The justified criticisms of Mugabe’s human rights abuses seldom recount the atrocities perpetrated by white rule in Zimbabwe, writes Craig Murray.
By Craig Murray
Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean leader who just died, makes an easy figure for the right-wing media to hate, and the cruelty, corruption and absurdities of the latter part of his overlong rule justify much of it.
But the slightest analysis of the hatred being expressed reveals it to feed a variety of British imperialist tropes that 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 10 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 emphasizing that Mugabe was imprisoned without trial by the British authorities of Southern Rhodesia, before the declaration of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence – a fact I struggle to find in any of the MSM obituaries.
The accepted narrative on Mugabe in power is that for over 10 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 patronizing 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.
Possibility of Electoral Defeat
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 program 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, since the parcels not occupied 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. The lack of a dynamic land reform program from the start meant that pent-up resentment was allowed to explode into an unplanned wave of violence, destruction and massive corruption. That 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 fertilizer.
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.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.
This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.
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Mugabe stole the 1980 election through widespread intimidation. If you were called to a punishment induna for being disloyal, you were likely to get your lips cut off. He used the same techniques in all subsequent elections, with the added advantage of having control of the CIO. Had a moderate African won the election, history would tell a different story.
As for the British bobbies flown in as observers in 1979; they were a joke. They went to bed at night.
In the 1990s Mugabe wiped out the middle class with his hyper-inflationary policies. He collapsed the commercial agriculture sector and took over the mines, thus killing his ability to earn foreign currency.
All the while, to keep himself in power, he allowed his cronies to rape the country. Today there are only the super rich and the poor. Oh yes, and one more group – the diaspora.
Yet your complaint is published.
Craig Murray has written an excellent article that has attempted to tell the whole truth about Zimbabwe’s problems with land ownership. I was never a fan of Robert Mugabe and the methods he used to misrule his country. However, I always thought that there was more to the story than whatever was printed in the mainstream press. The press gave the idea that the titles held by white farmers were legitimate. There are only two ways that land titles can be created. One is by appropriation of previously unowned and unoccupied land. The other means, which is much more common and was true in Zimbabwe, is by conquest. Land is a gift of nature, not something that is created through human intelligence and effort. Owning land and collecting and keeping the rent from the use of the land means that some people are being well rewarded for doing nothing.
There is a way out of this problem if the political will can be found. The way out is to tax the land heavily enough so that the bulk of the rent can be added to the public coffers. At the same time taxes on sales, incomes and most other things can be reduced by an equivalent amount. This reform would both force land into its highest and best use and at the same time eliminate the disincentives to production that existing taxes will cause.
Next up, why a ruined South Africa is still somehow the fault of evil colonialists – for all time to come. Did Ambrose Bierce say destiny was a tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure?
If you imitate your oppressors, you have no reason to complain about them because you are their moral equal. Jesus knew that. Buddha too.
Maybe the Chinese can do better. I recall an elderly African man observing worn out buildings and systems left behind by the colonial authorities from most of a century ago and wondering why so little has changed.
The author is largely correct. One cannot honestly discuss problems in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and more nations, which are still suffering from from decades of British Imperial colonial rule.
Sadly, I only saw Mugabe as a ruthless dictator – but I was fed this by the mainstream media. As I read more credible alternative media, the truth comes out that Mugabe was a nationalist and loved his country. His only downfall was that he could not govern well, but that was circumstances beyond his control.
he was a corrupt despot who wanted to rhold onto power at all cost. please dont lionise mugabe saddamn or bagbo just because they decided tp stand up to western powers. it was never for their people it was just uppity little dogs want to protect their chunk of meat from the big dogs represeted by western powers
Same as with South Africa, swapping a racist Anglo/Boer government for a racist African government isn’t going to achieve anything positive.
I don’t believe the multi-national corporations (who are still there) ever wanted a positive solution. Driving out the Europeans and supporting corrupt, thuggish governments is their ideal situation for extracting the resources at bargain-basement cost.
