[OPE-L:3014] Race and justification in Zimbabwe

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 12:07:44 EDT

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I have been pondering further Rakesh's [OPE-L:3003] question about how I
can be so sure that Zimbabwean's do not support the current land seizures.
The answer is, I can't be sure. If Mugabe were to ask Zimbabweans a direct
question in a poll - eg: 'Do you support the land seizures' (Yes or No) - I
can't be sure about what the answer would be, or if the answer would
reflect people's real opinions (given the current level of intimidation and

I do think, however, that there are other ways to make decisions about who
to support in the crisis. We can start with the assumption that ZANU land
seizures ARE SUPPORTED by the majority of Zimbabweans, then ask these

(1) Why did ZANU use war veterans and ZANU-PF youth from the townships to
'invade' the farms; why did *party people* attack the farms using brute
force and backed by repressive legislation?
(2) Why did Mugabe not simply call on all of the people of Zimbabwe to
'occupy' the farms peacefully? After all he has an army and state power
behind him. He is not in the same position as the Radical Landless
Movement in Brazil who must confront state power.
(3) Why does Mugabe choose option (1) if the land seizures are 'popular'
with the majority of the people?
(4) Why does Mugabe consistently justify his use of force with 'racist'
rhetoric? Hitler used exactly this sort of rhetoric to justify seizing
property from a racial minority in Germany (then, the argument was that
Jews owned a disproportionately large percentage of Germany's wealth). BTW
it is not a coincidence that the leader of the war veterans has adopted the
nickname 'Hitler' - Idi Amin was another admirer who used racial
legislation to dispossess Ugandans of Indian origin.
(5) Finally, if Mugabe had a program of land reform upon which to base his
election campaign, why hasn't he revealed it yet? Does a violent seizure
of land by his supporters constitute a program of land reform?
(6) What is this argument with Britain about? Is it about compensation for
unjust colonial aquisitions, or is it a way to say that white farmers are
not really Zimbabweans (not a Zimbabwean problem but a British problem), or
is it just a handy platform for anti-imperialist rhetoric?

I think that Zimbabwean socialists and workers are correct in refusing not
to support Mugabe's land invasions (albeit we have been forced into
difficult positions). I will be surprised if, in principle, it is not
possible for ALL socialists to reject redistribution decisions based on
racial and party membership criteria. But, what do others think about
this? Does anyone disagree if I say:
(1) that a need for land redistribution is a legitimate justification for
seizing land, but that decisions about who should receive it should not be
decided on the basis of racial, tribal or party membership;
(2) that land should not be seized purely on the basis of the racial,
tribal or party membership of its 'owner'. I.E the land reform issue is
NOT about the 700f fertile land that is owned by 'whites' who make up 2%
of the population; it IS about the 700f fertile land that is owned by 2%
percent of the population. The removal of the racial element in the
reformulation is not a semantic issue. Racial legislation has played far
too big a part in Southern African history for the wording of statements to
be considered irrelevant.

Different opinions highly valued, as always.

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