If the forceful occupation of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe is a political ploy, as ruling party opponents claim, President Robert Mugabe must be a very good politician. Yet the issue is not one of such simplicity. While political manipulation is likely a factor in the ongoing enforcement of white farmers off the land by black war veterans, there are other factors that can hardly be overlooked. It has only been 20 years since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain, not enough time to restore many injustices instituted by colonization. Therefore, landlord vs. land less, black vs. white and former colonizer vs. former colonized, are real challenges which remain undeniably visible to this day.
The story, is then, much larger than the Macheke district, where the occupation is taking place. It is in fact a major dilemma that crosses the borders of Zimbabwe into most of the African continent, and to every former colony. Has the declared independence actually restored justice and equality to these freed nations? If the answer is based on flags, national anthems, and United Nations representation, then yes. But what really measures sovereignty, and according to what definition should true freedom be declared?
In Zimbabwe, independence war veterans are convinced that sovereignty is superficial if every aspect of life effected by foreign occupation is not rehabilitated to serve the people of the country, especially issues regarding the land. And land distribution has indeed taken place in most of Africa, after the dismantling of colonies. But apparently, many are not pleased with the methods of this distribution. In Zimbabwe, for example, according to government statistics, 4000 white families still own over one third of the total productive land. Considering the poverty level in Zimbabwe, and remembering the fact that whites were the ones who initially occupied the country and drained its resources, we ought to admit that such a statistic is indeed problematic. If true independence is demanded to provide authentic justice, then land distribution in Zimbabwe is an honest reminder that one of the following is missing in that African nation: sovereignty, justice or perhaps both.
But, unfortunately, the story doesn't conclude there. The occupation of white farmland, by black war veterans, is not totally the question of logic, ethics and a quick stroll through history. There are politicians, who are quick to provoke fear, panic and chaos if their popularity sinks, or who are enthusiastic to promote stability if their rates are up. For President Mugabe, and his ruling party, such a narration is quite suitable.
Only one day has passed since the electoral defeat suffered by the government in a constitutional referendum, when the farm occupation began. One of the rejected constitution provisions frees the government to seize white-owned farms without paying compensation. The government's February defeat was an opportunity that cannot be missed for the Movement for Democratic Change, the country's opposition, who thereafter explained the government's behavior as a reaction to defeat. What strengthened the opposition argument is the fact that the parliament elections are to take place in May. By stirring violent conflict, the opposition argued, Mugabe could easily declare state of emergency and cancel or postpone the elections. Yet, the Movement for Democratic Change itself has vested interests in gathering support for such an argument. Aside from destabilizing the government's position and lowering its trust among the population, it also increased its credibility among the white minority in Zimbabwe, who is already a generous supporter of the opposition's rhetoric.
No one can orchestrate what will happen next in Zimbabwe. Even if relative peace and stability prevail, both parties' grievances will continue to stay in place, as long as variables remain unchanging. Whites see themselves rightful owners on land for they hold deeds and stamped certificates which prove ownership. Many blacks on the other hand, denounce such ownership and demand complete restoration of the freed land, meaning the owners of the land must change colors, for Britain no longer has a place in Zimbabwe. And accordingly, the government and the opposition shall seek positions that they see most fit to maximize their votes in the coming May elections or any other elections. The unfolding and rapidly developing events in Zimbabwe have provoked the interest of other parties, outside the usually neglected and ignored nation. Voices from the United States, Britain and other parts of the world are strongly refusing Mugabe's approach to the conflict, as well as his strong and open support of the black war veterans. One must wonder why these voices remained quiet, when true atrocities took place in various parts of Africa in recent years, and why they chose to lobby for justice when white farmers where kicked off their farms. How can we expect Zimbabwe to forget its colonial past and simply "get over it", if colonialists themselves still identify with those "left behind"?