Excellent article. Many of the obituaries also blame Mugabe exclusively for ruining Zimbabwe’s economy. However, Western sanctions were also highly damaging along with structural adjustment programs. Mugabe’s promotion of Pan-African ideals was also important. It is a key reason he was demonized in the West which has supported leaders who carried out far worse atrocities in Africa (leaders like Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni for example) but who are not demonized in the way Mugabe was.
I have heard from African friends that the death of Mugabe’s first wife (Sally, I believe) and his marriage to his second had a profound effect on his life and administration of government. His first wife as Zim’s first lady was positively charismatic and widely admired attracting support from the people for Mugabe.
Interesting to read the history associated with The Kingdom of Zimbabwe (1000ad to 1450ad) and the period between when the British South Africa Company was established in 1911. If the history books can be trusted it was a period of multiple migrations due to tribal warfare, land overuse and climatic changes.
After the formation of the new Zimbabwe in 1980 the tribal warfare was continued by Comrade Mugabe with some giving the number he slaughtered during his dictatorship as high as 20,000. I personally believe that so called white supremacy is a misnomer given the positive impact of colonialism wrt to infrastructure development, agriculture, medical facilities, access to education (Mugabe had 6 degrees) eliminating the incidence of famine etc. But I also acknowledge the social negatives.
Unlike Mandela who went through the same traumatic times and process towards self-determination, Mandela talked of a “Rainbow Nation”. On the other end of the spectrum, Mugabe was a racist driven evil dictator who raped and robbed the country, and its people of all colours, that he was entrusted with, This includes overseeing the degradation of water supply and sanitary systems leading to Cholera outbreaks killing thousands and massive levels of starvation.
Today, the exiled white farmers are being asked to return “home” and some have answered to that call, after all, having been born and raised there it is their home also.
Unfortunately, traditional African farming methods will not sustain the growing African population. I have seen for myself in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia how local farmers clear hectare after hectare of forest to grow food with no regard for the environmental consequences, a disaster waiting to happen. It’s not a case of saying Africans can’t farm. Of course they can, given the chance. It’s saying that investment in the science and technology of agriculture is essential to achieve sustainability.
An excellent article by Craig Murray. But in my opinion he doesn’t go far enough in his limited defence of Mugabe. While he’s right that Mugabe did some positive things in the area of health and education in the 1980s, he also did much besides in the area of economic development.
In that decade all African countries found themselves unable to pay off their debts when oil prices soared, and the IMF and World Bank stepped in to assume these debts and resechedule them with ‘conditionalities’ of deregulation, liberalised (unprotected) trade and privatisation.
Zimbabwe’s socialist policies in the 1980s led to an annual growth rate for the decade of 4-5%, two to three times faster than in the rest of Africa. The fact that the only country in Africa which did well in the 1980s was also the only one which had evaded neoliberal loan conditionalities was not lost on the IMF, which set out to undermine the country. The way they did this, through the creation of an artificial Zimbabwean debt, is well documented, but little known. It resulted in the neoliberalisation of the country in 1990, and the beginning of the country’s slide.
Other very positive things also happened in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, which should be mentioned. This mostly concerns the performance of black farmers, in two completely different settings. First, those black farmers who lived in the largely barren areas of the country – officially, and absurdly, called ‘communal farmers’ – were offered after independence in 1980, government assistance, for the first time ever. This was in the form of marketing, credit, ‘extension’ services and subsidised agricultural inputs. The result was that by the end of the 1980s they were producing most of Zimbabwe’s marketed cotton and half of its marketed maize. Bear in mind that these two crops together occupy 84% of the area under cultivation. This is stunning.
And this was just those poor black farmers who had received no new land, but merely a fraction of what white (called ‘commercial’ – if you can believe such a joke!) farmers had always received from the government. The remaining group of black farmers were those small numbers who received some of the limited amount of land which commercial farmers had given up voluntarily for far more than it was worth, and mostly of poor quality. The resettlement of this 2.6 million hectares of land was called a ‘land reform’ programme, officially the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (LRRP). The ‘compensation’ payments to former landowners were made by the British Government and some other lesser donors. Financial support, in the form of loans, for the LRRP was stopped from 1990, despite the outstanding success attributed to it by the British Government in its official evaluation report. By 1997 these resettled households, comprising just 5% of the entire farmer population, produced 15-20% of the marketed maize and cotton.
