Karen De Vaughn


There is a new movement afoot in Zimbabwe a country in the southeastern tip of Africa. Twenty years after the war of independence some Africans have taken their destiny into there own hands. These Africans are the war veterans from the long fought war with the white illegal immigrants of what was Rhodesia. These veterans have taken over 4,500 large white farms in that country by force and three whites have been murdered.

Their activities however, have led to a firestorm worldwide.

One has to ask what was the impetus for this action. The obvious one is that they are apparently tired of waiting for the long promised land reform. Of course it is not that simple.

A bit of history might be in order. Zimbabwe is the former British colony Rhodesia, which was named for Cecil Rhodes. His life's goal was to colonize all of Africa "from the Cape to Cairo". One of his many claims to fame is the Rhodes scholarship. It was Cecil Rhodes and his cronies who stole the best grazing land of the Matebele and the Shona and gave it to the whites. In 1948 the British Government gave more of the African land to white settlers in return for their war service. This act stripped thousands of African of their livelihood. Many of those who face losing the land are the ancestors of Rhodes cronies, W.W.II veterans and the farmers who fought against the war of liberation.

As early as 1965 Zimbabweans were pressing for freedom. By 1980 they had obtained it.

The current President is Robert Mugabe. He along with Joshua Nkomo successfully defeated the British and then the white settlers led by Ian Smith. The question that confronted him and other revolutionary leaders in Africa was how to redistribute the wealth that the European stole.

One of the essential questions was land reform and how to integrate the massive amounts of educated and skilled African into the once all white economy. The country had a honeymoon for about five years for 1980 to 1985. But by 1985 young Africans were demanding to be let into the economy. The racial inequalities institutionalized by white rule persisted in the disparity between black and white incomes. The Africans wanted their fair share of the prime farming territory that had been carved up for white ownership by settlers from the 1890s onwards.

Mugabe opted for a conciliatory stance, after coming to power. He pledged to redress racial and class injustices, redistribute land and promote economic development. The slow pace of land reform led to particular tension in Matabeleland

To be fair the government had a land redistribution policy. It was to BUY back the land from the Europeans who stole it in the first place. The problems was the government did not always have the funds

Land has remained an inflammatory and divisive issue. In 1992 Mugabe passed legislation that prepared the way for the compulsory purchase of land by the government, alienating both the white dominated Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) and Western aid donors (TIME, March 23, 1992). He used land reform as a political rallying call again in 1997, when he pledged to seize white land in a bid to cool the fury erupting in the streets (TIME, Dec. 22, 1997).

Back to the present , with all the problems with land reform led to the war veterans taking over the commercial farms in February. This occurred days after the defeat of a proposed constitution that would have allowed the government to seize the white owned farms without paying compensation.

This constitutional amendment had a number of riders to it, one of which was Mugabe would stay in office for a sixteen more years. That rider probably led to the defeat of the constitutional amendment.

Now, Mugabe backs the veterans. He has been quoted as saying "Our present state of mind is that you are now our enemies because you really have behaved as enemies of Zimbabwe,'' For the quote has had taken harsh criticism from the European world community. I could see his point, they are living on stolen land. They refusal to give it back. It should be viewed as an adversarial situation. In addition he has stated to the BBC on April 20 , 2000," On the land question I have spent eleven (11) years in prison. The people of Europe do not understand how dear the land question is to our hearts."

Mugabe insists he means business now in pledging to seize almost half the farmland still owned by whites: land that includes many of the country's most productive farms and best export earners. His proposal has flabbergasted the white community. They are comparing it to the time twenty ? Five years ago when Amin threw the Asians out to Uganda. Which I think was a good thing.

I am flabbergasted that the Europeans have the audacity to think that the land they and their ancestor STOLE STILL BELONGS TO THEM.

The European world community and the various media outlets ( Time BBC, Boston Globe, NY Times and CNN just to name a few) are writing this story as if the white farmers are the ones in need of help. Three white people have been killed. Why is that a concern ? What is the toll of the Black death under the oppression of these Europeans. I would not be concern if all the Europeans in Zimbabwe were similarly murdered. Why should care ? These people have raped and pillage and they are demanding compensation ? What nerve. To quote the late Dr. John H, Clark " The only land the Europeans deserve in Africa is six feet underground"

I hope these war veterans are successful in the request to take back the land. African leaders need to understand, that went the revolution ends and you are victorious, the resources of the country had to put in the hands of the people. If that means nationalizing resources for a time then it has to be done. The redistribution of Africa wealth should be our primary concern. This is a lesson South Africa needs to learn.

Remember the struggle is for Africa, it always has been an it always will be.

Comments or Questions? You can contact Karen De Vaughn at sais@mindspring.com.

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