[OPE-L:3171] Re: Race and Justification

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Fri May 12 2000 - 16:10:33 EDT

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Rakesh writes (OPE-L: 3166]:
>As we have been told by Nicky that the masses clearly rejected the
>referendum due to fear of misuse of powers of land expropriation (though
>only 250f the people voted, and some naysayers evidently thought that
>they were simply voting against the present constitution) and then told,
>when challenged, that most people did not think Mugabe was serious enough
>about finally carrying out land reform to give him the term extensions and
>personal powers his constitutional reform package also allowed, I thought
>it would be best to note the following report:

Once again you seem hell bent on misrepresenting (rather than attempting to
understand and reply to) my argument. I made it very clear to you in the
final sentence of my last post that my objections to your position
concerned particular misrepresentations on your part, and have nothing
whatsoever to do with the petition I posted on this list. Having looked
into the details of the February referendum - and having taken on board the
criticisms of Paul C. and Julian, as well as your own criticisms - I have
already accepted these criticisms. You are aware of this since I have
already responded to you acknowleging the validity of your argument in this
regard [see OPE-L:3003]:

>>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 believe that the real *difference* between us concerns the issue of race.
 I am more than willing to discuss this issue with you, preferably in a
more constructive way than has happened so far. I suspect, however, that
nothing will be gained if you persist in your attempts to cast ALL white
Africans in one mould and ALL black Africans in another mould. I personally
find it very offensive to be cast - purely by virtue of my membership in a
particular racial group - as one of those who once inflicted racist
legislation on the black majority (and by implication, presumably, I now
deserve to have racist legislation inflicted on me). We will not get far
if you honestly believe this. Also we will not be able to discuss the land
issue constructively if you think that a return to divisive racist
legislation is the right way to solve Zimbabwe's land problems.

I hope that you choose to think more seriously about what I am saying, and
consider for yourself the 'racist' propositions implicit in your own
arguments. If you are not willing to do this, then I think it best that we
simply end the conversation now, since I am opposed to racist language and
racist legislation on principle. Should you choose to continue the
conversation, your excerpt from the Guardian Weekly (below), suggests
several possible points of discussion. Alternatively, we might discuss
problems around motivating land reform at a grass roots level in Zimbabwe -
e.g. the current inequities in communal land title - should communal land
title be abolished as part of the reform process? This problem relates to
Julian's previous questions about impediments to rural proletarianisation,
and the relation of the 'working' to the 'peasant' classes in rural Zimbabwe.

I look forward to continuing this discussion.


>Excerpt from The Guardian Weekly 4-5-2000, page 24
>Ironically, the one area in which Mugabe gains most sympathy in this part
>of the world is land reform. The first law passed by South Africa's
>African National Congress in 1994 was to permit people who had been
>evicted from their land during apartheid to reclaim their property, and a
>recent survey showed that a slim majority of South Africans believe
>Zimbabwe's squatters were right to seize land. Since Zimbabwe was
>liberated from white minority rule the question of land redistribution has
>been simmering.
>This has always been an essentially political issue, although race has
>never been far away. In a country where history has racialised politics
>and politicised race it is difficult to see how it could be otherwise.
>Those who own the best land are white; those who want it are black. Whites
>stole the land from blacks for decades at gunpoint; now blacks want some
>of it back, and they are prepared to get it in the same way they lost it
>if they have to.
>Contrary to what many white farmers would have you believe, Zimbabwe was
>not an oasis of racial harmony before Mugabe started to stoke tensions.
>The white-owned estates are the country's largest employer and pay the
>lowest wages. Maids earn more than farm labourers, and many white farmers
>treat their staff with racist contempt resonant of the bad old days of
>"The farmer here is not a good man," said Gladman T, a labourer near
>Ventersburg. "When he gets angry he throws things at us or lets the dogs
>on us. He got angry one day when the machinery broke and cut the
>electricity off to all our houses. He is like many whites. They only want
>to deal with blacks as workers. His attitude creates a bitterness among
>us. If there were to be trouble here with the war veterans I don't think
>any of his workers would help him."
>But nor has it merely been a tale of bitter racial conflict. In the cities
>a black middle class is thriving and growing. In the countryside some
>white farmers have been slowly coming around to the idea that their black
>workers are staff rather than hired chattels. Black Zimbabweans want land
>reform not to spite whites but because they feel it is just and because
>that is what they fought for 20 years ago. Tales of them defending the
>farms where they work against squatters tell us more about their fear that
>the squatters will take the land for themselves and leave the labourers
>with nothing than it tells of any great love for their bosses.
>While Mugabe has painted himself as the champion of the landless in recent
>months, it has been the landless who have been forcing him to act over the
>past few years. Almost two years ago squatters occupied white farms,
>motivated by frustration after years of waiting for the government to
>tackle the issue. At the time Mugabe imposed a two-week ban on
>demonstrations and strikes after a veterans' protest while
>African-American businessmen were here for an investment conference.
>Nor is the death of white farmers anything new. Eighteen months ago an
>elderly farmer was killed and a white couple were assaulted. "Our hard-won
>peace and stability is threatened by our people's urgent need for fertile
>land," said the then minister of state, Joseph Msika. "I shudder to think
>what the future holds for us if we do not achieve an equitable
>distribution of our land." Welcome to the future. Msika has been promoted
>to vice-president, equitable distribution has not been achieved, and the
>nation is shuddering with the consequences.
>At the Old Vic pub in Bulawayo the great and good of the ruling Zanu-PF
>party are knocking back the Mikuyu Pinot Noir, a popular Zimbabwean red
>wine. They are in town in Msika's honour. Those who checked into the
>adjacent Rainbow hotel paid in cash - huge wads of Zimbabwean dollars
>bearing testament to the 50 0nflation for which their government is
>responsible. If there were ever an illustration of an effete ruling elite,
>it is this.
>A few kilometres away, in the plush suburb of Hillside, big men are
>weeping at the funeral of the white farmer Martin Olds, who was murdered
>by squatters last month. Following Olds's death we learned that "he had
>the gentlest eyes you have ever seen". What we did not hear was that his
>objectionable manner made him deeply unpopular with black people in his
>district. During the liberation war he served in the Grey Scouts, a
>mountain reconnaissance team that fought determinedly to preserve minority
>rule. He had been in trouble with the police in the past for shooting at
>poachers; he had promised that squatters would receive the same treatment.

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