The news from Zimbabwe just gets worse and worse — for Western liberals looking for another troubled region on which to strop their sense of superiority. Two days after the Zimbabwe Conference of Trade Unions called a general strike — they subsequently downplayed it for tactical reasons — comes news the army is beginning to melt away, due to lack of pay. It now looks likely that the thing will go as these things always do (seen most recently in Nepal). Comrade Bob Mugabe will become increasingly isolated even within his own thuggish Zanu-PF faction, and shown the door — maybe with a few skirmishes — and a more rational leadership will take over, and hopefully call elections.

The one clear gain out of the chaos of the last couple of years will remain — the dispossession of the white farmers and the redistribution of their land (even if it is to Mugabe’s cronies). The white farmers have no-one but themselves to blame for their predicament — they’ve had a quarter century to make a gradual handover of land to the descendants of the people whose virtual slave labour made them profitable export-producing farms — and, with a very few exceptions, they failed to do so. They’re extremely lucky they’re not swinging from lamp-posts.

The decadence of Mugabe’s reign has been used for years as a stick with which to beat the whole process of decolonisation. But Mugabe was created by the necessity for violent struggle against white Rhodesia. He spent 10 years in prison and 10 fighting a guerrilla war. He was a ruthless Leninist who welded together a party strong enough to smash the white regime. If Rhodesia had had a De Klerk, Mugabe would be a marginal figure. It got Ian Smith and then it got Mugabe. That’s just the process of revolution — Cromwell, Robespierre, Mugabe, they all go on the turn pretty quickly. But you won’t find 10 black Zimbabweans who want Rhodesia back. 

Meanwhile, in the West, confusion reigns. People liberating themselves? Playing tactical cat-and-mouse to remove a dictator without having the place blown to crap? Showing more resilience and resolve than most people in the West? God almighty — if this catches on, what are Western cruise-missile liberals going to do for a sense of moral worth?

I mean, if you can’t feel superior to Africans who can you feel superior to?

Peter Fray

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