Zimbabwe: an unhappy birthday

First published in Peter Mullen The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

IHAVE a friend who works as an accountant in Zimbabwe. When he came to England last year for his daughter’s wedding, I asked him if things were getting any better in that troubled country, ruined by the sadistic tyrant Robert Mugabe.

He said: “Well, we are now allowed to take a million dollars out of our bank accounts each day. The trouble is, a pork pie costs two million dollars.”

Now we read that Mugabe is spending millions on a great junket for his 88th birthday while his people starve.

This tyrannical dictator certainly knows how to reward his cronies. An amazing $45m was spent on first class travel arrangements for his government’s inner circle last year and a further $5m on palace decoration. In addition, the astronomical sum of $120m was squandered on the president’s expenses. By coincidence, this personal pocket money enjoyed by the murderous thug Mugabe is almost exactly the amount the British Government gives him in overseas aid.

The lies put out by fashionable opinion in Britain from the Sixties onwards declared that the then government under the white man Ian Smith, an RAF fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, was as unjust and raciallyselective as the system of apartheid in neighbouring South Africa. It was nothing of the sort. Yes, there were elements of paternalism but the black people were neither persecuted nor starving and progressive political developments were ensuring their greater emancipation and participation in the rule of their country.

In those days, Zimbabwe was a rich country, fertile, productive and regarded as “the breadbasket of Africa”. Under Mugabe, the white farmers have been dispossessed, but what the still fashionable opinion in Britain doesn’t tell you is that it is the black people who are suffering the most: tens of thousands of them starved and slaughtered by Mugabe’s private army of bribed thugs and sadists.

This ought to be on our conscience, because we put the tyrant in place. I remember it well. Particularly, I remember the outrageous prayers said by idiots among Church of England bishops who gave thanks for “the new and emerging nation of Zimbabwe”.

That was actually the ruin and slaughterhouse which was replacing prosperous Southern Rhodesia. But Mugabe was just the sort of African leader beloved of the British Foreign Office. He called himself a Marxist and he was about to embark on his career as psychopathic head of yet another African dictatorship. And it has been, for him at least, a career successful beyond all dreaming.

Lord Carrington, under Margaret Thatcher, guaranteed his leadership in 1979 and he has been sole boss ever since.

I mention all this not merely as a way of sending especially bad wishes to Mugabe for his birthday and not just in affectionate recollection of my friend in Harare who can’t afford a pork pie, but because even Jeremy Paxman has recently said a few words in public to the effect that the British Empire did some good.

The European colonial powers of the 19th Century were not faultless. No political system or form of government ever is, for the very good reason that the human beings who run it are far from faultless themselves. At least when Southern Rhodesia was governed by the grandchildren of the British colonists, it wasn’t the hell hole it is now.


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