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Mugabe’s Terror and the Left’s Deafening Silence By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Bill Howe, a former ranch operator in Zimbabwe who had his land seized and assets frozen by Robert Mugabe in 2000.

FP: Bill Howe, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Howe: It's a pleasure to be here.

FP: Tell us how you came to settle in Zimbabwe post-independence.

Howe: I went to Southern Africa in 1976 to cover the escalating Rhodesian conflict. I spent most of my time in Zambia and Mozambique covering the war from Lusaka with Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU and from Maputo with ZANU then led by Herbert Chitepo.

I knew many of the leaders of the "Chimurenga" as the liberation movement was called and decided to settle in Zimbabwe after independence.

FP: Why did you decide to settle in Zimbabwe after independence?

How: There was a great sense of hope for the future of Zimbabwe after independence in 1980. The Rhodesian Government had weathered international economic sanctions and had put in place an impressive industrial infrastructure that a nation like Zimbabwe would not normally have. Things like a local textile industry that was not dependent on foreign investment for example. Sanctions had actually made the country quite self-sufficient.

Another reason was the policy of reconciliation that was articulated by Mugabe. It was believable because of its sheer necessity. Many had high-hopes for a future that might have served as a model for all of Africa.

FP: How did you go about purchasing land with your partners?

Howe: At independence, a lot of people were anxious to leave Zimbabwe and were selling their land. We first obtained a small game ranch of about 6000 acres. Further acquisitions increased our holdings to about 125,000 acres.

FP: Why were a lot of people anxious to leave Zimbabwe after independence?

Howe: The great fear was that the new government would practice racial discrimination in reverse. In retrospect, they were absolutely correct. Thousands left the country even though they were legally allowed only something like a thousand dollars to take with them. Of course there still others who had a completely opposite view of the aims of the new government.

FP: Did you buy into Mugabe's articulated "reconciliation" plan for awhile?

Howe: We bought into it hook, line and sinker. I had met Mugabe in Maputo during the war. He was not then the leader of ZANU but a senior member of the inner circle. Although we knew him to be an avowed Marxist, we believed him to be a political pragmatist, not the megalomanic he came to be.

FP: So you were naïve about Marxism and what Mugaba being a Marxist meant for the country you came to settle in?

Howe: Naive? Alright, mea culpa. The opportunity seemed so clear to me. If the Mugabe regime had aligned itself with "capitalism" they could have attracted huge foreign investment. It didn't take a rocket scientist to recognize the enormous opportunity at hand. I was thoroughly convinced they would see the light. As it turned out, they squandered their chance and their future.

But instead Mugabe came within an inch from declaring Zimbabwe a one-party state and would have done so had the Soviet Union not collapsed. If he had been successful any and all hopes for Zimbabwe would have died then. Many thought Mugabe was a Marxist in name only. As it turned he was a committed Marxist whose dreams of a Utopia became little more than a totalitarian kleptocracy which it turned out was his real aim.

FP: Tell us the story of the betrayal – the reality of the ZANU-PF government.

Howe: The first few years after 1980 saw limited economic growth that was thwarted by drought. The betrayal was the terror campaign carried out by "dissidents" against the Ndebele people who supported ZAPU and Joshua Nkomo. Everyone knew that the "dissidents" were just government troops (the North Korean trained 5th Brigade) changing hats to wage a murderous campaign against the Ndebele.

FP: Who were the Ndebele and why did the regime perpetrate a murderous campaign against them?

Howe: The Ndebele are the minority tribe occupying the South and West of Zimbabwe. They are a direct branch of the Zulu that once subjugated the majority Shona who now comprise the "Aryan" race of Zimbabwe (so to speak).

In Africa the Volksgeist is that loyalties are always based strictly on ethnic, tribal, cultural and linguistic similarities. There was even an ethnic split in the liberation struggle.

The Shona (Mugabe's faction) were represented by ZANU/ZANLA and the Ndebele (Nkomo's faction) by ZAPU/ZIPRA. ZANU and ZAPU were the political arms of the movements and ZANLA and ZAPU were their military wings.

FP: At Independence in 1980 the Zimbabwe dollar was trading above the US greenback. There are now several billion (4.65+) Zimbabwe dollars to a US dollar. How did this happen? Explain the situation.

Howe: Well, theoretically a government can't run out of money. They simply print more. The problem is that the currency is backed by nothing. In Zimbabwe today there are million dollar bills on the ground that are so worthless, no one bothers to pick them up.

FP: Zimbabwe at independence was an exporter of food. It is now threatened with mass starvation. Unemployment runs at a rate of 94%. Less than 500 thousand people in a country of 12 million actually have a job. How did it happen? Has something to do with Marxism doesn’t it?

Howe: It's crazy. I can give you an example that will illustrate just how mindless the land seizures were. Tobacco is one of Zimbabwe's most important crops. It is so valuable that the figures of the nations' GDP cannot be calculated until after the tobacco auctions. Mugabe seized most of the tobacco farms before the harvest and millions of dollars worth of the crop was lost.

FP: So land that was legally purchased post independence under rules laid down by the government was seized. Expand on your perspective of this.

Howe: The seizing of land was economic suicide. But it was necessary to deflect attention away from broken promises to the people.

Ostensibly, the land would be redistributed to the people; but that didn't happen. Government Ministers and senior police and army officers own two and three large farms each.

FP: Describe the violence that has been perpetrated against any and all dissenters from the ruling party's line.

