Of colonial hangover, racial brainwashing


So, the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa regime is over the moon over a few seconds-long handshake with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair!

In fact, the President did not waste time posting this picture on his social media account — excitedly heralding this as a victory for the government’s so-called “engagement and re-engagement policy”, and claiming forgiveness and “letting bygones be bygones”.

I am still wondering whether Blair is similarly ecstatic, and I seriously doubt if he posted the same image on his own social media platforms.

This reminded me of over-exhilaration of the Zanu PF regime when Mnangagwa was invited, amongst over a hundred other world leaders, to the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November last year.

They could not stop talking about it for months — such that, when the time eventually arrived, Mnangagwa had to take with him a plus 100-strong delegation — some of whom making global news headlines for buying trolley-loads of expensive Scotch whiskeys.

Of course, the major highlight of that summit (at least for the ruling establishment in Zimbabwe) had nothing to do with any resolutions passed on combating or curbing climate change — but, the seven seconds-long handshake between Mnangagwa and then British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Again, that photograph was the staple on all social media accounts associated with the ruling elite, and State-controlled media.

Nonetheless, what is telling is the conspicuous lack of similar exhibitions of elation as pertains any meetings with other global leaders — including, the most recent visit by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, despite his embarrassing bootlicking of Mnangagwa.


For a long time now, I have always asserted that the boundless loathing and disdain of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) (previously MDC) by the ruling Zanu PF party, was predominantly on account of the latter’s jealousy and resentment over the apparent endearment shown by the white world towards the former.

The Zanu PF administration did not like it at all when their beloved Western darlings cut off ties with them, and fell in with the opposition.

It was a stab in the heart — so excruciating and agonising — for the ruling elite, as if jilted by a lover!

To make matters worse — the estranged sweetheart moved in with the ditched partner’s rival.

This is where all the profound hatred for the MDC-cum-CCC emanated from — as well as what was to be projected as abhorrence at the West, which was actually more of anger motivated by being rejected.

From my own analysis of the mindset of the country’s leaders, their relationship with the Western world has always been premised on a colonial mentality, whereby they regarded the former masters with adoration and even reverence.

Is it then any wonder why, immediately after attaining independence from British rule in 1980 –— in spite of having received military training and support from such Eastern communist powers as China and Russia during the liberation struggle — the Zanu PF regime jumped straight into bed with the erstwhile colonial masters, while virtually dumping their supposed “all weather friends”?

Most of the late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s globetrotting (earning him the unflattering nickname, Vasco da Dama) were largely to Western capitals such as London and Washington DC, rather than Beijing and Moscow.

In fact, while the Zanu PF regime was busy massacring tens of thousands of unarmed Ndebele-speaking civilians in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces between 1983 and 1987 –—Mugabe was being conferred countless honourary degrees and other accolades for outstanding leadership in Western countries.

To cap it all up — he was knighted by the British monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) in 1994 — an honour subsequently revoked after his government’s fallout with the Western friends, after fierce disagreements over the violent 2000 land reform programme, whereby white commercial farmers were targeted.

Let us never lose sight of the fact that the so-called “Look East Policy” was only brought to the fore at the turn of the new millennium — only after this souring of relations with the West — as China and Russia were never on the lips (and mind, for that matter) of the Zanu PF regime after 1980.

We should also not forget that this decision to take land was never about any supposed reneging by Britain of her commitments towards funding of land expropriated from white farmers.

When the then Prime Minister Blair’s Labour government went back on this pledge in the late 1990s, the Zimbabwe administration were not particularly concerned or riled up – because, at the time, any serious land reform was not on top of the Zimbabwe ruling elite’s priorities.

In fact, that issue was forgotten and let to slide away – until a new opposition political party was formed in 1999, which, as the June 2000 general elections drew closer, proved to be a real threat to the ruling Zanu PF party’s 20-year grip on power.

This was after the government’s proposed new constitution was rejected by the people of Zimbabwe in a referendum, a few months earlier in February.

Let me hasten to remind Zimbabweans that, even this proposed constitution initially never made a big deal about land reform – as more focus was placed on issues of good governance, human rights and democracy.

Only when the threat of the new MDC party was apparent for all – due to the citizenry’s disgruntlement and anger with the Zanu PF regime’s destruction of the economy, and ruination of people’s lives and livelihoods – did the land issue become a central topic, out of the ruling establishment's fear of losing impeding elections.

Please note that, when Zimbabweans were adamant in kicking Zanu PF out of power in June 2000 – on account of their economic suffering – not a single sanction had yet been imposed by any country on several top officials and entities.

Furthermore, in a strange way, those who benefited from land reform need to thank the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai-led MDC which caused panic in Zanu PF corridors of power, otherwise there could have never been such a programme.

As such the real source of the severing of relations between the West and Zanu PF regime came after the killing of white commercial farmers around 2000 and 2001 – leading to the unparalleled disdain of the main opposition by those in power, when they became the new darlings.

For the Harare administration, losing the love of Western countries to the MDC cum CCC was unforgivable – worthy of unprecedented ferocious animosity - resulting in relentless persecution, characterised by the weaponisation of the law (whereby, activists are repeatedly arrested without much in the form of convictions, and incessant denial of constitutionally-obligated bail), as well as brutal violent attacks, abductions and murder of supporters.

These reasons are now becoming glaringly apparent – with the Mnangagwa administration even jubilantly celebrating the shaking of hands with the person who imposed the sanctions they are always complaining about.

For those in power, it does not matter that Blair had been out of office for nearly two decades – but, it is about the potential of being “taken back” by the British.

In a nutshell, the opposition is suffering such unprecedented vile repression over who gets the love of the white man!

It is all a matter of a colonial hangover – as my late beloved father would say – which the ruling elite cannot seem to shake off. That is why when a CCC leader meets any Western leader, it is labelled “selling out”, which should be condemned – but, when this is done by Mnangagwa, it is “re-engagement”, which should be praised and celebrated!

It is that simple.

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/ Call: +263715667700/ +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]


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