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Editor’s note: For over a year, WorldNetDaily international correspondent Anthony C. LoBaido has documented the race-based atrocities of Zimbabwe’s Marxist dictator Robert Mugabe. In yesterday’s report, LoBaido detailed how Mugabe’s extermination of white farmers has led to a new assault on white-owned businesses in the capital city of Harare. Today’s installment chronicles the experience of Zimbabwe’s residents since gaining independence 21 years ago and ponders the future of Mugabe and his Marxist state.
Rachel Johnston — a wife, mother and grandmother — has spent nearly all of her five decades on Earth as a resident of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. While the white woman admits that she was part of a privileged class when the nation gained its independence in 1980, little did she envision that by 2001, whites in both rural and urban areas would be hunted down, tortured and, in some cases, murdered by gangs of thugs sponsored by the nation’s communist leader, President Robert Mugabe.
“I live and work in the capital city Harare. Harare is a city of sunshine — wide open, tree-lined avenues … an eclectic mix of races, colors and creeds. I have enjoyed a lifestyle that would be the envy of many in the Western world. Yes, I was one of the privileged whites who, at independence in 1980, was worried for my future in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). Then, our country had been at war since the ’60s in an effort to stop black majority rule. Britain had been our sovereign, and rather than hand over the nation to the indigenous population, Prime Minister Ian Smith decided to fight what he thought was to be communist/Marxist rule. He was subsequently proved to be right, but I am sure this offers no comfort to him now. The International community at that time did not agree with him and supported and financed the Liberation forces.
“After independence in 1980, many of the white population left Zimbabwe. Those that remained worked hard at building up the country after years of war and sanctions. It was a hard task, both for the white and black members of our society. Together, we were getting this country back on track, so we thought. On the surface, the standard of living was improving; many were prospering who had never before had the opportunity; education was a priority; the health services were excellent; we were held up to the rest of Africa as an example of prosperity and democratic governance. But, below ground, a network of evil intrigue was slowly evolving that culminated in the situation in which we now find ourselves.”
Added Johnston, “After independence in 1980, our president promised land redistribution (among so many promises) to the local population. This is what the Liberation forces had fought for. The land had been unfairly distributed during the colonial era, they claimed, with most of the fertile land being owned by white farmers. No one disagreed with them. We all knew and accepted that there had to be land redistribution. The British government even provided huge sums of money for compensation to the white farmers whose land would be claimed for this exercise. We all accepted that. But we watched as the land was distributed to people in high places. The common man was not getting his piece of the pie. The law of the ‘right of the king’ was being applied here. He could and did distribute land to whomever he chose. He could and did distribute wealth to whomever he chose. Any opposition was silenced.”
Johnston said that Zimbabwe enjoyed a boom during those early years after independence. Donor agencies from far and wide poured money in to help build and create new wealth. They built hospitals, funded any number of projects, spent money on rural education and trusted the local population to continue with their work. The IMF and World Bank opened their doors wide and told Zimbabwe and President Mugabe to help themselves to whatever they needed in terms of financial assistance.
“We were all riding high on the hog (as the Americans put it),” Johnston told WND.
“So what happened? Why, by the beginning of 2000, had an opposition party begun gathering supporters by the thousands, faster than we had ever imagined? Simply because ‘the rule of the African king’ and ‘democracy’ are not one and the same thing. The former had allowed our president and his hierarchy to use, as their own, anything they wanted in this country. Government funds were at their disposal for their own personal use; travel abroad was common for the president and an entourage of more than 100 people, staying in top hotels all over the world; mansions sprung up in our posh suburbs; fleets of Mercedes were imported for our ministers; the government coffers were plundered at an alarming rate — and any opposition to this was silenced.
“By the mid ’90s, 15 years after independence, the population was becoming increasingly disenchanted with its government. The lot of the poor had not changed drastically, as was promised. The war veterans were still waiting, most in abject poverty, for the land they had fought so hard to win. Most of the donor agencies’ personnel had left, continuing to send the funds but not realizing the extent of the embezzlement and theft going on within their projects.
“By midyear 1999, the population of Zimbabwe had had enough, and the strongest opposition ever to the ruling ZANU-PF was born — the Movement for Democratic Change. This party was not considered a serious threat by the ruling party.
