Washington, DC – A lot has happened in the past few days in Zimbabwe, where the world’s oldest head of state tries to remain in power even under military house arrest. Thousands of Zimbabweans, giddy from the possibility of reform are in the streets to demand his departure, tired of a collapsing economy that once was one of Africa’s strongest. But how did Zimbabwe get to where it is today? How did one of the richest countries in Africa, with a booming economy, gorgeous cities and what was once termed the “breadbasket of Africa” descend into food shortages, famine and chaos?
Part of the answer can be found in 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe who has been under house arrest since Tuesday, when the military moved in. The coup was sparked by Mugabe’s firing of his longtime deputy, leading to fears that the president was positioning his unpopular wife, Grace, to succeed him. Mugabe is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations on his departure. The military has been taking pains to refer to him as president and allowed him to make a public appearance Friday at a graduation ceremony.
Zimbabwe was formerly a rich country called Rhodesia
Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, a British colony which was prosperous and well-run, it became an independent country under white minority rule in 1965 and renamed itself as Rhodesia. The white government led by Rhodesia’s first Prime Minister Ian Smith, took great pains to integrate the black majority into the modern era, providing substantial social benefits for blacks and improving infrastructure in the country.
Blacks lived in well spaced-out semi-detached houses which had small front and back gardens, and there were open play areas for children within each group. Black housing blocks were financed by loans from the central government at extremely favorable rates.
In the black townships around the Salisbury (now known as Harare), the capital of Rhodesia, there was modest but clean housing, in neighborhoods which had proper plumbing, sewage, street lighting, paved roads, piped water, electricity, entertainment, and even sporting centers. The black suburbs were largely self-contained, with their own clinics, childcare centers, business areas, hotels, beer gardens, shops, and markets.
And there was schooling to match all this development. Roughly 39,000 primary and secondary school pupils attended forty-four schools in the capital’s black townships. Twelve-percent of Rhodesia’s national budget was spent on education for blacks. There was a growing and prosperous, middle-class black element of Rhodesian society.
The document below was originally issued by the Rhodesian Ministry of Information in 1973. Not surprisingly Rhodesia was proud of what she had achieved in the field of black welfare and development.
Rhodesia wasn’t an apartheid state like South Africa, with state-enforced discrimination against blacks. Rhodesia’s whites and blacks naturally had cultural and racial differences from one another to an extent, but the white government let rural blacks do their own thing under their own headmen and preserved their indigenous culture, while offering them access to modern infrastructure, housing, education and social services.
To the extent that Rhodesia’s white government “ruled over blacks” it only did so in the sense that the Rhodesian Security Forces and police had overall control of the country’s external borders, and urban blacks who worked for whites or the government did so under the government’s rules. Yet the degree of integration of the black population with the whites will probably surprise most modern observers. Black Rhodesians had prominent jobs in the civil service, participated in both the military and the police force and had a hand in almost all aspects of public life.
Even then, while the government was white by tradition and habit, blacks were never excluded as a rule. There were a number of educated blacks in the Rhodesian parliament, and the exclusion of the rest was never motivated by racial prejudice, but rather by a sense that the advanced white system of government was alien to most blacks and that they wouldn’t be at home in or adept at it, any more than the average white Rhodesian would feel at ease among a black tribal meeting involving inscrutable African rituals unknown to most whites.
Mugabe and the beginning of black rule
With no understanding of the rule of law or the advanced and modern system of government which the British had left behind for the Rhodesians, Robert Mugabe, who became Zimbabwe’s first leader effectively destroyed the once propserous country.
Mugabe was born to a poor Shona family in Kutama, Southern Rhodesia. Following an education at Kutama College and the University of Fort Hare, he worked as a school teacher in Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Ghana. Angered that Southern Rhodesia was a British colony governed by a white minority, Mugabe embraced Marxism and joined African nationalist protests calling for an independent black-led state. After making anti-government comments he was convicted of sedition and imprisoned between 1964 and 1974.
