By William Mpofu | THE SOWETAN
Far from the glossy image of himself as a gallant Pan-Africanist and brave defender of black economic and political rights that Robert Mugabe has sold to the world, a close scrutiny of his political record shows how he has served British economic and political interests in Zimbabwe and Africa at large with an ear-to-ear smile.
So sad this is, because many young revolutionaries throughout Africa, including the brave Julius Malema, have exalted the name of Mugabe as a revolutionary role model of the calibre of Patrice Lumumba, while in reality he is a wrong model of the likes of Idi Amin and Moise Tshombe – a venal dictator and conspirator against African interests by night who by day masquerades as an African liberator of messianic extents.
The violent and chaotic land reform project that has been sold around as evidence of Mugabe’s loyalty to black empowerment principles because it involved taking land from white farmers and giving it to blacks, was carried out in panic after Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party were rejected by the people in a constitutional referendum in 2000.
The seized land became a fat bribe with which Mugabe sought to buy back the political favour of the peasants who had resoundingly forsaken him and his party. When his political position was not threatened Mugabe was happy to protect British farms, mines and factories in Zimbabwe.
For looking after their economic interests, the whites in Zimbabwe supported Mugabe and his party financially and politically. In the thickness of the Gukurahundi genocide in 1985, which left 40000 Matebeles dead, Jim Sinclair, the then president of the white commercial farmers union, said the genocide was “justified”, as the government of Mugabe had a “legitimate right to rule the country as it saw fit”.
At the same time, asked by the BBC Panorama stringers for comment, British deputy high commissioner Roger Martin defended Mugabe’s ethnic cleansing as “comprehensible, it has a certain rationality other than mere brutishness”, he said.
The symbiotic relationship between Mugabe and the British did not end with rhetorical support and money changing hands, but it extended to royal endorsement for Mugabe and his policies.
In 1994 the queen of England invited Mugabe to England’s Buckingham Palace and Knighted him with the Order of Bath when Mugabe’s hands were still dripping with the blood of black civilians slaughtered in the Gukurahundi genocide.
British mining magnate and media mogul Tiny Roland, whose disused mine in Bhalagwe, Matabeleland South, was turned by Mugabe into a huge mass grave, was splashing money on Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
So generous was Roland to Zanu-PF in gratitude for mining rights and other fat business concessions that he fired a journalist, Donald Trafford, from his newspaper in England for reporting on Gukurahundi as a crime against humanity.
Only in the year 2000, when the British turned around to support the new MDC party and Morgan Tsvangirai, a former Mugabe stalwart, did Mugabe start seizing white-owned farms, mines, factories and other businesses British nationals and whites to fix them for turning against him and his party that had looked after their interests so well. It was for political expediency, not principle, as we are told.
At about the same time, the war veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation were clamouring for compensation for their war troubles and injuries and threatening to align with the ZCTU labour movement to topple Mugabe once and for all.
Mugabe paid them off and turned them into his private reserve army which he used to punish the whites and MDC supporters in a storm of political violence. It was only then, when whites began to be killed by Mugabe’s mobs that the British began to condemn Mugabe for human rights abuses and to impose travel and economic sanctions on him and his comrades.
Clearly, both Mugabe and the British are partners in crimes against the people of Zimbabwe and not the enemies they present themselves. Even more hypocritical is the pretence by Mugabe that he is a courageous son of Africa whose life is dedicated to fighting imperialism and defending black economic and political rights.
It’s true he spent 11 years behind the bars of a Rhodesian prison for his contribution to the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, but he turned around and conspired with the British against Zimbabweans and with their support committed genocide and ethnic cleansing.
When Cecil John Rhodes and his pioneers landed in Zimbabwe, for the mineral wealth of the land, its scenic beauty, sunshine and fertility, he named it “the jewel of Africa” and pronounced that “natives must never be allowed to govern their own affairs because they will finish each other off”.
Many decades later Ian Smith was to vow that “never in a thousand years will black majority rule happen” in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia. By committing genocide, turning violence into an arm of government and terror into a national policy, Mugabe has given truth to Rhodes’s unfortunate and false prophecy about the blacks and primitive resort to violence and cruelty.
By refusing to leave office after being defeated in elections and ensuring that his party – which is now an unpopular minority – remains in power by force, Mugabe fulfils Smith’s racist statement that black majority rule will never in a thousand years happen in Zimbabwe.
In true history, Mugabe will go down the annals of posterity as the man who reduced a country that was the breadbasket of Africa to a basket case of poverty, disease and pestilence, whose citizens are now scattered throughout the globe as political and economic refugees.
Calling Mugabe a gallant Pan-Africanist who is committed to black economic empowerment is as true as claiming Osama bin Laden was an Anglican bishop.
•Mpofu is a media, journalism and public relations consultant
This article was initially published in The Sowetan.