So putting together the ordinary ‘communal’ farmers and the few resettled (formerly communal) black farmers, they completely dominated agriculture in Zimbabwe despite the enormous advantages enjoyed by the mostly white ‘commercial’ farmers. Indeed the ability of black native farmers to farm more efficiently than the white farmers had always been known. For example, the prices for European delivery of grain to the government-owned Grain Marketing Board between 1936 and 1960 were 56% higher than for African smallholders, precisely to compensate for the relative inefficiency of the big landowners.
So Craig Murray is indeed correct when he argues that African farmers know how to farm. He should perhaps have added that European farmers in Zimbabwe barely bothered: black farmers have always been massively more efficient than white farmers, despite their barren land, low rainfall in the areas to which they’d been expelled, and the paucity of resource inputs.
Further, the land reform programme launched from 2000, the ‘Fast Track Land Resettlement Programme (FTLRP) was not the disaster of government planning painted by Western Establsihment politicians, media and many academics. And allegations of corruption in land allocation are simplistic. Consider these two criticisms in turn.
The right of the government to acquire land as of right from the year 1990 had been accepted by all parties to the Lancaster House Agreeement in 1980. But not only did potential international donors fail to support compulsory acquisition from 1990, they actively opposed it. In response the government dithered and did almost nothing for a whole decade, as Craig Murray points out. Finally in 2000 various frustrated constituencies decided to take matters into their own hands, and began to peg out farms on the lands of existing landowners. The details of how this was done are extremely complicated, and the best source of information is the research carried out by Professor Ian Scoones of Sussex University, based on extensive field work rather than hearsay, in collaboration with acadamic colleagues from Zimbabwe.
The process of taking over small plots of land, and the planning it was based on, were undertaken by local governments, the ruling ZANU-PF party, the War Veteran Associations, and local traditional leaders. Details can be found in the Sussex University research (on the net, and in academic journals), but the question of why it was done is equally important. It was in order for the Central Government to see clearly what was happening, and to challenge them to respond. President Mugabe was put on the spot, and had to decide between supporting his party, his former War Veteran comrades and the rural base from which he came, or else submitting to the big landowners and their foreign backers.
His eventual and possibly grudging decision to support his natural constituency with central government logistic and material assistance, led to a particular form of land redistribution, which has been criticised by foreign governments and other agencies for endemic corruption. So is this criticism justified? Well, according to the report of the review of the FTLRP by the Presidential Land Committee (PLC) in 2003, by which time 73% of the 10.4 million hectares of land targetted by the programme, had been settled, 56% of the area was occupied by peasant smallholdings, nearly all of the beneficiaries originating in the ‘communal areas’ (the arid lands around the edge of the country), but also some urbanites. 29%, by area, was in the form of capitalist farms, allocated to ‘urban professionals, petty burgeois and bureaucrats’. The remaining 16% consisted of 1,332 white, mostly downsized Large Scale Commercial (LSC) Farms.
The land redistribution process led inevitably to casualties. Several accounts lament the fate of women, the PLC report showing that only 16 percent of land titles were allocated to them. Other casualties include people who worked on the estates of big landowners, supporters of parties opposed to ZANU-PF and even, paradoxically, war veterans.
This tragic situation could, and should, have been avoided, if the LRRP of the 1980s had been continued, in a planned manner with the co-operation of the Commercial Farmers [big landowners] Union, and the financial support of the foreign donors to provide compensation to expropriated landowners. Instead, in 2000, ten years after the expiry of the Lancaster House Agreement, while compulsory land reform was now legal and in principle permissible, foreign donors continued to oppose it, and the government continued to yield to their wishes. It was almost inevitable that the essentially political and reactive nature of the FTLR programme, in response to land occupations, would generate widespread casualties.
So the FTLRP was not a violent and chaotic ‘land grab’, as often claimed, but a planned exercise in which many thousands of expropriated farmers regained their land while admittedly, at the same time, the gains were unevenly distributed . Shortcomings of the land reform programme should be placed firmly at the door of the foreign governments, think tanks and donors which did everything in their power to prevented the extension of the excellent LRRP of the 1980s being resumed from 1990 onwards.
