by Molefi Kete Asante
As one who lived in Zimbabwe right after the independence in 1980, I am
distressed by the lack of information about the white domination of the
land that country. I am appalled that the United States Civil Rights
leader Jesse Jackson could raise his voice against the legitimate aims
and goals of the Zimbabwean people by criticizing Robert Mugabe’s
attempt to seize the land that was stolen from the African ancestors.
Is Jackson now the vanguard of an American attack on African leaders?
Does this type of criticism come from a misguided notion of the internal
dynamics of colonial and neo-colonial forces or self-interest?
European descendants have taken the land of the natives of Tasmania, the
Americas, Australia, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Angola,
Mozambique, Botswana, the Caribbean Islands, and Zimbabwe. There is no
reason for 4000 white people in Zimbabwe to occupy nearly 80 percent of
the arable land in a country of 10 million. It is neither ethical,
fair, nor politically wise.
The quest for land freedom was the principal objective of the Zimbabwe
revolutionary war. Both the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and
the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) fought for land freedom.
They understood that the idea of political rule without land freedom
would mean slavery. They were opposed to this from the very beginning.
Herbert Chitepo, the early charismatic leader of ZANU, had warned the
Zimbabweans that it would be necessary to defend the country against all
neo-colonial influence even after they had won their freedom.
The fact of the matter is that the United Kingdom and the United States
tied the hands of Mugabe’s new government during the Lancaster House
negotiation. They deliberately restricted the government from taking
the lands of the Hungwe, Mbire, and Ndebele ancestors from the whites.
Furthermore, the whites had no intentions of releasing their economic
hold on the country. Their plan was to defeat the revolution by
maintaining the blacks in an economic stranglehold. As recent events
have shown, with the strikes, the economic sabotage, the blaming of the
Mugabe government for economic woes, the ideology of white supremacy has
never been defeated in Zimbabwe and many blacks have now even bought
into the world system of capital exploitation. The victims have
become some of the best carriers of the disease of negativity.
We must remember that the land of Nehanda and Chaminuka had been taken
with the gun. The whites had murdered the landowners, raped and
pillaged their farms, forced the people into servitude, and demanded
taxes from them. There was no payment for the land, in fact, the people
whose land was stolen ended up paying taxes to the thieves! Zimbabweans
have remained without land in their own country although they have had
independence for more than twenty years. The people soon demanded that
President Mugabe move on the landowners and rectify the situation that
had been festering for all these years. At independence the United
Kingdom and the United States had agreed to support the purchase of
white lands with their grant monies. But these funds were never given
in the amount necessary for the government to purchase lands from
whites. Mind you, these were lands that the whites never purchased.
In Zimbabwe, you have 4000 white farmers owning nearly 80 percent of all
the best farmlands. In Kenya the whites own nearly 60 percent of the
arable land. They make up less than 5 percent of the population. In
South Africa, the whites own nearly 85 percent of the land. Why have
the Africans allowed this situation for so long? Because the power of
the West is to withhold grants, aid, resources or to deny access to bank
accounts, property, travel to the West, and other goods and services
invested in the West by African people if they move to correct the
injustice. Thanks to the ancestors Mugabe has had the courage to stake
his claim for the legitimate rights of the people. Of course, there
will be reactionaries, as there are in every country and among all
people, who will fight the revolutionary for trying to correct the
problem rather than see the root of the problem in the international
This situation of economic sabotage in Zimbabwe is neither moral nor
just. It is criminal.
When 4000 whites in Zimbabwe own nearly 80 percent of the land, control
the nation’s food supply, own the banks, and control the corporations in
a country, they are economic parasites on the masses of people. They
have turned the rhetoric around to say they are helping the people.
Why, can’t the people help themselves? Why must the European feel that
only he can make a difference in the lives of African people? I have
always thought that Robert Mugabe took too long to begin the
redistribution of the land to the people. The West convinced him that
socialism was dead, but he never was able to see that Western
colonialism was still vibrant and alive in his own nation. Yes, it is
true that the masses of African people moved him to this position of
action, but the further truth is that his position is now correct. I
said years ago when I worked in Zimbabwe for the Institute of Mass
Communication that Ian Smith should have been arrested because he was a
mass murderer. Ian !
Smith’s spirit has not left the country and those who follow his line
are trying to bring down the government.
There will be those in the West who will not understand this struggle.
There will be those in the West and in Zimbabwe who will not recognize
the heroic revolution of the Zimbabwean people. There are now young
Zimbabweans who no longer remember, maybe were not even born, when
Mugabe challenged the white power structure alongside the fighters of
ZANU and ZAPU. Perhaps it will take the reactionary spirit in
Zimbabwe. President Mugabe is right to begin to do justice that should
have been done many years ago.
When I lived in Zimbabwe and worked with the Zimbabwean people after the
Second Chimurenga (‘fight to struggle’) I was afraid that we would get
to this point when the people would demand immediate justice. It is
something to be expected in South Africa as well. I do not see that
struggle as settled. The same forces are at work in South Africa that
are at work in Zimbabwe (sic). The governments of UK and US are against
Mugabe because what he is doing is raising the gaze of the world on
other areas where whites have dominated the economies to the detriment
of the masses. In Barbados, the whites still control majority of the
best lands. This is so in Bermuda and many other places throughout the
Caribbean. At some point justice demands that the doctrine of racial
supremacy be suppressed.
No one fought for the reconciliation with the whites any more than
Robert Mugabe, and that is one reason he has run into political trouble
with some of his own people. He is a legitimate national hero. His
sacrifice for the nation is not to be gainsaid. At last Robert Mugabe
and the revolutionaries of Zimbabwe have finally understood that there
was no truth to the promises of the West. They never intended to buy
out the white farmers. They wanted only the continuation of the control
of the economy of an African nation.
One of the early revolutionary heroes, Freedom Nyambuya, called Tichaona
Freedom, once said to me, “The whites have never ceased their desire to
control our land. They will try everything to undermine our
revolution.” Twenty-two years latter (sic) I can truly say that she was
correct. Jesse Jackson, Condelezza Rice, and Colin Powell
notwithstanding, we must support the final act of the revolution in
Zimbabwe, despite the flaws and errors that may have been made by
Brother Robert Mugabe. Onward to the total liberation of the African