|Not Soon Enough||
6 September 2019
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
Former dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, finally died at 95. His life was a violent one, and his legacy is a disappointment over opportunities wasted. He lead the fight against the white-minority government of Rhodesia after Ian Smith decided to unilaterally declare independence from Britain, thus avoiding black-majority rule. When he eventually shot his way into power, he turned on his countrymen, killing 20,000 or so. That snuffed out any hope of multi-party democracy. After that, he moved on to destroy the agricultural sector and presided over record-setting hyper-inflation. The lesson is that timing is everything. If he had died 35 years ago, he would be a legend of liberation. As it is, he is the definition of mis-governance.
The 1960s saw the British Empire retreat from many of its territories in Africa. Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanganika and Zanzibar (now Tanzania) all raised their own flags and took their places in the family of independent nations. In Southern Rhodesia, the British were prepared to hand over to the locals, but the white Rhodesian Front that governed the territory refused to create a process for black-majority rule. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson refused to grant independence without that, so the RF declared independence unilaterally in November 1965.
Joshua Nkomo led the Zimbabwe African National Union as the main resistance organization, and it was banned. Mr. Mugabe, who had been studying and traveling abroad, returned and talked his way into the leadership of the National Democratic Party. When the NDP was banned, he helped create and led the Zimbabwe African People's Union. This got him some jail time. When freed, he went to Mozambique to lead the ZANU guerrilla war against the Smith regime. Eventually, the warring factions agreed to a transition to majority rule.
Had Mr. Mugabe died then, he would be one rung below Nelson Mandela in the pantheon of liberators. Sadly, he lived. Elected to the PM's post in 1980, he quickly turned on Mr. Nkomo and his followers. Mr. Mugabe was a member of the Shona nation,while Mr. Nkomo was a Ndebele.Approximately 20,000 Ndebele were murdered in Matabeleland Mr. Nkomo agreed to merge his party with Mr. Mugabe's to halt the killings, creating ZANU-PF. Zimbabwe was effectively a one-party state.
In 1987, the parliament amended the constitution to create the executive Presidency, making Mr. Mugabe the head of state, government and the armed forces. He could dissolve parliament, declare martial law and hold unlimited terms of office.
His efforts at land reform were a disaster, although something needed to be done. The measures taken resettled far too few urban blacks to make a meaningful change in the ownership of land, and at the same time, it put too much land in the hands of .people who knew nothing of farming. Indeed, most of the best land went to his political cronies. Zimbabwe became an importer, rather than an exporter, of food.
The economic mismanagement that followed the failed land reform resulted in the Zimbabwean dollar being worth less than the blank piece of paper it was printed on. By mid-November 2008, inflation peaked at 79,600,000,000% monthly. Year-on-year, that was a rate of 89.7 sextillion percent (89.7 times 10 to the 21st power). A large portion of the population emigrated.
There are many who will defend him, having earned a pass for leading the war against Mr. Smith. However, the good that might represent is more than balanced out by his attempted genocide in Matabeleland and his destruction of the economy. Both of these caused deep divides in Zimbabwe that already had divisions from the bad old Rhodesian days.
On the whole, it would have been better had Mr. Nkomo been left to lead the revolution, and Mr. Mugabe could have taught university in Nigeria or Kenya. He leaves behind an independent but not-free country, and it could have been so much better so easily.
© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.