Monday, 30 March 2009

Political mightiness in the “creation” of Zimbabwe.

By guest contributor Robin Hind

David Owen arrived as a boy politician in Rhodesia in 1977, oozing self confident smugness. He was the man to solve the problems of a distant and socially complex nation, or so he thought. It was immediately apparent to those Rhodesians, who had given their lives working to create a civilisation, that this man simply did not have the insight, maturity or capabilities to interfere with the intricate social structures which the Colonists had created. Much the same applied to the British government.

At that date the creators of Rhodesia hoped and planned that every inhabitant would and should receive a better, safer, healthier life if the nation were allowed to continue its remarkable creative prosperity. Those astonishingly capable pioneers had already demonstrated that by achieving the lowest infantile death rate in Africa and the highest literacy rate in Africa. The wisdom and experience of the colonists was paramount, and was there for the asking.

However David Owen and, later, Peter Carrington (and the British government) "knew better". What astonishing self-opinionated arrogance.

Peter Carrington was asked, after the collapse of Zimbabwe, what he thought of the outcome of that “independence”. “No one could have anticipated this outcome” was his way of excusing his failure.

The reality is that many wise and profound people did know it would end this way, but their soundly based views were brushed aside by "know-alls", flexing muscle which was politically vested, but not justified by any other capabilities.

To demonstrate the inevitable failure of this meddlesomeness by uninformed (and misinformed) busy-bodies, swinging lanterns of righteousness and moral rectitude, the attached (copyright) cartoon was commissioned. It was not published in 1977 because of a sycophantic deferentially of the press to the British politicians. However its message of the dangers of political bumptiousness remains valid today.

---------------------------------------------

David Owen, born 1938, qualified as a medical practitioner in 1962, but tried politics in 1964, losing the election. He was Foreign Secretary, 1977 to 1979, responsible for setting the stage for the transfer of power in Zimbabwe. His opportunistic changing of political party allegiance caused him to be regarded as a “serial resigner”.

Owen’s appointment in the British House of Commons greeted by Jack Cunningham who said the choice "was regarded as somewhat eccentric. Owen is known for many qualities, but not as a mediator. Indeed he has balkanised a few political parties himself" [adapted from Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia [2001] Brendan Simms p137]

When the European Parliament voted for Owen’s dismissal the perception in America was that Owen was "not fulfilling his function as an impartial negotiator...” [Unfinest Hour, p167].

Edward Mortimer in the Financial Times said "Owen’s departure may have surprised some who did not realise he was still in the job." [Unfinest Hour, p 171-2]

Owen's versions of events in books which he authored books are said to differ considerably from most other sources. Owen's version of his time in the Balkans was derided by academics and reviewers as 'depend(ent) on factual error, false logic and sheer omission.'

He was one of the authors of the failed Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenberg peace plans offered during the Bosnian War

He testified in the trial of former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević, and caused some controversy by asserting that Milošević was the only leader in the Bosnian war who had consistently supported peace, and that any form of racism was personally "anathema" to him. Bosnians gave him the nick name "Lord of the Dead”. Many Zimbabweans would concord..

Honored by life peerage in 1992 as Baron Owen of Plymouth

Peter Carrington ascended to the Baronetcy in 1938 as 6th Baron, and entered the House of Lords on his 21st birthday.

As British Foreign Secretary he chaired the Lancaster House agreement on the transfer of power away from the Rhodesian Colonists in 1979.

In his decisions he chose to ignore the opinions of those who had first hand knowledge of the country, and lifelong contact with the country and its people.

He was Foreign Secretary in 1982 when the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina. He took full responsibility for the complacency and failures in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to foresee this development and resigned.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where can I get more solid, factual information about the life and welfare of blacks in Rhodesia before the transfer of power? I need information to use when I argue with people, and I need sources that I can cite. Can you help? -- Dr.D

notareargunner said...

I don't remember Owen in Rhodesia in '77, spent all that year in the bundu. I do remember sending Maggie Thatcher, along with al the members of the Sgts mess, a telegram of congratulations on her gettng into No 10.
What false hope that was.

