Adieu Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe!
Zimbabwean liberation icon Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 95 years, has finally gone to rest in eternity, but some of those he opposed for the right reasons like British imperialists and neo-liberals he chased out after letting him down continue to chew curd over his dead body. These groups are in the futile hope that they can erase Mugabe’s historical contribution to Africa.
Incarcerated for ten years on sedition charges, Mugabe emerged stronger supported by an energised population, forcing colonial Britain and racist Prime Minister, Ian Smith to capitulate for a democratic election in 1979 which ZANU won.
The British, through Cecil Rhodes’ private enterprise, British South Africa Company (BSAC), gained concession over Matabeleland and Mashonaland, which they renamed Southern Rhodesia in 1898, and thus making it a White settler colony. They then expropriated chunks of fertile and productive land forcing Blacks to the fringes. The Shona and Ndebele staged unsuccessful revolts known as Chimurenga further infuriating colonialists to bring in massive white settlements.
Yet, the story is not so much different in many other African, Latin American and Asian countries where Mugabe wasn’t the leader, but where colonialism, imperialism, subjugation and expropriation by have been the common denominator. As we mourn and bury Mugabe, a similar trend is unfolding in South Africa once described as Rainbow nation. There, the Black majority were gang-pressed by the so-called international community to reach an unconditional reconciliation with White supremacists and segregationists to maintain an unstable peace and unequal society.
In Zimbabwe, the expropriation of white farms has been cited by western propagandists as the trigger to the destruction of Zimbabwe. This narrative deliberately avoids examining historical roots of injustices that generated and continue to engender inequality along racial lines to-date.
The Whites never acquired and owned land in Zimbabwe on a free seller, free buyer arrangement, and liberals averse to this history, and distorting the truth are foolish to think that Africans will believe them. Yes, Zimbabwe, and indeed Africa has its fair share of megalomaniac leaders, but there is a colonial and imperial history to each of them.
Part of Mugabe’s problem was that he took too long to realize that the British who had undertaken to provide money for Black resettlement and empowerment would become cavalier and renege on that agreement. Had Mugabe been an inherently evil leader, as we are being made to believe, he would have redistributed land immediately after independence in 1980. But Mugabe gave the British, IMF and World Bank two decades to provide solutions to the then unfolding economic crisis in Mozambique, and Angola.
Like most African economies that became slave to IMF and WB, Zimbabwe was no exception. Promoted subsidies to agriculture especially cash crops to repay the debts Zimbabwe incurred during the liberation where IMF and WB had funded the racist Rhodesian state apparatus, wand de-emphasized industrialization because they wanted imports from Europe.
It’s worth remembering that when Mugabe came to power through an election his government imported experts, on condition every expatriate employed was to be shadowed by a black Zimbabwean to acquire sufficient skills. Around the same time apartheid South Africa unleashed RENAMO to try and destroy Samora Machel's government in Mozambique.
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country, felt every consequence for things that went wrong in Mozambique and Angola where imperialists were sponsoring two destructive wars. The South Africa regime openly stated it would support the opposition ZAPU in Zimbabwe to create a second RENAMO. However, ZAPU declined because of its close relations with ANC and Soviet Union.
That threat from South Africa, which the western propagandists conveniently avoid, was what made Mugabe to unleash the infamous Fifth Brigade on Matabeleland. It is not land reform per se that is the problem in Zimbabwe but rather that it didn’t occur soon after independence. Mugabe believed that IMF and WB would offer solutions to the economic crisis following the destabilization of Mozambique.
Agriculture declined after IMF and WB recommended in 1988 that government increases subsidies to cash crops and decrease subsidies to food crops so as to repay inherited war debts of the Rhodesian army. Furthermore, IMF and WB imposed the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) on an already stressed population, and Mugabe became the blue-eyed boy of the UN, Commonwealth, IMF and WB. Mugabe happily detained and tortured any left-wing critics of his policies and sent the army to evict 'squatters' from white-owned farms. He also removed all protection for local industry as advised.
Mugabe's failure and that of the British government to address the land issue early on and taking advice from the IMF and WB are what led to the country’s economic challenges including rapid de-industralisation and unemployment that grew apace. Many of the draconian measures Mugabe applied which enlisted crippling international sanctions were desperate responses to betrayal by those he believed reneged on their earlier commitments.
The unending similar predicaments especially in Sub-Saharan Africa even where stability has reigned for long like Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia are testimony that Mugabe wasn’t the biggest problem. Adieu Comrade R.G. Mugabe!