Please, somebody … tell me why the treatment of whites and Ndebeles in Zimbabwe is different from the treatment of Zimbabweans in South Africa
AS my Elevated Brother Brilliant Mhlanga has brilliantly hinted elsewhere (you can read the article here), Zimbabweans are probably looking at xenophobia with a jaundiced eye. As usual, we find Zimbabweans guilty of two misnomers. They blame South Africa for xenophobia and completely ignore their own history. Secondly, they are in a state of denial; they are barking up a wrong tree. Before we condemn South Africa let us look at our own history, and apportion blame where it belongs.
Xenophobia is the hatred of foreigners, but sometimes minority tribes are nominated as outsiders and punished anyway, forced to take refuge away from their homes. This was the case with followers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses during Dr. Hastings Banda’s rule in Malawi.
Mhlanga reminds us how Zimbabwe itself has been guilty of the xenophobic practices they now find abhorrent in South Africa. Gukurahundi is one such an example. Police stopped buses, asked those with Shona names to board and proceed with their journeys while those with Ndebele names were subjected to “thorough examination.” (read between the lines). My daughter, Rumbi, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on the Zimbabwean Diaspora in South Africa, says that the first large migration to South Africa started during this period. Zimbabweans are fond of passing on blame to others.
What Zulu King Zwelithini referred to as selling cheap wares on the streets, pots and pans, cheap clothes, zhing zhong rubber shoes and other paraphernalia is a reflection of the flea market economy of Zimbabwe. One can travel for 15 miles without seeing a single space free from flea marketers, some selling single sweets. A flea market economy is reflection of a dying economy, where formal manufacturing has disappeared and has been replaced by short-time “business persons.” They are neither short time nor business persons because their capital is less than $100 while others have no capital at all, unless one calls a sweet vendor a capitalist. The King was stating a fact of life, that foreigners change the atmosphere of Durban. “I can no longer recognize the streets of Durban, “he said.
President Jacob Zuma said that there were 4,000 Zimbabweans in jailhouses. He was stating a fact, that being the largest portion of foreigners, they constitute the largest portion of the prison population. Rumbi divided these Zimbabweans into categories. The most pathetic (raising feelings of great pity) was that which left Zimbabwe because it had been traumatized by political violence. My sister Nora Chengeto, was one such. Her husband’s store burned out by political thugs; he died from official neglect when he failed to receive his medicines. With two teenage children, she jumped the Botswana border, and then found herself in South Africa.
According to figures gathered by Global Forum, of which I am patron, there are 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa. It is easy for Zimbabweans to complain about their treatment in South Africa. Let me remind them of their treatment of blacks and whites alike. Ben Freeth, a commercial farmer, whose family owned an agro-business with 50,000 fruit trees was thoroughly beaten (Zimbabwe English). His father-in-law died from similar beatings, his mother in law lost her will to live. They were part of the 50,000 white citizens driven out during the land war.
Zimbabweans expect other countries to treat them more kindly than they treat their own. Please, somebody who is more brilliant than Brilliant Mhlanga, tell me why the treatment of whites and Ndebeles in Zimbabwe is different from the treatment of Zimbabweans in South Africa. What education does is to discipline a human being so that he learns to look before he jumps, and thinks before he speaks.
Rumbi mentioned a second Zimbabwean Diaspora group, economic misfits in Zimbabwe, and entrepreneurs in South Africa. Many others come to mind, one was a nuclear scientist. This group felt, with reason, that because of their names, or prior affiliation to (or non-affiliation) they were targets for abuse and beatings. Some described their experience which was pathetic and horrifying. Khumalo was a school principal in Bulawayo when a group of youths paraded him before his 32-strong staff and 750 students. He was undressed and whipped. He sought a job as a gardener, but his employer, chairperson of the Johannesburg school board was not fooled and rescued him from complete humiliation.
