THE most dangerous form of colonisation in my view is the colonisation of the mind. While physical colonialism had drawbacks for people who were colonised, it is important to acknowledge that the colonists also brought many benefits. These included western medicine, formal education, infrastructure, political participation, sophisticated agricultural practices and accelerated nation building.
The danger, when a former colony becomes independent, is that it can swap one form of colonisation for another. This process is often incremental and insidious, so that people realise too late they’ve been entrapped by those who promised to bring them freedom.
While physical colonisation is transient, the new coloniser – in Zimbabwe’s case ZANU PF – has other powerful weapons in its arsenal and these are used to colonise the minds of the people, since colonisation of the mind has more permanency.
As Dr Mike Gammon, who was Chief of Veld and Pastures in Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural Technical Services between 1978 and 1983 wrote in 2008, “The Zimbabwe government’s campaign to obliterate commercial agriculture under the guise of agrarian reform, but in reality in the interest of retaining power through illegal and violent means, has been largely effective.
“A major part of this campaign has been incessant propaganda, based on distortions and lies, designed to give it respectability. Further deceptions have sought to give the impression that the pretence of agrarian reform has been successful,” he noted.
Those who have suffered most as a result of the farm invasions and the ongoing forced evictions from the few commercial farms still operational – largely to make way for high ranking ZANU PF personnel – have been the farm workers and their families.
In the case of my Centenary farm in the Figtree district of Matabeleland South province, Dr Ray Ndhlukula, who is the deputy chief secretary in the office of the President and the Cabinet, told me in June 2014 that the farm had been gazetted and offered to him by the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement.
On August 2, 2014 Dr Ndhlukula drove onto my farm and claimed that it “was now his property” and that he would be doing things “his way”. He said that his workers would remove my personal belongings and household effects, load them onto his trucks and take them away.Advertisement
Furthermore, he warned me that there was no court order or sheriff of the court who could do anything to him as he was a very senior civil servant. In any case, he said, I had a white skin and therefore had no rights in Zimbabwe.
Farm workers evicted
Mrs Ndhlukula went to our farm village the same day and informed my workers that they had just three days in which to vacate their houses. All of my workers and their families were duly evicted from their homes of many decades on August 6, 2014 by the Ndhlukulas’ thugs.
There was no court process and the police refused to stop the thugs from evicting the farm workers, even though a High Court order has been issued on June 27, 2014 to protect the workers.
Despite my going to the Figtree police station and insisting that the police should adhere to the High Court order and safeguard my farm workers, the lawlessness prevailed and they refused to act. Since then neither I nor my farm workers have been able to return to Centenary farm.
During early September 2014, Mrs Ndhlukula spoke in a most derogatory and degrading manner to Mr Daniel Sibanda, one of my workers, who is an expert cattle man. He was so furious that he approached me and asked if I could put him in touch with some lawyers as he wanted to take the Ndhlukulas to court.
Mr Sibanda was also angry that his constitutional rights had been violated. He understood his rights and wanted to do something about them. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights concurred with Mr Sibanda and agreed to fund the case.
Although Mr Sibanda has very little formal education, this is more than compensated for by his wisdom and ability to differentiate between right and wrong, despite the relentless government propaganda.
Mr Sibanda is also a man who is not to be intimidated. When he was herding cows and calves on Centenary farm in 1998, for example, he was attacked by a leopard which he killed using only his axe and a club.
The court case, Daniel Sibanda vs R C Ndhlukula and Another, Case No. H.C. 1414/15, was heard in the Bulawayo High Court before the Honourable Justice J Moyo on February 16 this year.
Mr Gerald Mlotshwa of Titan Law Chambers, arguing on behalf of Dr Ray Ndhlukula, stated that the real litigant was J C Conolly & Sons and not Mr Sibanda.
This was despite the fact that all of the papers had been correctly filed and bound, due process had been followed, and the case was correctly set before the judge. Nowhere in the papers did it indicate that the litigant was J C Conolly & Sons.
In fact, although Mr Sibanda has resided on my Centenary farm all his life, he is actually employed by Agrimobile, a sister company to J C Conolly & Sons on Centenary farm.
Mr Sibanda felt degraded once again to hear in court that the Ndhlukulas were claiming he was been used as a front by J C Conolly & Sons and made it clear that he wished to claim his rights under the new Zimbabwean Constitution.
The court reserved judgment on this and two additional preliminary points raised by the respondents’ advocates in an effort to delay the case.
How ZANU PF colonised people’s minds
To gain insight into how ZANU PF has worked relentlessly to colonise people’s minds, their strategy and the implications of this, we need to revisit the latter 1990s.
From 1996-1998, I was privileged to be elected as chairman of The National Association of Dairy Farmers (NADF), the dairy commodity housed within the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU).
During my tenure, government had instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to privatise the Dairy Marketing Board.
This was a very stimulating time as we worked with the then Minister of Lands and Agriculture, the late Kumbirai Kangai, as well as the Board at the Dairy Marketing Board, the Attorney General’s office, (regarding monopolistic legislation), the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), the farmers and various financiers.
