…or the hard Right either, I hasten to add. If the history of the 20th century has taught us one thing it is that radical solutions, in the main, have sucked big time, produced most of the mind-boggling suffering that century was famous for, generally have led to unintended consequences of monumental proportions, and/or have collapsed ignominiously in the end. Much the same applies, or will apply, to the false hope some apparently see in hard Islamism – not a majority Muslim position yet despite so many Islamophobes doing their best to bring that about. (Another example of unintended consequences?)
And yes, this is a rant.
Take Zimbabwe. Yes, the foundation of Rhodesia is not all that distant in the past, certainly for old people, as it was in just 1923 that Rhodesia was annexed by Great Britain, having been under Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company from 1888. According to Wikipedia, the peak of white population was 296,000 in 1975, and today is less than 1% of a population impossible to guess accurately, but generally given as around 11 million. At least half a million Zimbabweans are in South Africa, the Congo, and other neighbouring countries. There is no doubt that most of that hundred years and more of history has been a tale of an unsustainable venture (except by repression of one kind or another) playing out as a tragedy for all those caught up in it. One can well understand that the situation well described here would generate problems:
Starting in 1893, successive uprisings were bloodily suppressed by the colonizers and the British government. A particularly virulent strain of apartheid was introduced. By 1914, notes Steve Lawton in "British Colonialism, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform and Settler Resistance", 3 percent of the population controlled 75 percent of the land. The blacks were "harshly restricted to a mere 23 per cent of the worst land in designated Reserves. There were only 28,000 white settlers to nearly one million Africans in Zimbabwe at this time."
Land ownership hasn’t changed much since. The 1930 "Land Apportionment Act" perpetuated the glaring inequality. At independence, according to "Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Revolution" edited by Mandivamba Rukuni and Carl Eicher and published in 1994 by the University of Zimbabwe Publications, 6000 white commercial farms occupied 45 percent of all agricultural land – compared to only 5 percent tilled by 8500 black farmers. Another 70,000 black families futilely cultivated the infertile remaining half of the soil.
As black population exploded, poverty and repression combined to give rise to anti-white guerilla movements. The rest is history.
So on the face of it Mugabe may be seen to have a case. Our Sydney Communist Party (rump of a Party that dissolved itself some twenty years ago) newspaper The Guardian remain true believers in that case, for example in 2007 citing People’s Weekly World.
Dire economic conditions have caused this remarkable reversal of fortune for the party synonymous with Zimbabwe’s liberation from colonial rule. Food and fuel are scarce, inflation tops a mind-boggling 100,000 percent, and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa and beyond.
Blame for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown over the past decade or so varies depending on political orientation. While the MDC and its western sponsors blame Mugabe, whom they portray as dictatorial, murderous and racist, supporters of the ZANU-PF government and many Africans across the continent charge former colonial power United Kingdom and its allies with crippling the country economically through sanctions.
It is no secret Mugabe has consistently challenged the agenda of capitalists in southern Africa from his days as a guerrilla leader fighting colonial rule to his more recent calls for pan-African unity against US attempts to impose genetically modified crops on communities needing food assistance. Mugabe’s backers believe the West has been pursuing a vendetta against him for decades.
Over the past few days the corporate media has uncritically repeated opposition claims that the government is planning a "bloodbath" and employed racist propaganda that "gangs" of Mugabe’s loyalists were "invading" white-owned farms. In its blind support for the opposition, the West fails to condemn irresponsible, charged comments like the MDC’s assertion that a runoff would lead Zimbabweans "to the slaughter."
Missing in all the so-called analysis is basic historical context. Before winning independence in 1980, Zimbabweans endured over a century of violent white-minority rule in the British colony known as Rhodesia. The most fertile land was stolen from African families and awarded to British colonists who held exclusive political and economic power. Liberation was achieved only through many years of military struggle led by ZANU-PF, supported by the Soviet Union and its allies.
Which is all very well, I suppose – so long as you remain oblivious to the fact that what was once the most promising country in Sub-Saharan Africa is now a total basket case with starvation threatening, and cholera, not to mention the HIV situation. And through it all Mugabe continues on being “Right”… How tragic uncompromising rightness – and I don’t mean “right” as in politics- can be! The determined and certain can create hell on earth without batting an eyelid, and this has happened time and time again on all sides of the political and religious spectra throughout our lifetimes, from Israel (both sides!) to Afghanistan, from China to Nazi Germany, from the former USSR to – well you name it…
Being “right” about unrestrained capitalism or free markets hasn’t proved much more encouraging either. God, we need a world of relativistic pragmatism, a world where absolutes of all kinds are treated with the suspicion they deserve! From Robespierre to today True Believers have been the death of us.
Back in Zimbabwe: check this for a ring of truth. I find these entries loud and clear:
- I was quoted $2,568,000,000,000,000,000.00 for a spare part this morning. Can you imagine nipping into Tesco or Walmart and being presented with a bill to that value? It’s mind boggling.
- So the jokes are set to resume again at a date to be announced this week in South Africa. The talks, now called jokes in street lingo, come at a time when the country is in a deeper mess and deepening by the day. An estimated number of more than 200 people have lost their lives due to a deadly cholera epidemic that is set to worsen as the rains continue to fall mercilessly on a country in distress.
It should be highlighted that most of Harare’s high density suburbs don’t have clean running water and are plagued with burst sewer pipes. I have had the opportunity of driving through these populated urban settlements from Mabvuku, Tafara , Warren Park, Budiriro, Sunningdale, Mufakose, Chitungwiza, Seke and Mbare to mention a few and the likelihood of cholera spreading to these areas and killing more people is indeed very real as service delivery is very much non existent.
Meanwhile, I note The Guardian continues to serve up its comforting pap on other matters to its true believers:
Kind of a reverse Murdoch or Fox News, and not always wrong… But it so reminds me of fundamentalism… We KNOW; the herd DON’T… All very 50s…