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Zimbabweans are learning new hard lessons

By Jonathan Maphenduka

ZIMBABWEANS are learning new hard lessons 40 years too late. One lesson, which they will have to learn is that the opinion of former freedom fighters does not matter. They are not the ones, who decide how this country should be run, like compensating white farmers. They are just tools being used to make government look innocent in its decisions. They are learning that we live in a so-called global village where the rules say you can’t do your own thing in your metaphorical backyard.

For 40 years this country has been modelled as a military dictatorship in a strategy to silence the opposition, and this philosophy has not changed with the adoption of the much-vaunted new dispensation policy, which has seen government being packed with military personalities. Zimbabwe’s ambition for the region is to see militarisation of government through its much-vaunted military university, which attracts students of militarisation of governance to justify Zimbabwe’s philosophy. Military officers, therefore, have over the years been given free rein to make public statements of political substance.

Zimbabweans must know that war veterans (like their military counterparts) are not directly involved in the decision-making processes of government. That is not their function. They are just instruments of oppression. If you look hard enough you will find that the war of liberation became possible because the Russians and Chinese had spare arms to give away and the arms have often been used to oppress innocent but gullible Zimbabweans. Once independence had been won, Zimbabweans discovered that they had miscalculated in a wide spectrum of the country’s relations with the rest of the world.

The patch-up work came via the new dispensation policy, which is not being applied with deserving honesty and the result is that government has found itself compromised and having to use expediency as law.

Government has discovered that in international affairs there are certain facts of life it can’t ignore with impunity without breaking the rules book of international relations, hence the decision to compensate white farmers without questioning how the farmers got title to the land in the first place.

Expediency, therefore, must be made to conform to the requirements of an embarrassing situation.

Zimbabweans must know that government (even in its most wilful moments) cannot expel the American ambassador even if he often talks out of turn. George Charamba must know (knows) that. After all, he is nothing more than just a spokesperson for President Emmerson Mnangagwa. But it is doubtful if he was speaking for Mnangagwa because the president is determined to go the whole hog of hostile international relations to cultivate cordial relations with the West, even if it means betraying the people of Zimbabwe. This process has a cost attached for a country like Zimbabwe, which has never known any other form of government than the one that is dominated by incursions of militarism.

Charamba’s terms of reference regarding his job precludes expulsion of diplomats. That is not his function. Expelling the ambassador would precipitate a chain reaction against this country and Zimbabwe just now can ill-afford taking such a step when it is trying to engage governments that include the United States to normalise this country’s relations with the western bloc of the international community.

And Charamba knows just how counter-productive expulsion of the ambassador would be. Why strain relations by making rash statements unnecessarily? That is not the art of diplomacy.

Zimbabweans in general don’t know that any constitution is contrived to achieve certain goals or objectives. It, therefore, can be used to the disadvantage of the ruled, making wrongdoing look like something in the best interest of the people. Following the ongoing criticism of government over its decision to compensate unaccounted-for white farmers, government last week pulled out all the stops to mobilise war veterans and party stalwarts to bolster Mnangagwa’s waning popularity.

There was this old hag in one rally who complained about “deadwood” that in her opinion are making life unpleasant for the president. When I looked around there was just one example of deadwood — herself. She once held a governorship of a province and is working overtime to bounce back after her removal from her position for some indiscretion. They call this attitude posturing.

The thrust of the flurry of activity in support of the president and government was that the constitution of Zimbabwe provided for compensation, and this argument was made to sound as if it was the 1980 constitution. The welter of the provision of the 2013 constitution, which was made as an after-thought sounded like such a big deal in this campaign, as if it is the ultimate and only instrument to manipulate public opinion.

I once suggested that Mnangagwa should have called a snap referendum to extricate government from the embarrassment of the compensation decision. After all, we are a democracy and not a banana republic, are we not?

War veterans chief Christopher Mutsvangwa was among those who led in defence of the compensation scandal. I hold a great deal of respect for Mutsvangwa because he became the first man to pluck up enough courage to tell Perrance Shiri that Zimbabwe was the only country in the world that used the military to produce food for the people. Many people agree with him in this respect. But we all know what happened to him in the Norton fiasco. And we also know that Shiri in his old age was being haunted by the past.

