The Land Issue in Zimbabwe and the Western Demonisation of President Dr. Robert Mugabe by David Alexander and Cathie Thomson

The Land Issue in Zimbabwe and the Western Demonisation of President  Dr. Robert Mugabe by David Alexander and  Cathie Thomson
13th August 2010 

The purpose of this paper is to show that the demonisation of Dr.  Mugabe in the West is not to do with human rights and democracy as  claimed by many professional NGOs, in their 4by4s and 5 star hotels, and civic groups claiming to represent civil society, which they do  not, but about land and its ownership. The latest news in any case is  that President Mugabe and both sections of the split Movement for  Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangarai and Arthur Mutambara have  agreed to a unity government with Tsvangarai and his two deputies to  be sworn in as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers in February  2009 and ministers appointed, as agreed by the negotiators of the  Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Constitutional  Amendment No. 19 allowing for these appointments and appointments of  other ministers in the government has now, February 5, been passed in  Parliament. Tsvangarai has agreed that the SADC timelines are "not  cast in stone". MDC president Tsvangarai was sworn in as Prime  Minister on 11/2/2009 at State House, Harare together with his two  deputy prime ministers Professor Arthur Mutambara and Thkosani Khupe.  This marks the implementation reached on September 15 2008 following  the disputed 2008 elections for a government of national unity (GNU)  to be established. Morgan Tsvangarai could have been Prime Minister  from that time and have conducted his arguments and discussions with  Dr. Mugabe in that position. This would have avoided a great deal of  violence between MDC and ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National  Union - Patriotic Front ) supporters. This GNU it is agreed will be a  transitional authority leading to fresh elections in 18 months time.  President Mugabe remains head of state and has called for Britain, the  European Union and the USA to lift their economic sanctions on  Zimbabwe. The three parties will share 32 cabinet ministries with  ZANU - PF taking 16, Tsvangarai's MDC 13 and Mutambara's 3 and were sworn in on 15 February 2009 despite discussion of the arrest of Roy Bennet, Treasurer General of MDC/T who was arrested only hours before  he was due to be sworn in as agricultural deputy minister. Four years  ago state agents said they had found an ammunition cache at Bennet's  farm in Mutare. He had been in exile in South Africa after he fled  Zimbabwe when he was accused of planning an armed coup against Mugabe.  

It should be recalled how much is owed to Thabo Mbeki's quiet  diplomacy on behalf of SADC and his insistence that only Zimbabweans  could find a solution. The South African was working for a land reform  solution in Zimbabwe when in his own country 80% of land is owned by  whites and corporations and only slow progress has been in land  redisribution: 4% since 1994. Much more violence and attacks on white farmers has been experienced in South Africa than in Zimbabwe. The  Obama administration has now, February 2 2009, dropped USA demand made by Bush and Condaleeza Rice that Dr. Mugabe steps down saying that Washington could no longer support a government which included him. As a Zimbabwean Minister of Information said at the time of George Bush's first " doubtful" Presidential election victory in Florida 2000 "   where was the Zimbabwean Election Observer Team?"

In the March 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections the  combined opposition gained 109 seats(MDC Tsvangarai 99; MDC Mutambara  10) against 97 for ZANU-PF. In the Senate there is an even split  between ZANU-PF and the combined opposition of 30 seats each. After a  five week delay the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the  Presidential results with Tsvangarai on 47.9% and Mugabe on 43.2%  which necessitated a run-off which took place on 27 June 2008 after  much violence from both ZANU-PF and MDC supporters. Tsvangarai claims  the severe state repression led him to withdraw leaving Dr. Mugabe as  the sole candidate. President Mugabe began his sixth term of office on  29 June 2009 in a chorus of international condemnation. Violence form  MDC supporters is not much reported in the Western press but is  reported in NewAfrican May 2007 No.462 which provides an in-depth  issue, on Zimbabwe, including for example, evidence of ZANU-PF offices  in Harare being petrol bombed by MDC activists. The editor, a  Ghanaian, Baffour Ankhoma, has made it his business to spend long  visits to Zimbabwe and to interview Robert Mugabe in depth and knows  of the MDC violence. The Western media do not have this responsible  approach. NewAfrican is published in London and Baffour Ankomah lives  there. (1) 

The war of liberation from 1965 to 1980 in Zimbabwe was very much  about land which is of cultural and spiritual significance as well as  commercial value to the Shona and Matabele people. What happened in  Zimbabwe on the land issue and fast track land reform from 2000-2001  was the result of the long delay in finding a consensual way of  transferring some of the land from white "owners" including a not  inconsiderable number of Scots, international corporations, and  several black owners whose property rights flow from the dispossession  of the original owners in the late 19th Century. The first  Chimurenga(war) 1896 was fiercely fought at that time.The indigenous  people lost but many whites were killed.