Surprising, not a one of the politicians in your article could hold a candle to Ian Smith. All the propheets of doom have been proven correct. You've never lived until you've had 'sundowners' over the Chiamanimani...The Motopas, Kariba, and a thousand other farm buildings arounfd the most beautiful country on Earth - Rhodesia.
For Dr D. The Rhodesian government had many publications on the ethnicity and diversity of the black indigenous people, which all SNO's in the Army had to do exams on. When I tried to get them from the Zimbabwe embassy in London I was told they never existed.

Robin Hind said...

Thank you Dr.D for your response.

It is interesting that your question should even arise. What you have been asked is comparable to demanding statistics to prove Coventry Cathedral was better before it was bombed than after.


That your contesters are still prepared to debate the Zimbabwe issue in this way reflects the extraordinary self-opinionation of those who wish to argue issues about which they clearly blind.


But this is not unexpected of those who continue to energetically deride the

Colonialist and proffer denials which equates with holocaust denialism.

They have punted their misinformed stances for so many years that they have been able to destroy fine social structures by the arrogances of these who “know best”. They have caused great hardship and damage to all people in the erstwhile Colonies, which will perpetuate.

Yet these people still continue to punt their own “moral virtues” by damning and doubting the Colonists’ benefits to the natives. The “intellectual-liberals” will not like such labelling because it equates them with history’s most foolish people.


You question can be answered in the reverse: Before Colonisation Zimbabwe was a Stone Age culture, with some ironwork which was so infrequent as to not qualify for Iron Age categorisation. There was no wheel, no written language, and numeracy was limited to counting.


Within one generation of Colonisation, the Rhodesian health services developed a medical school which could be argued (on the American Education Council for Foreign Medical Graduates examination results) to be unsurpassed worldwide.


Since “independence” the university has closed. The school year for 2008 was “cancelled”. The hospitals are now warehouses where, at times, it is difficult to distinguish the yet-to-die from the dead. Bodies rot in the mortuaries because there is no refrigeration, and autopsies don’t happen. There is no fuel to cremate the dead who are buried where land can be found, using street signs bent into coffin handles. Mortality rates are unknown because there is no administration, but maternal mortality is now reported as one mother death for every six term pregnancies, which is that of the Stone Age.


Do your contesters need to know more?


1. Because of these problems, the health and well-being of Zimbabwe’s population has declined. Zimbabwe’s infant mortality rate is higher than the world average, and life expectancy in Zimbabwe plummeted during the last decade of the 20th century, from 62 years in 1990 to about 38 years in 2000. AIDS, the major health threat to Zimbabweans in the 1990s, continued to be a formidable problem into the 21st century, with about one-fifth of the adult population infected.
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare

Robin Hind said...

Dr D

Here is a further source
which may address your request.

Robin

Dr.D said...

Robin, thank you for your response; it is appreciated.

While it helps, it still does not quite get at what I was hoping to find. You have addressed particularly the gains in health that came with colonization. I was hoping to learn more about the social conditions in colonial Rhodesia, the degree of stratification and separation, social mobility, equality under the law, educational opportunities for blacks, etc.

I think I have a pretty good idea about these things because I studied about them as a young person in school when Rhodesia was still a functioning nation a very long time ago, long before handover was even discussed. But I was not there, and that I why I am looking for documentation today.

Thank you for your help.

Robin Hind said...

Dear Dr D,

Again, thank you for your interest and response.

I have sympathy for your queries. It would be neat if there were guiding statistics which could benchmark “morally acceptable” or give some other parameters of compassionate regard for humanity.

You ask about “stratification” and specifically about equality in law. The difficulty with which I wrestle in order to give an accurate, balanced and sophisticated perspective on colonial Rhodesia is because the evolution of the country was dynamic and multi-stratified.

I will try to use law (not health as previously) to illustrate the extensive and complex societal dilemma in which the colonists found themselves.