Mutsvangwa, however, then stooped low when he made the following statement: “We fought a non-racial war against a racial system”, omitting the fact that the rallying call was for war against minority injustice. But then if the liberation war was against a system, how can he defend the fact that a tribal brigade was mobilised and trained to commit genocide against a tribal minority in peacetime Zimbabwe?

The minority tribe had never armed itself against anyone in the country but was, therefore, singled out for genocide. “Let’s not recycle racism in the country,” he said. (But let’s acquire foreign arms and train our people to commit genocide against minority tribes!) What manner of reasoning is this, if one must be excused the question. Really fascinating, wouldn’t you say? Not even the much-touted new dispensation policy can change that.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda weighed in with his legal expertise. It was a constitutional requirement to compensate, he said. But did he know that legal imperatives can be contrived and manipulated to prejudice the African people and that the expediency in this regard is being turned into law? We know that among companies whose land was expropriated is a multi-national in the Shangani Block in Insiza district, which land was used to resettle people from Midlands.

This land is a flashpoint of tribal contention between the local people and those from neighbouring Midlands.

Government, however, is not concerned about the situation because people from outside Insiza will get offer letters to be settled in Karna Block in Mudenda’s Matabeleland North, now that government appears to be having a re-think about completing Gwayi-Shangani Dam. Karna Block is upstream from the Gwayi-Shangani confluence where the dam wall stands. We have a situation, therefore, whereby government continues to use resettlement to promote its hegemony in Matabeleland, when it also claims that the compensation is designed to repair the damage caused by the land reform programme.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana has become the first person to give a persuasive explanation why there had to be a compensation of those who lost their farms to the land reform programme. I am, therefore, the first to concede that if you subscribe to the principle of the rule of law, government under the new dispensation policy had no choice but to swallow the euphoria of the revolution to take corrective measures to resolve the impasse. This is one lesson, which Zimbabweans have taken 40 years to learn.

I’m also thankful that Mangwana has cited two cases of black Zimbabweans whose farms were affected in the frenzy of destruction that the land reform unleashed despite clear stipulation of the law that a black-owned farm should not be invaded or occupied. I am further pleased that I can at long last cite two cases in my farming area in which two farmers (including a High Court judge) were affected and lost their farms and 99-year leases legally issued to them.

Can these farmers, on a case-by-case basis, claim some form of compensation or is there a distinction because the farms were a gift from the state?

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the number of white farmers has dwindled from a staggering 4 000 to 37 companies. What has happened to the rest of the farmers that government and farmers’ leaders have touted as the beneficiaries?

Is this an admission by government that the farmers have died since 1893 and therefore the government should not be compensating a fourth generation of the farmers whose forebears benefited in every respect over a century?

Many will agree that I broke the land and compensation issue in the first place. I have argued all along that the farmers’ title to that land resulted from an illegal act and should not be treated as if the farmers were not mecernaries who used arms of war to give themselves title. And the 2013 constitution is being used to legalise an illegal act. Why is government sweeping under the carpet the fact that the title to land they gave themselves in 1893 was and remains an unlawful act?

Those who have any respect for history must understand that there is a need to preserve the history of this country so that it can pass the acid test of its foundation. There is no room for all those who present mythology as history.

Government has further maintained a deafening silence regarding the number of beneficiaries who are multiple farm owners. Why is this fact being treated as a state secret? Government makes a point that it is not taxing anyone to pay compensation. Must I ask where government is digging up the money outside of the sphere of public interest? By the way does, President Mnangagwa prefer to suppress the historical record of the Victoria Secret Agreement when that agreement is fundamental to dispensation of justice in the land question in this country? Maybe government thinks I’m making it all up.

Mangwana on several occasions in his statement asked what was wrong in obeying the constitution and international treaties to resolve issue
s that are instrumental in preventing direct foreign investment? It must be conceded that there is really nothing wrong in honouring international treaties. It is an imperative. By the same token, however, what is wrong in condemning the effects of titles that were sanctioned by the Victoria Secret Agreement to remove land from the control of the native people which act was unlawful? The fact that we have had to fight a war of liberation against that act does not matter, in government’s view.

Many will say this man is rocking the boat. I’m not. I just want to set the record right for posterity. This is history. You don’t trifle with history to gain false or undeserved honour.

l Jonathan Maphenduka contact + 263 772 332 404

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