Condemn sanctions on Zimbabwe
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2007
Dr John Sentamu The Archbishop of York England Re: Appeal to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe I am writing in my personal capacity, in response to your radio interview which came over the BBC last night (September 16 2007) in which you vehemently attacked, and condemned President Mugabe's rule and called him a racist and compared him with Idi Amin.
You heaped all the blame on President Mugabe, not so much on his Government, for inflation, for alleged mass starvation, for mass migration of people, for lack or scarcity of essential common commodities, for harassing the members of the opposition, for the abuse of human rights, and for lack of Press freedom, etc.
You went on to call upon the British and others to do something in order to restore democracy, the rule of law and prevent starvation, and suggested further sanctions as one of the ways to bring about change.
Your radio interview distressed me considerably because you jumped onto the bandwagon of groups of people and media who condemn President Mugabe for the appalling situation now obtaining in Zimbabwe without trying to understand what went wrong.
I, however, sympathise with you and I am equally concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe, but I cannot excuse you for siding with all and sundry who stage-managed the destruction of Zimbabwe.
Now here is the basic information:
Zimbabwe is a large country; it covers 390 757 square kilometres; it is about 1½ times the size of Uganda with a population of 12 million, or about half that of Uganda, 80 percent of whom are Shona, 14 percent are Ndebele, 1 percent are European and the rest are natives of different tribes (The World Almanac, 2006:850).
The current situation has its origin in the unequal ownership of land. At the time of independence in 1980, the Europeans, 1 percent of the population, owned 87 percent of the land, and the Africans, who made up 99 percent of the population, lived on 13 percent of the land.
In 1988, I was Uganda's High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, and while attending the annual agricultural show in Bulawayo, sitting next to the late Dr Herbert Ushewokunze and Dr Stan Mudenge, I asked them why there were no Africans taking part in the show. The two ministers relayed my question to Mr Robert Mugabe, who, by then, was Prime Minister.
I was seated about two or three places from Mr Mugabe. He went on to explain to me that the Africans could not participate in the exhibition because they had nothing to show, they owned no business, no farms and the majority survived by working as porters on the settlers' farms and on small land holdings on which they could not farm or practice animal husbandry.
Mr Mugabe told me that the land issue had been raised at Lancaster House when the independence terms were being discussed and it had been agreed that the question of land redistribution could be discussed after a period of 10 years after independence and Mr Mugabe assured me that he intended to raise the issue in 1990 and, sure and certain, that is what he did.
As soon as Mr Mugabe called for a serious discussion regarding the redistribution of land, the European settlers went wild! Mr Mugabe was rubbished, condemned and called a racist and despotic dictator who did not care for the welfare of his people. The more he called for something to be done so that the African people could get some piece of land which they could call their own, the louder the condemnation became.
It is regrettable that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, like you, would have preferred President Mugabe kept quiet!
The settlers owned large expanses of land, owned ranches and estates on which they grew maize, sugarcane, beans, rice, wheat. They raised cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses. They were the only ones who owned butcheries, banks, textiles, factories, bakeries, and beer factories. They owned petrol stations, beer bars, bookstores. They were the accountants, lawyers, doctors, and garage owners. They were the senior personnel in every government department as well as in every private business. The Africans were porters, gatekeepers, cooks, drivers, and worked in mines, and owned nothing.
Now, Sir, consider this: The more Robert Mugabe intensified his land acquisition efforts, the more bitter the settlers and their media became and began to dismantle their manufacturing plants, they stopped to grow any more food, remember Europeans grew maize and processed it, but did not eat it, it constituted the staple diet for nearly all Africans; and so by not growing this crop, shortage of maize meal was certain (Editor's note – actually the bulk of maize came from communal farmers as white farmers grew mainly cash and industrial crops).
Now, I would like to know from those who condemn Mr Mugabe, including Archbishop Tutu, to let us know what Mugabe could have done. Could he be advised to leave the land question; so that his 12 million Africans remained on 13 percent of their ancestral land in order to earn endless praises as a foresighted democratic, non-racial leader, an example for all African despots to emulate? Should he have resigned in order to make way for the MDC leadership and the Roman Catholic bishop for Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, to take over whom the settlers and the Press considered more efficient, capable and understanding than the Mugabe administration?
By calling for further sanctions, Dr Sentamu, you are demanding the intensification of the suffering of the African people and I would like to point out that for all I know, sanctions seem not to work and would like to know where, on the African continent or elsewhere, have they been able to bring about a more beneficial political system?
Finally, I would like to suggest that instead of calling for further sanctions (on Zimbabwe), you should:
♦ Advise the anti-Mugabe groups to understand the origin of problems in Zimbabwe.
♦ Advise the British and their friends to avoid blaming Mr Mugabe as the cause of the problem, but as an unfortunate leader who found himself in a situation to settle the problem he did not create.
♦ Instead of calling for sanctions, you should call upon the international community to come to the rescue of Zimbabwe by stepping in to arrange the redistribution of land by compensating the aggrieved settlers.
♦ You and Archbishop Tutu should lead a campaign for the international community to get essential supplies of maize meal, sugar and medicine and to send health works to assist in the rehabilitation effort. Mr Mugabe and his Government deserve our empathy and sympathy, but not condemnation.
♦ I seriously request you and Archbishop Tutu to appeal to the African Union leaders, it would be the most grotesque sin we all would be committing to approve, leave alone, or impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
♦ The African Union should come to the rescue of Zimbabwe, sanctions must be avoided.
I feel a little bit unsettled that President Mugabe has had no outright support from his African colleagues with the exception of Mr Kenneth Kaunda and South African President Thabo Mbeki and a few others. These and others are being accused of being unable to remove Mr Mugabe from power, but the reason is that they understand a bit more of what led to the present situation, and that makes them less likely to condemn the Zimbabwe leadership.
I am, Sir,
Professor Mwene Mushanga
PO Box 46