“Hondo!” in Zimbabwe

President Mugabe’s war on white farm owners reveals a nation whose “solutions” are worse than its problems.
From the September 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

Nearly 200 hundred people chanted in unison, “Hondo!”—an African word for war. They had come to claim the land by force.

They carried sticks and pangas, an African machete frequently used for cutting bamboo and small trees. Some carried guns. Their claim to the land came from the president of Zimbabwe himself, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who has promised to seize the land of white farmers and distribute it to the black population of Zimbabwe.

The owners of this particular farm, Ian and Catherine Buckle, with their 7-year-old son, Richard, had purchased this land only ten years before from the same government that was now threatening to seize it. They had robbed no one. Yet the Buckles now found their land and the surrounding farms of their neighbors filled with squatters and the continual threat of violence.

The police did nothing to help them. For six long months, the Buckles tried to wait the crisis out, to save the only home their son had ever known. But in the end, like so many other white farmers in Zimbabwe, they finally packed up and left the country. It was the only way out of this terrifying situation.

Catherine Buckle, author of African Tears—The Zimbabwe Land Invasions, wrote the following upon making the decision to leave her farm: “We all begin to feel more than a little like the Jews who were stripped of their human rights, their property rights and then their lives in Nazi Germany. We can only hope and pray that, for us, we can leave our land with our lives and can remain in the country of our birth and try to rebuild. Ethnic cleansing—such a strange term. How terrifying to be the victims of it. …

“For Zimbabwe I weep. What is to become of her and her people when, by this time next year, it won’t be only diesel and paraffin we are queuing for but bread, sugar, maize meal, etc. There are now many farmers doing what we are doing. Agriculture has become untenable. There is no end in sight. There is no one that seems able to quell this insanity. How very sad that it has come to this.”

The Buckles are just the tip of the iceberg. President Mugabe’s government has approved the seizing of at least 5,200 farms in Zimbabwe (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 29). The Buckles were not even on this list. The fact that they are white-skinned was enough for the government to turn a blind eye to the invaders on their land. Other farmers have been beaten and even killed in these land invasions.

President Mugabe openly supports the invasions, saying that the forcible acquisition of thousands of white-owned farms would “complete the struggle for the complete decolonization of our country and our continent as a whole” (bbc, July 24). He has allowed this situation to escalate into a disaster, politically, economically and socially. The uproar of his own people has fallen on deaf ears.

Mugabe has answered the cries of protest from the international community by demanding millions of dollars in compensation from the United Kingdom. He blames Britain for creating Zimbabwe’s problems; Zimbabwe, until 1965, was a colony of Britain. President Mugabe does not want Britain’s support. He does, however, want their cash. The less Britain is involved in Zimbabwe, the worse the situation becomes, and the more blame Mugabe casts in their direction.

The results have been economically devastating to Zimbabwe. According to bbc News, both inflation and unemployment rates are over 60 percent—over half of the population simply has no work. There have been riots over bread. The most basic needs of citizens, black and white alike, are not being met.

Earlier this year, President Mugabe ordered the country’s commercial banks to sell all their foreign currency to either the state-owned-and-operated national oil company or to the nation’s central bank. This desperate measure was intended to help the government pay its overseas debts. This will force companies to pay foreign suppliers of goods and services in Zimbabwean dollars. “Exporters will be forced to accept the official exchange rate of 55 Zimbabwe dollars to us$1 instead of the market rate of 80 to 1” (bbc News, Feb. 11). At a time when Zimbabwe is already in economic turmoil, this spells absolute disaster.

At the same time, Zimbabwe faces the greatest health crisis in the world: More than a quarter of Zimbabwe’s 14 million citizens are infected with hiv. No family has gone untouched by this calamity. The United Nations Children’s Fund (unicef) projects that Zimbabwe’s average life expectancy would drop from 44 to 27 years within the next decade (Excite News, June 22). The death toll is on the rise. Millions of citizens will die in the next few years. In many ways, it is already too late to rescue the situation, and the steps that are being taken only highlight this reality.

At the recent summit in Genoa, Italy, “G-8 members wooed the developing world by inviting African nations to attend the summit as observers and by discussing poverty reduction measures, including debt relief, a global aids fund and education” (www.stratfor.com, July 27). The powers of the world certainly seem to want to help Africa, but the reality is that it is little more than a show of sympathy.

“Though the G-8 communique touted current debt relief programs, which total about $53 billion, it failed to propose or support any new relief initiatives. Likewise, the communique pointed to its commitment to a $1.3 billion global health fund to fight the pandemics of tuberculosis, malaria and hiv/aids that grip the developing world. But according to the Financial Times, these funds are merely a re-labeling of existing aid budgets, and the $1.3 billion dollar pledge pales in comparison to the $7 billion to $10 billion annually that the United Nations says is needed” (ibid.). In other words, the African nations were promised money that they were already receiving, and no meaningful progress was made toward halting the death of millions and the collapse of the African nations.

