Götterdämmerung in Zimbabwe?

There is a long list of people who can be blamed for the catastrophe that is modern Zimbabwe. But Labour's Clare Short, possibly the worst person ever to be appointed Minister for Overseas Development, really takes the biscuit

Comrade Bob
Robin Mitchinson
On 1 August 2016 05:51

Is it too much to hope that reports from Zimbabwe of an uprising by Mugabe’s ‘veterans’ means that Götterdämmerung has finally arrived for Comrade Bob and his thieving, murdering henchmen?

Their legacy is a state that no longer exists in any recognisable form, total financial ruin, and starving children in what was formerly the breadbasket of Central Africa, and the wealthiest country in the region.

So what went wrong?

There are contemporary commentators who blame it all on Dr Owen. But he had absolutely nothing to do with the peace agreement of 1979. He was out of office following the Thatcher landslide earlier. He was only one of a succession of leading British (and American) politicians who failed to solve the UDI conundrum.

Peter Carrington, the architect of Lancaster,  is described in a recently published book as  ‘morally vacuous, scheming and duplicitous’. In reality, it was he more than anyone who by deft diplomacy solved a problem that had defeated successive British governments since 1965.

The Lancaster House Agreement was elegantly and subtly drafted to give something for everyone but not everything to anybody.

Crucially, it decreed a completely new constitution based on ‘one man, one vote’, which previously the white parties had flatly refused to consider on the belief that giving the vote to unsophisticated and uneducated people was a recipe for total collapse.

However, it also created 20 reserved ‘white’ seats until 1987.

Crucially, compulsory land redistribution was deferred for ten years; until then the issue would be dealt with on a ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ basis. The British and American governments established a compensation fund, and in the first year 70,000 of the landless were resettled.

The fund was US$2 billion, but by 1997 only US$44 million had been spent.

Then the wheels came off.

1997 saw the Blair conquest. Appointed as Minister for Overseas Development was the egregious Clare Short, arguably the worst person ever to occupy that post against some pretty stiff competition.

Quite out of the blue she reneged totally on the essential land compensation agreement. She wrote to the Zimbabwe Government saying that the election of a Labour government without links to former colonial interests meant Britain no longer had any “special responsibility to meet the cost of land purchases”. In short, racist white colonials are not getting any British money.

Mugabe was under great pressure from his ‘veterans’ for their share of the spoils of war; and so began the farm confiscations that are now almost complete, as is the total destruction of the economy.

He may have played the lead role in this continuing tragedy, but he did not cause it.

The real villain is back in the obscurity from which she should never have emerged.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world


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