Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Zimbabwe's Whites Targeted Again

Mugabe regime steps up campaign against minority, accusing it of trying to take over the country.
By Chipo Sithole
Embattled Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe is piling more pressure on the country's dwindling white community, with a campaign of intimidation and arrests.

Mugabe, who, of late, has been using warlike demagoguery to frighten critics, alleges that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, is taking instructions from its "white masters". He has repeated his mantra that the MDC will never rule "my Zimbabwe", and says he will not surrender the country to white colonialists.

Mugabe's government has stepped up a propaganda campaign against the 40,000 whites, who live among 12.5-million blacks in the former British colony that Mugabe led to independence in 1980.

Whites are being accused of training hit squads to overthrow Mugabe and undermine the September 15 power-sharing deal.

At the same time, the security forces are stepping up verbal and physical threats against whites, jailing some for allegedly fomenting unrest against the regime.

On January 7, heavily armed soldiers, police and intelligence officers raided an outdoor training camp called Kudu Creek in Ruwa, 30 kilometres from Harare, and seized three white men who do adventure training with boy scouts, tourists and others involved in outdoor pursuits, alleging that they are training terrorists to topple Mugabe.

The three men, alleged by a police spokesman to have been members of the Selous Scouts, a special forces regiment of Ian Smith’s Rhodesian army, which operated from 1973 until the introduction of majority rule, have been involved in adventure training since the early 1980s and are well known in Ruwa. According to the police, they are now "facing terrorism charges for training bandits”.

In another incident, a group of white doctors assessing the widespread cholera epidemic that has claimed an estimated 1,800 victims were jailed last week, accused of being on an undercover mission to overthrow Mugabe.

The crackdown on the country’s few remaining white farmers has intensified markedly, despite a ruling by a Southern African Development Community, SADC, tribunal in Namibia in November that the land reform programme was racist.

Almost four months after the signing of the power-sharing deal, there is still no government in place. The MDC blames Mugabe for the delay, saying he wants to retain all the key ministries, including foreign affairs, home affairs and finance. Western governments have called for the MDC to have the upper hand in government.

Mugabe's press secretary, George Charamba, in his weekly column in the Herald last weekend, under the alias Nathaniel Manheru, claimed whites still control the economy and scorned the remaining 400 white farmers, down from 4,500 before the start of the land grab in 2000. Mugabe has accused white farmers of bankrolling the MDC.

Charamba also alleged that the “Rhodesians” want control of ministerial portfolios to do with lands, mines and the security ministries, "without which they have realised they cannot back their control of the first two”.

He further alleged that whites were forming an alliance with the MDC and regrouping across borders in a bid to repossess land seized from them once the power-sharing deal comes into force.

"With the support of Britain, Europe and America, the dream of a return, a second coming, seems more and more palpable, more and more graspable,” he wrote.

Alluding to a column written by Eddie Cross, the MDC policy coordinator, on Zimbabwe Mail Online, suggesting that the MDC is prepared to let the country "crash and burn" if it does not get real authority under the power-sharing deal, Charamba wrote, “On the one hand is a real chance for a second Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, with Tsvangirai at the helm. On the other is ZANU-PF, which, by Cross’s reckoning, is now sufficiently weakened to make more and more concessions, if not to capitulate.

“Let no one come under any illusion: Cross is making a case for the best black servant, never for the best black president. He is making a case not for a strong black Zimbabwe, but for a white Rhodesia under a black puppet. His argument for an MDC victory or, the obverse, an argument for ZANU-PF's defeat, is a case for Rhodesia's second coming without whose realisation, white Rhodesians are prepared to let Zimbabwe ‘crash and burn’.”

In his controversial column, Cross wrote, "The GPA (global political agreement or power-sharing agreement) says the MDC is in charge of the bus and MT(Morgan Tsvangirai) is the driver. We just need to make sure, absolutely sure, that there are no dual controls in the front of the bus.

"What the people at the bus stop are saying is ‘we will not get on the bus until we are satisfied that the driver is our man and not Mugabe’. And that is not negotiable. If Mugabe is anywhere near the wheel, we would rather let the bus crash and burn."

Cross’s comments have provoked an angry response not only from Charamba. A militant group in Zimbabwe's ruling party has accused him of having a "colonial mindset" and of being a "dangerous advisor to the MDC”.

Even more chilling are threats by Mugabe's shock troops.

"Our members are prepared to pick up arms to resist any attempts by racists of the likes of Cross and the MDC to destabilise the economy and, by extension, the country," Togarepi Pupurai of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association, ZNLWCA, the group at the forefront of the sometimes violent land invasions, warned. "Our duty as the ZNLWCA is to defend the revolution at any cost, this is our mandate as children of the soil."

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.