“A general election was coming up in June of 2000. By the beginning of that year, ZANU-PF realized that it had a challenge on its hands. More and more folk were joining the ranks of the newly formed opposition party. The land redistribution issue was brought to the fore by ZANU-PF. Twenty-one years after independence, the party went into full swing, promising to redistribute the land to the people who had voted for it all those years before. This was the first in a long line of election gimmicks that resulted in the most inhumane actions. A referendum was held in February of 2000.”
Mugabe wanted a “yes” vote on his plan to change the constitution of Zimbabwe to allow him to seize land from white farmers without paying them compensation. What he got was a resounding “no.”
Continued Johnston, “In his speech the following day, he graciously accepted the decision of the population and agreed to abide by it, while readying an army of war veterans, whose job it would be to subdue, avenge and intimidate, ensuring a successful victory for ZANU-PF in the June general elections. They started mid-February 2000 and invaded white-owned farms on a daily basis, beating and intimidating labor forces and management.
“We were all stunned at this move. How could they merely take what was not yet rightfully theirs? We were sure the law would step in and prevent this from happening. By Feb. 29, 2000, the Commercial Farmers Union had appealed to the government and police force to restore order. On March 2, Dumisa Dabangwa, the minister of Home Affairs, ordered the police to remove the war vets from the land. This order was ignored. On March 17, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered that the war vets be removed from the land. This order was ignored.
“When asked to comment, President Mugabe replied ‘I will not interfere with the war vets.’ I saw the war vets on TV that day, some of them not more than 20 years old! By this time, we were all beginning to realize that this was state-sponsored violence and nothing more. This was not about the land; this was about votes. This was about vengeance on a people who had dared to defy their king; this was about holding onto power at all costs.”
It was at this point that the violence escalated. The intimidation and torture of anyone who was thought to be a supporter of the opposition MDC, or Movement for Democratic Change, continued unabated. People were killed. Farmers were tortured and murdered. It was a witch-hunt, no more, no less, orchestrated and carried out by thugs claiming to be war veterans, on behalf of the ruling party.
Says Johnston, “My nephew Michael worked on a game farm owned by Richard Pascal on the outskirts of Bulawayo in the Matabeleland Province. On the day that 150 war veterans invaded this game farm, Michael was put down on his knees, with a gun to his head, as he was accused of being an opposition supporter. He was beaten badly in full view of police officers who stood and watched. He has since left the country with his wife and family and now lives in South Africa.
“A rally for peace was organized at this time, and the marchers gathered in Harare city center. They had not gone far when they were attacked by riot police and armed ZANU-PF supporters. The government had issued orders to subdue any illegal gathering, as they called it. This frightened a lot of people. There had been churches, women and children, and peaceful civic groups involved in this march. There were a lot of injuries. The population became more and more subdued as the weeks wore on and the violence continued. I had been very vocal, but by May, I had been silenced, and any talk of opposition was done in whispers. I received a death threat about this time. I was called on the telephone, and told by the caller that I would be sent back to my ancestors in Britain in a coffin as a result of my vocal opposition to ZANU-PF. So, I started a website on the situation in Zimbabwe. This way, I could have my say anonymously. The response was overwhelming.”
Johnston says the intimidation and violence continued through June 2000, especially in the rural areas where the war veterans had full reign and the rural population was subjected to the most sadistic acts. The rural vote was secure.
“International visitors and commissions started coming over to see for themselves what was going on. Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general came, and after a day or two, went back home and declared all was well in Zimbabwe and that the climate was right for free and fair elections. Tourism — a major foreign-exchange earner — ground to a halt. Zimbabwe was now the focus of attention for a lot of the world press, but nothing was being done to stop the atrocities or to reprimand Robert Mugabe,” said Johnston.
“Mugabe made overseas visits during this period where he was welcomed with the usual pomp and ceremony, while his hired thugs were doing their dirtiest at home. We, the general population, were appalled, but apart from appealing by means of the media, etc., our hands were tied, and there was nothing we could do to stop the madness. We had no one to turn to and felt very vulnerable. Our police force had showed its allegiance to the ruling party, not the state, and could not be called on when the war vets and hired thugs were about their evil business. We were alone.”
As expected, the ZANU-PF won the majority in the June elections.
