First, an anecdote. Many black Zimbabweans, who have travelled across the world and come across white people formerly resident in Zimbabwe before and after Independence, will relate how a typical conversation with these whites evolves. It starts off with how Zimbabwe is a nice country with nice, friendly people. The beautiful countryside, nice hotels, restaurants and neighbourhoods.
Lastly, bitterness. President Mugabe being accused of everything and anything that has supposedly gone wrong in this southern African country.
And in this drift, no doubt, you can make or break a newfound friendship.
You speak bad about Mugabe and you win yourself a buddy. A beer. More beer. A smoke, perhaps. A lovely night with a growing circle of white friends; a raucous crowd.
A reveller in a corner may see that black guy surrounded by white people talking animatedly and he being feted. Like an oracle. He is talking politics and how Mugabe has supposedly destroyed the country and is refusing to leave.
Johnny boy, bring that guy a beer! Oh give him a Bells. The black guy eternally grateful — to make white friends and be in such jolly company. The company of nostalgic Rhodies, who like such emotional masturbation.
Suffice it to say, you do not win any white, former Rhodesian (and Zimbabwean) friends by defending “Monster Mugabe”, or talk alternatively to the facts and opinions held with such religious passion. No. It is such a black and white matter. Indeed, literally!
Bitter old Rhodies lost everything, starting from the idea of racial superiority. Independence in 1980 should not have happened, ushering in a majority black government.
Ian Smith, the former Prime Minister strongman had vowed that it would not happen in a thousand years. A great many whites left Zimbabwe just before and after 1980. They could not stand a black government.
They ‘feared’ for their lives. They scattered across the world, especially so such enclaves as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada. It’s there they stew in their bilious hate and bitterness and anger.
Some left later and in such a torrent at the turn of the millennium as the black majority government embarked on the land reform programme that changed the land ownership dynamics from a situation in which 6 000 or so Rhodesian remnants controlled about 75 percent of all arable land — in a country of 12 million.
The last vestiges of colonialism were wiped out. It’s close to 20 years since 2000 and nearly four decades post 1980. You would be foolish to think that Rhodesians forget or forgive. They also never learn anything.
‘Return of the Boers’
A couple of days ago it was reported in the South African media that some white former commercial farmers were launching a fresh bid to reverse the land reform programme in Zimbabwe.
The move is ostensibly “to seek justice and compensation” for the loss of their farms and livelihoods and stop “the on-going farm seizures which are ravaging the economy”.
The farmers are represented by South Africa’s AfriForum, a racist group seeking to protect and further the interests of white farmers. No surprises there!
We are told that the farmers have notified President Mugabe of their intention to approach Sadc to pressure the Zimbabwean Government to compensate them for their loss.
“On August 16 and 17, 2017 formal notice to initiate proceedings were served by the farmers’ legal team on President Robert Mugabe, three of his ministers and the Zimbabwean Government collectively under the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Finance and Investment Protocol.
“The three ministers are the Minister of State in the Office of the President, the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora, and the Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa,” that, according to reports, said Ben Freeth, spokesman for the so-called Sadc Tribunal Rights Watch.
Freeth added, ominously: “Unless the culture of impunity stops, no investment will take place in our country and the economic crisis will deepen. Without property rights and the rule of law our negative trajectory as a failed state will accelerate.”
Freeth and his group have previously approached the region through the defunct Sadc Tribunal, obtaining a favourable judgment before the court was disbanded by the 16 member Sadc bloc for its irregular constitution.
White farmers have also managed to litigate against Zimbabwe and in 2015 the country lost a South African property, valued at over R3 million, which was auctioned.
AfriForum spearheaded the case. South Africa’s Constitutional Court, had confirmed the Sadc Tribunal judgment in a landmark judgment in 2013 that the farmers could sue in South African courts for compensation and attach Zimbabwe Government assets in the country.
Opportunism Connect the dots
The new attempt by white former commercial farmers being represented by AfriForum is not exactly a bolt out of the blue. It a calculated move — if an opportunistic one.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has just come in as the Sadc chairman, taking over from King Mswati III, who has been at the rotational helm of the regional grouping for the past year.
The just ended Sadc Summit, held in Pretoria, traditionally signalled the coming in of the new chair and it was at that time that AfriForum struck.
The group will seek to use the South African courts to fight Zimbabwe for the cause of Rhodesians and Boers — and it’s political.
The grouping knows that South African courts are compromised and racially skewed. The courts have been used to fight political battles, against President Jacob Zuma himself not least.
This is an opportune time when the group will seek to use the courts to coerce President Zuma into certain political behaviour and actions.
This is just the beginning.
In a few days and weeks’ time we will no doubt be seeing how the Boers want to play out their game.
One can predict that as chairman of Sadc, President Zuma will be compelled to make decisions such as reviving the Sadc Tribunal in its old political, kind of Nuremberg sense.
Sadc and President Zuma ought to punish Zimbabwe for alleged crimes against white farmers, who lost “their” land to reform and historical equity.
Therein lies the irony.
Our Rhodesians and Boers will not forget and forgive setbacks such as independence and land reform. However, they are beneficiaries of the system of reconciliation that was initiated in Zimbabwe and South Africa where whites perpetrated heinous crimes against humanity in colonialism, its sustenance and apartheid.
Africans have the bigger heart: it is whites that must have hung in Zimbabwe and South Africa in 1980 and 1994, respectively. Apparently they do not see the magnanimity.
What Ben Freeth and his AfriForum cousins are trying to do is continuation of political and racial hostilities. We are watching.