Rare friend for Bob

Embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has found a rare friend. George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, one of the papers that have been highly critical of his regime and whose correspondent in Zimbabwe Andrew Meldrum is facing deportation, says though the West considers Mugabe the third most evil man in the world, after Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, “the President of Zimbabwe is a very minor devil in the hellish politics of land and food”.

He says, “the sainted Nelson Mandela has arguably done just as much harm to the people of Africa by surrendering his powers to the IMF as soon as he had wrested them from apartheid. Let us condemn Mugabe’s attacks upon Zimbabwe’s whites by all means, but only if we are also prepared to condemn the far bloodier war that the rich world wages against the poor”.

He says that while there is no doubt that Mugabe is a ruthless man, and that his policies are contributing to the further impoverishment of the Zimbabweans, to suggest that his land seizures are largely responsible for the nation’s hunger is fanciful.

“Though the 4 500 white farmers there own two-thirds of the best land, many of them grow not food but tobacco. Seventy percent of the nation’s maize –its primary staple food- is grown by black peasant farmers hacking a living from marginal lands they were left by whites. The seizure of the white farms is both brutal and illegal. But it is merely one small scene in the tragedy now playing all over the world.”

The world over, darker-skinned people are being displaced in the name of development giving way to the rich world’s projects. Mugabe is a monster because he has usurped the natural order.

“Land distribution is the key determinant of food security. Small farms are up to 10 times as productive as large ones as they tend to be cultivated more intensively. Small farms are more likely to supply local people with staple crops than western supermarkets with mangetout.

“The governments of the rich world don’t like land reform. It requires state intervention which offends the god of free markets, and it hurts big farmers and the companies that supply them. Indeed, it was Britain’s refusal either to permit or to fund an adequate reform programme in Zimbabwe that created the political opportunities Mugabe has so ruthlessly exploited. The Lancaster House agreement gave the state to the black population but the nation to the whites,” Monbiot says.

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