We achieved the most successful ever floatation on the ZSE, with thousands of Zimbabweans making their first investment ever on the stock market. The government, instead of having to pay subsidies to keep the Dairy Marketing Board afloat, received income through dividends and tax.
In removing the monopolistic legislation, competition was introduced and we achieved a first world dairy industry.
Through this exercise, thousands of Zimbabweans became empowered. Through crop and animal production, stock feed manufacturing, veterinary and food sciences, product development, sales and marketing, legal and accounting practice and dividend on investment, Zimbabweans were free to achieve their dreams.
It was this empowered mindset which prevailed at a number of meetings that I attended in the Figtree area prior to the 2000 referendum on a new constitution. The standard of debate was top quality, the understanding of what was on the table inspiring.
The people made it clear they did not want Robert Mugabe as a life president and secondly they did not want any land without a bankable property right. Tens of thousands of hectares of land had been bought by government during the early eighties in the Marula South district and the resettled farmers had found it impossible to farm commercially without being able to access capital.
It would be interesting to know how many Zimbabwean banks have gone to the wall because of unsecured loans.
The referendum on the proposed new constitution
In the constitutional referendum of February 2000, with decolonised mindsets and believing in their dreams, Zimbabweans voted in their freest election ever.
Their resounding ‘no’ vote infuriated President Mugabe. The people had rejected his proposed new constitution, which would have further entrenched his power and enabled the government to seize farms owned by white farmers, without compensation.
The people had spoken!
President Mugabe warned that what he was unable to achieve at the ballot box, he would achieve through parliament. Within days, the land invasions started, paid invaders were transported onto commercial farms in government vehicles and the mental colonisation was fast-tracked.
JRI – Silencing the farmers
Later in 2000, as the mayhem continued, I was asked by the CFU to sit on an organisation that they had been partly involved in establishing. This organisation was called the “Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative” (ZJRI). Through ZJRI we were to interact with government to defuse the volatile situation on the farms and to come up with a viable land resettlement programme.
The government appointed Ms Olivia Muchena, then Minister in the President’s Office, and Vincent Hungwe, a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture, to sit on ZJRI.
Ms Muchena informed the first meeting that no progress could be made unless the farmers agreed firstly not to take the government to court, and secondly, that we would not hang our dirty washing on the line.
This meant that we could not publish what was happening on the farms, and most definitely could not inform the international community.
She continued, “The government is going to institute a controlled revolution.” Vincent Hungwe then informed us that government would “take every brick off every brick” and rebuild it their way.
This was my first experience of “colonised minds”.
At a debriefing after the meeting, I informed my fellow farmers that I was not prepared to concede to such demands. On returning to Bulawayo, I was phoned by our chairman, Nick Swanepoel, and informed that they had agreed to abide by the government’s demands. My response to Nick was that he would receive my resignation.
The last 15 years of chaos and havoc have been well documented. Farm workers have been mentally colonised through fear, isolation and hunger. The ZANU PF strategy has included all-night pungwes (brutal “re-education” programmes), murder, disappearance, rape, job destruction, withholding of international food aid and lack of medical care.
Tens of thousands, whose forefathers originated in countries like Malawi or Mozambique, have had their citizenship removed and are now referred to as “aliens”.
International court ruling brings hope
Although a significant number of dispossessed commercial farmers have spent years and millions of dollars in failed court actions in Zimbabwe due to the judiciary being heavily compromised, a recent international court ruling has brought renewed hope.
Heinrich von Pezold, a German national and the main shareholder of Zimbabwe’s Rift Valley Holdings, which owns Border Timbers Limited, refused to be mentally colonised and went to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to plead his case.
This month it was reported that a tribunal at the ICSID, which is part of the World Bank Group, has ordered the Zimbabwe government to restore agricultural estates seized as part of President Mugabe’s “racially discriminatory” land reform programme to the von Pezold family, who are dual German and Swiss nationals, or pay US$196 million in compensation.
If legal title is restored, the state will only have to pay a third of the damages – US$65 million.
Both sums include US$1 million in moral damages for one member of the family, whom the Zimbabwean police had failed to protect from death threats and physical violence by “settlers” on his farm.
Lifting the yoke of mental colonisation
In an article titled: “Five key reasons why Zimbabwe’s economy will be far worse in 2016”, Ken Yamamoto, a respected commentator on Africa, warned that the economy “was leaking like a sieve” and described the country’s leaders as being “giant pillaging marauders”.
As Zimbabweans struggle to survive under a failed government, they are well aware of the culpability of their avaricious leaders whose vicious infighting is intensifying the failure of their “controlled revolution”.
In my view, while the government might have removed “every brick from every brick” as they intended, leaving once thriving commercial farms across the country in ruins, they will not be able to rebuild the country their way.
Sir Isaac Newton found that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As Zimbabweans removed the yoke of colonisation so too will they remove the yoke of mental colonisation through which ZANU PF has subjugated them for so many traumatic and ruinous years.
I am confident that the Zimbabwean constitution will determine Mr Sibanda’s human rights and as a result, those of hundreds of thousands of other farm workers whose displacement and suffering in the wake of the brutal farm invasions has been catastrophic.
The tide has turned.
David Conolly is owner of Centenary farm, Matabeleland South. This article is taken from politicsweb