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Hain's shame on Zimbabwe

Issue No. 1688

Hain's shame on Zimbabwe

PETER HAIN, who won renown as a fighter against apartheid South Africa, is now defending white farmers against the majority black population in Zimbabwe. Hain, a New Labour foreign office minister, contacted the Zimbabwean government last week and protested about black people squatting on white farms. He extracted a promise that police would be sent in to remove them. But black people in Zimbabwe are quite right to want their land back. The country's 12.5 million people won independence and majority rule 20 years ago.

But most of the land is still held by a robber minority of whites. There are 70,000 whites in the country (0.6 percent of the population), yet they have 70 percent of the land. Around 4,000 white farmers own nearly a third of the country's most fertile farmland. Meanwhile millions of black peasants are forced to survive on tiny plots which are too small to feed themselves and their families. All the land in Zimbabwe was originally stolen from the black people who worked it. In 1890 a small army of whites led by top British imperialist Cecil Rhodes invaded the area. Through violence and trickery they grabbed the whole country from the Africans who farmed it.

They called it Rhodesia and took the best land for themselves. For almost a century blacks had no votes and a brutal white racist regime ruled. Today President Mugabe is cynically trying to use the land issue to restore his shattered image in the run up to a general election next month. Mugabe has protected the rich and the multinationals during his 20 year reign. But that should not obscure the theft of land by the whites. It is a disgrace that New Labour backs the whites and not the black peasants.

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Sat 18 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1688
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