On release Mugabe fled to Mozambique, established his leadership of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) – a militant black supremacist insurgent group, and oversaw ZANU’s role in the Rhodesian Bush War, fighting Ian Smith’s predominantly white government. Mugabe reluctantly took part in the peace negotiations brokered by the United Kingdom that resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement. The agreement dismantled white minority rule and resulted in the 1980 general election, at which Mugabe led ZANU-Patriotic Front to victory and became Prime Minister of the newly renamed Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s administration then proceeded to destroy decades of human development in Zimbabwe achieved by the white government and made it one of the poorest countries in the world.
From breadbasket to beggars
Mugabe quickly filled his cabinet with incompetent cronies and sycophants. A new leadership elite were formed, who often expressed their newfound status through purchasing large houses and expensive cars, sending their children to private schools, and obtaining farms and businesses.
Over the course of the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s economy steadily deteriorated. By 2000, living standards had declined from 1980 – life expectancy was reduced, average wages were lower, and unemployment had trebled. By 1998, unemployment was almost at 50%. In January 1998, riots about lack of access to food broke out in the capital Harare, the army was deployed to restore order, with at least ten killed and hundreds injured.
Mugabe increasingly blamed the country’s economic problems on Western nations and the white Zimbabwean minority and embarked on dramatic land grabs to distract the local population.
In February 2000, the land invasions began as armed black gangs attacked and occupied white-owned farms. The Mugabe government referred to the attackers as “war veterans” although the majority were unemployed youth too young to have fought in the Rhodesian War. Mugabe claimed that the attacks were a spontaneous uprising against white land owners, although the government had paid Z$20 million to Chenjerai Hunzvi’s War Veterans Association to lead the land invasion campaign and ZANU-PF officials, police, and military figures were all involved in facilitating it.
In November 2001, Mugabe issued a presidential decree permitting the expropriation of virtually all white-owned farms in Zimbabwe without compensation. The farm seizures were often violent and by 2006 a reported sixty white farmers had been killed, with many of their employees experiencing intimidation and torture. A large number of the seized farms remained empty, while many of those redistributed to black peasant-farmers were unable to engage in production for the market because of their lack of access to fertilizer. The farms which were worked were poorly managed, with blacks lacking even the most basic of farming knowledge, leading to failed crops.
The farm invasions severely impacted agricultural development. Zimbabwe had produced over two million tons of maize in 2000, but by 2008 this had declined to approximately 450,000. By October 2003, Human Rights Watch reported that half of the country’s population were food insecure, lacking enough food to meet basic needs. By 2009, 75% of Zimbabwe’s population were relying on food aid, the highest proportion of any country at that time. All from a country that was once considered the “breadbasket” of Africa, it had now become the “beggar” of Africa.
In a black Rhodesian’s own words,
“I too was in my teens in 1979. But I saw (Ian) Smith (the white Prime Minister of Rhodesia) build all the roads criss crossing the country – from Chirundu to Beit Bridge, Nyamapanda to Vic(toria) Falls.”
“All the rail lines. All the telecom infrastructures. Schools hospitals etc. Smith built Salisbury, Bulawayo Umtali Gwelo Kwekwe, Kariba, etc. with no computers, no mobile phones and no internet.”
“He also did it without (an) uneducated cabinet (there was only one doctor in his cabinet) Then came Robert (Mugabe) the educated one.”
“He built only one road to his village in Zvimba. The road has no economic value. It is just a basic paving and enabled him to go to his rural home whenever he wants. No other road like that was built anywhere else.”
“His growth points (Murombedzi is just in his rural backyard) is a haven for prostitution and gochi – gochi. Here, women with large back sides sell their behinds to beer drinkers roasting game meat hunted from the farms that lie fallow.”
