Back to Index

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 2:55 PM
Subject: Margolis column

Whites targeted in Mugabe's race war

By Eric Margolis

April 23, 2000

NEW YORK - The murder of a second white farmer in Zimbabwe last week is emblematic of a tragic, but little known story - the relentless ethnic cleansing of the white tribes of Africa. Farmer Martin Olds was besieged in his isolated tobacco farm by a gang of 100 thugs. After holding them off for many hours, he was finally wounded, driven from his burning farm, then killed. The attackers were unleashed as a part of a campaign by Zimbabwe's aging strongman, Robert Mugabe, to divert attention from the nation's collapsing economy, and to restore his waning political power, by whipping up hatred of the nation's 4,000 white farmers.

These whites, many third generation natives, own a sizeable portion of the nation's prime farmland, and produce 80% of Zimbabwe's agricultural exports. Without them, Zimbabwe's economy would collapse. But Mugabe still chose to revive racial hatreds from the 1970-1980 black-white war in former Rhodesia(today Zimbabwe) that cost 27,000 lives and forced half the nation's 8,000 white citizens to flee.

The murder in Zimbabwe brings back ugly memories. Back in the late 1980's, I accompanied black South African troops patrolling the Limpopo River border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Bands of African National Congress thugs and pillagers, described in the western press as `freedom fighters,' were raiding isolated farm houses along the Limpopo. I vividly recall one-burned out farm where a 74-year old man and his 68-year old wife had held off some 200 ANC `fighters' for an entire night. The marauders finally ignited the roof with Molotov cocktails and drove the occupants outside. The old man was shot, then hacked to death with machetes; his wife was gang raped, then slashed to death. This was a part of South Africa's and Zimbabwe's anti-white `liberation struggle' the outside world was not shown. Whites have been largely driven from African nations where they once lived in significant numbers. Many lost everything they owned. Many of them were not even large landowners, but farm laborers and blue or white collar workers.

The once substantial European and Asian populations of East Africa - Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania - were forced to flee. The important South Asian Hindu and Muslim communities of Uganda and Kenya were terrorized into exile after their shops were looted and many of their women raped or threatened by rape. Zanzibar's entire Arab population - tens of thousands of people - was massacred in 1964 Hundreds of thousands of Portugese, some from families that had lived for 300 years in Africa, were driven from Mozambique, Angola, and Portugese West Africa. South Africa's remaining 1.6 millon whites, some whose families came in the mid 1600's, are fleeing in increasing numbers as crime engulfs the nation. As in Zimbabwe, black extremists in South Africa are calling for confiscation of all white `colonialist' property. The view that Africa's whites are later-day colonialists who deserve to be expelled is widely shared by the western media. After all, they or their fathers had settled in lands that originally belonged to blacks. This view is not only simplistic , it's often wrong.

The African continent has seen vast population and tribal movements over the past 600 years. Bantu blacks only began to filter out of the Congo basin southwards towards today's South Africa in the 1500's. White settlers from Flanders and Europe actually preceeded them to the Cape Colony. In 1838, Boer pioneers moving north, and Zulu forces expanding south, met and fought in northern Transvaal. During the same era, the mighty Zulu Empire was conducting the notorious `mfakane,' -or mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing - of their tribal enemies, the Xhosa and Shona, an event that still stokes tribal tensions today in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Much of Africa's peripheral areas were barely populated during the early era of European colonial rule, or inhabited by non-Bantu peoples who have died out, like the Cape's Hottentots, or been displaced, like Tutsis, or Tuaregs. In effect, Bantu Africans have no better historical claim to many parts of once European-ruled Africa than do descendents of whites, Indians or Arabs.

Most important, as I found during East Africa's bush wars, white Rhodesians and South African Boers were not Europeans at all, but two distinct African tribes that happened to have white skins.
A few nights in the field with the famed Rhodesian Selous Scouts commandos left me in awe of these burly, hard-drinking, men who spoke badly mauled English and knew the bundu - or bush- like the backs of their big, weather-beaten hands. Europeans they were not.

The real problem in Zimbabwe is not that a tiny white minority has usurped the only fertile land. Zimbabwe, and the rest of Africa, have plenty of potentially productive land that today lies fallow or was ruined by bad farming methods. Governments across black Africa make life miserable for farmers.

Consider: if properly farmed, Angola alone could feed all of sub-Saharan Africa. Mugabe and his `liberators' ought to go develop and irrigate new land rather than steal the property of Zimbabwean citizens whose only crime is to be white and productive. Hopefully, Mugabe will back down under world pressure and stop his little race war.

Back to the Top
Back to Index