Monday, 18 April 2016

Zimbabwe Independence: Indeed So Far So Good

 By Farai Muvuti

A Happy Independence Day to all fellow Zimbabweans. This day signifies a journey of continued courage as exemplified by the generation that carried the gun and thwarted the Rhodesian forces. On this very day, we celebrate with pride that very victory that gave birth to this great nation. However, like any journey we have had our fair share of ups and downs and still have an uphill road to struggle with as a nation. But it is important to judge these ups and downs by understanding them through the lens of this day by asking ourselves important questions. Such as, "what did it take for us to get to where we are and why it occurred in the manner that it did?"  Perhaps wrestling with these questions will grant us a holistic comprehension of our journey so far.

The struggle for this great land was not only waged in the bushes of the Frontline States and Zimbabwe but also within the corridors of the American Congress and British parliament - there was no consensus on the issue of our liberation. It is important to note this in order for us to interrogate our current relations with the countries in question. For instance, The Carter administration faced a lot of opposition within congress regarding the issue of our independence, some senators even proposed the lifting of Rhodesian sanctions which were in part leverage for the Patriotic Front. It is no secret that one of the characters that vehemently opposed our independence was the late Senator Jesse Helms. This Senator is important to remember as this article will further explain the character's importance later on.

In Britain, the conservatives also faced internal opposition and took progressive forces within government and the British people. Nonetheless, the need to safeguard British interests was echoed and further pursued in the tenets prescribed to our liberators within the Lancaster House Agreement. You may be wondering why this is of any importance and how it presses on today's issues.Well, gentle reader, it is important to look at our history not from a prism of the past but as an evolution of interconnected events. To put it simply, we must not only see what is in black and white but also analyse the intangibles that led to the crafting of the Lancaster House Agreement which subsequently led to our independence.

The culmination of the events we have witnessed in the last two decades was introduced by the agreement at Lancaster House. One would argue that land remained an issue because of the constraints placed on our leadership by the 1979agreement. Its agenda was to end white rule in former Rhodesia, and Britain's betrayal of the promises it made to ensure a settlement. From the beginning, Nkomo said that returning the land to the majority was central to their cause: "What will be the future of the people's land?" he asked the British.

It is common knowledge that Margaret Thatcher's government was largely interested in protecting the property rights of the white minority. Her foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, insisted Zimbabwe's new constitution include a 10-year bar on the forcible redistribution of the farms. Our leadership rigorously rejected that principle but were dissuaded by a promise from the UK to raise hundreds of millions of pounds for long-term land reform. As history has it, the Brits reneged on the agreement violating an international treaty they had vowed to honour.  Our government responded with the fast track land reform that has since seen over 300 000 families resettled (J. and Smart, T. 2012)

The first land reform of its kind in Africa that has opened the eyes of many on the continent. Our country overturned what many perceived to be impossible and restored the dignity of its people.

The current reality is that Agriculture is returning to its former output levels. A reality that is developing despite the absence of government subsidies and the hardships presented by climate change issues that the White farmers could contend with through having the private financial infrastructure to do so. However, it can also be argued that the lack of property rights policies have made the new farmers unbankable. Which may be a good point if one ignores the fact that the same land can be re-mortgaged which would lead to a slow reversal of land reform as was the case in Brazil.  So our government was wise to come up with a solution that would still provide the necessary security to the new black farmers while ensuring that the land remains in the hands of its rightful owners. 

The interconnectedness of these events is fundamental for study and research especially for the youth in order to ensure that the gains made so far are protected.  In addition, unveiling the machinations that were crafted to dislodge our liberation victory will help us understand why a landlocked country with only a population of 14 million people is perceived to be an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States"- Obama 2016. It is important for us to not take such a comment lightly considering that it came from a leader of a superpower. We should ask ourselves how that is possible considering our countrys size, geographical location and military spending which is nothing compared to the US.

Let us try to unpack this conundrum by assessing a few historical factors that when compounded with present day events a level of comprehension may arise. Earlier on in this article Senator Jesse Helms was mentioned as one of the conservative voices that fought for this day we celebrate not to come. It is no secret that Ian Smith was very close to Helms and that his aide John Carbaugh was accused by British diplomats of encouraging Smith to "hang on" and take a harder line, implying that there was enough support in the US Senate to lift sanctions without a settlement. Helms also went on to introduce legislation that demanded the immediate lifting of the sanctions against the Rhodesians as negotiations progressed. It is also reported that Helms support for lifting sanctions on Zimbabwe Rhodesia may have been grounded in North Carolina's tobacco traders. These traders would have been the main group benefiting from unilaterally lifting sanctions on tobacco-exporting Zimbabwe Rhodesia. However, Helms efforts were futile and our day of independence did come.

Furthermore, Helms yet again emerges in our countrys continuing story in 2001 by sponsoring the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 the very bill responsible for destabilising the Zimbabwean economy. In fact, the former U.S Assistant Secretary of State, Chester Crocker said it best when he said: To separate the Zimbabwean people from ZANU we are going to have to make their economy scream and I hope you Senators have the stomach for what you have to do.  Another equally important point to mention is the involvement of the current candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election Hillary Clinton and the current Vice President Jo Biden who were both co-sponsors of the bill together with Helm. One would argue that Obamas failure to revoke this bill is in part to do with the relationship he has with the sponsors but thats an issue for another day.

The two characters introduced above namely Clinton and Biden are also important to critically assess. This is due to their involvement in the intensified militarisation of Africa. This took place when Clinton was Secretary of State and the only place where the US has no military presence in Africa is South Sudan and Zimbabwe. Our country has maintained the fight against imperialism and understood that the aim of AFRICOM was to be used to further US interests in the continent which are not limited to economic and cultural interests. In addition, Zimbabwe has over  the last decade led the debate on the need to reform the UN Security Council, an argument that led to Zimbabwes  reengagement of relations with Japan.  Our country  continues to lead Africa, be it through the Look East Policy or the recent Agenda 2063 that focuses on Value Addition and Beneficiation. A policy crafted by the current government.

Although the challenges have had a negative bearing on us and have created conditions that have led to extreme poverty, corruption (both political and corporate), the Elinor drought which has also affected us immensely and global commodity prices are at an all-time low. It is safe to say our challenges are great and it is a struggle for the brave of which we are. This article outlines a number of challenges we have had to endure to get to this very day. A day that created a nation that has continuously led the continent of Africa to reclaim its Pan-African spirit. A country that has big enemies because it chose the hard road of self-determination. This country is Zimbabwe, a land of the brave hearted whose story will be told to generations of Africans in and outside of the continent. The land that did not run away from its Goliath instead chose to face him head on with the armour of principle.Indeed we are proud to call this land our home. It is this very heritage and history that leads one to conclude, "So far so good!".

Happy Birthday, Zimbabwe.


Farai Muvuti is a Human Sciences Student at Hertfordshire University and is the ZANU PF UK Youth League Political Commissar