British Hypocrisy

Posted By: August 07, 2013

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, August 7, 2013.
BRITISH foreign secretary William Hague says he is ‘gravely concerned’ about Robert Mugabe’s re-election in Zimbabwe.

That’s par for the course. Hardly a day goes by without Hague condemning or deploring some event somewhere in the world. Nobody except the BBC and a couple of English newspapers pays a blind bit of notice. There’s not a thing Hague can do about any of it. Britain’s broke. His attitude is a sad and revealing imperial leftover. Zimbabwe’s different. Not in the sense that Hague or Britain can do anything but as the former colonial power, Britain has a guilty interest in what goes on there. Its foreign secretaries seethe at their impotence. British governments loathe Robert Mugabe and his ability to give them the two fingers. Yes, Mugabe is a monster, but he’s a monster the British created like several other unsavoury characters in Africa and Asia who emerged out of resistance to British imperialism in the past 50-odd years. Of course Mugabe manipulated the election where his party had ’61 per cent’ of the votes and he became president again just as he fiddled the 2008 election too. The truth is that Mugabe would prefer a one-party state so that he could win 99 per cent of the vote. The British have done their damnedest to undermine him and get rid of him but they’re powerless. He must enjoy it enormously. After all he spent 10 years in jail from 1964 under the white racist regime the repulsive Ian Smith ran in Rhodesia. What a triumph for Mugabe to be able to cock a snook at Britain whose governments took an ambivalent attitude to Smith from 1965 to 1980. Yes, Zimbabwe only got independence in 1980. Before that it was called Rhodesia, a British invention. Actually, it was the invention of the megalomaniac Cecil Rhodes who named it after himself. Rhodes’s company, the British South Africa Company (BSAC), muscled into the region in the 1890s. They destroyed, with four Maxim machineguns each firing 600 rounds a minute, the state of one of the main ethnic groups, the Matabele (now the Ndebele), and stole their land in traditional British fashion. Then Rhodes cobbled them together with a much bigger group, the Shona, stole their land and it became Rhodesia. The BSAC ran the place until after the First World War when the British government took it over. White people from Britain poured in and took the best land. They were stealing land right up until the 1950s, by which time they ‘owned’ half the land. But they never amounted to more than a quarter of a million or 5 per cent of the population. As the British began to withdraw from Africa in the 1960s the ‘Rhodesians’ knew the game was up but nevertheless fought tooth and nail to hang on to their ill-gotten gains. They declared themselves independent in 1965 and the horrible Bush War ensued until 1979 with brutality and wanton slaughter on both sides. The leader of the main faction Zanu, fighting the white regime, was Mugabe after his release from jail. Mugabe won the 1980 election much to the dismay of the British because he was an avowed Marxist.

However, he couldn’t but win because his party Zanu represented the dominant ethnic group the Shona, which constitutes 82 per cent of the population. The other main group – the Ndebele – makes up 14 per cent. Their party, whether Zapu or Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, can never win an election much as the British would love them to. At independence in 1980 Mugabe inherited a debt of $500 million from the white regime because they’d been spending 47 per cent of the budget fighting the Bush War. Some of that was paid down by Mrs Hacksaw[Maggie Thatcher] operating a land purchase scheme to help buy out the white land-grabbers. In 1997 Tony Blair’s government stopped paying the subsidy. Mugabe couldn’t pay it but in any case he didn’t see why he should compensate whites for losing land they’d stolen so by 2000 he sanctioned his supporters, so-called Bush War veterans, taking land forcibly. Some white farmers were killed. The British reaction was furious. Britain got sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, its economy crashed and ordinary Zimbabweans, not Mugabe’s government members, suffered. Mugabe has behaved appallingly but Britain doesn’t occupy any moral high ground.