“In Rhodesia, DMB would deliver milk at 5 a.m. at the gate and no one touched it. Lobels and London bread was the same. Transport – Salisbury United would take me to my school doorstep or my father to his work place (Light Industry, Msasa, City, Schools they would be inscribed) in dignity.”
“In Mugabe’s doctorates run Zim (sic), school children are being impregnated by Hwindis in exchange for free rides in dilapidated combis.”
The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated to such a point that black Rhodesian war veterans have called on white, former Rhodesians to return to Zimbabwe to help rebuild the southern African country – essentially a call to the whites who fled Zimbabwe to return to that country to help make Zimbabwe great again. Yet given Zimbabwe’s track record, it is highly improbable that white Rhodesians will be flocking back anytime soon – the memory of the genocide of white farmers no doubt fresh in their minds.
The problem with black rule
The Zimbabwean example of black rule should serve as a warning to South Africa, which itself is now experiencing the same decline into the abyss. Where once a thriving economy – albeit a racist one – thrived, South Africa is now undergoing the same painful transition from a stable, industrialized country into one marred by corruption, incompetence and cronyism. The reality is that you can take blacks out of the village, but you cannot take the “village” out of the blacks. Blacks, especially so in Africa will continue to govern on the basis of relationships instead of results, on cronies instead of competence and this will be the ultimate downfall of the experiment with black rule.
Africa is a continent rich in natural resources – it wants for nothing – except for a standard of civilization which has so far eluded even the most ambitious African governments. Perhaps Alexander H. Stevens described it best in his infamous “cornerstone speech” on March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Georgia where he said,
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man – that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
“With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.”
In today’s context, Stevens’ speech cannot be regarded as anything other than racist, yet the African experience in self-governance may be indicative. Despite coming from one of the richest continents on the planet, blessed with every conceivable natural resource that would support a modern, industrialized society, Africa continues to be mired in wars, famine, disease and poverty. Every part of the world has made huge strides in development in the last century, except Africa.
Perhaps U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, the white president credited for ending slavery said it best during the Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858,
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”
“And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”
Under white rule, America became the super power that it is today – the results speak for themselves. We have had our experiment with a black in power, nobody can forget the presidency of Barack Obama, who over a period of only eight years, successfully lowered the power of the United States, disenfranchised millions of white Americans from their jobs, entered into unfair trade deals and reduced the prestige of this great nation.
Imagine how much damage Obama could have wrought if he was president for the duration of someone like Robert Mugabe. Fortunately our white Founding Fathers had the prescience to foresee and prevent such an abomination. However, our place as the foremost standard of civilization is not a foregone conclusion. Today, the demographics of America are changing. Whites are no longer the majority and there will come a time when blacks or another race will want to pull the levers of power in Washington – the Zimbabwe experience should be a timely reminder and a warning to all Americans of the dangers of liberal thought taken to its logical conclusion.
Already, racially-motivated hate crimes against white people were at their highest during the Obama administration. Blacks, who perceived that they were freed from the shackles of racial inferiority exacted a punitive campaign of revenge on the white population – now imagine if blacks achieved majority rule in the United States – what happened during the Obama administration was just the tip of the iceberg.
James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow’s analysis may offer some insight on this view,
“The negro must, therefore, be regarded as an essentially inferior race, and, moreover, as incapable of rising very far or very soon from this natural and divinely appointed status of degradation.”
“The negro is essentially inferior something less than fully human half a brute and incapable of reaching the standard of civilization.”
Despite the living proof happening in our world today, the liberals in this country do not see the dangers of subscribing to the mistaken belief that diversity through black rule is anything other than a mistake. Americans, millions of them left without jobs – have seen what happens when a black man ran the White House, paying his cronies with government bailouts and allowing all manner of corruption with Hillary Clinton and deals like Uranium One to occur. Had the Obama presidency lasted any longer, who is to say that the United States would not descend into the same level of chaos that now bedevils Zimbabwe and South Africa?