In June 2000, 20 years after Independence in 1980, 4200 white farmers  owned around 70% of the best arable land. They did not crop more than  30% of it or stock more than 50% of its grazing land. It should be  made clear that 70% of the black population were farmers placed by the  white government in the Communal Areas on poor, over-used and  overcrowded land. But 70% of Zimbabweans basic food crops came from the African farmers in these areas. White farmers were told in the  1950's by the Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins (later Lord Malvern) of  Southern Rhodesia that they did not have enough capital to develop the  land. Southern Rhodesia was under white minority rule by 1923 before  the British Colonial Office Policy of  "The Paramountcy of Native  Interests" took effect. It should again be made clear that the  property rights and legal title of white farmers were based on theft.  Driving through Zimbabwe in 2000 was between barbed wire and  electrified fences behind which lay vast tracts of unused or  underutilized land. This land situation and its ownership by such a  small minority would be a major destabilizing factor in any country-except perhaps in Scotland and even there it is now becoming a  major public issue.

White farmers were well treated by Dr. Mugabe after Independence and  invited to join Zimbabwe in unity despite their previous support for  the illegal, racist Smith regime since 1965. Ian Douglas Smith was of  Scottish descent as was his Minister of Defence , in the treasonable  government, Graham Duke of Montrose. They were responsible for at  least 60,000 African deaths during the rebellion against the British  government which was the legally responsible and sovereign power  throughout. Britain left the illegal Smith regime to be dealt with by  ZANU and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union) rather than dealing  with the Smith regime militarily itself as it had the responsibility to do. Both Robert Mugabe and his close friend Eddison Zvobgo of ZANU,  later to be in the Independence Cabinet, were in a Smith prison for 11  years. Ineffective economic sanctions were employed which had a worse  effect on Zambia than they did on the Smith regime. Little help was  given to Zambia by Britain or the World Bank. Zambia got the help of  the Chinese to build a railway from Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia to Dar-Salaam, Tanzania, so that it could export its copper and other metals and  obtain imports. Unlike Dr. Mugabe Smith was not demonised in the  Western press. Why not? A major question is why Smith was not brought  before the International Court in the Hague for his crimes against  humanity. Instead he remained free and stayed at his farm until his  death in 2007. Graham Duke of Montrose after the defeat of the illegal  regime returned to Scotland and his feudal lands on his illegal Smith  passport. On his death he was given a funeral at St. Giles Cathedral  in Edinburgh. In Zimbabwe it occurs to many to wonder why after  independence the white farmers did not voluntarily offer to share  their land and assist Zimbabwean farmers with their knowledge of  farming, irrigation and marketing. They might even have set up joint  marketing cooperatives which are an excellent way of coming together  and protecting everybody's interests. White farmers were welcomed by  Dr. Mugabe and it is important to grasp the nature and character of  most white farmers in Zimbabwe in order to understand why they behave  in such a selfish way. White farmers usually provide miserable rates of  pay, poor housing, job security, and health care for African workers.  There is little notion that improvements in these areas would lead to  large increases in productivity. In David Alexander's experience of  British Scottish, Afrikaaner and Rhodesian farmers in industrial  relations and other situations he has been called a "Kaffir lover".  These farmers are convinced that they know the African mentality and  shout only orders, threats and commands. They saw and see Africans as  subhuman and inferior responding to violence and best a patronising  philanthropy which Africans find insulting. The result for most of  these white farmers and their families who do not speak with or be  with as human equals the vast majority of the people around them are  personalities full of violence hatred and fear. For social life they  hid together in their farmers' clubs where there were usually no  Africans except waiters. Despite their welcome by Dr. Mugabe and the  fact that a number of white farmers in Zimbabwe have told us that they  have been better treated by Dr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF than Smith and they  do not have a war to fight, they immediately moved to support Movement  for Democratic Change(MDC) when it was formed in September 1999.

