04.04.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Leaders And Emotive Outbursts

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DR CONDOLEEZZA RICE, US Secretary of State, at the hearing in the Senate before her appointment, listed Zimbabwe among the undemocratic and tyrannical regimes that the American government would put its microscope on.

That obviously was in continuation of the battle lines that were drawn when Dr Robert Mugabe's government forcibly took over the lands of Zimbabwe's white minority after the West reneged on it commitment to provide funds to buy back those same lands.

Subsequently the aggrieved whites and their cousins in Europe and American allegedly funded the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which has been in a bitter struggle for power with Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF). Mugabe's handling of both the rivalry and the land grab has been adjudged undemocratic and oppressive, hence the American characterisation of Zimbabwe as tyrannical.

Responding to Dr Rice, Octogenarian Mugabe, obviously beside himself with anger, reportedly called her that “little girl with slave ancestry”, a remark that has clearly raised the hackles of all African Americans, because all of them are descended from slaves.

GYE NYAME CONCORD finds Dr Mugabe's remark thoughtless and in very bad taste.

No doubt from Mugabe's point of view and that of many others, Condoleezza Rice deserves some hard words, but certainly not the fact that she is the granddaughter of slaves, for that reference assumes that every other African American supports whatever her alleged sins are.

Dr Condoleezza Rice enjoys such high profile status with the Bush administration, having first served as National Security Adviser and now as Secretary of State. Her father, we learnt, was a close associate of Senior Bush during his days in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), especially as its director.

If Mugabe, aged 80 years at least, had properly mastered his emotions as he should have by now, and had done proper homework he could easily have described Condoleezza as that “little girl who has forgotten her ancestry and has become a stooge to imperialists and neo-colonialists”. Such a characterisation would have been specific, been more painful to her and family but would have annoyed very few other African Americans whose unalloyed support contributed immensely to Mugabe becoming the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980.

African leaders ought to desist from continually behaving like bulls in a china shop. Imperturbability is a trait that is supposed to govern the behaviour of people in high office. No matter the storm raging all around them they are expected to remain calm, cool and collected to give the necessary matured direction that would restore calm. The impetuosity of youth is not expected of them.

Whenever there is the need for an immediate response, an aide ought to be used so that their gaffes, like Mugabe's, could be easily corrected without much loss of face to the leader. Almost 25 years in power and at his age, Mugabe ought to have learnt the ropes of leadership by now and not be embarrassing his nation and his admirers.

Of course, he has admirers! He may have been crude in his land reform efforts but the West, especially Margaret Thatcher's Britain, did not give him much of a choice either, as a trip down memory lane would establish.

The whites went to Nyasaland/Northern Rhodesia and grabbed choice pieces of land, the most fertile, free of charge. After they had been forced to the negotiating table by the guerrilla war launched by Mugabe and his lieutenants and a request was made for land re-distribution to Africans, the white “landowners” demand payment for every acre of land to be released.

Consequently, as part of the Lancaster House Agreement under which black majority rule was restored in the then Northern Rhodesia, Britain, the colonial power under whose impotent nose Ian Smith and his cohorts unilaterally declared independence (UDI), agreed to provide the funds needed for the land-buy-back programme.

However, 10, 15, 20 years after Zimbabwe's independence Britain refused to fulfil its part of the agreement by releasing the necessary funds. The then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher claimed that politicians would hijack the land for themselves and not the landless majority in whose interest the money was being made available.

With the gift of hindsight is the opportunity cost of non-release of the buy-back funds – the forcible ejection of the white farmers, its unfortunate deaths and anguish - preferable to the redeemed land going to Zimbabwean politicians? GYE NYAME CONCORD hopes that the necessary lessons have or are being learnt; that it does not pay for anyone to play God.

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