Every man gotta right to decide his … own destiny
After lunch we left Leon Varley and were driven to the little Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.
After checking into the luxurious Ilala Lodge we headed out for a quick look around. We decided to save the falls for the following day but headed in that general direction. We were soon approached by a group of men with things to sell. You could buy the big five immortalised in wood or the complete set of the former Zimbabwean bank notes and who wouldn’t want a trillion dollar note for a bookmark? Well, no thank you, no, no thank you, no …
No, it wasn’t going to be that easy. One particularly engaging young man switched tack and assumed the role of guide. Joseph was fifteen, what he really needed was a job. He was very willing to work, he said, could we take him to Australia and he would work for us. He took us to the gorge, was suitably patient while we wasted our time photographing and sorting out the identity of various little brown birds and explained the problems that he, an Ndebele speaker faces at the hands of the Shona.
Zimbabwe is a land divided and made poor.
Robert Mugabe came to head the resistance movement that would eventually become the ZANU-PF in 1975. The independent state of Zimbabwe came into being in 1980 with him as prime minister. It rose out of the ashes of the former Rhodesia. At that time it was a fairly rich country and a net exporter of food. The wealth, though was not shared particularly fairly. The newly independent country was greeted with a great deal of optimism by Australia’s then prime minister, Malcolm Fraser and celebrated by none less than Bob Marley.
Malcolm Fraser’s little mate is still in power, now the president. He has managed that by intimidation, violence and fraud. One of his early efforts was to unleash the Fifth Brigade on the supporters of his rival Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe’s power base was in the east amongst the Shona speaking people, Nkomo’s was in the west amongst the Ndebele. Between 1984 and 1987 the Fifth Brigade, trained by North Korea, mounted a campaign of terror and rape. They executed about 20,000 civilians in the west of the country. To the victor the spoils, the Shona are first in line for the jobs. The Ndebele are last in line for scarce food.
Not that there are plenty of jobs. Mugabe found it expedient to toss the white farmers off their productive farms which ended up in the hands of his cronies. The farms now produce next to nothing. When private ownership ceased to have any meaning, not only the farmers left so did the investors. Hyperinflation made impoverished billionaires out of everyone. By 2008, the inflation rate was 231 million percent. The true victors were Mugabe and a small clique. New wealth came from diamonds and other resources, the nouveau riche are the ones that control the mines or take a slice of the profits from outsiders for access to the resources.
Mugabe is in his nineties, currently he is setting up his much younger wife, Grace, to continue the dynasty. She was his mistress, he married her after his first wife died. She is commonly known as Dis Grace, or the First Shopper. She is on to at least her third palace. She qualified as Dr Grace PhD after only two months of study at the University of Zimbabwe although apparently her thesis is unavailable from the University archives.
All in all a stable and successful kleptocracy.
This bridge spans the mighty Zambesi, the border with Zambia is in the centre … you’ll be able to spot where.