Is it better being oppressed by one’s own race than by those of a different colour?

I found a news report I came across recently - on the outrage surrounding a New Zealand-based "Rhodesia Museum", established in 2018 by a grouping calling itself the Rhodesia Services Association - quite intriguing.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


The historical exhibition, named Lion and Tusk Museum, drew angry criticism from several quarters, especially some Zimbabweans now resident in this Oceanian country – who, understandably and justifiably did not take kindly to what they perceived as the glorification of this colonial period, describing it as “disgusting and offensive”.

They likened the audacious touting of this dark period in our country’s history – which these voices of dissent characterized as “white supremacism” – to apartheid in South Africa, and the Holocaust (whereby, over six million Jews were savagely massacred by the Nazi regime in Germany and other occupied European countries in the 1930s and 40s).

The Lion and Tusk Museum is said to house artefacts including guns, machetes, bayonets, flags, military uniforms, medals, and other memorabilia of the Rhodesian army – which, a spokesperson said was aimed at preserving “the military history of Rhodesia” from its colonial beginnings in the 1890s until its transition to majority rule and name-change to Zimbabwe in 1980.

The main bone of contention against this display of Rhodesian military prowess appears to be the apparent one-sided glorification of the military – with scant acknowledgment of its role in maintaining colonial rule and oppression of the black majority.

As far as I can tell, these arguments against the museum are valid, since they have profound merit.

The reason being that – as someone who loves studying history – I have always been a firm believer in the need for any history to be told in its fullest and entirety, without leaving anything out (be it good or bad), if it is to be taken seriously.

There is no way, for instance, if my history is ever to be recorded or narrated, for this to be done without including everything that I have done wrong, as well as all I did right.

Any biased and managed recording of a past event, period, or the total accumulation of the developments connected with a particular nation, person, or thing – can never genuinely be described as history.

It can be called propaganda – but, definitely not history.

However, what I also find disingenuous is the world’s obsession with racial subjugation as the only purely distasteful, repulsive, and unacceptable type of oppression – that we should all stand up, and speak out against with all our might – at the expense of any other forms, particularly when blacks subjugate other black people.

Although this is only conjecture, I wonder just how “disgusting and offensive” a museum showcasing only the good and beauty of post-independence Zimbabwe would have been considered – yet, failing to honestly touch on the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide (whereby, the military brutally murdered over 20,000 innocent unarmed civilians of Ndebele ethnicity), or the 2008 post-election butchering of hundreds of suspected opposition supporters, or the beating up, abduction, torturing, and raping of perceived anti-government voices.

If we were to have such an exhibition, say in New Zealand, touting the successes and development in post-independence Zimbabwe – glaringly ignoring the dark unenviable side of this murderous past – would we have witnessed the same levels of “disgust and offense” and outrage, as experienced with the Lion and Tusk Museum?

I think not!

This is an issue I have always had with those of us who claim to fight against oppression and human right abuses.

It is rather disturbing that the world we live in today appears more “disgusted and offended” by white-on-black rights violations – yet, exhibit a more laid back, lackluster response, more in the form of a half-hearted slap on the wrist, when it comes to black-on-black repression.

As someone who was born in colonial Rhodesia, and spent my adult life in independent Zimbabwe – subjugation, segregation, and economic marginalization by a whiteman is just as harmful and painful as by a blackman.

The velocity of a bullet from a gun held by a black dictator, is just as damaging as that from a white oppressor.

In fact, it can be more hurtful coming from a fellow black brother or sister – since, these are own kith and kin, from whom we expect better – than someone of a different colour, race, or creed.

I am sure there is nothing more traumatic than being betrayed, made to suffer, and even killed by one’s own family – whom we expect a bond of love and oneness – than an “outsider”.

I actually find it incredibly ridiculous that a white person can call me a “Kaffir” right now, I swiftly post that online, and immediate ignite global outrage and outcry aimed against this racism.

Yet, a black leader can loot (with his family and dubious hangers-on) our country’s resources – leaving millions of Zimbabweans wallowing in abject poverty – and, solicit not much in terms of reaction, should I post that online.

Let us not be hypocritical, and treat the issue of oppression with double standards – since subjugation by a fellow blackman deserves condemnation as that from a whiteman, as they are both “disgusting and offensive”.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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