When Mudara (respectful term) Cephas Msipa made an anecdotal comment that during his many years in the Political Bureau, the main preoccupation was always political appointments rather than economics, he could not have grasped the enormous truth and consequences of his statement. In ZANU, wealth comes through politics, not through enterprise, and through a grab-policy. Ask Brothers Basikiti and Temba Mliswa about the prospects of their farms. The implication is that all those who fall out of the basikiti (out of favour) must either live in penury or flee abroad, the nearest being South Africa. South Africans are not stupid.
My brilliant brother, Brilliant Mhlanga has arranged the argument in a most defying manner. Yes, we helped the South Africans during the struggle against apartheid, now they must be forever grateful. Yes, they are grateful, but they want Zimbabweans to live in their own houses, across the Limpopo. After South Africa, Zimbabwe is the richest country in Africa, blessed with all the minerals South Africa has, and a population better educated than that of South Africa.
In Masvingo, a politician is battling to wrest acreage from a widowed white woman chicken farmer. How many times should we repeat that it is bad politics, bad publicity, bad economics, and bad morals to oppress the widow woman in the gate? I see no difference whatever between Mrs. Mitchell’s treatment and that of Zimbabweans in South Africa.
Speaking at the recent independence anniversary celebrations, President Robert Mugabe said: “I would want to express our sense of shock, disgust as we abhor the incidences which happened in Durban. The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone.” But at the installation ceremony of Chief Murombedzi (Mugabe’s home area) the same President Mugabe made the following remarks concerning the white minority in Zimbabwe. “Don’t the white know where their ancestors came from? The British who are here should go back to England. What is the problem? We now have airplanes which can take them back quicker than the ships used by their ancestors. We say to the whites, (no) to owning our land. They should go.”
The treatment of MDC urban dwellers in June 2005 was no better than the treatment of whites. Regarded as “Get rid of filth” a Human Rights Report has the following: “In 2005 the government embarked on Operation Murambatsvina (translated Get rid of the filth) without prior notice, during which more than 700,000 persons lost their homes, their means of livelihood, or both through a program of forced evictions. (Government said its intention was) to curb illegal economic activities and crime in slums and illegal settlements and in several towns. The operation resulted in the destruction of more than 32,500 small and microbusinesses across the country and created a loss of livelihood for more than 97,550 people.” No provision was made for their resettlement.
The irony is that the treatment of white Zimbabwean farmers, the Ndebele’s in Gukurahundi and those 750,000 regarded as “filth” was the same. Both groups have migrated from the only home they have ever known. Mugabe, like many Zimbabweans, is in a state of denial.
Wherever large migrant groups settle in foreign countries, xenophobia is a natural corollary. This is the case in Italy where large numbers of Libyans and Moroccans have settled. Germany has a similar problem with its Turkish migrants and the US has an Isis problem among Somali migrants in Minnesota. The Somali problem is unique in that they were allowed to settle as a gesture of goodwill by President Bill Clinton and the co-operation of the Lutheran World Federation. Sympathy with Isis among Somalis is regarded as a sign of ingratitude to a nation that has shown mercy upon the destitute.
Zimbabweans are shocked by remarks made by President Edward Zuma’s son, Edward. The stock-in-trade accusations made against Mexican immigrants in the US is that “most of them are here illegally”, and that there are criminal elements among them. Edward repeated these accusations, adding, “I am not saying that they are supporting ISIS, but they must stop taking advantage of South Africa.” The rhetorical method used here is that called accusation by denial. The idea that immigrants could bring about the Isis connection has been planted in the listener’s mind by its denial.
Zimbabweans were shocked that such ideas came from the president’s son. In the US, if children use the N-word, we assume that that word was used in family conversations and that parents were comfortable with it. The issue here is that, we, Zimbabweans have overstayed our welcome in South Africa. The number of 3 million makes us the largest migrant population there, and therefore a source of power.
