Saturday, March 29, 2008

(HERALD) Let’s vote to protect our heritage

Let’s vote to protect our heritage
By Dambudzo Mapuranga

"I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe," was part of what Claire Short wrote in her letter to the Government of Zimbabwe on November 15, 1997, in what can only be summarised as an insult to the people of Zimbabwe.

Short’s letter, to put it simply, brushed off the right of the people of Zimbabwe to seek amends for what she termed the British government’s past policies. Despite all she said the fact still stood that the British government was responsible for gross human rights violations on the people of Zimbabwe. It systematically through racially biased legislature dispossessed blacks of their land and gave it as payment for services rendered to its citizens.

On March 26, Britain’s colonial legacy will be put to the test in Windhoek, Namibia, before the Sadc Tribunal.

Swords have already been drawn as the white dominated legal profession in the region and Europe are raring to hack to pieces the Government of Zimbabwe and the Tribunal should white justice not be served.

This dispossessed white minority seeks to convince the Sadc tribunal that the Government of Zimbabwe violated Sadc Treaty Article 6, which says a state cannot discriminate on any person on grounds of race.

The nerve of them to talk of discrimination when they are attempting to seek recourse for land whose ownership their fathers got on purely race basis.

The descendants of Zimbabwe’s colonial masters and their kith and kin abroad have already begun to make preparations for their symbolic media public lynching of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and his land reform programme.

Sentiments coming from those racially prejudiced indicate that African legacy, from the slave trade era to the post colonial era, has been that of white washed black liberation, which provides a façade of equality and freedom but does not seek to empower the black people through economic freedom and the status quo should not be changed.

It is funny that those who are taking the Government of Zimbabwe before the Tribunal call themselves Justice for Agriculture. The question one is forced to ask is justice on whose terms? Certainly not for the black people of Zimbabwe who were disenfranchised from their heritage through gross violations of human rights.

What justice is this that an oppressor seeks to take the victim to court seeking compensation for a crime that was committed and was then redressed?

A team of Anglo-Saxon lawyers from South Africa, Australia and Europe with its backbone as Professor Jeffrey Jowell QC, Advocate Jeremy Gauntlet SC, Advocates Adrian de Bourbon and David Drury, was put together by a syndicate made up of former white farmers whose farms where acquired by the Zimbabwe Government during its land reform programme, to put a pilot case before the Sadc Tribunal challenging the legality of Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Amendment Number 17.

The Amendment, which granted the Government of Zimbabwe the legal right to acquire the country’s eighty five percent arable land, which was in the hands of four thousand white farmers in a country with a population of close to twelve million, blacks.

This team of lawyers will seek to argue before the Tribunal that constitutional Amendment Number 17 which the government signed into law two years ago, is a breach of its obligations under the Sadc Treaty Article 6, which bars member states from discriminating any persons on the grounds of gender, religion, race, ethnic origin and culture.

The team expects the Tribunal to declare the amendment illegal and thus force the government to turn over ownership of the country’s major natural resource into the hands of 4 percent of the country’s population who are all white and that will be justice.

What their arguments will deliberately fail to draw attention to is the history behind the acquisition of land by the government. The land in question was in fact land appropriated from the black majority during the colonial era and given to a handful of British settlers as payment for service to Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England.

These settlers put the land in trusts for their offspring and future generations, while the black majority was forced to make do on crowded land, which was not arable land.

This was the driving force behind the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe. Agreements were made at independence between the British government and the new black majority government were that the British government would see to the return of the land to its rightful owners while it paid its sons and daughters for any inconvenience caused.

However, we are all aware of that nasty letter that Claire Short wrote to then Minister of Agriculture Kumbirai Kangai absolving the British government of any obligations and as the expression goes — the rest is history.

It is hypocritical of these white men and women to call for justice over property, which their grandfathers stole from the indigenous people of Zimbabwe. What is even worse is that they seek recourse in our courts of law and tribunals and yet have denied the same to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and North American over slavery reparations and civil liberty abuses.

Instead of coming out and denouncing the actions of their great grandfathers they seek to rob Africa again while trumpeting democracy, good governance and rule of law in our ears. The crisis in Zimbabwe these past eight years has been about land, our heritage.

There is thus no greater betrayer of this cause than Tsvangirai’s of this world who turned their backs on their people and sold their souls for the proverbial thirty pieces of silver. It is with this back ground that as Zimbabweans we should go to the March 29 polls with the resolve to show the rest of Africa that their solidarity in these trying times is greatly appreciated and that as pioneers against the disenfranchisement of people of colour we stand firm behind our gallant leaders.

The blood of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters spilt during the liberation struggle cries out to us that their sacrifices should not be in vain.

Zimbabwe will never be a colony again!

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