
"For many, there is the spectre of comparison with apartheid South Africa. The other day, Andrea Durbach, formerly of Cape Town and now a prominent human rights advocate in Sydney, said she did not believe the horrors of apartheid South Africa would ever be reproduced in Australia. `What may be coming is not as crude,` she said. "The language is not as crude. It`s much more subtle; it`s much more consensual.`"
Having written of the harsh treatment of Asian refugees by the Howard government, Pilger said:
"The treatment of `white` illegal immigrants is very different. In 2001, there were 6,160 Britons who had overstayed the duration of their visas, and as many Europeans. None goes to a detention camp and most are given a bridging visa`. It is said that Howard`s `tough stand` against the combined `threat` posed by helpless refugees and international terrorists gave him his election victory last November."
Commenting on the long-standing White Australia policy, the encyclopaedia, Wikipedia said:
"Supporters of a tougher anti-illegal immigration policy, notably Prime Minister Howard, argue passionately and persuasively that it has nothing whatever to do with race, and everything to do with the fundamental right of any nation to defend its borders. Many observers, however, claim that the real objection to the current wave of asylum seekers is at least partly or religiously based. In that sense, the inchoate fear of `the other` that motivated the White Australia Policy is said to be alive and well."
After the re-election of John Howard in 2001,Tony Kevin, Writing in the Canberra Times, said:
"(Many Australians) are ashamed because Australian voting majorities endorsed leaders who had gloried in treating desperate and defenceless fellow human beings with cold cruelty."
In its February 1, 2002 issue, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the response of South Africans who had immigrated to Australia, to Prime Minister Howard`s immigration policies:
"Keith Wolfson emigrated to Australia from South Africa in 1977. His patience and hope were at an end. He was tired of a reviled minority of hope were at an end. He was tired of being part of a reviled minority of whites who wanted to see the end of apartheid. Like many South Africans in Australia, he is experiencing a jarring sense of dÃ©jÃ vu as he watches Phillip Ruddock (Minister responsible for immigration) and John Howard defend their policy on asylum seekers."
"Other South Africans say Ruddock`s use of rhetoric to manipulate public sentiment is reminiscent of the apartheid era. Just as blacks were pointed as sub-human, undeserving of the vote or citizenship, so the Howard Government has dehumanised the asylum seekers. Separate development was portrayed as being good for blacks, just as Ruddock says that denying refugees rights of appeal to the courts would be good for them."
And yet, the same John Howard who cannot stomach non-European immigration into Australia poses as a great defender of the rights and welfare of the black people of Zimbabwe!
Up the Atlantic Ocean to the UK
We will not spend too much time on the matter of racism in the UK and an approach to asylum seekers that is informed by the same impulse driving the Government of Australia. Much of this is already known to many people. Nevertheless the references below explain some of the story.
Writing in The Guardian of May 22, 2001, Abdulrazak Gurnah said:
"The debate over asylum is twinned with a paranoid narrative of race, disguised and smuggled in as euphemisms about foreign lands and cultural integrity. The Anglo-Saxon species is once again rumoured to be on the verge of extinction, when a glance around the world shows how successfully it has invaded and displaced others."
In an Editorial published on December 28, 2002, The Guardian wrote:
"The 2002 (immigration) act - fourth in nine years - looks set to become as infamous as the immigration acts which denied asylum to persecuted British passport-holding East African Asians more than 30 years ago. Like its notorious predecessors, the 2002 act was the product of a labour government panic over asylum numbers. The author of the latest act, (Home Affairs Minister) David Blunkett, even admitted as much in an article in The Times: `We can only defeat the right if we tackle issues of public concern`. No one disputes that a progressive government should address such issues; it should not, however, adopt the right`s solutions. Alas the 2002 act is peppered with such ideas, even though they were rejected earlier by Labour."
Our responsibility as a movement is to work with the people of Zimbabwe to give such assistance as may be required to help them solve their problems. Our government as well as the Commonwealth will also have to do the same. However, despite the latter`s resolution to assist Zimbabwe to deal with food shortages and economic recovery, it has not done anything, perhaps for the reasons that Jonathan Steele propounded in his article in The Guardian.
In his 2002 article we have cited, Seumas Milne said:
"The struggle over power and land has brought Zimbabwe to a virtual state of civil war; unemployment and inflation are rampant; living standards have plunged; while Aids is taking a horrific toll (and Mugabe promotes a grim homophobia). Zimbabwe needs to find its own way to a peaceful political evolution and a return to the progressive reforms of Mugabe`s early years in power. But these are issues for Zimbabweans to settle. Outside interference can only make that process more difficult - and Britain is the very last country to dictate to its once-captive subjects."
Our task is not to interfere, but to work with the people of Zimbabwe, our immediate neighbours, to help them arrive at solutions that will benefit all the people of Zimbabwe, our region and the rest of Africa. Those whose principal task is to advance the interests of their kith-and-kin in Zimbabwe have nothing to teach us as to what we should do.