I first saw President Mugabe during a prize giving ceremony at a local high school. He was still Prime Minister and adorned in a brown safari suit. The school was special because it was used as a base by ZIPRA forces, the armed wing of Zapu PF the party of the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo.
It was grand occasions as we sang and danced and settled down to take in the wisdom he dished in his speech. An eloquent speaker till this day, Mugabe reminded us why it was necessary never to forget the ideals of the struggle. He described that they went to war simply because of the land. That was the driving force. That was in the 80s!
Fast forward to the millennium and I listened to his speech when Zimbabwe buried a cabinet Minister recently. This was the same man who I had heard more than two decades ago with the same message. But this time as you may all know, the land had been given back to the rightful owners. There is no disputing historical fact. When white settlers arrived in Zimbabwe back in the 1890s, they drove the indigenous people from the good agricultural land into the rocky and infertile reserves.
It was a brutal occupation characterized by the hanging to death those who refused. Those who resisted were hanged in public for all to see. The cold facts are that 700 000 blacks were squeezed on 53% of land in Zimbabwe while 6 000 whites occupied the 46 %. After independence in 1980, none of the then commercial farmer were willing to sell back the land. After all who will sell a goose that lays the golden egg?
But I digress for this article is not about to school anyone on history. This is about Mugabe, hated by almost every member of the white community. I tend to ask myself why all this anger at Mugabe? Are the blacks meant to be confined to the rocky reserves for their entire lives and the generations to come? The answer is a big no. Other African countries also had to wage war with colonial forces in order to gain self rule. They too are faced with similar circumstances where the majority of the indigenous people are crowded on small pieces of land, while the minority enjoys tracts of land as big as 3000 hectares for one man. Why did Mugabe stick his neck out and order the land reform of 2000?
He is a very intelligent man and should have anticipated the backlash. There would be famine, there would be a fall out with the international community and his name would be dragged through the mud. The answer is principles. Mugabe is a loyal servant. When thousands of blacks died during the war in was on the premise of getting to the biblical Promised Land. The land of their ancestors. I understand the ire of the former colonial masters, but it is a pity that you find a lot of blacks claiming Mugabe has brought suffering. I beg to strongly differ.
Contrary to the media portraying the land reform as a failure, the opposite is quite true. Only 7% of the land is currently owned by black commercial farmers. These are verifiable facts. The rest of the land was given to the ordinary communal farmers for resettlement with their families. Most of these communal farmers have raised their standards of living. Before the year 2000, a few white commercial farmers would converge at the tobacco auction floors. Today a single day sees thousands of communal farmers selling the golden leaf. In the past wealth was for a few, but today thousands enjoy the fruits of the land.
Perhaps this is what drove Mugabe. To produce successful farmers takes years. It might not be the current crop of farmers who will make Zimbabwe a bread basket, but I can bet with anyone who dares, that the children of these farmers will grow up on the farms and take the baton.
Zimbabwe will be a bread basket within the next 30 years. The colonial masters also took years to master the art of farming. Instead of joining in the ruckus about Mugabe’s rule causing suffering, blacks should be proud of a leader who has delivered on the promise of how a free country should be. Forget the propaganda spread by hateful people. The very people who made us slaves, but today will claim they have our interests at heart.
My final thought is ,if men like Nkrumah, Machel, Mandela, Nujoma, Kaunda and Mugabe had not stood up against apartheid would the colonial master have voluntarily agreed to dismantle the system? Again the answer is a resounding no. We would still be treated like slaves
So let’s forget the current struggles. These are but teething problems. The greater good will still come. United we stand, divided we crumble.