Howe: White farmers were beaten severely for resisting the farm invasions. Others were murdered, like Martin Olds and his mother. What is really telling is that the venerable Welshman Mabhena, an Ndebele and Secretary General of the opposition ZAPU party and until recently Governor of Matabeland North (appointed by Mugabe), had his land seized too. It wasn't all a question of color. It was also about tribalism and party loyalty.

FP: So where is the Left in all of this? Why isn’t it protesting against Mugabe? It’s supposed to be for social justice and equality and human rights, right? Why isn’t it apologizing for where it stood on Mugabe? Where are the international denunciations?

Howe: Great question. But I really don't have an answer. I will say that the inactivity of Thabo Mbeki and the ANC in South Africa bodes ill for the future of that country. South Africa could have brought pressure to bear on Mugabe's excesses. They didn't. Makes me think they have similar plans in the future. Want somebody from the left to apologize for their stance on Mugabe? I will.

FP: The Left’s silence on Mugabe is shameless and shameful isn’t it? It exposes the Left’s supposed dedication to social justice to be a sham. If the Left truly believed in its supposed principles, it would vociferously denounce Mugabe and the ideology on which his terror is based, right? But it can’t denounce Mugabe, because then it would have to have some second thoughts about its class hatred and its dedication to Marxism, which it can’t have. Right?

Howe: Okay. I'll grant you that; but with reservation. I personally denounce his wretched excesses. But the people whom I would describe as "socialist" are usually no fans of Marxism or Communism. They are not the same thing. It should not even be necessary for me to state that as both of those ideologies have already been thoroughly discredited.

I don't regard "the left" as a single subversive entity. History has proven them to have been horribly misguided and that is obvious. But if I were to "keep my eye on the ball" and answer the question, "Were they totally off-base when it came to assessing Mugabe's intentions in Zimbabwe?" Of course they were.

FP: Well, socialists worldwide are still to face the truth regarding the ideas that are responsible for the failure of Marxism and Communism. And whether the Left is a single entity or not, one thing is clear: leftist magazines, media, pundits, activists and scholars throughout the world are deafeningly silent about Mugabe’s excesses. They were pretty vocal in denouncing South Africa during the age of Apartheid and every leftist was proud to say he was part of a “Left” that stood against Apartheid. But today we don’t see a similar campaign by leftists against Mugabe and when asked about this shameless silence from the Left, we are told there is no “single” Left – as if this somehow exonerates leftists from their clear complicity with evil. But this is a familiar story.

FP: Well, socialists worldwide are still to face the truth regarding the ideas that are responsible for the failure of Marxism and Communism. And whether the Left is a single entity or not, one thing is clear: leftist magazines, media, pundits, activists and scholars throughout the world are deafeningly silent about Mugabe’s excesses. They were pretty vocal in denouncing South Africa during the age of Apartheid and every leftist was proud to say he was part of a “Left” that stood against Apartheid. But today we don’t see a similar campaign by leftists against Mugabe and when asked about this shameless silence from the Left, we are told there is no “single” Left – as if this somehow exonerates leftists from their clear complicity with evil. But this is a familiar story.

Bill Howe, what are your thoughts on what the international community must do to throw Mugabe out of power and save his people from his brutality? Are you hopeful?

Howe: If you want to know why there seems to be a thunderous silence of leftists who were formerly ardent supporters of Mugabe, it is likely because of a sense of helplessness.

The country has consistently not acted in its own best. A typical (unbelievably egregious and immoral) example of this occurred in September of 1983 when the Soviets shot down a Korean Airliner that had "strayed" into it's airspace.

Well, Zimbabwe was still experiencing a severe drought at the time and aid was sorely needed. Mugabe's failure to vote in favor of a U.N. denunciation of that act, resulted in the immediate cancellation of something like a one hundred million dollar badly needed aid package by Ronald Reagan.

That was to me the first signs that the hubris of the Mugabe regime was about to kill Zimbabwe's bright and shining future. But like many others who had placed their hopes in the country, I ignored the signs as the dominos fell. So, do I personally hold out any hope for Zimbabwe's future? Absolutely not. Even a total change of administration to say an MDC government under Morgan Tsvangirai likely won't save them. They have been left with such a total mess.

FP: There is a thunderous silence on the Left not because of a sense of helplessness. There is a silence because the Left never looks back and never says sorry. Admitting who Mugabe really is and what he really did necessitates the Left looking honestly at its own philosophy and record. It would have to admit that the earthly incarnation of its ideas is always  terror and monstrosity. And it can’t and won’t admit that, because then it would have to stop pursing its destructive agendas -- agendas that involve more Mugabes, Castros and Pol Pots.

But we’ll have to debate this in another time and place.

So what are the lessons you have learned from your own experience? What is the lesson the world learns from the story of Mugabe?

Howe: Best question of all. The issue of Zimbabwe is now moot. They have already shot themselves in both feet. It is doubtful they will ever walk as tall as they once might have. The parvenus that comprised the nation's political elite have silenced all opposition long enough to rape the land of irreplaceable resources.

The real question now is "wither South Africa"? The unwillingness of the one country that could have effectively reigned in the madness of Mugabe was notably conciliatory in dealing with him.

Jacob Zuma is now at the helm in South Africa and investors there should pay close attention to any and all hints at political similarities with Zimbabwe, past and future. I doubt that anything really overt will manifest itself until after the World Cup that South Africa will host next year. All we can do is pray that they don't screw things up Zimbabwe style.

FP: Bill Howe, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Howe: Thanks for having me.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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