Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe should put ‘special relationship’ phase with Britain behind it

Posted by CM on April 8, 2008

President Mugabe in recent years has talked forcefully and endlessly about defending Zimbabwe’s “sovereignty.”

“Hands off Britain, you have no right to comment on our affairs, we are a sovereign nation,” has been his constant refrain. He has also often talked about how Britain did not live up to its promises in regards to land reform. The most notorious example of this he cites is the now infamous 1997 letter from one time UK minister Claire Short to then Zimbabwean agriculture minister, Kumbirai Kangai.

What were considered the offending sentences were, “…we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.”

The rest is history.

Mugabe reacted to this with outrage, leading to the long chain of events that have led Zimbabwe to where it is today, and official relations with Britain plunging to somewhere between non-existent  and rock bottom. Zimbabwe eventually pulled out of the British Commonwealth and Mr. Mugabe uses every opportunity he can to take rude potshots at Britain. It is not at all surprising that the British political establishment and media seem to want Mugabe to go even more feverishly than Zimbabweans, which is saying quite a lot.

For all his talk about ‘sovereignty,’ in becoming so obsessed with and emotionally hung up about the British, Mugabe unwittingly and ironically gives them far more influence on Zimbabwe’s affairs than they should. The British may actually still be in power in Zimbabwe because they seem to control the president’s heart, mind and soul. Instead of thinking about what is good for Zimbabwe in what he says and does, Mugabe instead seems to mainly be motivated by the thought, “what will annoy the British the most?” This is giving them effective control over his actions.

Mugabe constantly rails, “Zimbabwe must never be a colony again.” How many Zimbabweans could disagree with this? After stating the obvious as if it was some great revelation, he then contradicts his own rhetoric by showing in his obsession with the British that he has allowed them to colonize his mind.

Here is my proposal: Let us set the British free from any sense of obligation for anything in our ‘sovereign’ Zimbabwe. By so doing we will also be setting ourselves free from the colonial idea that our former foreign ruler can or must try to solve our problems. Whether it is how to organize and fund a type of land reform that works for us or anything else, we would then first look inward for answers before we look outwards for assistance. That would be truly showing maturity, independence and ‘sovereignty.’

Britain should be just one of the many countries we have good relations with. All this talk about a big post-Mugabe aid package in which Britain plays a leading role in providing money, reform and training of the security forces and all kinds of other things should be put aside. It is merely to revive the old dysfunctional donor-recipient, master-native relations that began our record of sorry relations with Britain. Relations with the former colonial power that are centrally tied around aid have not only not significantly helped Africa move forward, they also deepen a sense of dependency by the recipient and give the donor rude notions about still wanting to control the natives.

We should not have negative relations with Britain; that is not my point. But neither should either party put any special expectations on the other. Our relations with the British should be cordial but no more so than those with any other distant nations like China, Russia, Pakistan or whichever.

Let us set the British free, in the process also setting ourselves free as a nation.

But whether Mr. Mugabe can ever free himself of the pitiful British colonization of his whole being that obviously causes him so much rage and anguish is questionable. The poor man is haunted, tormented by thoughts and visions of the British. It is so tragic and ironic how Mugabe has allowed Britain to so effectively compromise his personal sovereignty.

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