Temple’s Department of African American Studies Graduate Student Union and Phi Beta Sigma, in conjunction with The Organization for Concerned Africans, presented a discussion and lecture on Zimbabwe, “Africa for the Africans at Home and Abroad: Understanding Zimbabwe,” last Thursday evening in Gladfelter Hall.
Dr. Simbi Veke Mubako, the Zimbabwean ambassador to the United States, was the guest of honor. Mubako spoke on behalf of his government and its struggle for land reform.
Mubako deemed the current situation in Zimbabwe as unacceptable, where white Zimbabweans own most of the lands, and said it was once again time for liberation.
“All we can do is to be vigilant and remain determined,” Mubako said. “People should be prepared to wage another war for liberation.”
The issue of land reform was at the center of the fight for independence in Zimbabwe in 1980 and still is a major issue today. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Web site, black Zimbabweans make up 98 percent of the population, while one percent of the population is made up of white settlers, and the other one percent is Asians.
Mubako also spoke of the similar situations occurring in former British colonies Namibia and South Africa. “We will support Namibia and South Africa in their struggle to reclaim their land and their economic independence as a whole,” he said.
Alongside the land reform issue, Mubako stressed economic independence for his nation as well as other African nations. According to the ambassador, there have been “broken and unfulfilled promises” from the West. Britain promised to help buy back land and spend $2 billion toward that goal, but the British stopped the payments at $17 million.
Chengetayi Chiteware, a Zimbabwean immigrant, lost his parents during the war for independence and immigrated to the United States in 1985. He questioned the ambassador’s claims that land reforms were the solution.
“Are we better off before the acquisition of land from white farmers?” Chiteware asked.
Course instructor of “Africa in the 20th Century” at Temple and Ph.D. candidate Eric Edi attended Thursday’s lecture. In his opinion, the two problems in Zimbabwe are land reforms and governance.
“In my opinion, there should be no negotiations on land reform,” Edi said. “The only negotiation that can take place is how to redistribute the land fairly and equally to all Zimbabweans, white and black. In Africa, the economy is essentially based on the land and agriculture.”
But believe the biggest issue hurting Zimbabwe is its governance under President Robert Mugabe.
Stanford Mukasa is a professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and secretary of the Association of Concerned Zimbabweans in North America. The association is a human rights organization “aimed at exposing to the international communities, specifically the American public, atrocities committed in Zimbabwe.”
Mukasa was not present at Thursday’s lecture, but was briefed by a member of his organization.
“The biggest challenge facing Zimbabwe is a very bad terrorist government of Robert Mugabe,” Mukasa said. “In 2000, Mugabe unleashed youth thugs to invade commercial farms. In the process of seizing these farms, Mugabe distributed them to his cronies: his wife, sister, friends, relatives and political party supporters.
“Records show that only two percent of the seized farms were given to the landless peasants while the rest was shared among the very filthy rich friends and relatives of Mugabe,” Mukasa said.
Richelieu Urey, 25, is a Temple student who attended the lecture. His views on Zimbabwe differ.
“I think it is a matter of human rights,” he said. “Black labor worked the land, but there is majority white ownership. More importantly, the economic problems [in Zimbabwe] are the results of sanctions by Western powers, more so to support white farmers and not allowing Zimbabwe to determine its own destiny.”
Zimbabwe, a former colony of Great Britain, gained its independence from British rule in 1980, after the majority black population liberated itself from colonial rule. Robert Mugabe became president in 1987 following the war for independence and remains in power today.
From the arrival of white settlers in Zimbabwe, conflict between the native Africans and the descendants of white settlers has plagued the nation. Today, descendants of British colonists, though they are in the minority, dominate most of the country’s land ownership and wealth.
This ongoing circumstance has been at the forefront of the land reform issue in Zimbabwe and continues to plague the nation in terms of its international reputation and, most of all, its economy.
Charmie Snetter can be reached at email@example.com.