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Case against paying compensation to white farmers for land appropriation

07 Apr 2021 at 07:05hrs | Views
OUR Excellency, President ED Mnangagwa.

We are living in a time when the vestiges of white hegemony and entitlement are, at long last, being challenged almost on a daily basis all over the world. This is as it should be. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr: "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice". Black people have been waiting for justice for a long time.

Zimbabwe fought a protracted war against a racist system that was put in place by arch-white supremacist Cecil John Rhodes, paid a heavy price for taking on what was a de facto imperialist power. In 1890, Rhodes dispatched his Pioneer Column to "appropriate"any land as it saw fit. There were no agreements of sale, no willing buyer/willing seller, no compensation paid to the occupiers of the land who inhabited it for countless generations. Africans were systematically driven off the land, often brutally and with many atrocities occurring. This land grab by the settlers continued for the next 90 years right up to independence in 1980.

Your Excellency, the Pioneer Column which consisted of greedy, land hungry mainly white Europeans, was not interested in sharing the abundant good farmland with the Africans whom they saw as inferior beings. On the contrary, the land was part of the spoils of their conquest. This nightmare for Africans is similar to what has taken place on countless occasions all over this continent. Slavery and colonialism have wreaked havoc and wrecked the lives of so many people for more than 500 years and yet no compensation has been paid to Africans or their descendants for the trauma they suffered, lost livelihoods, lost opportunities, loss of inheritance, loss of intellectual pursuits, not to mention the pursuit of happiness.

The invaders that stole the land from the indigenous people did prosper. Many of them managed to grow their farming ventures into huge going concerns generating great wealth for themselves and their offspring, as well as contributing greatly to the Rhodesian fiscus. In turn, these same farmers benefited from government assistance, concessionary banking terms, and very cheap, mainly black labour. The system worked very well if you were a farmer and happened to be white. However, it is universally accepted in any society that is governed by laws, that no one should benefit from the proceeds of a crime and neither should their descendants. Unfortunately, we are waking up to the realisation that due to white privilege and entitlement, the law isn't applied equally. The reality is, to be a victim one must be white.

Your Excellency, even when a crime is perpetrated against a black person by a white person, the victim is the white person. This is nothing new and it is stubbornly persistent. Jamaica is a prime example of this phenomenon. Slavery lasted for nearly 200 years on the island then In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act freed all the slaves.

The British government decided to pay compensation, not to the slaves for the 200 or so years of unpaid labour, pain and suffering, not for their toil that made Britain the wealthiest nation on earth at the time, and put the "great" into Great Britain. No, instead of paying the victims of slavery they compensated the slave owners and the ship builders, the lawyers, bankers and even some of the clergy as they were viewed as being prejudiced by the Slavery Abolition Act.

All these people profited off the blood, sweat and tears caused by slavery, both before emancipation and then cashed in after its abolishment. The total paid out by the British government to these vultures was £20 million, 40% of the national budget, which would be equivalent to £16,5 billion in today's money. The debt was so huge that it wasn't liquidated until 2015, a full 182 years later. This means, grotesquely, that a sizeable portion of the debt was paid for by the descendants of the very same slaves who endured the pain and suffering in the first place. Paying the white perpetrators of criminal acts against blacks is the modus operandi of white supremacy and white entitlement as was demonstrated yet again some 30 years later after the end of slavery in America.

Your Excellency, platitudes may occur here and there, together with half-hearted apologies, but never a commitment to pay hard cash in the form of reparations for the evil deeds that have occurred in the past to the descendants of those afflicted by slavery and colonialism. The descendant of the beneficiaries of the huge profits of slavery and then the compensation after emancipation, have gone on to live unimaginably lavish lifestyles including being given lifetime peerages. This is a far cry from what the descendants of the slaves have had to endure.

In Zimbabwe it appears, yet again, that a similar scenario of white privilege and entitlement is being played out. How does a country that fought and "won" a protracted war of independence that lasted 15 years, the main driver of which was the quest to recover land that was stolen from its people by the invader settlers, entertain the idea of paying compensation to the beneficiaries of the original crime? Even those claiming to have bought their farms, who did they buy them from?

At the Lancaster House Conference in 1979 where the terms of an agreement to end the war were being negotiated, Britain and America were on hand to make sure that white privilege was maintained for as long as possible, to give the entitled minority a soft landing despite staring down the barrel of the gun.
They made sure that 20% of the seats in Parliament were to be reserved for whites for seven years after independence.

Cedric Steele is a commentator on racial and social justice.

Source - newsday
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