Sunday, June 12, 2005

Better for Zimbabweans: Mugabe or Smith?

In my youthful Afrocentrism I have been surprised, nay startled and befuddled to read the consistency with which various pundits have aired their longings for Zimbabwe to return to white minority rule in discussions on blogs like this one and this one (see comments on both). This off course begs the question, "Which leader was better for Zimbabweans Robert Gabriel Mugabe or Ian Douglas Smith?"

Notice I've inserted the phrase "better for Zimbabweans." This distintive is important as it highlights the duality of perspective that alters our view of global affairs (such as the Zimbabwe crisis). I've long maintained that the clarion call for democracy in Zimbabwe (emanating mainly from idealogues in the west) does not match the desperate pleas for help coming from within the country and from it's laity. There's a disconnect between the high-sounding arguments from the West and the simple disparity of Zimbabwe's rural population. So I have tried to paint vivid pictures of the reality of the Zimbabwean Crisis by publishing accounts from the perspective of my own friends and family as we go through these dark ages.

Continuing in this tradition of looking at things "from the eyes of a Zimbabwean," I now turn to the question of leadership in Zimbabwe and address, "Which was a better leader for Zimbabwe: Mugabe or Smith?"

Smith was never a leader of Zimbabweans, in fact he was anything but a leader of Zimbabweans. What he led was a loose coalition of white separatists (the Rhodesian Front-RF) who wanted out of the British empire because Great Britain was insisting on the transfer of political power to the majority blacks. He at one point stated, "only over my dead body will a black man rule this country." So in 1965, Smith & Co. proclaimed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) essentially severed their ties to the British.

After several years of sanctions by the west and a bitter, grotesquely violent guerrilla opposition, Smith finally gave in to the invitation by Lord Carrington to attend the Lancaster House Talks at which it was decided to elect a government of majority popularity. Amidst controversy, Smith lost the election, Mugabe emerged victor and Zimbabwe was born.

Enter Mugabe with his cruelty, corruption and chicanery.

So which of these two best represents the interests, ambitions and wishes of Zimbabweans?

In the minds of many Zimbabweans, this is a no brainer. Smith led a racist regime which did not view blacks as equals or capable yet by the time Rhodes arrived we already had complex societal structures and were handling our affairs. Under Smith, blacks were not allowed to vote (well, you could vote if you paid enough in tax, but the menial jobs offered blacks didn't facilitate enough taxes to enable us to vote). Black men were emaciated from their families and restricted from moving about by an inhuman "pass" system. With the best land already taken by the imperialists, Smith made sure that Zimbabwean kids never got a good education by denying them schools (while providing them for the white kids).

Healthcare was no better for the African either, there are numerous accounts in the anals of Zimbabwe's history of black men getting injured on the job (mining, farming) for the white "boss" but then instead of receiving treatment they were fired or left to die. Some are reported to have crawled for over 160 miles back to their rural homes! But off course, we don't hear of this inhumane behavior because proponents of white minority rule in Zimbabwe still don't want it remembered.

Hundreds of thousands more blacks were killed in Zimbabwe by the white minority either during the imperiliasist conquests or during some white instigated tribal wars than have been killed by Mugabe & Co.

Does this absolve Mugabe of any and all wrongdoing? No! Neither am I claiming that Mugabe has a flawless record. In this very space I've reported how he's sytematically denying people of both livelihood and shelter, the most basic of human rights.

Again I ask, which of these two men appears better to the Zimbabwean?

Through the eyes of native Zimbabweans, this is how this question plays out: "Smith colonized us and interred us on horrible reserves, but Mugabe freed us from this. Even though we suffer, we can't return the dehumanization of Smith and his friends."

Consider that in your thoughts about a future for Zimbabwe.

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