Saturday, 5 April 2008

Before Mugabe

Of course watching any leader as corrupt as Robert Mugabe get his backside kicked out of office is to be celebrated but Zimbabwe's problems did not start with the man and they will not end with him shuffling off of centre stage.
As is usual, Britain and its brutal and bloody history of empire building laid the foundations for everything that enveloped the country years later.
Look back to the late 19th Century and there is the British taking control of Zimbabwe by force, renaming it Rhodesia and flooding it with white settlers in the expectation of finding gold there and incorporated into the British Empire.
Rebellions against the white settlers were ruthlessly crushed by the British
and on discovering that the gold wasn't as abundant as first thought, instead took all the best farmland, which ended with the settlers owning 70% of the country.
Seventy years later and as colonial rule was ending throughout the continent,
the white-minority Rhodesia government declared Independence from the United Kingdom.
As violent opposition grew against the ruling whites, they opened negotiations with the leader of their most dangerous opposition, Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) for elections.
Rebel leader Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party won a landslide victory that ended the minority rule in Zimbabwe’s first free elections in 1980.
That's where everyone else seems to join the party with the removal of White farmers, corrupt elections and inflation at 1,500.00 % but as usual in most of today's trouble spots, us Brits historically played our shameful part although we don't tend to mention it much for some reason. Can't think why. Maybe it is just far more easier to blame everything on someone else and keep quiet about the part we played.


Anonymous said...


I don't see the connection between British rule in the 1800's and how Mugabe behaved?


Lucy said...

You can't see how one event led onto another event to get where it is today?

Anonymous said...

Mugabe spent many years in one of Ian Smith's dungeons. Mugabe is fond of reminding people that Mr. Smith never went to prison under his administration.

What is worse here is that the British are irrationally attacking Zimbabwe and have decisively arranged its exclusion from international banking, an extremely draconian measure. This whole anti-Mugabe festival began when Mugabe opposed another irrational British policy, the Tutsi Empire, with his intervention in the Second Congo War in 1998. What's wrong over there?

Sure, Britain helped make English an official language in a previously officially French country (Rwanda). Then they help them invade neighbouring countries? Madness, I say.

Anonymous said...

I do sometimes wonder about your claim to be British Lucy. Why are you always so keen to make us out to be the bad guys?

Cheezy said...

What I want to know is... with an inflation rate at 100000%, unemployment at 80%, an agricultural industry decimated by the insane policy of forceably taking them from farmers and handing them to, erm, non-farmers, no freedom of speech, intimidation, rigged elections, a as well as having the world's lowest life expectancy... what's Mugabe done wrong???

I think Lucy is right in pointing out Britain's somewhat chequered history in that part of the world. But that doesn't mean we can't start trying to do the right thing now. And in regards to Zimbabwe, assisting Mugabe's sorry arse out the door would be a damn good start.

Anonymous said...


I understand that people all over the world look back to events from hundreds and even thousands of years ago and link them to the present. Especially cultures that have more of a historical orientation than a future orientation.

I like how cheezy ended his note. Let the past go and start trying to do the right thing now.

I have observed that when things aren't going the way people like (especially leaders) they often bring up the past. It is a great way to increase complexity and generate emotion.

Being glued to the past has caused as many wars as religion...

To me the statute of limitations on the past should run out when nobody that lived thru the era is alive. The past cannot be undone. Chronical events/history. Learn from history. Avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, but for goodness sake let the past go.

Something that happened in 1800 - are you kidding me...


Dismal Soyanz said...

Yes, Q - let's start doing the right thing.

But the key here is not necessarily the "doing" but its motivation and thence whether the right lessons are being learnt.

To do something with no recognition of one's role in why it came about means that it is viewed, as Douglas Adams put it, as Someone Else's Problem - we are only doing it because of altruism on our part.

The refusal to recognise the sequence of events is not only a refusal to accept any responsibility for past actions, it means that future cannot hold us accountable for our current actions. Happiness all round. Or blissful ignorance.

And people wonder why things like the Iraq invasion happen.

Looney said...

1.) Past wrongs are no excuse for current crimes.

