Thanks to a (relatively) free press in the UK I was able to pick up three items of news about Zimbabwe this week which dealt in detail with stories that reveal the current malaise that is besetting the country. Greed is the underlying theme behind all three stories.
The first story came from The Zimbabwean and it was there that I read the list of multiple farm ownership by Zanu PF top officials. I remembered the original criteria that Robert Mugabe himself laid down for land ownership. One man one farm, he said and that sounded eminently fair and reasonable; no absentee landlords was the next condition of ownership and, again, no fair-minded person could argue with that. Mugabe also said that any commercial farm that abounded on communal land could expect to be expropriated and that too made a certain kind of sense. Those criteria did not hold for very long as the political realities changed. After Zanu PF lost the Constitutional Referendum in February 2000, it became clear that the land question was no more than a political tool designed to placate the increasingly disenchanted rural people and the big men in government. The list of multiple farm owners published in last weeks Zimbabwean clearly demonstrates the total abandonment of the One man One farm policy. This is nothing more than sheer greed, theft on a grand scale; one highly placed minister owning 11 farms or the Chair of the Senate with 6 farms and taking more. The list includes Mugabe family members who have 9 farms between them, the Minister of Justice and his wife and sister who jointly own 9 farms. There are senior police officers, MPs, District Governors and top military officers on the list. This is the righting of colonial injustices that Mugabe uses at every international forum as his justification for land reform. In reality it is nothing more than political patronage to assuage the greed and ensure the continued support of his cronies. Conscience it seems is not a concept they are familiar with.
My next story came from the medium of television and concerned one Simon Mann. The BBC featured the white mercenary in a documentary entitled Simon Manns African Coup which once again demonstrated the overpowering motive of greed, not for land this time but for oil, black gold. In exchange for dishing the dirt on his co-conspirators, Mann has just been released from the notorious Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea, the west African country ruled by Teodoro Obiang, an even longer serving dictator than Mugabe. Obiangs human rights record is rated by Human Right Watch as one of the most abusive and corrupt in the world. Zimbabweans will remember the day Mann and his mercenary crew landed in Harare to be met by Mugabes Gestapo as Mann described his arrest and imprisonment in Zimbabwe. The BBC documentary showed very clearly that the attempted coup was common knowledge: the Americans, the British, Spain, the former colonial power, they all knew. The South Africans had followed every step of the coup attempt from the moment the plane left South Africa. Zimbabwe was tipped off by the South Africans and the military were waiting for the mercenaries when they landed. The inevitable result was imprisonment in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison; from one hell to another as Mann was released by Mugabe into Obiangs tender care. The story made fascinating viewing and Mann spoke openly, making no attempt to conceal the fact that his motive in supporting a coup in Equatorial Guinea had nothing to do with restoring democracy. It was money he said looking straight into the camera. Control of the countrys massive oil reserves, the third biggest in Africa would have made him and his fellow mercenaries immensely rich. And the west looked the other way, the US wanted to be free of its reliance on Islamic sourced oil and they welcomed Obiang as an honoured guest as he deposited his millions in American banks. As the former US Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea said, Both countries are severely repressive but if Harare had oil the doors to the US would be open to the Mugabes as well. .
But, and this brings me to my third story fom the British media (The UK Sunday Times) this week. Zimbabwe may not have oil but it does have diamonds! Another story to illustrate how greed stifles conscience as the top echelons of Zanu PF through its military takes control of the Marange diamond fields. The precious stones were previously mined by local prospectors and sold on the black market. Once it became apparent that they were sitting on a fortune, 200 locals were slaughtered and the military moved in and took control. The Sunday Times article exposes the complicity of top Zanu PF officials, including Obert Mpofu the Mines Minister who selected the companies that would take over the running of the diamond fields. Heavy mining machinery has arrived, capable of extracting thousands of carats of diamonds an hour reports the Sunday Times. It will be much more money than they have ever had. We could be talking about $25 – $100 million an hour Incredibly, Zanu PFs partners in government appear to have colluded in this arrangement, though the MDC had no say in the choice of companies chosen to exploit this wealth.
Greed has won the day again – but money equals power and the former ruling party is bankrupt and rapidly running out of popular support. With this new source of wealth, Zanu PF and their military partners will hope to hold on to power indefinitely. The greatest danger for democracy in Zimbabwe is that the military, headed by General Constantine Chiwenga and backed by this enormous wealth, may seize power and take over the country in a full military dictatorship.
Once again the world looks the other way. Diamonds may be forever as the song says but they not do not fuel the world.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH aka Pauline Henson author of Case Closed published in Zimbabwe by Mambo Press, Going Home and Countdown, political detective stories set in Zimbabwe and available on Lulu.com and Amazon.Post published in: Uncategorized