UNITED States President George Bush wants President Robert Mugabe’s head for his valedictory party and as a Christmas turkey for his Republican and European supporters to cap his bloody legacy. Ahistorical lawyers and reporters are deployed to make fateful decisions on the causes and solutions to Zimbabwe’s problems while SADC and African Union leaders are cajoled to back the first American-engineered military coup in the region!
There is a desperate urgency in Bush’s call. He has been rejected by the Americans and leaves the US mired in unwinnable deadly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Getting rid of President Mugabe would be a victory, no matter how pyrrhic; it should be the silver lining on his dark reign which everyone wants to forget very quickly.
It’s no less devilish that this despicable agenda is cloaked as a democracy campaign (remember Iraq!), with the cholera outbreak as the casus belli. We have become vermin to be culled through a military operation before the disease can be contained. And leaders like Raila Odinga want Africa to bless this diabolical act!
The dilemma Zimbabwe faces is not helped by a phoney and fawning eurocentric media most of whose callow practitioners can’t grasp concepts such as “social justice” and “universal human rights” as enshrined in the UN Human Rights Charter of 1948.
While they are happy to cite convenient sections from it, nobody dares interrupt the bandwagon by pointing out that as late as 1970, ten years before Zimbabwe’s Independence, the Rhodesian Front government was kicking Chief Rekayi Tangwena and his people off Gairesi Ranch.
Their single crime was that no indigenous African had title to land, so they could not have human rights without legal rights.
That’s the context of the SADC Tribunal’s ruling on Zimbabwe’s vexed land issue. It dovetails with the usual rhetoric: the need to correct past wrongs is not disputed — so long as there is prompt “market-related” compensation “in foreign currency.” None of those saying so wants to part with “his” land much of it measured in thousands of hectares and lying fallow.
They know no African government can raise the foreign currency they demand. Listen to the ruckus in South Africa.
We all know there was corruption in land redistribution and rampant abuse of resources allocated by government. But what I cannot understand is the claim by the Tribunal that implementation of “the land reform programme might be legitimate if and when all lands under the programme were … distributed to poor, landless and other disadvantaged and marginalised individuals or groups”.
This is strange logic demanding of Zimbabwe something without precedent in the world. So correcting a colonial property ownership injustice must be limited only to the poor and vagrants and not include any who fought for the land if they have so improved themselves that they now own a house? Who said this was the aim of the liberation war?
Fortunately most SADC and AU leaders have pierced this veil of unjust legality.
The dispute in Zimbabwe is not purely about human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These ideals can’t be enjoyed in a vacuum. Americans know this from their independence war, and the civil war a century later. Europeans know this from the French Revolution.
Those struggles were about property ownership rights, and there were a lot of expropriations from those who lost the war. Zimbabweans want no less, no more than ownership and control of their natural resources, starting with land.
If this had been let to run its course like in America and France, I am sure it would have been wrapped up in five years and deserving farmers compensated and spared us the current racist acrimony.
This leads me to the biggest paradox in this saga. It is a paradox which has confounded the denialists of the centrality of land in our crisis and why most Europeans cannot understand why African leaders respond with icy resentment to external goading to “deal” with Mugabe.
Put crudely: the political party purportedly seeking to establish the rule of law in Zimbabwe is viewed in African eyes as trying to achieve this by restoring and entrenching the status quo ante 1998 in land ownership patterns while a weary incumbent regime is pioneering a revolutionary post-colonial property ownership pattern on the continent.
A cursory reading of John Stuart Mill’s theory of the greatest happiness to the greatest number makes this self-evident.
If one cannot understand this paradox, it is impossible one can understand why Thabo Mbeki was forced to leave power before President Mugabe, the main target of the onslaught in the region.
Having failed to execute his task as Bush’s pointman to dislodge Mugabe, Mbeki was portrayed in the South African media and abroad as the archetypal evil who could not call Mugabe devil. The campaign of vilification and calumny worked insidiously, creating chinks in the governing ANC and quickly found concrete expression in Jacob Zuma’s vaulting ambition.
Too late, Zuma is realising how he has been used to undermine the party which should have carried him to power and fortified his empowerment policies among SA’s marginalised urban and rural poor.
In the context, Bush’s requested Christmas present is the ultimate insult to Africans who loathe the West’s condescending attitude. Under military attack, given its geographical location, Zimbabwe would create a flaming vortex worse than the DRC war in 1999 and kill the raison d’etre of Sadc as a political and economic bloc and the benefits therefrom.
These are the ingredients of regional instability in which no nation can guarantee the security of its own interests. White capital flight will hit staggering proportions overnight, hitting hardest SADC countries calling for a military solution to what is clearly a political problem.
By Joram Nyathi
Joram Nyathi is the deputy editor of the Zimbabwe Independent
Comment on this article!