Tafara Shumba
It came out this week that Britain was putting pressure on Zimbabwe to pay pension to around 2000 British citizens who served in the Rhodesian civil service.
The pension pay-outs were estimated at 25 million per year, an amount that is out of reach for an ailing economy.

A Government official stated that the debilitating effects of sanctions imposed by London and its allies were incapacitating Harare from paying its obligation.

This is an honest excuse.

Zimbabwe only stopped paying the pensions in 2003 after the West imposed illegal sanctions on it.

According to the official, the sanctions are even curtailing government’s ability to pay local pensioners. Thus, contrary to the impression that Britain attempts to create, there is absolutely no racial matrix in the non-payment of the pensions. The pensioners must assist their former employer in removing the obstacles that restrict it from paying them.

The sanctions have cost Zimbabwe over US$70 billion. The country is more than willing to pay the Rhodies despite the heinous crimes they committed against humanity during the war of liberation. Some of the beneficiaries are the Rhodesian soldiers who butchered thousands of Zimbabwean refugees in Mozambique. It also boggles the mind that Britain demands such payment from a government it refused to recognise as a legitimate authority. This shows that Britain is a two-faced nation that only recognises Zimbabwe when its interests are at stake. It must firstly recognise the legitimacy of the Zanu PF government and acknowledge that it is a legitimate choice of the people of Zimbabwe.

It is hypocritical for Britain to pressure Zimbabwe to honour its Lancaster House obligations when it has itself reneged on a number of agreements made under the same accord. It must remove the plank in its own eye before trying to take out a speck of dust from Zimbabwe’s eye. Even the Bible the British taught us to read and observe has that divine counsel.

Under the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain pledged to compensate former white commercial farmers of British extraction who owned prime land in Zimbabwe. There was almost a total breakdown of negotiations at Lancaster House in 1979 over the land reform issue until Britain and the United States sent envoys indicating they would finance the land issue. In a complete about turn, the British Labour party repudiated British responsibility.

Its International Development Minister, Clare Short, told Harare that the election of a Labour government without links to former colonial interests meant that Britain no longer had any special responsibility to meet the cost of land purchases.

While Zimbabwe’s independent government is being forced to make pension pay-outs to its predecessor’s employees, some of whom fought against majority rule, there are also some historic wrongs that have to be righted by Britain. Unlike Zimbabwe, at least Britain will be paying for the services that benefitted it.

Britain disfigured Zimbabwe during an epoch of colonialism that spanned close to a century. Colonialism condemned Zimbabwe to a poverty that still afflicts it today. It looted Zimbabwe’s resources and it is this plunder that built its economic foundation. The time is now for Zimbabwe to legally seek compensation.

When Zimbabweans raised concern over the looting and other colonial abuses that they were subjected to, they were viewed as terrorists who must be butchered. Thousands of Zimbabwean fighters and civilians were brutally killed.

The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity ought to be repaired.

Zimbabwe should take a cue from Kenya’s Mau Mau veterans who successfully demanded compensation from Britain for the colonial crimes committed against them during anti-colonial uprisings in the 1950s. Over 90 000 Kenyans were killed or tortured. After a long and hard struggle for justice, Britain eventually agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of about $30.5m which will be split among 5200 surviving victims.

Each nation must acknowledge its wrongdoing. Zimbabwe must seek reparation for the colonial era abuses. Germany at least compensated the Jewish for the Holocaust More than a million Africans including Zimbabweans like Joseph Culverwell served in the British army in the World War 2. They fought in the deserts of North Africa, in the jungles of Burma and over the skies of German yet their contributions are almost universally ignored. Most of them died paupers and the surviving veterans are languishing in poverty.

While they got little gratitude for their service, their white counterparts were rewarded with farms, mines and lucrative severance packages. Britain must pay these people or their surviving relations some pensions. Britain is not generous to those who served them faithfully. In 1948 ex-servicemen from Ghana went to petition the governor over compensation but the police opened fire on them. This is despite the sterling job they performed during the World War 11.

A Japanese soldier writing in his diary commented: “The enemy soldiers are not from Britain but are from Africa. Because of their beliefs, they are not afraid to die. Even if their commanders have fallen, they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened.”

The same Britain is currently being sued by a group of Caribbean countries which are demanding reparations for slavery. Britain was the primary operator of the slave trade and its economic foundation is literally built on slavery. When it abolished the system, it compensated the British slave owners for their loss, to the tune of 20m which was a whopping 40 percent of its treasury. However, not even a single enslaved man received a penny for the backbreaking slavery toil they endured almost every day of their lives.