The Great White Land Grab

Robert Mugabe’s land reform policies have raped Zimbabwe. Sadly, rather than being condemned, they are being used as a model by Mugabe’s neighbors.

So often, news from the African continent is the same old story. A different date, a different country, but the same recurring problems: civil strife, disease, starvation, war, death on a massive scale. That’s the way it has been increasingly since the decolonization of the continent. Surprising as it may seem, Africa may have had its heyday during the time of colonialism. The further we go forward in time from those days, the more any glimmer of real hope diminishes for the average African citizen.

Case in point: The persecution of white farmers in Africa is having a devastating effect on whole populations within that continent.

In 2000, when the regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe began violent evictions of some 3,500 white farmers and hundreds of thousands of farm workers, millions of acres of farmland were seized for redistribution to landless blacks. Choice plots went to Mugabe cronies. Most lay fallow as new owners lacked funds, machinery and know-how to make them productive.

This devastated an agricultural industry that was the country’s mainstay and the envy of all Africa. The crisis caused capital flight, unemployment rose to 70 percent, starvation loomed large, and international food aid was brought in. Mugabe seized portions of this aid to use as a political weapon. He also worked to intimidate opposition supporters within his own population, using rape and murder. To date, 3.4 million Zimbabweans, one quarter of the population, have fled the nation. The annual inflation rate hit a record 620 percent last November; as of June it still stood at 450 percent.

With only 500 of the 4,000 original white landowners still on farms, Mugabe has now taken a shocking step. John Nkomo, Zimbabwe’s lands minister, announced June 8, “In the end all land shall be state land and there will be no such thing called private land” (Independent, June 9). Ninety-nine-year leases will be issued to those whom Mugabe’s government wishes to have land. In a June 15 report, the Zimbabwean government clarified that “only land acquired under the fast-track land reform program will revert to the state” (Africa News). In either case, the new policy will settle the white colonial land issue once and for all.

While these issues boiled, Britain and the U.S. heaped heavy criticism on Mugabe. He responded with scathing rhetoric, saying he would “shed blood” to defend his reforms. Britain and the U.S. then engaged Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, to request he exact pressure on the Mugabe regime. Mbeki, however, chose to exercise what he termed “silent diplomacy,” stating that Zimbabwe needed to sort out its own problems. This “silent diplomacy” is, in reality, tacit support for Mugabe.

Throughout this period, Namibia’s President Sam Nujoma stood firmly with Mugabe and his efforts and, at the same time, engaged in his own land reform program under a willing-seller, willing-buyer ideology. In February, Nujoma decided that his land reform program was moving too slowly and that expropriations—where the state takes or modifies private property rights—had become necessary. In May, Namibia’s lands minister informed 15 white farm owners to “make an offer” within 14 days so the government could begin negotiations on expropriation of their farms. The government then sought assistance from Zimbabwe in evaluating the land. In the meantime, the landowners attempted to find legal redress, but to no avail.

Nujoma, at a May Day rally, exclaimed in fiery rhetoric, “[S]ome of the whites are behaving as if they came from Holland or Germany with land. … [S]teps will be taken and we can drive them out of this land. We have the capacity to do so” (ibid., May 3). Though the Namibian government insists it will carry out land reform in the context of the law, well-founded fears remain that the situation could parallel the disaster in Zimbabwe.

Many white South Africans are watching these land issues anxiously. Will events similar to those in Zimbabwe and Namibia soon befall them? Evidence certainly points to that.

Speaking to the South African parliament in June, Dr. Kraai van Niekerk, an opposition lawmaker and former minister of agriculture, said that when dealing with land reform, South Africa should take into account sustainability and the productive capacity of land and not just transformation of ownership. The anc lawmakers rebuffed him with jeers (Cybercast News Service, June 11).

The most alarming evidence came at Mbeki’s second inaugural on April 27 when Mugabe entered the amphitheater. Nelson Mandela and Mbeki rose to their feet and led the gathered South African leaders and other African dignitaries in a standing ovation. Thousands lining the lawns outside, watching the event on giant screens, also erupted in loud cheers and jubilant clapping as the 80-year-old dictator raised his arm in his signature defiant, clenched-fist salute.

Mugabe received a hero’s welcome. Why? How can a man whose image around the world is that of a ruthless dictator bent on holding power, using starvation as a political weapon, be given a hero’s welcome by African leaders and South African citizens? The populous and their leaders see him as a visionary leader and hero. They deeply admire his ruthless actions against the colonial whites in wrenching the land from their grip.

Just seven days after Mbeki’s inauguration, Mugabe hosted a three-day conference of former liberation movements in southern Africa convened to make a collective case for land reform. An official from the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, Didymus Mutasa, said the conference was intended to “strengthen” the struggle against the remnants of colonialism. Invitations for this event, the first of its kind, were sent to former guerrilla movements in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. In addition, black solidarity groups from Britain and the U.S. and aboriginal groups from Australia were invited. Mutasa explained that following the opening ceremonies, “we will go straight into the discussion of the land reforms” (Agence France Presse, April 21). He expressed great concern that former “liberation” leaders have now gone the Western way and are listening to the enemy. He said, “We would want the forum of former liberation movements to be resuscitated” (ibid.). Such enthusiasm and stirring of somewhat tired liberation movements will undoubtedly bring about more proactive land reform in South Africa and in other former colonial nations within Africa.

This much can be seen even now: Radical change in former-colonial southern Africa is imminent. Racial tension in lands once colonized by modern Israel will reach catastrophic levels (request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy to prove the biblical identity of these nations). The impassioned support of Nujoma for Mugabe and the standing ovation given him by African leaders and the South African population is not same story, different country. That applause foreshadows a storm on the horizon—a riotous, racial storm. Despite any government’s attempts to assuage concerns, the violent acts perpetrated on white Zimbabweans in the process of wresting the land from their hands is descending on other African nations once colonized by the West. South Africa will be no exception!