Clearly there was no “equality” by almost any parameter when the colonists arrived. They came with all the sophisticated infrastructure of Europe into a stone-age culture which had no written language and apart from elementary counting, no numeracy. There was neither wheel nor shoe.

The natives carried with them no law except the simplest and most primitive. “Native law” effectively meant patterns of behaviour on a scale of community approval or disapproval that was strongly admixed with the metaphysical and witchcraft. How does one then encompass these beliefs in a highly sophisticated legal system with its foundations in the Greco-Roman civilisation?


Under colonialism there was exact equality in criminal law. Civil law was difficult to apply, partly because of the need to extend “European” law to encompass the vastly different standards and expectations of the natives.

It was not possible to outlaw polygomy, when an attempt was being made to tolerate a polygamous culture. Perhaps the right of the native diviner to identify a culprit might have satisfied more people. Perhaps the right of tribal chiefs to summarily execute dissidents could have been acknowledged. Perhaps colonist law should have recognised the right to abduct women from neighbouring tribes, or accept the practice of rustling livestock in the way that it was acceptable to the natives.

Therefore the boundaries between criminal law and civil law began to blur, and numerous variations in civil law evolved away from “colonial law”.

The understandable reality was that the colonists were deeply committed to the culture they carried with them, and within that culture they were committed to the rationales and logics of the laws as they knew them. Practical protection of their own white colonists, so easily identifiable and thus highly vulnerable because they were so vastly outnumbered, was imperative.

However, the fervent hope of the colonists was always that the natives could become constructively productive, and gain and accept “European law”. Indeed civil law as it applied to both colonists and natives did change progressively, in the three generations of colonial rule.[1]

An American reflected the wide views of his countrymen a few weeks ago when he asked “When will Zimbabwe return to normal?” He and they don’t get it. The current chaos, savagery and black rule in Zimbabwe is the normal. What was not normal was the short flare up of creative and constructive order brought by the white colonists. That flame has been doused and it is highly unlikely that that form of civilisation will ever again occur.

You ask about educational opportunities for blacks. A necessary perspective is to consider the practicalities of funding. The peak white population was 260,000. At a guess this meant 40,000 taxpayers. Apart from their commitment to their own kin, the white tax burden had to encompass (at least) 8,000,000 non-tax paying natives, with a disproportionately high population of children. Roughly, each white taxpayer was also contributing to the education, health and all else of 200 natives! There was no point of sales tax.

Nevertheless, undaunted the colonists set about systems of educating the natives.[2] Bear in mind that the frequent references to “events after independence”, and the implications that independence brought significant benefits to the black population, ignore the foundation set by the colonists, without which any education system would have been impossible. The reality is that any gains made in the immediate post independence period simply reflect the momentum carried forward. All these purported gains have since been lost: the school year 2008 was “cancelled.”

The earnest attempt to educate the natives is borne out by Robert Mugabe’s reported academic success. He was educated without his parents or his community paying one penny of tax (possibly excepting excise duty) towards this, Then the feeding hand was bitten.

[1] Jacob Zuma, in talking recently about Zimbabwe, spoke of “hundreds of years of colonial rule”. Clearly he is yet to develop balanced perspectives.

[1] Zimbabwe - Colonial Era: Encyclopedia II - Zimbabwe - Education

Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90.2% in 2000, the highest in Africa. For males, the country's adult literacy rate (the percentage of persons aged 15 and over who can read and write) was 93%. Comparison with other SADC countries in 2004 is as follows: South Africa, 86%, Zambia, 79.9%, Swaziland, 80.9%, Namibia, 83.3%, Lesotho, 81.4%, Botswana, 78.9%, Tanzania, 77.1%, Malawi, 61.8%, Mozambique, 46.5%. This is despite the fact that international agencies like the World Bank and IMF in the early 1990s had been calling on government to re ...

http://www.experiencefestival.com/zimbabwe_-_colonial_era

Administration and social conditions » Health and welfare

Before 1980, health services were focused on curative medicine in central hospitals. Missionaries had the major responsibility for running rural clinics and small hospitals. After independence, health allocations were increased, but health services deteriorated rapidly with the onset of cyclic drought and flooding and the agricultural and economic problems of the late 1990s and 2000s. Many health care providers left Zimbabwe to work abroad, and those that remain do not always have access to the medicine and other supplies they need; in addition, many health care facilities

[http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare]

Pieces of medical equipment have not been maintained, making it difficult to treat even common illnesses and injuries. Other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that occur in the country, food security and improved nutrition are increasingly seen as important health needs, because of the food shortages caused by years of drought and flooding as well as the collapse of the agricultural sector and the economic problems of the early 21st century.