“How could they not have won when the extent of the intimidation was countrywide? The atrocities committed on the population ensured a victory. … I had many overseas folk at that time e-mailing me and asking if the violence had really been that bad. Yes, it was that bad. I live here; I saw it; I saw its results. It was that bad — and it continues! The opposition had a good showing by winning 58 seats, and they resolved to challenge many of the results in the courts, as they were sure there had been rigging. They also stated that the intimidation had affected the results. They have since been proved right in the courts, and a few results have been overturned in the last few weeks,” said Johnston.
Speaking of the current pace of events in Zimbabwe, Johnston told WorldNetDaily, “The race is now on for the presidential elections. The war vets continue to plague the farmers, and the farm invasions have been stepped up. Mugabe announced that he plans to have the fast-track land redistribution program over by December. Land is being parceled out in a haphazard manner to people who have had no experience in commercial farming. Tobacco is our greatest earner, and without the expertise of the commercial farmer, the tobacco industry is doomed, and along with it, any hope of recovery for Zimbabwe. The white farmers continue to suffer great intimidation, beatings and more at the hands of the ZANU-PF thugs. Theirs is a life I do not envy. We have many relatives who are farmers, and the land redistribution program has affected all of them. Many of them have been beaten; some have left their homes and are living in Harare, waiting for the day when they can go back to their farms. I don’t think that will ever be possible again.”
“The leadership of the MDC are firm believers in law and order and are convinced that peaceful change is the only way to a true resolution of our problems,” Johnston said. “They have vowed not to resort to violence in their bid to wrest the power from the ruling party, so they continue with the debates in Parliament and wait for the presidentials. They predict Mugabe will lose his bid for the presidency by the vote of the electorate.
“I hate to put a damper on things, but this is Africa, and Africa does not rule that way. Here, the sword is mightier than the pen, and the sword has cut right through the masses of Zimbabwe. I predict that he will remain in power as a result of a frightened and intimidated population, the majority of whom will vote for him if they know what’s good for them,” added Johnston.
“I look down the road ahead and see more of what we are living through every day. Fuel shortages have become a way of life. It’s not uncommon to queue for petrol for 11 hours at a stretch. Businesses are closing on a daily basis due to the current economic climate. Folk, black and white, are leaving for greener pastures. There is a major brain drain going on at the moment. Professionals are being enticed away, more on the promise of a peaceful existence, I suspect. No one likes to live and work under the current conditions, and if any have a choice to leave, they usually take it. Who can blame them?
“The white population is dwindling, and we are continually plagued by racist comments and jibes. … The man in the street is not concerned over racial issues. I think we got past that years ago, but our leaders are now encouraging racism. They have to blame someone for their inadequacies, so why not the whites who stole the country in the first place?”
Johnston has anxiety about the future of her nation.
“Our president is very quiet as his henchmen go about and do their best to keep us all under tight control. His CIO (a KGB-style outfit) instills fear in the urban population by their infiltration into every aspect of our lives. We don’t know if our phones are tapped, e-mails are read, conversations are recorded. But we are all careful,” she said.
“The president also waits for the presidentials next year. He is almost assured of victory, if the present intimidation is anything to go by. All that could be irrelevant — we may not even have a country to govern by next year. Then what? Years ahead of more oppression, poverty and lack of freedom? Is it all worth it as a white in an African country — this constant fight for survival, for basic human and civil rights? I believe it is, but I am so tired of it all. I long for a normal day, a good day, when there is no threat over my head, no constant worrying for my family and friends. I long for a peaceful night’s sleep, away from it all. But it may be a long time coming.
Concluded Johnston, “We may yet live to regret our decision to stay on in Zimbabwe through the last two years or even the last 21 years since independence. The ‘Dark Continent’ seems to be living up to its name.”
Narina Van Rensberg, a South African marketing executive now working in Hong Kong, talked to WorldNetDaily about the current violence against whites in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“I know it’s ironic that I fled from one communist country to another, but there’s one huge difference. Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world in terms of crime, and to me, that’s just great for now. I went back to Cape Town last year after living in serene Dubai, and every week a bomb would go off outside some restaurant or shopping center. Every day I would hear about some little children who had been raped or young white women returning home to be confronted by a carload of rapists. Nah! Not for me, thanks. I think the Zimbabweans you interviewed are the bravest, most foolish people in the world right now. If I were there, I would climb the trees to get out, or get in a boat and see where the tide took me. I admire their bravado, but I believe they are paralyzed by fear and denial, just as South Africans are,” she told WND.
“The writing is not just on the wall; it’s painted on their doorsteps.”