In Zimbabwe, liberation struggle veterans think they have a panacea for the country’s economic problems: Bring back the white Zimbabweans. The Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association chairperson recently said, “We want them (Rhodesians) to be part of the next governance in Zimbabwe, because this country had been run on a scotched earth policy by the G40, we now want it to recover and for us to build a new country.”
We will ignore the internal factional politics of the so-called Generation 40 and the old guard and focus instead, on the real issue of white men and working economics.
Mutsvangwa argued that, “We did not fight a racial war, but a liberation war for black majority rule. We are also reaching out to the white diaspora and the white business community, they used to run an economy and they are organised and they have the experience. If we can bring those and the new diaspora into play, then the country will stabilise and will start recovering from the ravages of G40. We will need all this talent back into the country, so that we can build a new Zimbabwe.”
He added that they were trying to engage the West so as to help the country recover. “We are reaching out to the Western Embassies and through them to their governments to say that we can make a new pact so that we can make this country recover.”
A little history
Zimbabwe fell out of favour with global capital because of the land reform programme which sought to remedy the unfair distribution of agricultural land in the country. White farmers were summarily evicted from farms resulting in a global outcry over the state of property and human rights in the country. Ironically, the fast track land reform programme was spearheaded by then War Veterans Association leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi. According to the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) more than 1,600 commercial farms were occupied by settlers led by war veterans in the course of 2000.
However, 15 years later, President Mugabe gave a scathing review of the process saying, “The A2 farmers, I think the farms we gave to people are too large, they can’t manage them. You find that most of them are just using one third of the land.” This pointed to the lack of capacity of most resettled farmers to carry out extensive commercial farming especially coming from a subsistence farming background. Speaking to The Guardian, one Tracy Mutinhiri, a white farmer neatly analysed the situation as, “The problem now is that we have the land but they have the experience. We need to help each other.”
The failure has not been exclusive to the agricultural sector but as the Zimbabwean President acknowledged to Zuma a couple of years back, the economy is in dire straits. In agriculture, however, some new farmers have resorted to have joint partnerships with the former commercial farmers, sharing profits with them. Douglas Mombeshora when he was Minister of Lands of Rural Resettlement endorsed the partnerships saying, “Joint ventures can be black to black, black to white, black to yellow or red . . . as long people agree on terms of the contract, but we need to see the contract before it is signed because we want to protect both parties and we encourage fair play not manipulation of one party by the other.”
However, he then later said the government did not allow joint ventures with white former commercial farmers. Whatever changed his mind is irrelevant, the fact is: even he knew the benefits to be derived from joint operations
The disservice of failed empowerment
Now the war veterans are calling for white Zimbabweans to come back to the country. It is a call to unity and reconciliation which can be lauded when looked at from a nation building perspective but the matter does not end there. It is also an admission of failure which shames the very noble idea of black empowerment. Zimbabwe’s failure is an unnecessary egg in the face of black empowerment which could have been avoided by meticulous implementation.
No one should be surprised that South Africa is having cold feet about reforms; Zimbabwe tried and failed. This failure should never be misinterpreted for a respectable resistance against global capital as it only feeds into the indignity of the black man world over and helps sustain the narrative that black men are not meant to lead. White supremacists can now use Zimbabwe as a powerful illustration of how white men are an absolute necessity for working economies. Be that as it may, it is laudable that Zimbabwe’s struggle veterans find unity to be the key going forward. The need for black empowerment was never meant to trump nation building.