2.) Recognizing past wrongs, taking responsibility for them, and taking reasonable measure to make amends are the steps to healing.

3.) You can't change the past. You can only acknowledge the past and recognize the path that Lucy basically describes (although those dots are probably connected with much straighter lines than reality would indicate), agree on what was wrong and set a mutually constructive path to progress.

Mugabe is an idiot and a racist. No big surprise there, as he was brought up to be so in the wake of British oppression. But all of Zimbabwe is paying the price for his idiocy, which basically amounts to him giving shit to his cronies and blaming the "white man" for their failure.

Two wrongs don't make a right. Mugabe belongs gone and out, and God help the schmucks who have to clean up his mess.

Lucy said...

Dismal sums up my feelings exactly. In this instance everything bad in Zimbabwe is being heaped upon the shoulders of Mugabe who has undoubtably been a disaster and deserves to get hit very hard with a big stick over his leadership, but to not look at our own role in the chain of events means that the old saying about not learning from history comes true everytime.

I checked my passport Anon and sorry to disappoint you but i'm one of you. Sickening isn't it.

Anonymous said...

My British father in law used to work in ZImbabwe when it was Rhodesia - he would agree with your post lucy.

Courtney Hamilton said...

Great post Lucy,

I'm no friend of Mugabe, but if you ask me, it has been the West who have unwittingly taught Mugabe how to rule with an iron fist.

Anonymous said...


So, we agree.


Noah "Nog" M. said...

First, Lucy, have you ever killed an African child? I'm pretty sure that even an evil British imperialist like yourself wouldn't stoop that low.

Seriously though, I don't think that we can blame sons and daughters for the crimes of their mothers and fathers. A 20, 30, 40 year old Brit doesn't owe Mugabe anything no matter how nice he is. Maybe you can make the case that your folks should pay him reparations or something, but I'm pretty sure that you (Lucy and the people of Great Britain generally) had absolutely nothing to do with any crime committed by anyone in 1890. Accusations like the one above are hysterical at best and opportunistic and dishonest at worst.

Second, at some point folks have to take responsibility for themselves. Too often, these types become professional victims. Unless you're proposing "regime change", some adventure to take their "WMDs", or recolonization, there's not much that y'all can or should militarily or financially intervene for at a governmental level (if you want to give to charity out of guilt for all of the African children who you didn't kill, that's fine of course).

Y'all tormented the Irish for centuries but they're alright. The Poles were ruled by Stalinists up until recently but they're okay. Africa's problems are Africa's fault (insofar as massive aggregates mean anything). These complaints about "white landowners" are covers for tyrants to do evil things to decent people.

It doesn't take a century of foreign guilt-aid to bring a country's people out of poverty. It only takes those people bringing themselves out of poverty.

Their bad rulers and hyper-inflation and vast inequality and starvation are their collective faults a thousand times before they're "ours".

Stephen said...


No. The West may no longer directly control the governments in Africa, but they certainly have an influence on its economic fate. We continue to exploit Africa, making as many cheap bucks as we can on the backs on powerless Africans. And have you ever heard of the IMF?

Richard said...

It is a grave error to judge past events by today's standards. What the British did in Zimbabwe is clearly wrong by today's standards. However 150 years ago when the administrators, military leaders and soldiers were children, ideas and life were wildly different from today. Even in the more civilized countries horrible violence was commonplace. You can bet that, prior to the British takeover of Zimbabwe, the people there were tribal, unaware of property rights for individuals, and frequently at war with neighboring tribes. (Today people with property rights barely appreciate the value in civility those rights provide). In the face of so much violence, much greater strength is usually the best solution. How the British went about it back then is a contextual matter that cannot be judged from the 'armchair' of today's values and technology.

In spite of the the handwringing about violence by the British, the British brought a new form of civilization that was vastly superior to the people of the colonies they created. Those who cooperated with the British had an opportunity for a much better life than before, though many were confused about where their allegiance should lie. Why? Because they continued to believe in collectivist-tribalist notions about their 'being', rather than focusing on real world arrangements that could make their lives better. That confusion remains today, whether speaking of Blacks in America or of Palestinians living a rocket shot from much better-off Palestinian citizens of Israel.