The MDC was led by Tsvangarai and Gibson Sibanda of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). But the labour movement had been marginalised by neo-liberal elements, NGOs, the human rights industry, donors, churches, a Trotskyist (now expelled) and white farmers. Can such a coalition hold? Can it be trusted to deal equitably with land redistribution? Support for and possibly a part in the instigation of the MDC has come from the Zimbabwe Democratic Trust made up of British, US, and Rhodesian businessmen with interests in mining, energy and land. Patrons included former British foreign secretaries Howe, Hurd and Rifkind. Sir John Collins, Rhodesian-British chair of a UK power company was a member as was Chester Crocker former US roving ambassador to Africa. The trust exists to promote the interests of international companies and commercial interests. Eddie Cross a white businessman produced a largely neo-liberal economic programme welcomed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the GNU Eddie Cross has now been put in charge of the state industry and para-statals ministries. What does this tell us of the intentions of the MDC in the GNU? 

At this point it is worth mentioning, while it is recognised that Zambia and Zimbabwe are very different countries. that the rise of the elected Frederick Chiluba who replaced Pesident Kenneth Kaunda in 1991 introduced "Free Market" solutions which crushed Kaunda's  "Growrh from our own Resources" plan produced in 1987 after leaving the IMF and its  "solutions". Chiluba had been a long time leader of the the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions. The labour movement in Zambia played a major role in the election of the Movement for Multi Party Democracy expecting that the unions had nothing to fear. The application by President Chiluba of full-blown Washington consensus International Financial Institutions (IFIs), IMF and World Bank, recommendations for ten years in Zambia resulted in an increase in poverty, the rape of its economy, privatisation, increased unemployment and the recolonisation of its people, land and resources. Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by the IFIs in Zambia are popularly known as Stomach Adjustment Programmes. The IFIs insisted that African countries open their economies to free trade formulae and reduce government spending by deep cuts in the civil service (including much needed Zambian and Zimbabwean nurses, doctors and teachers who were and are being recruited to Britain), public expenditure, education, health and social services and any food subsidies, while the the USA and the European Union protect their farmers through subsidies and tariffs from African competition. Education and health services built up by Kenneth Kaunda from the 1960s and Mugabe governments in the 1980s have been largely destroyed by "free market" and the obscene term "cost-sharing" with the poor. From 2008-2009 the free-market dogma in the face of world recession has been diluted to a form of Keynesianism in the USA, Europe and Britain. What massive damage free-market dogma has caused to the Zimbabwean economy, infrastructure, education and health services in the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Programme in the 90s is summed up by a guard at the National Monument, Great Zimbabwe who we asked what ESAP stood for. He said immediately "Extra Severe Suffering for African People". Also in the 90s we were with a friend who was the Principal of a teacher training college in Mutare, Zimbabwe when as a result of Esap he was having to sack long-term and faithful workers at the college. He went home in tears. Each worker was suporting an extended family. Dr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF were losing support due to the implementation of World Bank and International Monetary Fund measures. There is no doubt that like other politicians Dr. Mugabe has his faults. The view of a senior ally who was with him in Smith's prison speaking to us in January 2003 is that ZANU-PF should have renewed itself and brought new and younger people into the leadership and thought that the party had lost the support of young people in the towns. His view is that especially with the economic sanctions put in place after 2000 by Britain, the European Union and the USA external pressures have tempted him to continue with the military mode of the liberation struggle. And in a sense he was at war due to the concerted to undermine his achievements. As a Zambian Greek-Cypriot friend who was in Kaunda's government puts it- "Rhodesians never learn". It should be remembered that before the 31 March 2005 elections in which ZANU-PF took 78 seats and MDC 41 the prime minister of the UK in the House of Commons 14 June 2004 said that "we work closely with the MDC on the measures that we should take in respect of Zimbabwe... to put pressure for change on the Mugabe regime." This is an appalling admission of interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign country without any sense of guilt. The Conservative MP Michael Jack on 1/3/2005 said that there was no sign that the 31 March 2005 elections would be free and fair and appears to recommend invasion. "Given the resources that were mobilised in Iraq to ensure that the democratic voice of those people were heard, what similar force is going to be deployed to ensure that those in Zimbabwe are going to have their say at the general election?" What motivates these outbursts is not human rights and democracy but the irrevocable return of land to Zimbabweans. In his funeral address for Eddison Zvobgvo 1 August 2004 with whom he had been imprisoned and who became a cabinet minister, Dr. Mugabe said that young people "should remain wary of wolves who came in sheeps' clothing, subtly seeking ways of once more subjugating our people". This is why Dr. Mugabe remained wary of Tsvangarai. "There are some in our midst who can easily be bought, who offer themselves for sale." He criticised the British that there was no democracy and observation of human rights when the real issue was the land. He is correct when he points to the British deployed "under the innumerable Non Governmental Organisations to destabilise our country and try to effect the so-called regime change".