@ Neil Thomas.
Many thanks for the in-depth facts offered here. I have taken the liberty of adding your comment to my reblog of Craig’s article. I did not give you credit as I was not sure you would appreciate it. However, if you would like credit given I will actually reblog your comment separately again. If you already have a blog, could you please provide address.
Thanks very much. I’d be very happy to be acknowledged. Unfortunately I don’t understand very well what blogs and re-blogs are. And I don’t have a blog of my own. But I’m very glad that my comments were welcome. I once wrote an article on much the same subject for Third World Review. Thanks again.
It is quite apparent you are one who knows of that which he speaks.
If only initially South Africa (S.A.) had a Mugabe, instead of a Mandela; who in order to get what he wanted from the white minority sold out the people – from the get-go, under a so-called democratic political process which was mere pretext.
The dismantlement of racial Apartheid, which in ‘real politik’ terms was, and continues to be, nothing more than the application of the art of sophist neo-liberal rhetoric for maintaining elite power.
S.A. is not one jot closer to economic ‘democracy’.
The ‘Apartheid’ in economic development (a more equitable distribution of wealth) is as stringent as it ever was, if at all possible, much worse.
The only thing different about the sign in the window is the word order.
Instead of reading: white management (control) and racial subjugation of black power, it now reads replacement black management (elitist) of black (indigenous) peoples power, over the resources of production and distribution.
No longer racial discrimination here!
In a nutshell: in the end, Mugabe turned just as corrupt and violent as his white counterparts.
“In a nutshell: in the end, Mugabe turned just as corrupt and violent as his white counterparts.”
It’s an alternative narrative, however it’s not what happened.
The fact is that President Mugabe is a hero, who guided Rhodesia to independence as Zimbabwe in April 1980, provided healthcare and education to most Zimbabweans, avoided an actual ‘tribal war’ between the Ndebele and Shona, supported the anti-Apartheid struggle across the border in South Africa, and from 2000 onward led the way to undoing the land theft of colonialism and UDI.
For this, they were infiltrated by pseudogangs from South Africa (Super ZAPU) in the 1980s, their national currency was destroyed by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (ZDERA 2001) in 2002, etc.
And also President Mugabe was forced to return his Knighthood, Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Baath. It was an honorary knighthood, so President Mugabe was never addressed as Sir Robert. :)
A hero? Well, only in part. What about this?
“During 1982 he had established the Fifth Brigade, an elite armed force trained by the North Koreans; membership was drawn largely from Shona-speaking ZANLA soldiers and were answerable directly to Mugabe. In January 1983, the Fifth Brigade were deployed in the region, overseeing a campaign of beatings, arson, public executions, and massacres of those accused of being sympathetic to the dissidents. The scale of the violence was greater than that witnessed in the Rhodesian War. Interrogation centres were established where people were tortured. Mugabe acknowledged that civilians would be persecuted in the violence, claiming that “we can’t tell who is a dissident and who is not”. The ensuing events became known as the “Gukurahundi”, a Shona word meaning “wind that sweeps away the chaff before the rains”.
The Gukurahundi took place in Zimbabwe’s western provinces of Matabeleland (pictured)
In 1984 the Gukurahundi spread to Matabelelend South, an area then in its third year of drought. The Fifth Brigade closed all stores, halted all deliveries, and imposed a curfew, exacerbating starvation for a period of two months. The Bishop of Bulawayo accused Mugabe of overseeing a project of systematic starvation. When a Roman Catholic delegation provided Mugabe with a dossier listing atrocities committed by the Fifth Brigade, Mugabe refuted all its allegations and accused the clergy of being disloyal to Zimbabwe. He had the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe’s suppressed. In 1985, an Amnesty International report on the Gukurahundi was dismissed by Mugabe as “a heap of lies”. Over the course of four years, approximately 10,000 civilians had been killed, and many others had been beaten and tortured. Genocide Watch later estimated that approximately 20,000 had been killed.”
There are reasons that the West is so prosperous and it has nothing to do with being exceptional, except for being exceptionally greedy.
