Are black Zimbabweans racists?
African politicians are a strange breed indeed, quick to condemn and shout against colonialism and imperialism, but slow to shed their personal colonial comforts.
It is always a dangerous occupation to generalize. As Mark Twain once said; “All generalizations are false including this one”. However, I think the above issue needs to be explored, simply because it has been quite intriguing for me, to talk to black Zimbabweans about the past and how it has affected their thinking today. I therefore ask for my readers’ indulgence in advance, lest I generalize, an inevitable consequence of the subject matter discussed herein.
Growing up in the then Rhodesia was never easy for us blacks. I remember my high school days where, despite having an excellent education, I was traumatized by the overt racism that I experienced from fellow white students at a certain private school just outside Harare. I only realized this later on in my life that, I was continually abused verbally and emotionally. The word “kaffir” ended up not meaning much to me, because I heard it so many times. I stopped reacting negatively to it, and began to even laugh when I was called that. The lie that blacks are inferior was repeated to me so many times for six years, that I began to believe it. Even after independence, the Zimbabwe’s corporate sector was fraught with racist practices that held back blacks while accelerating the promotion of whites. That too I experienced during my articles in Harare. I guess our older generation of Zimbabweans also had similar experiences. You end up accepting those things you can’t change and focusing on those you can.
I do not necessarily hate whites today, but I detest white racism or any traces of a superiority complex they may display. It’s simply a myth. However, not all whites are racists.
Despite the above, the older generation of Zimbabweans appreciates how the ‘murungu’ was organized. Wages were always paid on time, properties and roads well maintained or developed, infrastructure worked, medicines were available, street lights always on, rubbish was collected on time every time, drinking water was safe and so on. It stops there, because there is nothing sweeter than freedom and liberty even without the comforts of the colonialist.
We must admit though, that whites are more organized, good at planning and management, and they also have the technology that we need to develop our country, something we cannot take away from them. All you have to do to prove this today, in Zimbabwe, is to visit a black managed farm and compare it to a white managed one. It’s chalk and cheese, as they say.
There is a tendency among some of us to detest all whites, because of our history. This is more evident among those blacks who suffered terribly under colonialism and the liberation struggle. Those black Zimbabweans who participated in the liberation struggle bore the brunt of white hate and violence. I am therefore, the least qualified to judge how they feel today. Speaking to some of them, they still hate whites to this day, because of suffering they caused in order to protect white economic advantage. I understand where my brothers and sisters are coming from.
That granted, I think they, however, still acknowledge that whites certainly did have a hand in developing Zimbabwe, albeit to their selfish ends. There was absolutely no justification for their selfishness. In my opinion, Rhodesian whites were rather slow to react to a changed environment after independence, and did not acknowledge blacks as equal partners by incorporating them in the economy, especially the agricultural sector. It was a case of separate but equal development. This has afforded our erstwhile politicians, an excuse to take radical steps, which have been catastrophic for everyone. South African whites in the agricultural sector must learn from this. The quicker South African blacks are incorporated into this sector as owners and not mere workers, the better off everyone will be in the long term.
Zimbabwean blacks benefited tremendously from education provided by white missionaries, but Rhodesian education policy towards blacks was racist and can never be defended. I have learnt, for example, that it was most difficult to become a black doctor. This was simply because the Smith regime would not accept that. Instead, the British assisted a significant number of blacks to become doctors, by providing them with scholarships to study abroad. Therein lays the dilemma: Rhodesian whites were crudely racist, while the British were more accommodating towards the aspirations of black Zimbabweans. Despite their colonial baggage, the British were therefore “better” whites than white Rhodesians. But is there a term such as a better racist? Hmm I wonder.
On the political front, it is evident that there is an overt abhorrence of whites, but one needs to understand the dynamics that have led to this phenomenon. I will not delve into it here, but suffice it to say that, to some extent, Mugabe’s experience with, and opinion of, the British has been “institutionalized “in Zimbabwe. This may have has created a misconception that all blacks hate whites, which is not necessarily the case. You will hear stories of some good deeds done towards black Zimbabweans by whites, and we ought to give credit where it is due. The British for example, still give considerable aid to Zimbabwe today, and so do a lot of other European countries and America. In fact, they seem more concerned about our social underdevelopment than our own black politicians! How bizarre, but not surprising at all.
The cacophony we hear today about indigenization and the drive to take over white owned companies for me, is driven more by political desperation than by the absolute hate of whites. What always amazes me is that, our politicians here speak against everything white, but can be seen jumping into British or German manufactured cars, love Scottish whisky and British tea, adore Italian suits and Swiss made watches? They want all things Western, but are quick to speak against the west. For me that is the contradiction of it all. I always ask myself that: if these guys really hate whites or the west so much, why do they love what whites make and like to emulate how they live? Mental slavery- perhaps?
But as we all know, African politicians are a strange breed indeed, quick to condemn and shout against colonialism and imperialism if that is going to earn them political power, but slow to shed the personal material comforts and benefits they derive from their former masters. Talk about being authentic!
I therefore conjecture that; some black Zimbabweans still hate what some whites did to them in the past, but in my opinion, black Zimbabweans in general, do not necessarily hate whites with the obsessive passion that we see “you know who” showing at political gatherings, before he is whisked away in his German made limousine, or his French Alouette helicopter. Hmmm how ironic.
Asikhulume! (Let’s talk !)
Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org