Economic sanctions put in place by Britain, the EU, the USA and the White Commonwealth from 2000 onwards have significantly contributed to the socio-economic deterioration and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe including the break down of infrastructure in for example the water supply causing the cholera epidemic which has all been blamed by these countries on Dr. Mugabe's economic policies and the return of the land to its original owners. (It should be noted that there are cholera outbreaks every year in African countries during the rainy season.) In the USA, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act was sponsored by  Senator Jesse Helms, a supporter of Ian Smith and was signed into law by Bush at the height of the fast-track land reform programme, despite the objections of Zimbabwe and SADC. These declared and undeclared sanctions have meant that Zimbabwe could draw on no line of international credit. The IFIs withdrew loans and balance of payment support. Britain, EU, and the USA have claimed that their sanctions are only " targetted sanctions on Dr. Mugabe himself, the ZANU-PF leadership, travel bans and asset freeze which is manifestly untrue. Gordon Brown as Prime Minister made a series of anti Mugabe declarations and tried to obtain more sanctions against Zimbabwe in a UN Security Council resolution on 11 July 2008. China and Russia vetoed this resolution. Since then Tsvangarai has known that the regime change sanctions against Dr. Mugabe would not be effective and he would have to join a Government of National Unity to gain a share in government. The demonisation of Dr. Mugabe and the bias of the Western media against an Africa which speaks for itself should be exposed and this is taken on in NewAfrican June 2008 No. 474 entitled "Exposed:Western Media bias against Africa", in which Baffour Ankhoma writes "There was a time, not very long ago, when Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was the darling of Western governments, and their media reported him like a saint. The British Queen even gave him a knighthood. Today, after Dr. Mugabe's government redistributed essentially white owned land stolen from indigenous Africans by European settlers, Western governments say "Mugabe is a bad man, a tyrant who must be brought low"; and the Western media is dutifully singing form the same hymn,... irrespective of the facts on the ground in Zimbabwe".(P12) At the December 2007 Lisbon EU-Africa summit Britain had demanded that no invitation be sent to Dr. Mugabe and that if he was invited they would boycott the meeting. The African Union clearly stated that unless all its members were invited there would be no summit. Gordon Brown had made the absurd mistake of asking the EU to choose between himself and Dr. Mugabe. The EU chose to invite Dr. Mugabe and lifted visa restrictions (part of the punitive measures) so breaking ranks with Britain. Brown's absence from the summit was a ridiculous "own-goal". And EU countries began to understand Britain's " blanket media demonisation of Robert Mugabe" (P16) Anver Versi in "Lisbon EU-Africa summit Africa stands firm" African Business January 2008 No.338 (2). What the British media fail to grasp is that EU countries supported Mugabe because they believed he was right to engage in fast-track land reform from the ownership of a small white elite which had been privileged due to the near apartheid policies of Southern Rhodesia. But the EU still felt it should attack Dr. Mugabe. In Brown's absence the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Zimbabwe was damaging the image- "I appreciate that some some African states have tried to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe but time is running out". So insulting all the African leaders who had been working on it such as Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and Kikwete (Tanzania"). Dr. Mugabe replied "Does the German Chancellor and the pro-Gordon Gang of Four ( Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden) really believe they have better knowledge of Zimbabwe than the Southern African community and the African Union? It is this arrogance that we are fighting against." He was cheered.
1. NewAfrican, monthly www.
2. African Business, Monthly www.africasia .com
It should also be noted that much of the knowledge and information contained in this paper comes not only from personal work, visits and contacts in both Zimbabwe and Zambia but also from the daily newspaper published in Lusaka, Zambia the Zambia Post and the weekly Zimbabwe Financial Gazette published in Harare, Zimbabwe
David Alexander worked as a District Officer (Colonial Office) and Assistant District Secretary ( Zambian Government) in the political administration of Northern Rhodesia / Zambia 1962-65; Lecturer / Resident Tutor, University of Zambia 1968-1975; Lecturer / Senior Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Edinburgh 1975-1995: workers' education and research with the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions to the present: adult education work and research for periods in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Swaziland, Andrha Pradesh,(India), Zimbabwe and Scotland.
Cathie Thomson in the 1970s was an active member of the Women's Legal and Financial Independence Group which set up the first Glasgow Women's in which she was one of two employees; Tutor for Women's Education WEA Glasgow 1970s and 1980s; established and worked in the East End Adult Education Centre Glasgow and founded the East End Writers and Artists Group, Glasgow;1980s set up and worked in the Second Chance to Learn Project; 1990s Literary Agent based in Glasgow.