NEWS & ANALYSIS

Is it really so 'good to be black' in Zimbabwe?

Ben Freeth questions why the international community has been so apathetic over the demonstrable racism of the Zanu-PF regime

A seasoned Zimbabwean journalist, Angus Shaw, has forwarded the following comment in the state-run Herald newspaper:

"Zimbabwe is the only country where it is economically beneficial to be a person of colour. The country might be going through economic challenges, experiencing devastating graft and corruption but all that aside, one can say ‘it is good to be black.'"

Do the black people agree that it’s good to be in Zimbabwe, where the laws are claimed to favour them economically? The fact that over a quarter of the black population has fled the country – the majority to South Africa - suggests that they don’t.

Last week it was Freedom Day in South Africa and people across the country celebrated their hard-won freedom from the brutal, racist apartheid government. The overthrow of the regime was a remarkable collaborative achievement supported by governments and organisations across the world.

In April 2014, Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Tukwini told the Voice of America that the U.S. anti-apartheid movement and others had helped turn international opinion decisively against the apartheid regime.

"My grandfather and others really appreciated that because they realized that without the support from the outside they would not have necessarily been successful in dismantling apartheid," she said.

What continues to irk me is the fact that the rest of the world, by their silence, fails to challenge unconstitutional apartheid policies and laws in Zimbabwe which have led to our country’s disastrous economic collapse. 

The SADC Tribunal in Namibia, comprising five African judges – all “people of colour” - handed down a final and binding judgment in the landmark Campbell case (Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd et al. v. Republic of Zimbabwe) in 2008 which confirmed that racial discrimination is taking place in Zimbabwe.

My father-in-law, Mike Campbell, was an innovative commercial farmer and wildlife conservationist. He was also an exemplary employer who paid with his life for his audacity in challenging the racial discrimination in Zimbabwe through his court case. His farm was burnt to the ground in 2009.

Why is it that not a single country which has signed up to the UN “International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” has made a complaint to the UN body that deals with racially discriminatory policies and practices in this regard?

The British and other fellow signatories of the convention have been demonstrably apathetic, despite the fact that they have been forced to provide food aid costing millions of dollars to food insecure and starving black Zimbabweans every year since the farm invasions began.

The fallout from the violent land grab has been catastrophic for the country and our economy is once again in crisis, putting us in the same basket of “fragile” countries as Somalia, Eritrea and Myanmar. Zimbabwe’s external debt is over US$10 billion, while our budget for last year was just US$4 billion. 

To put this in context, our 2015 budget was smaller than the annual turnover of South Africa’s two largest supermarket chains: the Shoprite Group (US$8 billion) and Pick ‘n Pay (US$4,7 billion).

Everywhere we see the impact of unemployment, which has ballooned to over 90 percent. Pavements and roadsides are filled with unemployed black people, some of whom are university graduates, all struggling to sell their wares in order to survive and educate their own children.

More than four million black Zimbabweans, and over than 90 percent of the white population have fled Zimbabwe since 2000 – many with just a suitcase. Despite this, the world fails to challenge Mugabe’s racially discriminatory laws and practices which have destroyed the lives and prospects of the majority of black and white people, ironically creating a common bond.

It is time to challenge the international community’s double standards. The world – and South Africa – cannot afford an escalating exodus of Zimbabweans as the economic crisis deepens and President Mugabe’s increasingly fractured ZANU PF party unravels.

Ben Freeth is Spokesperson, SADC Tribunal Rights Watch, Zimbabwe.