Mugabe Must Be Grateful!

Friday, March 06, 2009 

Rejoice Ngwenya, Harare, Zimbabwe

Rejoice President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe must be one of the luckiest men alive today, having to share a table with progressive forces of real democracy when he should be languishing in the doldrums of political obscurity. And for this, he owes it to millions of Zimbabweans who seem to have forgiven him, despite a vicious thirty-year political reign that at one time or another served a diet of starvation, disease, abject poverty, unemployment and death to his petulant countrymen.

The generously forgiving Zimbabwean ought to be recorded in history for being one of the most abused in the world, classified in the category of the Slave Trade of the 17th Century, Jews under the reign of terror of Hitler in the 1940s, the Rwanda genocide of the 90s and of late, the blood bath in Darfur.  Between 1890 and 2008, Zimbabweans have been humiliated by three eras of fatalistic political governance attributable to three tyrants – Cecil John Rhodes [1890-1964]; Ian Smith [1965-2008]; Robert Mugabe [1980-2008].  

Yet just like with Smith in 1979, the Government of National Unity [GNU] has offered Mugabe a second chance at life.  Surrounded by a ‘deadwood’ retirement cabinet meant to chaperone him into political bliss, the man has the audacity to sit on podiums and pontificate on issues that not only bear no resemblance to real life but also defy all known forms of civilised logic.

The first reality is that Mugabe’s deadly land reform bankrolled by his political vampires is responsible for decimating our nation’s strategic grain reserves. His cronies simply took the land, locked it up in their cabinets and opened up their proverbial beaks for free inputs which they subsequently traded on the black market.  Now the chief protagonist of human disaster, Gideon Gono, claims an ‘audit’ of the implements that he doled out to consolidate Mugabe’s waning political fortunes will exonerate him. How a man can audit his own transgressions beats the daylight out of every logical conclusion.

The second reality is that by continuing to abuse white commercial farmers and violate property rights, Mugabe is defeating the noble cause of attracting global strategic partnership reconstructing Zimbabwe. And note, I said partnership, not aid, because there is not going to be any foreign direct investment in a country where the head of state continues to desecrate universal norms of property rights.

Ironically, even if Mugabe is the chief perpetrator of property rights violations in Southern Africa, he has ironically done so with inadvertent complicity of the MDC.  This view point demands mature political scrutiny before fanatic condemnation. I have been directly involved in matters of ‘constitutionalising’ Zimbabwe’s land
reform since 1999 and I am now convinced beyond reasonable doubt that both Mugabe’s ZANUpf and the two MDC formations actually have no consistent property rights ideology.

Mugabe’s paranoiac obsession with rewarding cronies by grabbing farms from Joe Blog puts him out of the equation of rational judgement in property rights discourse. What I mean is that in a room where sensible citizens are discussing matters of justice in land reform, the presence of ZANUpf starves the atmosphere of life-giving oxygen. The tragedy, however, is around Tsvangirayi and Arthur Mutambara’s death-defying equivocal rationale that “land ownership i.e. property rights in the commercial farming sector cannot revert to the status quo.” This double-edged perspective is neon-lit with patronised hypocrisy and fatalistic appeasement. Let me explain. The Government of National Unity will never accumulate international credibility without an outright endorsement of respect of property rights, and this, unfortunately, must include the restoration of legitimate ownership of commercial farms to Joe Blog.

The fact that Tsvangirayi, Mutambara, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti want to avoid ‘negative political backlash at the domestic front’ may be politically correct but ideologically flawed. The assumption, of course being that the doctrine of Property Rights is a universally accepted ideological position. Whether or not Leander Starr Jameson and his gangsters shot their way out of the Fort can still be debated but would not be a credible starting point for modern day land reform.  If C.J. Rhodes raped my grandmother in 1890, it would not make it right to rape his granddaughter in 2008. My point cannot be clearer than this: a return to the rule of law is embedded with returning farms that were expropriated from black and white Zimbabwean citizens under a smokescreen of partisan, ZANUpf-aligned constitutional chicanery on the pretext of social justice. 

Mugabe and ZANUpf do not qualify to define the rules of natural justice. They failed the test in the 1980s by the cold blooded murder of twenty thousand innocent Ndebeles. In fact, even on those rare occasions that Mugabe is right, we should consider him wrong until he justifies his facts. If MDC are not happy with his brand of land reform, condemnation without an absolute call for reversal does not suffice.

As late as now, Mugabe’s primitive political machinery is still active in commercial farms and all MDC can talk about is a non return to status quo. Zimbabwe does not require aid, but if international reputation is mortgaged to the respect of property rights, we can only attract global sympathy and support if MDC is seen to be on the side of truth, not self-deception. Meanwhile, Mugabe can blurt all he wants, but as long as he sings a discord in the symphony of property rights, Tsvangirayi and Mutambara’s efforts of spearheading sustainable reconstruction of this battered Southern African country will be fruitless.

Rejoice Ngwenya is director of Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions in Harare and an affiliate of