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Monday, November 30, 2015

A History of Zimbabwe (2015) by Alois S. Mlambo

A map of Zimbabwe, formerly known as Southern Rhodesia

Book Review
A History of Zimbabwe (2015)
by Alois S. Mlambo

  Zimbabwe has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the last decade as the sclerotic regime of Mugabe has systemically wrecked the Zimbabwean economy.  You wouldn't know it from the coverage but Zimbabwe didn't obtain majority rule until 1980, after a nearly 15 year long civil war fought between the minority rule state security forces and a variety of rebel groups.  Zimbabwe represents some of the worst excesses of racist minority-white rule with an extremely effective example of economic development and state building by that same terrible government. Zimbabwe was not colonized until 1890, when a literal column of white settlers funded by arch-imperalist Cecil Rhodes wagon trained into the territory that would become Southern Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe.  Many of the colonists were English south Africans who were fleeing what they felt was a South African administration that favored Dutch settlers.
For many years, European scholars refused to admit that the builders of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe were white in rather than the ancestors of the African inhabitants of the area.

  Although the white settlers perpetuated the idea that the area was unsettled, Zimbabwe actually had a thousand year plus tradition of multi ethnic states, most notably the Great Zimbabwe from which the modern state would take its name.  Minority white rule manifested itself in most unsubtle fashion.  Africans were systematically pushed off the best land in favor of white owners, who would often let the land lie fallow as a speculative investment.  For years, educated Africans pleaded simply to be elevated to "white" status, only to be rebuffed.  Eventually, the refusal of the white rulers to contemplate incremental transition to majority rule led to Southern Rhodesia declaring independence unilaterally and being treated as a pariah state, even by the similarly racist regime in South Africa.

  Eventually, the minority rule regime saw the writing on the wall, and power was handed over to Mugabe in 1980.  What followed was hardly a model transition to democracy, with continued fighting among native groups for power and massacres of Independence minded ethnic minorities within Zimbabwe.   The related issues of what to do with the former guerrilla fighters and the existing Zimbabwe defense forces led to disproportionate spending on defense.  Fear of the new regime led to an exodus by white citizens and Mugabe developed into a serial violator of human rights.

   Well into the new millennium, the problem of land redistribution continued to plague Zimbabwe, with war veterans expropriating white farms, and those farmers fighting back in the court system.

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