Zimbabwe Reparations

Shakespeare Maya, Zimbabwe's leader of the opposition National Alliance for Good Governance opined, "This land was stolen from our ancestors and it follows that those who hold it now are thieves." It's this vision that has prompted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to target 95 percent of white-owned farms for redistribution. His Land Acquisition Act calls for the eviction of over 4,000 white farmers. Over 2,900 white farmers have already been evicted. President Mugabe's wife, Grace, has personally assisted in the country's land reform by showing up on one 3,000 acre farm with her husband's troops declaring, "I'm taking over this farm." The white owner was arrested and black farmer workers were told to hit the road.

South African economist, the late William Hutt, in his book "The Economics of the Colour Bar," argued that one of the supreme tragedies of the human condition is that those who have been the victims of injustices or oppression "can often be observed to be inflicting not dissimilar injustices upon other races." In 1893, with the military backing of the British government, Cecil Rhodes (namesake for the Rhodes Scholarship) confiscated land that had been settled and owned by the Ndebele and Matabele peoples. He established what was known as Rhodesia, a country that became the jewel of Africa with its mining and agricultural riches. In a word, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe became a net food exporter and the "bread basket" for wheat and corn for its own people and most of East Africa. By the 1960s, Rhodesia's per capita income and education was one of Africa's highest.

In 1980, Robert Mugabe, a Marxist-socialist, became Zimbabwe's leader. As William Hutt might have predicted, Mugabe began his oppression of other peoples. Starting in 1983, he used his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to brutally massacre thousands of Ndebele civilians, a brutality that included hacking to death and disembowelment. Later in the 80s, Mugabe started attacking rule of law, harassing and suppressing Zimbabwe's free press and news media and arresting dissenters. Opposition party leaders are now imprisoned and faced with kangaroo-court trials and just recently Mugabe ensured his president-for-life status by openly rigging national elections.

Zimbabwe has come full circle. Mugabe has created a disaster for both black and white Zimbabweans in the name of reparations and land redistribution. He has outdone the injustices of Cecil Rhodes, who, by the way, was an avowed racist. Members of his ZANU-PF party have torched at least 10 million acres of crop land and prevented millions of others from being farmed. Per capita income, $380 a year, is about half of what it was just five years earlier. On top of that, inflation has reached 125 percent and is climbing. Soon we'll see pictures of emaciated children flashing across our television screens and calls for food assistance. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimate that millions of Zimbabweans face imminent starvation. The politically-correct cause of the Zimbabwe's looming famine is drought. Yes, it's true that drought has been a problem but Mugabe's politics is a better explanation of why millions of his countrymen face starvation.

One naturally asks where's the Black Congressional Caucus, NAACP and other civil rights organizations who in the 1960s were demonstrating and calling for the end of English rule. There's a deafening silence, the same silence when Africa's black tyrants, elsewhere on the continent, commit brutalities making those committed by former colonial masters pale in comparison. Their positions don't differ from one that holds that blacks are exempted from the civilized standards of conduct demanded from whites. Or might it be that America's civil rights establishment feels that brutalization of blacks by blacks doesn't hurt as much?

Walter E. Williams
September 30, 2002
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