The problem is that you cannot trust any news coming out of Africa. It is all corporate, state department/foreign office approved, and frankly an isolated white minority talking to itself, whether they are journalists, NGO operators or tourists.
For instance, the ZANU-PF, the Liberation Party, made huge strides in the 1980s in healthcare, providing for the first time health services within walking distance of all Zimbabweans. The ZANU-PF provided universal education, making the Zimbabwean population among the most literate on the continent, with a literacy rate of over 90%.
Antonia Juhasz: “The Tragic Tale of the IMF in Zimbabwe”, 2004
To Zimbabweans, this matters a lot more than it does to the Europeans who took these services for granted anyway.
But from independence in April 1980, to 1990, land reform was off limits, locked up in much too generous sunset clauses. During the 1990s, some effort at landreform was made, however it was the British New Labour government, through Tony Blair and Clare Short, which axed the existing Willing Buyer, Willing Seller landreform program in November 1997, through the Clare Short letter. WBWS consisted of the ‘white farmers’ (landowners) being compensated for additions made to the land (roads, ponds, etc.) and the British government compensating them for the value of the land itself. Clare Short made the New Labour position on funding the WBWS landreform program – no funding. Clare Short: “I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.”
So with no funding for the WBWS program from 1997 on, the government moved on to the Fast Track landreform program in 1999.
Why is landreform important? Because the British reproduced their own home grown dysfunctional model of land ownership, which sees 1% of Britains owning 50% of the country. In Zimbabwe, 5% of the population, later 1% because of population growth and emigration, owned 43% of the country. In South Africa, under 10% of the population own 87% of the country.
This level of inequality of access to land has a direct and negative effect on the economy, and on wealth in society, and is completely unsustainable. Especially with a population growing around 3% a year – despite all the hysteria about ‘AIDS in Africa’, which didn’t pan out either. Zimbabwe was simply the first to move on the issue, in 1999/2000.
And they redistributed their land very quickly and efficiently. Today, over 80,000 ‘new farmers’ have replaced the 1,500 major landlords at the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board. Tobacco production has soared past the 2000 record of 200 million kgs.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Dollar had been destroyed through economic sanctions, specifically the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA 2001), which came out of the US Senate, sponsored by Bill Frist, co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Jesse Helms.
ZDERA 2001 destroyed the Zimbabwe Dollar the way the US German Peace Treaty of 1921 destroyd the Mark in 1922. Through confiscation of government property, creating a sudden imbalance between the local currency and goods available. In Germany, gold and other goods of the “German Imperial government” were confiscated. In Zimbabwe, ZDERA 2001 confiscated the lines of credit of the Zimbabwean government in December 2001. High inflation turned into hyperinflation that year – see chart, courtesy of the Economist Group owned Economist Intelligence Unit. See ZDERA 2001, Section 4 C, tittled Multilateral Financing Restriction.
Despite this fact, the Zimbabwean people pushed through, took their land back, and are now doing business in a mixture of foreign currencies, including US dollars earned from the record sales of their tobacco.
Number of growers in 2018: 145,725
Tobacco producued: 253 million kgs
In 2000, the number of growers was 1,500 (nearly all white) and the record high output was 200 million kgs. That is the cost of colonial policy of disenfranchisement, intended to keep Africans poor and whites thriving. How much maize would Southern Rhodesia have produced during WWII, if Africans weren’t prohibited from profiting from agriculture? And this policy was kept going through gaslighting, a form of abuse, about Africans being ‘bad farmers’, or ‘destructive farmers’ (slash and burn is their favorite phrase), who should therefore be stopped from farming for the good of all.
It is the turnaround in agriculture which most likely increased Western pressure for regime change in Zimbabwe.
To bring down landreform, there has been a 6 billion dollar campaign, funded by Anglo-American Corporations’ owners, to demonize Zimbabwe in the international sphere, something very much akin to other demonisation campaigns against Lybia, Syria, Iraq, and today Russia, China and Venezuela. In fact they work from the same template.
Against Zimbabwe, two works of fiction stand out. Mugabe And The White African, by Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell. And The Interpreter by Sydney Lumet, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, and the first movie to have been filmed inside the UN building.
