Mugabe should learn from South Africa

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 12:00am

Might I be permitted to take A. B. Bodomo (letter, South China Morning Post, April 20) up on two points concerning his letter on the farm invasions incited by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe? The first point is that I suggest that it would help define the problem better by referring to the two communities as black Zimbabweans and white Zimbabweans, rather than black Africans and white settlers, just as in Europe and North America there are black Europeans or Americans as well as white ones.

He refers to Britain wanting to get rid of Mr Mugabe as his actions remind London of its bitter defeat in Zimbabwe's war of independence, forgetting that Britain never fought such a war, let alone suffered a bitter defeat. What happened is that the white minority government declared a unilateral declaration of Independence (UDI), which was not accepted by Britain or the international community.

There were hostilities between the armed forces of the minority government and African freedom fighters, if one wants to call them that. The end result was Britain granting independence to Zimbabwe, with many whites remaining in the country as white Zimbabweans.

Now we get down to the problem. I would not argue with Mr Bodomo that a more equitable distribution of land is in order in Zimbabwe.

What Britain and the rest of the world are concerned about is how this is accomplished, as it relates to the lives, the safety, the homes and the livelihoods of many white Zimbabweans, their families and their black or white employees.

It also relates to the entire economic situation and well-being of the country at large. Two wrongs, however, do not make a right as the expression goes and any re-distribution of land should be carried out through just and proper means, with appropriate compensation being paid and the lives and well-being of those living and working on the farms, whether white or black, not threatened.

Africa has marvellous role models on how to act and behave in former South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their behaviour shines out like a beacon to the whole world and is an example of how Mr Mugabe could act.

Recent history is, however, littered with cases where one section of society in a country is portrayed for political, or other purposes, as an enemy of that society, with at times catastrophic results. Let this not happen again in Zimbabwe but let Africa and the world look to the likes of Mr Mandela and Archbishop Tutu to see how human beings can and should behave.

The world is too small a place, and people are too mixed up together, for behaviour like what is happening in Zimbabwe.