Zimbabweans, being the intelligentsia of Africa, blame xenophobia on Cecil Rhodes, apartheid and rampant unemployment among the youth, estimated at 36 percent. “South Africa must come to terms with its ghosts, and address the ghosts of apartheid inequities,” writes a Zimbabwean. But the Zimbabwean brother is in a state of denial. We have all the resources to make Zimbabwe a land of milk and honey. The issue is that Zimbabweans have not addressed their own ghosts of permanent political mismanagement and political monopolistic hegemony. Zimbabwe ignores the news: “81 companies close, 60,000 workers lose their jobs in 2014.”
Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere visited the West Indies in 1971. As he addressed the students at the university, he noticed that there were some Zimbabweans among them. I became a representative of ZAPU during the following year. His message was the same he had given to Herbert Chitepo. “Do you want to keep your job as prosecutor General of Tanzania, or do you want to return to your country one day? If the later, quit your job and form a liberation front.” The problem, my dear brothers, is not with President Zuma or his son Edward, or the Zulu King Zwelithini. The problem lies in the permanent economic mismanagement of Zimbabwe.
The affairs of Zimbabwe are run by a mafia-type monopolistic fee-collecting cabal. Its genius lies in its simplicity. I have spent five years studying the Mutumwa Mawere saga until one of the mafia bosses, tired of reading my wrongful interpretations, provided me with the proper interpretation. Mawere bought the mining rights to Zvishabane-Mashaba Mines, an asbestos conglomerate with a potential foreign exchange revenue totaling 15 percent of the entire intake. The mines affected an employment base in the town and district of 60,000 people.
In order to achieve such a feat, the Mafioso explained to me, one “needed the support of the mafia and one of those persons is a Mukuru-mukuru. Soon after the SMM deal was sealed, he was involved in forming the FBC Bank which was supposed to be headed by banker Durajadi Simba. The people’s party had an initial stake of 25 percent. I was involved in setting up that institution, being the youngest member and was recruited by Simba. However, after the bank was registered, I and almost the entire team that worked on the project were booted out as a new boss, Webster Masvikawa was appointed by Mutumwa and then his cronies took over.”
The issue here is not legal but loyalty to the Mafioso who expected to benefit from the brilliant young entrepreneur whom they had sponsored. A change of mind by Mawere left the Mafioso in the cold and embittered. They told me that “mwana akanganwa kwaakabva” (the child has forgotten his roots) which I, at first, assumed to be mere disrespect of the elders. The result was catastrophic. The mafioso nationalized the company, using the same people who had worked for him to take over its running. Management and entrepreneurship/investment are two separate worlds. Despite a back order list worth $100 million, and 4,000 workers in situ, the company closed.
This business model was repeated in Marange Diamond fields. Four companies, including Mbada (a government supported company) were involved. This time the mafioso took no chances, they collected their fees up front before the Internal Revenue got its share. The result was a predator situation where monies released by the company treasurer disappeared and were misdirected to dodgy foreign banks.
The Chindori-Chininga Report says that the “diamonds are sold at below 25 percent of their normal price … In the process the diamond companies are trading their diamonds through unconventional means because major companies, insurance companies and countries do not want to be associated with Marange diamonds.” Nevertheless, the mafioso must collect its fees. In 2012, Mbada Chairman reported that U$293 million had been remitted to Internal Revenue. But the Mafioso had interrupted the remission, allowing only US$41 million to reach its destination.
Chindori –Chininga realized that this business model is unworkable. He encouraged government to re-engage Mawere in the hope of resuscitating the SMM group for the sake of the workers; “the majority of the workers had gone for more than 2 years without a salary and were struggling to meet their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.”
To cut a long story short, this business model was repeated at Zisco (Steel) with the same result that the city of 10,000 now lies derelict, the steel works have been closed since 2011 and workers have not been paid. The city of KweKwe has cut off water supplies and electricity. Similarly, as I write, Mbada workers have not been paid for the last year or so. Hwange Colliery repeats the same business model, and their workers, have similarly not been paid since September 2012.
The fault is not with your stars my dear Brutus, it lies with thee beloved (Zimbabwe). That is what drove Zimbabweans to South Africa.
Professor Ken Mufuka is an award winning veteran journalist. He writes from the United States. [email protected]Post published in: Africa News