Britain should not try to intervene, even to ‘help’, in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe, remember, used to be a British colony, founded by a wealthy rogue – Cecil Rhodes, hence Southern Rhodesia – and neglected by the British for the whole of its colonial history. This is crucial to understanding the country. The neglect was because it was cheaper for Britain to devolve, or ‘outsource’, its ruling function to ‘white settlers’ – as in South Africa and Australia too; and the Rhodesian white settlers were basically agricultural capitalists, with none of the paternalistic instincts (at least in theory) of Colonial Office men, but only interested in using their authority, and even their own soldiers, to seize African lands and labour for their own profit. In the end Britain was desperate to get rid of Southern Rhodesia, but without any civil servants of her own there found she couldn’t; short of sending in British troops, who might have mutinied, against the white minority rulers. So strictly speaking it wasn’t the British state, or the ‘Empire’, which ruled and oppressed the Rhodesian Rhodesians directly; which is not however to dispute Britain’s ultimate responsibility, and her shameful conduct in not living up to it.
Nonetheless, one of the ways Mugabe has cemented his surprising popularity among Zimbabweans up to now is by claiming that the ‘British imperialists’ were all the time plotting to get ‘Rhodesia’ back. Boris blundering in would only confirm those suspicions. So, leave it to Zimbabwe’s African neighbours to ‘help’; or else to someone like the Swedes, whom everyone seems to trust, and don’t have – or don’t think they have – Britain’s colonialist baggage.
How could “Zimbabwe’s African neighbours” help? What could the Swedes possibly do or say to ameliorate the situation?
Aid, technical support, advice, election monitoring… and that’s without mentioning clandestine methods of influencing the outcome. It happens all the time. A picture on T V yesterday showed Mugabe and the ‘coup’ leaders sitting down with two officials from the South African Foreign Office.
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