Because of these problems, the health and well-being of Zimbabwe’s population has declined. Zimbabwe’s infant mortality rate is higher than the world average, and life expectancy in Zimbabwe plummeted during the last decade of the 20th century, from 62 years in 1990 to about 38 years in 2000. AIDS, the major health threat to Zimbabweans in the 1990s, continued to be a formidable problem into the 21st century, with about one-fifth of the adult population infected. In addition to addressing the AIDS epidemic

[http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare]

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare

History of Western Medicine in Zimbabwe
Mossop, R. T.

References

http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=4392&pc=9

Education The dismantling of Rhodesia’s segregated system of schooling began less than two years before independence. The minority government had concentrated upon providing compulsory (and virtually free) education for white children between the ages of 5 and 15 and had left the schooling of black children in the hands of missionaries. In 1950 there were only 12 government schools for blacks, compared with 2,230 mission and independent schools.

After independence, priority was given to upgrading the country’s school system. Many new schools were built in the drive toward free primary education for all. In the decade following independence, Zimbabwe achieved one of the highest primary school enrollment rates in Africa, with more than nine-tenths of all children of primary school age attending school, although this rate declined to about four-fifths in the early 21st century. Primary education begins at age seven, lasts for seven years, and has been compulsory since 1987. At least one rural secondary school has been established in each of the country’s districts. There are several universities and colleges in Zimbabwe, including the University of Zimbabwe, founded in 1955 at Harare, and the National University of Sciences and Technology, founded in 1991 at Bulawayo. Zimbabwe has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with nine-tenths of the population being able to read.


Robin Hind

[1] Jacob Zuma, in talking about Zimbabwe, spoke of “hundreds of years of colonial rule”. Clearly he is yet to develop balance perspectives.

[2] Zimbabwe - Colonial Era: Encyclopedia II - Zimbabwe - Education

Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90.2% in 2000, the highest in Africa. For males, the country's adult literacy rate (the percentage of persons aged 15 and over who can read and write) of 93%. Comparison with other SADC countries in 2004 is as follows: South Africa, 86%, Zambia, 79.9%, Swaziland, 80.9%, Namibia, 83.3%, Lesotho, 81.4%, Botswana, 78.9%, Tanzania, 77.1%, Malawi, 61.8%, Mozambique, 46.5%. This is despite the fact that international agencies like the World Bank and IMF in the early 1990's had been calling on government to re ...

http://www.experiencefestival.com/zimbabwe_-_colonial_era
Administration and social conditions » Health and welfare

Before 1980, health services were focused on curative medicine in central hospitals. Missionaries had the major responsibility for running rural clinics and small hospitals. After independence, health allocations were increased, but health services deteriorated rapidly with the onset of cyclic drought and flooding and the agricultural and economic problems of the late 1990s and 2000s. Many health care providers left Zimbabwe to work abroad, and those that remain do not always have access to the medicine and other supplies they need; in addition, many health care facilities

[http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare]

Pieces of medical equipment have not been maintained, making it difficult to treat even common illnesses and injuries. Other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that occur in the country, food security and improved nutrition are increasingly seen as important health needs, because of the food shortages caused by years of drought and flooding as well as the collapse of the agricultural sector and the economic problems of the early 21st century.

