Every chance it gets, the Mugabe regime likes to characterise its main problem as essentially a “bilateral” one between Zimbabwe and Britain over the contentious issue of who promised to do what in regards to land reform, and didn’t.
This, of course, conveniently ignores all the many issues that have no direct relationship to land reform that have led to Mugabe’s government being ostracised by much of the world.
Yet it is also true that there is a special, bitter emotionalism to the disagreements between Mugabe’s and the various British regimes that have reigned since about the time of John Major. This emotionalism has spilled over from the charges flying back and forth between the two countries’ governments to a generalised, unhelpful frenzy in even news reports between the two countries.
The Zimbabwean official media and government see red at the very mention of the name “Britain,” cooking up all sorts of conspiracy theories about virtually everything and anything and laying responsibility for it at that country’s door. Likewise, the British media, and parts of the government, seem to lose all rationality in regards to anything to do with Zimbabwe. It is very much like the particularly messy, acrimonious falling out of a couple that had a once particularly passionate relationship, even if not an always a happy one.
Outrage at Britain seeming to absolve itself of colonial responsibility over land reform issues is sometimes cited as one of the breaking points in Mugabe’s love affair with Britain, and that may well be true. But perhaps an overall sense of rejection by a country/society/culture he so admired may be more of a factor in Mugabe’s bitterness than just ill feelings about land reform differences. That could be more of a factor in his particular soreness with Britain than the high-sounding ideological differences that are often touted.
An article by one William Saunderson-Meyer shows a keener sense of this dynamic than I have seen by most observers trying to decipher “what happened to Mugabe,” changing him from the kind of African leader the British were once very comfortable doing business with, to the raving anti-British demagogue he has become.
The article is about ways the ways he suggests the British government could exert influence over Mugabe, despite its seemingly having no clue at all how to handle the canterkanrous Mugabe for years now. But that main thrust is not what I found so interesting about it, but what I believe to be his spot-on observations about Mugabe’s real feelings towards the British he now attacks every chance he gets.
The link to the article I read no longer seems to lead to the original, so I unfortunately cannot refer a reader to it, and reproducing it whole is not necessary for the point in it that I wish to highlight, which is this single sentence towards the end:
The vitriol that Mugabe directs towards Britain is at least partly because he is deep in his heart an Anglophile who has been scorned.
I believe by this one line, Saunderson-Meyer shows a deeper level of understanding of Mugabe’s attitude and rhetoric towards Britain than many others have done. It is not just about land reform, it is also a deep rage at being spurned by a the government of a society that he had such deep affection and reverence for.