Wednesday 10 June 2015

Why Zimbabwe Failed

When Zimbabwe came into existence it's prospects were good, it had a strong agricultural industry, a stable bureaucracy with a good Army. It also had both internal and external peace and the goodwill of Britain, the Commonwealth, Europe, the United States, the Communist Bloc and Black Africa. Sanctions had been dropped and Zimbabwe was in a good position to make things better. Sadly of course we all know that didn't happen and today it seems to lurch from one disaster to another. Why?

In 1979 Ian Smith stepped down as Prime Minister of Rhodesia and Bishop Murorewa became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia from June to December. Even though black Africans could vote and there was now a black Prime Minister international recognition was withheld and the war continued. Later in the year a new agreement the Lancaster House agreement was signed. In the new elections in February 1980, Robert Mugabe won and he became the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe was born poor but he was a smart kid and was educated in a Catholic Boarding school. He went on to become a teacher and then became interested in politics. But being a black Rhodesian it was illegal for him to be involved in politics and he was imprisoned. After he was released he went into exile and in 1975 became the leader of ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union). ZANU was both a political party and an Army and it was the main guerrilla force that infiltrated into Rhodesia.

After becoming Prime Minister, Mugabe, who is the most important person in the history of Zimbabwe, tried a policy of reconciliation between whites and blacks and between ZANU and other black political parties. He kept many white leaders in Government, he even had regular meetings with Ian Smith!

But his policy failed and it failed for a very basic reason, to him reconciliation meant they took his side. So when blacks complained about his Government he said they were traitors and when they rebelled he was quite ruthless in crushing them. As many as 20,000 people died in three years, roughly the same number as died during the Bush war which lasted 15 years. By 1984 he was also fed up with the whites, they were supposed to be loyal to him and then ZANU, but instead they had their own interests and they kept pushing them. Mugabe decided that he had been too generous and started to change his attitude.

In 1987 he ended the Constitutional arrangements that had been agreed to at Lancaster House. He became President and the 20% of seats in Parliament that had been reserved for whites were abolished. Effectively from this time Zimbabwe ceased to be a Democracy and instead became a one party state with Mugabe as Dictator. Now many will say Mugabe was a Communist, of course he did that, he was always going to do that. But Communism was only one of the influences, the others being Traditional African leadership and the Catholic Church. Now all of those have many differences, but they share the idea that hierarchy is important and that the leader is to lead and that group decisions (Democracy) are a sign that the Leader isn't leading. ZANU as an organisation believes much more in the Leader, in the strong man, than in Communism.

Mugabe has since 1987 used divide and rule to insure that he can remain in power. He takes from one group that he considers disloyal to him and gives to another group that he believes are loyal to him. The destruction of the Zimbabwe economy is part and parcel of that. It isn't important to him if a part of the economy runs or doesn't run, what matter is that that piece of the economy is loyal to him. For average Zimbabweans his rule has been disastrous, but he always makes sure he has a smaller group who are loyal to him because they know he gave them everything they have and if he loses power so might they.

The destruction of the whites of Zimbabwe, wasn't so much about race as about their lack of devotion to Mugabe. It was completely against the traditions that they knew and it was only a matter of time until it came crashing down. It has not only destroyed whites futures within Zimbabwe, but it has also destroyed many black Zimbabweans futures as well. The lack of technical ability, the destruction of education and learning, the lose of financial capital and contacts and the death of Zimbabwes highly profitable agricultural sector are all the result of forcing whites to flee and they have done nothing to aid black Zimbabweans.

His Government's contempt for the economic future of his country is staggering, but he gets away with it because Liberal Governments and African Governments are reluctant to criticize him, both because of his history of fighting against "Colonialism" and because it would be embarrassing for them to admit how wrong they have been. So instead they send aid to Zimbabwe, food aid, medical aid and money. All of which prop up a very corrupt and dysfunctional Government. Until Mugabe dies I do not see any possibility of things getting any better
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  1. I'm not sure I agree with you here
    "The destruction of the whites of Zimbabwe, wasn't so much about race as about their lack of devotion to Mugabe"

    What I have read about the country is that Mugabe's ZANU-PF base was largely formed by expropriating white-owned assets. His party's raison d'etre was in expelling the "foreign" influence. I don't see how the white community could have ever remained loyal to the ruling party, as they are inherently the third-class citizens. First comes the ZANU cadre, then the black middle, and then the whites which still produce a disproportionate share of national income. The black middle may at times be fed up with the dictatorship, but they are very racist towards whites.

    What will be interesting is whether Chinese corporations increase their power after Mugabe's death, I wonder if the population is truly nationalistic, or just anti-white.

    1. Mr. Observer

      The whites could not become the sycophants that Mugabe wanted, maybe even needed, them to be. I certainly do not see any hope of whites remaining in Zimbabwe with him in power. But if by some miracle they had become sycophants then they would have remained. Mugabe is a very big Anglophobe, he loves everything British, but he also cannot tolerate any criticism. He demands absolute loyalty.

      The people of Zimbabwe are neither anti-white or Nationalist's, they are tribelist's and whatever is thought to be best for the Tribe will be what they support.

      Mark Moncrieff

    2. Was Mugabe interested in using sycophantic whites as tools to attract foreign direct investment? It doesn't fit with the personality of someone who claimed to be a committed Communist during the rebellion.

      I had not known Mugabe to be an Anglophile before, that bit is interesting. Dan Roodt has noted how the ANC in South Africa is very interested in Anglophilia, due to a historical belief that English settlers were friendlier than Afrikaners.

  2. "The people of Zimbabwe are neither anti-white or Nationalist's, they are tribelist's and whatever is thought to be best for the Tribe will be what they support." Mr. Moncrieff, you have an interesting perspective on the Rhodesian conflict. I have always been fascinated with the war and it's aftermath. My problem is when researching this conflict too many people are blinded by their ideology. Is their any good or decent history book on this subject or perhaps further reading material on the internet?

    1. Mr. Grieb

      Here are some books I've recently read, only one is a general history of the war, but they are very interesting books if your interested in the topic.

      Modern African Wars (1) 1965-80 : Rhodesia (Men at Arms Series, 183) by Peter Abbott - only 48 pages with pictures and colour plates, very easy to read history, also very informative.

      Serving Secretly: An Intelligence Chief on Record by Ken Flowers. He was the head of Rhodesian intelligence from 1964-1981 serving under 5 Prime Ministers. This book might be hard to find, try to see if you can get it via inter library loan.

      Dinner with Mugabe: The untold story of a freedom fighter who became a tyrant by Heidi Holland. She was a white Liberal Rhodesian who had Mugabe to dinner when he was on the run from the security forces, hence the title. But who now feels betrayed by what he has done to Zimbabwe. Very interesting look at the man and to a less extent her.

      Amazon has customer reviews of all these books.

      Mark Moncrieff

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    3. The Osprey books such as their Men at Arms series are always worthwhile. They tend not to be overly concerned with political correctness.

  3. The problem with colonialism in Africa was that it ended too soon, and much too quickly. What was needed was a very gradual transition from colonialism to independence over the course of half a century or so.

    Of course rational borders would have helped as well. Zimbabwe is mostly Shona but with a significant Ndebele minority in Matabeleland. That was never going to work.

    1. What was needed was indirect rule, by cultivating local elites. Direct rule from London did not help. Locals were sent to England for education, but came back with resentment as to being treated as "second class citizens". A better course would have been to send British instructors to train locals in administration. Western colonialism succeeded only in regards to missionaries who came to evangelize and set up primary schools.