No effort was spared to turn the image of President Mugabe into that of President Idi Amin – after he fell out with the Israelis, and spent the rest of his life in Saudi Arabia. It’s a template.
Zimbabwe became independent in April 1980, while South Africa across it’s border remained under Apartheir rule until 1994. This gave the SA government 14 years to enact a destabilization campaign, by sending pseudogangs across the border to commit atrocities. All the white farmers killed in the 1980s were killed by Super ZAPU ‘dissidents’ from South Africa, according to the Catholic Commission Report.
My suspicion is that they did exactly the same thing in the 2000s as they did in the 1980s. It is very well possible or likely that the same people were involved in the ‘taxi murders’ leading up to South Africa’s 1994 first ever democratic elections.
You don’t have to know or like President Mugabe, in order to ask a basic question: who said what, and what was their source?
Special Report: Fact or Fiction? Examining Zimbabwean Cross-Border Migration into South Africa
Forced Migration Studies Programme & Musina Legal Advice Office
Table 1: Published estimates of Zimbabweans Migration Rates by Source
“is it plausible to suggest that almost 10% of Zimbabwe’s estimated population had crossed illegally into South Africa within one year?”
If you do that, you quickly find out that for instance the millions of Zimbabweans who ‘fled to South Africa’ after the start of sanctions in 2002, actually didn’t. 1/3 of the population of Zimbabwe (5 million out of now 16 million) never fled to South Africa. By the most reliable accounts, there are under 1 mn Zimbabweans in South Africa, and those are in the border areas they’ve lived in most of their lives.
Anyway, if you want to know more details about Zimbabwe’s landreform program, check out the excellent research carried out by prof. Ian Scoones and his colleagues.
I have a long thread about landreform and much more here:
Much as I appreciate Craig making an effort to balance the books with regard to Mugabe, he did not go far enough in explaining the egregious activities behind the scenes which allowed the proliferation of propaganda. Whilst Mandela was happy to rub shoulders and “get along” with the various foreign owned interested parties he did so at the cost of his own people to the extent that western MSM hailed him as a hero. Mugabe also tried to work within their money grubbing colonial rules but then things changed. The foreign interests saw him as a threat to their profits and by nefarious means tried to get him ousted by stirring up the native indigenous tribal tensions that had bubbled precisely because of the way that the land grab by colonialists had parceled the land out with the most lucrative areas for themselves. Suddenly the western MSM were portraying him as a monster responsible for killing his own people. It was never that simple. Mugabe did not govern well when pitted against the resources his enemies had and their ability to instigate unrest within a country(just as we have seen in Venezuela, Iran, Ukraine and HK)we have seen it in Africa in Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi and the consequences were monstrous. Had Mugabe governed differently, it’s doubtful that the death toll would have been curbed since many countries under the guise of “humanitarian aid” supplied weapons to both sides of all parties involved. Mr.K mentions the pseudo gangs and there would have been many thousands just as there were in Syria. The US, UK and many EU colonialist regimes along with their ever helpful war criminals which comprise NATO forces would have intervened had Mugabe not been iron willed. That is not to say that his way was not brutal, but in the grand scheme of things played out by the chess masters who massacred millions throughout Africa, his way was probably the lesser of two evils. Mugabe will not be remembered fondly, but his legacy was not entirely of his own making and those who throw with gay abandon, imperious assertions to the contrary, do so at the risk of sounding like complete knuckle heads.
Many thanks for the in-depth facts offered here. I have taken the liberty of adding your comment to my reblog of Craig’s article. I did not give you credit as I was not sure you would appreciate it. However, if you would like credit given I will actually reblog your comment separately again. If you already have a blog, could you please provide address.(MY blog lists both your comments under “From the comments section. Name withheld, please refer to original article.”
“Despite this fact, the Zimbabwean people pushed through, took their land back, and are now doing business in a mixture of foreign currencies, including US dollars earned from the record sales of their tobacco.
Number of growers in 2018: 145,725
Tobacco producued: 253 million kgs”
Is this meant as worthy of praise? What is beneficial to humanity in the production of tobacco? It’s a notoriously dangerous product, causing more than seven millions of deaths each year. No-one should be making it.
