HARARE – In 1980, President Robert Mugabe on the eve of Independence Day correctly observed that: “Tomorrow we shall be celebrating the historic event, which our people have striven for nearly a century to achieve."
“Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans.
“Independence will bestow on us a new personality, a new sovereignty, a new future and perspective, and indeed a new history and a new past.”
In 2013, the presidential candidate for Zanu PF, Mugabe had this to say: “We made a mistake in 2008 to vote for the people who love the white people."
“Voting for people who want to bring back the white people and thinking that there won’t be any development without white people. The rich resources that our country is endowed with are for the black people, this is our country. And those who must rule this country must be black people.”
In terms of Section 90(2) (d) of the Constitution, the president is compelled to respect the diversity of the people and communities of Zimbabwe.
In 1980, Mugabe recognised the importance of respecting the diversity of the people and communities in Zimbabwe yet in 2013, he has completely u-turned oblivious of the constitutional implications on his suitability to be a president of the Republic who in terms of Section 90(1) of the Constitution is compelled to uphold, defend, obey and respect the Constitution of the nation and must ensure that the Constitution and all the other laws are faithfully observed.
In terms of Chapter three of the Constitution that provides for citizenship, it is clear that there is no provision that would permit the president to hold the view that those who must rule the country must be black people because even white people qualify for citizenship and consequently suffer no disability to become leaders of the country provided that the people of Zimbabwe want that to happen in a democratic process.
What is so special about white Zimbabweans to allow this ghost of the past to remain relevant in the politics of Zimbabwe after 33 years of black power and more significantly against a backdrop of a majority black population?
White Zimbabweans are a mixture of settlers from a number of European countries with the majority being English-speaking descendants of British and Irish settlers.
White immigrants understood too well that the demographics of Africa and the political economy at the time of settlement was not conducive for a democratic constitutional order as universal suffrage could not allow a minority to assume a privileged position in society.
The local settlers entrenched their political, economic and social hegemony of the country through force and imposing a constitutional order that prohibited the majority black people from participating in the political process.
Senior positions in the State were reserved for whites and extensive prime agricultural land was allocated to whites.
The effect of independence was to make white Zimbabweans ordinary citizens and, therefore, this once economically powerful ethnic minority was put in its place.
It was understood that what Ian Smith had predicted would not happen in his lifetime had taken place and, therefore, whites had to adjust to the new circumstances.
Some of the white citizens who could not adjust to the new political reality left the country but a substantial number remained assured by the then Prime Minister Mugabe that the new Constitution would come to their rescue as a minority for blacks did not need a Constitution to assert their majority status.
The experiences of the last 33 years have regrettably not produced the kind of personality that Mugabe envisioned.
Although his constitutional duty was at all material times that of protecting minorities and vulnerable groups, he has found himself leading the charge against fellow citizens for circumstances that occurred before independence and were well known to him at the material time.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela chose to remain faithful to the Constitution by refusing to use the newly acquired State power to turn the tables against white South Africans.
In terms of the 2002 census, Zimbabwe’s white population was recorded at 46 643 with more than 10 000 being elderly and about 9 000 being under the age of 15.
Universal suffrage threatened white privilege and it was expected that the new post-colonial State actors would have the knowledge and capacity to use the State for good and in doing so the majority who were hitherto disabled because of race-based laws would rise to the occasion.
The targeting of whites whose control of the levers of the State ended in 1980 exposes the failure of the post-colonial administration to deliver the hope and change that independence promised.
During the colonial era, a view was widely held that the reason why whites were economically well off was that they were helped by the State.
Following this logic, one would have expected white economic power to diminish Mugabe’s watch.
The fact that whites have prospered under his watch defies the logic and promise of independence to allow any rational observer to seek to locate whether there is any causal link between government power and real economic empowerment.
If such a link existed, then one would expect the generality of the membership of Zanu PF to have fared economically well during the last 33 years.
One would not have expected Mugabe who was convinced that the policy of reconciliation in line with the provisions of the Lancaster House constitution would pay dividends would end up making such utterances as: “We made a mistake in 2008 to vote for the people who love the white people”.
Indeed, 1980 Mugabe loved and was loved by white people some of whom were in his Cabinet.
In fact, he was praised for appointing Dennis Norman as Agriculture minister.
Mugabe knows fully well that the statement he made recently in Marange that: “Voting for people who want to bring back the white people is fundamentally flawed and undermines the intelligence of the Zimbabwean people who include white citizens.”
White citizenship is a reality and the new Constitution affirmed the right to citizenship of Zimbabwe even for those that chose to emigrate from the country.
White Zimbabweans enjoy the same constitutional rights as black Zimbabweans.
As a father figure, one would have expected Mugabe to be honest to the oath that he took when he was appointed president of the Republic.
He made the point when he addressed members of an indigenous church in Marange that they should not vote for people who think that there will not be any development without white people.
However, one would have expected Mugabe at the very least to boast of the developments that have taken place under his watch rather than being the voice and face of negatives.
The people that Mugabe often speaks on behalf of are poor and the dreams of a better life that independence promised to deliver is yet to be realised.
The voters know better that the influence of whites could only be of relevance if Mugabe allowed it.
None of his political competitors have been exposed to the power that he has enjoyed over the last 33 years to permit a just and fair comparison about their respective strength and weaknesses.
The fact that Mugabe of 1980 was fixed with the knowledge about white economic hegemony and that he has failed to lead the charge to reduce white dominance in the economy must be a cause of concern.
Mugabe is a powerful man capable of intimidating even the courts to rule in his favour and yet his campaign strategy reflects his inability to deal with the perceived white challenge.
It would be an understatement to say that he has dismally failed to use the State for the good of the majority.
Whites needed an undemocratic constitutional order because they were a minority.
However, when the majority need a law to empower themselves then one must know that unless the leadership question is resolved no empowerment will be realised.
One must worry when those who have the power behave and talk as if they never had the power.
For the people who really never had the power and influence of Mugabe, the fact that indigenisation and economic empowerment designed to address the circumstances of the colonial era must go a long way towards fortifying the view that if there is a time to vote for change it is on July 31, 2013.
The new personality that independence was expected to bestow on Zimbabweans has not happened and one cannot blame whites for the failure to unite the country on shared values.
The new future that Mugabe spoke of remains work-in-progress and it is time for voters to decide whether after 33 years of his reign, he should be trusted to deliver a future that he now admits could not be delivered under his watch because of the machinations of less than 50 000 citizens against a population of 13 million.
If whites can remain relevant for 33 years under a purportedly hostile regime, then one must appreciate the saying that “Rhodesia Never Dies” for it tells its own narrative.
Mugabe in 1980 dreamt of a new perspective that independence would bring. Regrettably, it would appear that such a perspective has yet to be revealed to him.
Surely how can people in power expect to be empowered?
The perspective that empowers people must be grounded on recognition that ordinary people can produce extraordinary outcomes not necessarily because people in government think that they hold the key to progress but because freedom, rule of law and prosperity are related.