By now you will have noticed that it is rare for me to post a piece without making suggestions for possible solutions to the issue that I will be discussing through it. But in this case, my approach may be different for the simple reason that the issue I am addressing is itself, a kind of dilemma. To me, it appears to have no simple solutions but then, I believe some human being(s) out there have got some. But if not, the Almighty certainly has one.
This is my story. When the Patriotic Front chose the military option to the decolonisation of Zimbabwe around 1975, they had found themselves facing two choices, both of them hard. The two comprised remaining under oppressive white rule or going to war with the British colonists, the Rhodesians. They chose the second option and appeared to be winning the battle through the promising of positive outcome of the Lancaster House Agreement.
However, while at Lancaster House, they were tricked by the British who made some demands that were difficult for the nationalists to fulfil. The former argued that since the land owners by that time-a period of nearly one hundred tears after occupation of the country-had actually paid for the land, it was logical that they be compensated through the sale of same. This effectively meant that the nationalists had to pay for that land. However, in response, the latter argued against the idea, demanding to know why they should be made to pay for their ancestral land-land which after all-the British had not bought but had seized by force, from the said ancestors.
Not to be outfoxed, the British negotiated for a willing buyer willing seller condition, but the nationalists, seeing through the trickery underlying such an agreement, refused to budge. They obviously, knew that ultimately, there would be no willing seller.
On noting this stalemate, the Americans came in with the idea of paying the said compensation. It was only after this undertaking that the nationalists agreed to sign that agreement. Sadly, for some unclear reason, the Americans later reneged on that undertaking.
At this juncture let us digress a bit and analyse the attitude(s) and consequent behaviour(s) of these two parties — that is the British and the Americans. If and when we do this, we cannot help noticing an element of condescension on their part.
But then, if one compares this case with the Versailles Treaty as well as the Nuremberg trials where the Allied forces appear to have treated the Germans harshly and unfairly according to the rules of war-a point that Daniel V. Gallery, the American Author of the book “We captured a U Boat”, goes to great pains to make in that book-we come across this ‘might is right element’ in their mindset.
On continuing to analyse the process and progression of the Lancaster House Conference, we find the British maintaining this stance where hard line tactics are intertwined with trickery.
And to make matters worse for the nationalists, when the Labour Party’s Tony Blair came into office as the British prime minister in 1995, he flatly refused to avail the Zimbabwe Government with funds to compensate the former white Rhodesian farmers, arguing that his party was not bound to respect agreements that a previous Conservative government had entered into.
Now, here is a typical case of shifting of goal posts — a case that smacks of arrogance on the part of the British. And why do I argue this way, you may want to know?
You see, agreements and/or undertakings of that nature and at that level, are supposed to last for the stipulated period, irrespective of the government in power at the time they are made. There are many examples to back this fact. And incidentally, we now have ZIDERA that was put in place in 2002 under George W. Bush (Republican Party) but has been maintained through two presidents already-that is Barak Obama (Democratic Party and Donald Trump (Republican Party). This is not to mention the Cuban and North Korean sanctions, each of which is now over 50 years old-having run through both of these American parties several times over!
At this stage, we enter another phase of hard choices, this time with Robert Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe and the de facto choice maker, so to speak. When the British refused to compensate the Rhodesians, Mugabe went ahead and seized the land from them in 2000. Rather surprisingly, this time, the Americans came back onto the scene and implemented ZIDERA, thus presenting Mugabe with another set of hard choices; either to back out of his position and surrender the seized land to its Rhodesian claimants, or suffer the consequences of economic sanctions. But being the man of steel that he was, Mugabe decided to take the hard choice of holding on to the land at any cost. In his own words, he later declared; “We just have to soldier on (. . .)”. “(. . .) Land reform is not reversible.”
Now, juxtaposed to this scenario, we have Morgan Tsvangirayi as the leader of the opposition party, also making his own hard choice. However, in his case, it appears that he did not realise that he was walking into a hard choice arena until a decade or so later, when he found it hard to get into office after having committed the country to economic sanctions from the West.
So now, what we have are two political parties, each with a hard choice to make. With the economic sanctions biting, ZANU-PF, on the one hand – is finding the going rough and tough, while on the other hand, the MDC has its own hard choice(s) to make. Either it co-operates with ZANU-PF and request the Americans to lift the sanctions, thus enabling the economy to recover; or to keep the heat on ZANU-PF in the process, causing the people to continue suffering.
In this respect, the MDC leadership may pretend that they do not feel the pain of causing pain to the common man in the street but I can assure you, they have the human nature to sense and/or feel that pain!
But now, they have committed themselves to co-operating with the West in this matter, so they cannot just renege on that stance. In the process, they have to continue causing the political instability that is in turn, continuing to fuel economic instability in the country, with the result that ordinary Zimbabweans continue to suffer.
Now to me, this is a real dilemma — a nasty situation, if ever there was one. So ultimately, the question to ask here is this: To what end? And has the opposition’s choice here-for whatever reason-been sensible, moral, or worth it? I ask you the reader to answer this question for yourself.
Clifford Shambare is and Agriculturist cum economist and is reachable on 0774960937