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Zimbabwe: In the Week Smith Died

By Peter Mavunga
November 23, 2007
The Herald

This is the week during which we ought to revisit the concept of international justice. I say this because many of our own people often wax lyrical about bringing President Mugabe to justice for – would you believe it? – Operation Murambatsvina and other operations!

In baying for the President's blood, some among us, spurred on by their backers in the West, suddenly develop a worrying degree of amnesia or automatism. They conveniently forget Ian Smith's atrocities.

Now that Smith is dead, his past deeds will not only be forgotten in this selective amnesia, they will probably be reconstructed in the finest African tradition of "wafa wanaka". Smith will probably be eulogised for his "good" deeds that will be juxtaposed against those of the President. This is the week we should never forget that Smith was left to farm on his 500-hectare farm without interruption until he died.

When international justice was first mooted, developing world countries welcomed it believing that, having felt hard done for long by the rich and powerful nations, they would at last get redress from them.

They thought the bullies of the world would now be brought to book.

However, this "dream" fell on the first hurdle.

The United States refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and did not sign up. It also adopted the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes – which Dr Davis Gazi calls the "Bush doctrine" in his book – in which America removes from office by assassination or otherwise foreign leaders not to her liking.

Forget international law.

The US, along with the United Kingdom, was instrumental in the removal of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. It was also involved with its Nato allies in the removal of Slobodan Milosevic and his final removal to The Hague for trial.

These may be the latest in a series, but the politics of elimination is nothing new.

America invaded Cuba, Grenada and Haiti. America also interfered in Chile and arranged the assassination of its democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende.

As Gazi put it, "these are the wonders of being a nuclear power: You can think and say any nonsense you want.

But such subjective and skewed interpretation of what is and what is not a threat to world peace is what has persuaded many to say international justice has become Western justice and, as such, it is an ass".

There is a preoccupation with international justice in Zimbabwe, yet nothing is said about apartheid South Africa that massacred thousands of children and thousands of innocent young adults.

Where were they when white South Africa was brutally massacring innocent people? Nobody called for military invasion and nobody called for international justice.

As Gazi points out, P. W. Botha committed hundreds of thousands of state murders in South Africa.

Dr Wouter Basson, or "Dr Death", was apartheid South Africa's leading biological warfare scientist. He was most probably involved in the production of anthrax that was used against liberation movements in Rhodesia. Yet he, like Smith, was allowed to retire in peace.

Smith rebelled against the Crown through his Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister at the time, refused to send troops to fight against white Rhodesian troops.

Smith, who died this week, killed thousands of innocent black civilians.

Thousands were killed in their villages because they were accused of "harbouring terrorists".

Thousands more were killed in their refugee camps during cross-border raids.

As for Britain's response, Dr David Owen, as foreign secretary, viewed one carnage with grim satisfaction, declaring that this was proof that Smith's army was still a force to be reckoned with!

Smith's army was brutal and it had some specialist units. "His licensed killers," said Gazi, "were the Selous and Grey Scouts. They were not governed by any laws of combat and could literally do what they liked".

When the need arose, Selous Scouts killed white missionaries whom they suspected of aiding the guerillas.

Mambo Press in Gweru was bombed because it was publishing material critical of the Smith regime.

When the war was going against him, Smith introduced the so-called "protected villages" programme.

Whole villages and communities were herded into empty spaces where they could be watched from dusk till dawn. There was no running water or medical facilities of any description. It was the final humiliation.

That is not all. Smith also used political assassination and murder to get his own way.

Dr Edson Sithole and his secretary were abducted by Smith's Special Branch as they left the Ambassador Hotel in Harare on October 15, 1975.

Their bodies have never been found.

Dr Sithole was targeted because he was a vocal spokesman of the UANC led by Bishop Muzorewa.

He always insisted on keeping the UANC allied to the liberation movement. This was at odds with those who, like Smith, wanted the Internal Settlement to succeed.

Smith, Gazi argues, always eliminated the best of the African leaders.

The white Western world kept silent. How could Wilson send troops to fight their kith and kin?

That could not do.

Despite evidence presented in a detailed dossier prepared by the Catholics and in spite of the availability of witnesses willing to testify, no international body was prepared to take this case up and to bring Smith to justice.

The opposition in Zimbabwe and many of its white supporters have been campaigning for sanctions and retribution.

Many of the whites had been Smith's soldiers who committed countless atrocities including murder, but benefited from the policy of reconciliation.

Yet they want Armageddon to descend upon Zimbabwe in the hope that in the ensuing chaos, they might gain power. They are no longer interested in the reconciliation that spared them from the gallows.

As for Britain, it never took serious interest in human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, especially during the Rhodesian days when it had legal responsibility and the right to take action. Now Zimbabwe is independent and Britain no longer has such right, it has suddenly discovered renewed interest in the country, thanks to Gordon Brown!

If this is not racism and hypocrisy, I don't know what is.


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