By Denford Magora
IT is always dangerous to personalise issues. It is dangerous to swallow the tripe that one man and one man alone can bring an entire country to its knees. Very rarely is this accusation ju
stified or true.
In Zimbabwe’s case, there are people who have been trying to tell us that President Robert Mugabe alone is the cause of the country’s state of disarray. No one else, we are told, has contributed anything to the demise of this country.
It matters not what the West has done. It matters not there are people outside Zimbabwe so miffed at the treatment of white farmers that they would gladly see this country reduced to ashes.
It matters not that tourism to this country is discouraged by vigilantes who have taken it upon themselves to tell South Africans, the British and Americans that it is “immoral” to visit the country and leave foreign currency behind to “prop up the Mugabe regime”. (Ordinary Zimbabweans working in the tourism industry who suffer as a result are not considered part of the equation.)
There is no doubt that Mugabe himself has done some damage. This man, who was so renowned for his diplomatic skills that he convinced Zimbabweans for a long time that he himself was a “reasonable fellow let down by his ministers”, certainly went astray in recent years. That is beyond doubt.
The reaction of the “white world” to Mugabe, which the president says is informed by “racism”, certainly makes sense when viewed against the following background:
Upon returning from one foreign trip or the other a couple of years back, the
president was greeted at the airport by buttock-waving members of the ruling party’s Women’s League. The president made what I still consider one of his most glaring gaffes during the little speech he gave to the women afterwards.
“We must make the white man tremble,” he thundered. Note that the comment was directed at “white man”. Not the “racist Rhodesian white farmer”, not the “racist Tony Blair”, but “the white man” in general.
It was a comment that was certainly ill-advised and it did more to damage the president’s image than anything else he has done since then. It allowed the world to realistically portray Mugabe as a racist himself, full of hatred for all white people. If Blair was to make a comment asking his supporters to “make the black man tremble”, I think he would be out of office faster than he could blink. He would be reviled by every black man alive today.
Why then does it surprise the president that the white world is nakedly ranged against him? I have heard that comment played back every time a white man wants to justify why they think Mugabe’s land crusade is nothing but “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”.
These were charges levelled against Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s problems started. They have since taken a back seat now because his critics have realised that there is little sympathy for the Zimbabwean white farmer even in traditionally conservative British newspapers like The Telegraph.
It also bears keeping in mind that, although this comment from Mugabe was clearly wrong primarily because it was a generalised comment that seems more racist than anything else he had said before, he still has not apologised to “good white people”. This has given rise to the British urban legend currently circulating which says that Mugabe told a rally in 2002 that “the only good white man is a dead white man”. I know that the president never said this, but it becomes credible because of that comment at the airport, which practically every television news organisation in the world still has on file.
The white man, therefore, fails to understand it when Mugabe is elected into power by the people of Zimbabwe. It has now become a case of if you can support such a nakedly racist man, a latter-day Hitler, then you do not deserve our help or our support.
Which in turn explains why the white world has no qualms about ensuring the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe. If they get cheated at elections and accept it without protest, without marching in the streets, then they are no better than “the racist who wants all whites to tremble simply because of their skin colour”.
If, on the other (unthinkable) hand, they are actually voting for this man, then they are all racists as well, for they support his call to make whites suffer. So the attitude then becomes: “To hell with Zimbabwe and its people.” Why would you want foreign currency from countries that are populated by the very same people you want to suffer?
This, in my view, is how our suffering has become a product of the actions of not only Mugabe, but his detractors as well. His international (white) opponents seem not to be making any distinction between Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe.
Despite all the talk about the world “feeling for the oppressed people of Zimbabwe”, one thing is certain: should the people of Zimbabwe actually vote for Mugabe freely and fairly, they would still not get any balance of payments support. The West would still be urging each other to boycott holidays in Zimbabwe because they are “immoral”.
This explains, quite rationally, in my view, why it is correct to say Zimbabwe will only be accepted by the West if Mugabe is no longer president, regardless of whether the people of Zimbabwe want him or not. As long as Mugabe is in power, no matter how fairly that power is achieved, Zimbabwe can consider itself a pariah as far as the West is concerned.
* Denford Magora is a marketing executive and freelance writer.