Because of these problems, the health and well-being of Zimbabwe’s population has declined. Zimbabwe’s infant mortality rate is higher than the world average, and life expectancy in Zimbabwe plummeted during the last decade of the 20th century, from 62 years in 1990 to about 38 years in 2000. AIDS, the major health threat to Zimbabweans in the 1990s, continued to be a formidable problem into the 21st century, with about one-fifth of the adult population infected. In addition to addressing the AIDS epidemic

[http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare]

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657149/Zimbabwe/44162/Health-and-welfare



History of Western Medicine in Zimbabwe
Mossop, R. T.

References

http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=4392&pc=9

Education The dismantling of Rhodesia’s segregated system of schooling began less than two years before independence. The minority government had concentrated upon providing compulsory (and virtually free) education for white children between the ages of 5 and 15 and had left the schooling of black children in the hands of missionaries. In 1950 there were only 12 government schools for blacks, compared with 2,230 mission and independent schools.

After independence, priority was given to upgrading the country’s school system. Many new schools were built in the drive toward free primary education for all. In the decade following independence, Zimbabwe achieved one of the highest primary school enrollment rates in Africa, with more than nine-tenths of all children of primary school age attending school, although this rate declined to about four-fifths in the early 21st century. Primary education begins at age seven, lasts for seven years, and has been compulsory since 1987. At least one rural secondary school has been established in each of the country’s districts. There are several universities and colleges in Zimbabwe, including the University of Zimbabwe, founded in 1955 at Harare, and the National University of Sciences and Technology, founded in 1991 at Bulawayo. Zimbabwe has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with nine-tenths of the population being able to read.

Dr.D said...

Thank you for this second effort, Robin. This is very helpful and much appreciated.

It is clear that the blacks were materially far better off in the colonial period than they are today. The one place where the West seems to have failed in in the effort to teach Christianity. It is not entirely fair to say that the West failed in this; Christianity can only be taught to those that are receptive.

What I am trying to say, however, is that the culture of the blacks was not changed below the surface, so that when the White colonial authority was withdrawn, the primitive culture reasserted itself with frightening rapidity. Material abundance seems to have made no dent at all in this matter. This is a warning to us all, although few are taking notice. The same is true of what is happening in South Africa today. They are simply the same story at two slightly different stages of development. One is tempted to say, "He who has eyes to see, let him see," but that seems to exclude almost everyone from seeing anything!

notareargunner said...

I reiterate what my Malawian houseboy said to me when Rhodesia was voting Mugabe into infamy..."I come from Black Africa. I don't like it."

Simple truths are too difficult for the western mind to comprehend. When Mugabe went on his expected rampage the victims, were my friends, comrades and fellow soldiers. The world was silent then - please read the sermon of 1978 by the Bishop of Salisbury - and will be silent always as long as the evildoers are perceived to be the very people who protect society.

Dr.D said...

notareargunner--you don't tell us where to find the Bishop's sermon, nor which particular one you are referring to. (I think it is safe to assume he preached many that year.) Can you give a link?

notareargunner said...

Apologies! You can read the full transcript on http://www.christianaction.org.za/newsletter_uca/uca-artic_deafeningsilence.htm.
There is a recording on the Rhodesian Broadcasting network, somewhere. Just spend a second or two and listen to my old RAR band with the Regimental March and imagine, for a second, stout, brave men getting ready to defend their heritage- http://www.thenewrbc.com/pages/music.html
It means nothing to the modern generation, because we old farts experienced nothing, but I do recall with mixed clarity the RC priest from Bulawayo flying into Wankie and the nights we would sit on the stoop of the sgts mess, looking far across to the Baobab Hotel and talking about religion, politics and the future.
He was a good, decent, and I think honest man, but holy Jesus how wonderfully naive he was.
My belligerence, in certain matters, was a constant source of great irritation to Father Peter. Like the politicians of today who put so much trust in the words of IRA murderers, the reality of fact was beyond his concept as the true nature of soldering is beyond the romantics and misconceptions of the ideologues.
THANKS FOR A GOOD READ.

Dr.D said...

notareargunner, thank you for that link to the Dean's most excellent sermon. That was one of the finest I have ever seen (and I have heard and read quite a few!). Very, very fine!