Thank you Mr Murray for this corrective to the usual, western European narrative, not only about Mugabe’s own story (which could surely be reprised for just about every African leader to emerge in the aftermath of European capitalist-imperialist, land grabbing rule) but also the (in my mind) more significant point about traditional ways of farming and their more general respect for the local, natural environment as opposed to the western agri-business/industrial model of monocultural production which destroys soils, depletes aquifers, eradicates insect and other fauna life (all essential to the wellness of every single eco-system across the planet), introduces dangerous (to all life forms) chemicals into the environment and food supplies, and (GMO) seriously interferes with and reduces the vital variety of plant forms.
And industrial agri-business destroys traditional ways of life, ways of living which enabled peoples to lead at least semi-independent lives – semi-independent from being forced into laboring for a pittance in a factory, mill or the present day equivalent. In the Britain this destruction, deliberate and inexorable because all before the plebs got any say in their governance, had its initiation in the late 16thC, but really got underway in the latter half of the 18thC and was pretty much done by the first decades or two of the 19thC. With Enclosures of the Commons and Wastes the rural (the majority of people over those decades) population lost (to the “gentry” and bourgeois “farmers”) the ability to forge a semi-independent life: a little waged work here, when cash was needed for rent and boots, a cow, a few geese and pig or two run on the commons from which firing, turves, berries, mushrooms and so on were also taken all “controlled” by the local parish meets and the like, (usually these rights, and they were rights, were attached to hearthstones in the villages and hamlets) so that no one took more than their share so that all could manage and benefit generation after generation.
Meanwhile most farmers were small, usually via some sort of tenancy, many of ancient origin. They practiced forms of farming that rotated crops, maintained pastures that were rich in their flora diversity, used sheep to fertilize and tiller plants including wheat and barley when sprouting, allowed fields to lie fallow for a year or so….
Doubtless it wasn’t perfect and likely traditional African farming ways weren’t perfect, but these ways of farming in Africa and in Europe and elsewhere among indigenous peoples had developed over millennia in tune with the specific eco-systems dwelt in. These peoples knew what they were doing, their knowledge of native plants and animals and how to grow and benefit from them is in fact what industrial agriculture exploited and then destroyed.
Paybacks are hell. That seems to be the argument. It’s not very helpful for peace and understanding and constructive politics.
I remember the glowing reports from Zimbabwe after the political change. NPR reported that the new country was exporting food, helping their African neighbors. What happened to that? Within the last few years they couldn’t feed themselves.
Murray fails to point out that the ‘whites’ took Rhodesia by force and had no pretensions about their purpose. Mugabe on the other hand took over the country with promises of love and prosperity for the black population, but he stole what wealth the country had for himself and his entourage and crushed and murdered every and any BLACK person that got in his way. He took power on the back of ‘hope’ but the poor of Rhodesia had no more hope under Mugabe that their previous white over lords. Its like hoping to win the lottery and then one day you do, but when you go to claim your prize you are told that the money has gone and been spent by the lottery administrator.
Very good Craig, balanced. The bullied become the bullies.
Mugabe was a victim as well as an abuser, and there was no shortage of people willing to help him do his worst from the West.
Excellent piece Craig ! I particularly welcome some factual knowledge (which I lack) for my instinctive high regard for Mugabe, fostered predominantly by my acute mistrust of MSM narrative in regard to him.
Your “instinctive” regard for ancient farming expertise is something I CAN factually endorse.
“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, since the parcels not occupied 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.”
Very astute point Mr. Murray. Many pundits, scholars and commentators often forget — or never knew in the first place — how brutal and exploitative Western capitalist imperialism truly was.
Exactly. I personally find it disgusting that The West, who were all colonizers, run around today making out like their shit don’t stink when, in fact, they are almost without exception the source/cause of much of the pain in what is generally described as the developing world. Not to mention that WWI and WWII were European wars that The West bequeathed to the rest of the world weather they wanted them or not (except, of course, for the Japanese who were every bit as aggressive as The West they sought to emulate. They learned to rethink that approach after the devastation they wrought on Asia was eventually wrought on them. But they are in the process of forgetting that lesson.)
Excellent comment Mr., Harrison.