How did things get so bad? Why has Africa fallen into such a horrific nightmare?

Blessings From God

Social, economic and political issues aside, Zimbabwe has many natural blessings: a stunning landscape, an ideal climate. There are numerous deposits of gold, coal and metal ores. The land is fertile and yields abundant cash crops. It has a self-supporting cattle and dairy industry. What a fantastic potential this country could realize!

In 1923, Zimbabwe, which was then known as Southern Rhodesia, was annexed under the British crown and became a part of the greatest empire the world has ever known. Certainly no empire has ever been blessed as the British Empire was.

The vast national riches and material blessings that both the British Empire and the United States have enjoyed are a direct blessing from God, because of the obedience of Abraham. In Genesis 17:4-5, God told Abraham, then called Abram, that he would become a father of many nations. Abraham’s son, Isaac, passed these promises on to his son Jacob when he prayed over him: “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27:28-29). These nations would have great wealth and fantastic material blessings given to them by God Himself.

When Jacob, who was renamed Israel, became old, he prayed over his two grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, asking God to put his name—Israel—on them (Gen. 48:16). Therefore, when we read about Israel in prophecy, it refers to the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, not to the Jews, who are the descendants of Judah. In verse 19, we read that Manasseh “shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude [or a commonwealth] of nations.” In The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Herbert W. Armstrong proved in detail that the promises made to Ephraim were fulfilled by the blessings bestowed on the British Empire. (We will give you a free copy of this booklet upon request.)

As a part of this “multitude of nations,” Zimbabwe was a direct recipient of those blessings that God made to Abraham so long ago. But in 1965, Ian Smith, then the prime minister of Rhodesia, unilaterally declared independence from Britain. This cut Zimbabwe off from the blessings of Ephraim. In 1979, bereft of international support, his nation bleeding from the imposition of heavy trade sanctions, and after years of intense guerrilla warfare led by Robert Mugabe, Ian Smith finally gave in, relinquishing control of the government to those he had been fighting.

Now, he too is a victim of the land invasions. On May 14, 2000, dozens of angry supporters of Robert Mugabe invaded Ian Smith’s 6,000-acre cattle ranch (Guardian, May 15, 2000).

Pride of Their Power—Broken

God prophesied that He would break the pride of Britain’s power, and that their strength would be spent in vain (Lev. 26:19-20). Britain has already lost its major strategic sea gates. Its possessions are but a pale shadow of what they once were, and they lost any claim to being an empire four decades ago.

In Hosea 4:17-19, God says, “Ephraim [Britain] is joined to idols: let him alone. Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye. The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”

Because of Britain’s sins, God has removed their national blessings, including the colonies that were once part of Britain’s vast empire. The entire world is suffering as a result. Nowhere is this more evident than in Zimbabwe.

Today, the leaders of Zimbabwe are the sworn enemies of colonialism. This is like flailing in the wind, since Zimbabwe has not had a leader of British descent since 1979. President Mugabe and other leaders are actually fighting the legacy of colonialism, fighting to tear down what was built during the colonial period. The white farmers, those British who have never called any place but Zimbabwe home, are being beaten and even killed because they are white and live on land that President Mugabe has promised to blacks. The leadership is fiercely destroying everything built over the last century. Every blessing that remains is being taken from the Zimbabwean people against their will.

Consider the following passage from the article “Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: Peace at Last?” in the May 1980 Plain Truth magazine: “Often in the past the ascetic, intellectual new prime minister [Robert Mugabe] talked about expropriating white land holdings, nationalizing private industry, setting up a one-party Marxist state and dispensing with future elections as a ‘luxury’ his country could no longer afford. Now, however, bowing to reality, Prime Minister Mugabe forswears nationalization and vows not to interfere with private property. Only presently unused farm land will be distributed to rural blacks—and present owners will be compensated for it. It is felt that Mr. Mugabe has not, down deep, disavowed his Marxist principles.”

Now President Mugabe’s government is applying the “Marxist principles,” that the Plain Truth wrote about over 20 years ago. In his first-ever address to the commercial farmer’s union on August 1, Zimbabwe’s land minister, Joseph Made, shocked white farmers by directing that 90 percent of white-owned land would be taken over by ethnic black Zimbabweans. This represents an increase of 3.3 million hectares over and above the 5 million hectares originally indicated by the government.

The farmers in Zimbabwe still hold out hope that Mugabe’s presidency will finally collapse and the country return to some semblance of normalcy. This is, however, a vain hope, considering the legacy of post-colonial rule in the rest of the African continent.

Even if President Mugabe were removed from office today, it would already be too late for Zimbabwe. Their situation is far too critical to be solved internally, and the international community simply does not have a solution for the problems of Africa in general, much less that of Zimbabwe. But God does have a solution.

However hopeless things may appear now, Zimbabwe will prosper again—as will every other nation on the face of the Earth. Every man will have his own land: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it” (Mic. 4:4). The violence that families like the Buckles are experiencing today will be wiped away. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).