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Never as simple as it seems

February 2, 2020

To us westerners abroad, it seems so simple. We identify the bad guys, and anyone fighting them must be the good guys who deserve our unconditional support. The media and politicians in our countries further brainwash us, intentionally or otherwise. In Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF is bad and MDC is good, in our eyes. For Zimbabweans the situation can be more complicated. Some have supported the Zanu-PF for a long time, and it was the party that freed them from white rule, gave them independence, built schools and infrastructures and made Zimbabwe the bread basket of the region. MDC to them is a new party, with little governing experience and track record, led by a Shona (the ethnic majority), but with the majority of the cadres being Ndebele (the second largest ethnic group, related to the Zulu). Zanu-PF on the other hand is mostly Shona. It´s like supporting a football club for all your life, going to the games as a young lad with your dad, seeing them win match after match and suddenly the club seems to be in shambles and the only other football club is a newcomer with mostly players coming from a town the other side of the country. Better the devil we know than one we don´t is the thinking of some.
Mugabe, although a dictator at present, is also a very smart and cunning man who knows just how far to push and manipulate his people. Supported by a score of influential army generals and politicians who have all to loose and nothing to gain if the regime falls. Mugabe never intended to do anything about white ownership of most of the productive lands, but when faced with an electoral defeat, he had to come up with a plan. And that he did. The first person to die as a result of the farm invasions was a black cop, not a white farmer, trying to protect the farmers and farm workers. Things quickly got out of hand, and my guess is Mugabe got a bit more than he bargained for. I think he also expected his generals, commanders and politicians to show some common sense and not appropriate more than one farm or leave the farms unproductive. During my stay, there have been three farm reforms. First taking them from the whites, than taking them from the veterans, then taking them from the generals and influential people who had taken more than one farm.

Some of my colleagues, although not being Zanu-PF supporters (no one ever told you who they did or did not support), also managed to get their hands on some farms. When I asked them what they planned to do with their new properties, seeing they were not farmers at all, the answer was that they would hold on to them, wait for things to improve (not change) and sell them for a nice profit afterwards. I did not like this, but then again, if most of the land in Holland would be owned by Turks or Moroccans who worked their butts off to get that far and someone decided to kick them all out beyond my control and without my participation, and some government would tell me I could now get a big house with a piece of land and swimming pool for free that used to belong to a Moroccan, I am not sure if I would have the moral decency to decline…
I would like to believe I would have the moral fibre to not go along, but if your Dutch neighbours just moved to one of these houses and you feel like a dumb fool with everyone you know claiming their property … hmmm.
Good and honest politicians are few and power does corrupt, so one would also be wrong in thinking that all the opposition wants for the country is to make things better and more democratic. There are plenty of rotten apples in the opposition as well. And after a revolution (whether peaceful or bloody) more often than not, the new power is all too eager to use the same instruments of oppression that the old one did, although they might change the names of the instruments.



I started feeling uncomfortable when some district officials started calling me “Comrade Dave” in an affectionate manner. I knew they meant no harm by it, seemed to be nice people as far as I could tell from working with them, but it didn’t sit right. Especially for someone that, like myself, is a liberal democrat. Then again, it meant I probably would not need to worry about my food being poisoned during a workshop or my car mysteriously crashing when hitting the road on my way home.

Foreign governments are no better. Although Europe and the States imposed all kind of economic and travelling restrictions and sanctions on Zimbabwe’s political elite, most of Zimbabwe was getting its power from the Cahora Bassa damn in Mozambique, owned by Portugal (at the time) and incurring huge debts with electricity still being provided. This is not the only example of an EU member trying to publically trash Zimbabwe in a way it didn’t hurt them where it mattered most, their own pockets. Many countries in Africa have in fact a one-party system where corruption thrives, but we don’t care about those, since we make money off them and they don’t bug us. As long as they don’t have oil, diamonds or gas that they refuse to trade or are not producing nukes or extremists that threaten to kill us. China meanwhile is going about their business in a much more intelligent manner. They have no reputation of being colonial pricks and thus manage to acquire large tracts of land and rob countries of their resources. The fact that they do this together with the elites and finance a hospital, parliament building or school in the process helps to the effect.

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