Shortly after the conclusion of the Zimbabwe general elections last month, I came across a South African newspaper article, whose heading made me wonder at the temerity of President Robert Mugabe in his determination to reverse the legacy of colonialism.
The heading suggested that Zimbabwe was going to forcibly acquire mines in other countries — and for some reason I thought those mines were in Europe. Upon reading the article, headed “Zimbabwe lays out plan to grab foreign mines”, it turned out that the writer was talking about the country’s policy of acquiring 51 percent share-holding in foreign companies with mining interests in Zimbabwe.
In the writer’s mind it is possible for mines that are in Zimbabwe to be considered foreign.
This heading reminded me of a banner hoisted by US citizens protesting against the armed invasion of Iraq by their country.
The banner screamed: “What does our oil want under their sand?”
There was no better way of explaining the real reason for the unprovoked US attack on Iraq.
The oil under Iraqi soil belonged to the US and the refusal of Saddam Hussein to make it available to president George W Bush was sufficient justification for the invasion.
I have always been interested in the socio-political economic developments in Zimbabwe.
The land reform and economic indigenisation policies of the country fascinate me.
My fascination is shared by other Africans.
There is secretive, envious admiration for those policies.
It is secretive because indigenisation is frowned upon by owners of foreign capital.
The admiration is envious because Mugabe has the courage to assert the truth that the land and natural resources belong to Zimbabwe — a conviction in dire need of courage in the rest of the African continent.
This is the explanation for the resounding applause which Mugabe’s appearance evokes from both fellow heads of state and ordinary Africans at public gatherings.
Critics of Mugabe will talk profusely about the sorry state of the economy.
They talk at length about the denial of political and human rights in that country.
Yet, since 1980, the year of independence, in election after election, Zimbabweans vote Mugabe back into power.
He is 89 years old and many people have suffered under his rule.
The question that needs to be answered is why Zimbabweans continue to want him to rule.
Put aside the talk of the fear of the brutality of the security forces and the rigging of elections — the members of the security forces are citizens of the country and are not immune to the deprivations occasioned by the state of the economy.
I am yet to hear these critics give their considered views on the indigenisation policies of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and government.
All I have heard is that these policies are scaring investors away.
The anti-colonial and liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, as in other countries, were waged in order to recover land and natural resources which had been stolen by colonial settlers.
The conclusion of such struggles was the attainment of freedom and the restoration of the land and natural resources to their owners.
The attainment of freedom without the restoration of land and natural resources is not enough.
Any liberation movement that decides to rest on its laurels before the achievement of the second goal of the struggle betrays the spirit of its founders.
Zimbabweans are an intelligent and well-educated people. Mugabe, who has seven degrees, is an unapologetic African who knows the white man’s ways as well as he knows his own.
Unlike other educated Africans, whose sophistication serves to confuse matters further, he manages to simplify issues for the understanding of the common man.
Call me his praise-singer, if you will, but listening to him tell the history of the anti-colonial and liberation struggles, unpacking the machinations of western nations through their self-serving economic principles and policies, is a pleasure to experience.
When the British and US governments of Tony Blair and George W Bush reneged on an undertaking by their respective predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to provide money for the compensation of former Rhodesians whose land was to be restored to Zimbabweans, Mugabe’s government implemented land reform without the payment of compensation. His government did not have the money and ordinary Zimbabweans had taken the initiative to recover the land by themselves.
You see, these communities could still identify the remains of the huts in which their homesteads used to be before they were forcibly removed.
Restored land was divided into several categories for the settlement of communities and subsistence farming, the purchase of farms by those who could access loans, the preservation of estates to ensure sustainable food production, strategic land for state purposes, as well as game reserves for the preservation of wildlife.
As a result of that decisive intervention, in Zimbabwe you now have a land-owning peasant community which is putting the land into productive use despite the lack of foreign investment.
Were they to partner with foreign investors these Zimbabweans would put established farmers to shame.
The indigenisation policies in the mining sector have added to the land-owning middle class by creating mining entrepreneurs.
These are people who have taken advantage of the availability of state shares in foreign owned companies. In my understanding of this share-holding, the state, by virtue of it being the owner of the mineral resources, is entitled to 51 percent.
Part of this 51 percent belongs to the community on whose land the minerals are found.
Another percentage is due to the employees of the company.
Another is availed to the entrepreneurs who can purchase them.
The rest is used by the state for the benefit of the country.
Zimbabweans should not merely be employees of foreign companies which exploit their natural resources, but must be co-owners of the wealth — wealth which is used to build schools, clinics, roads and other amenities.
Zimbabweans are not just partners to these investors, but are senior partners whose equity is their natural resources.
The fact that some corrupt the system cannot be blamed entirely on Mugabe.
What needs to be done is for civil society to intensify the campaign to root out corruption to ensure that the ends of the policies are not defeated.
The money generated through their sensible and corruption-free implementation could be enough to open up new industries and to revitalise those that were forced to collapse through the imposition of sanctions by the western countries opposed to Mugabe’s policies.
The West must now stop wasting energies by seeking regime change through the suffering of Zimbabweans.
The minerals under Zimbabwean soil belong to Zimbabwe and anyone who needs them must join Zimbabweans on that basis. Such a change of attitude would help the timid to be bold enough to complete the revolution.
Phathekile Holomisa is Chief of the AmaGebe Tribe and an ANC MP. He chairs the Joint Constitutional Review Committee and is president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity. This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent (SA).