Category Archives: Zimbabwe

The fruits of liberation

Screenshot 2020-02-08 at 08.14.24Dalrymple notes that the first fruit of the liberation of the former Rhodesia was

repeated massacres in Matabeleland.

The second fruit was

to turn a land of immigration into a land of mass emigration, thanks to corruption and idiotic economic policies — without any increase in individual freedom.

Liberation meant

only the replacement of white by black government.

The liberation movement

was fighting for power, not for freedom. The wish for access to power is not the same as the wish that others be free.

South Africa takes the road to penury, tyranny, and famine

Dalrymple writes that farmers, however efficient,

tend to be heavily indebted, but their debts are performing so long as they produce profitably. Expropriation of their land leaves the banks holding huge unserviced debt, for the new owners, producing much less or nothing at all, have no means to service them. The only way to prevent the banks from collapsing is drastically to increase the money supply and to keep doing so.

One might have hoped that the example of Zimbabwe, with its long border with South Africa to the north and its long stream of refugees to the south,

would have been sufficient warning to South Africa not to embark on any similar policy. After all, the stakes are much greater than they were in Zimbabwe. The population is many times larger than Zimbabwe’s, and vastly more urbanised, so that any last resort to subsistence farming is impossible. There is no south for the population to flee to. South Africa’s is already a much more violent society than Zimbabwe’s ever was, with more severe social problems. A catastrophe could easily ensue.

A fifth of white land in South Africa has already been transferred on the basis of willing seller, willing buyer.

  • Why were the sellers willing to sell when they had been settled for so long? Because the longer-term prospects for them in South Africa are dim; many white farmers have been murdered and the rhetoric towards them has long been of a threatening kind which sooner or later would have to be acted on if the rhetoricians were not to lose face.
  • Have the persons to whom the transfers were made maintained former levels of production? It would be surprising if productivity were not changed for the worse. Large-scale commercial farming is not something that is learned in the twinkling of an eye.

From Marx, Capital, volume 1, chapter 32

Dalrymple notes that commercial farms in South Africa

are heavily indebted to the banks. If the farms were expropriated without compensation, the state, or to whomever the state passed on the farms, would be taking on the liabilities as well as the assets. State farming does not have a very good record anywhere in the world, to put it mildly; and it is unlikely that people could be found to continue farming the land profitably. Either the banks would be obliged to write off enormous debts, with the consequent possibility of collapse, or a Zimbabwe-type inflation would have to come to their rescue. This is without mention of the severe food shortages that would occur. The expropriators are expropriated. The problem is that those in whose name the expropriations take place starve to death afterwards.

The very possibility of expropriation without compensation

will have a devastating effect on production, for who will invest if it is only to be expropriated later? That is one of the reasons why security of property is so important, and the South African parliament has shown that it does not understand this. The spectre of expropriation will encourage more commercial farmers to leave and they will not easily be persuaded to return.

Dalrymple says that expropriation without compensation

is so obviously a bad idea that the wonder is that it has been voted as a possibility, all the more so as there is the experience of South Africa’s northern neighbour to draw upon.

Mere stupidity does not account for the proposal.  When Dalrymple was in South Africa he met prominent members of the African National Congress. He had the impression that they were

positioning themselves much as the Russian oligarchs positioned themselves. It was a question of the division of the spoils in a corporatist state. They would set about disproportionate self-enrichment under cover of the rhetoric of dramatic change after an oppressive past.

Rhetorician of resentment

The ANC’s task now

is to ensure the continued loyalty of the political class. There is no better way of doing this than by arrogating powers of patronage, both to confer and to confiscate property. This can all be done under cover of the rhetoric of resentment; and the policy will be disastrous only if its aim is the betterment of the lot of the population. If its aim is the consolidation of power, at least for a time, it makes perfect sense.

 

An EFFing catastrophe in the making

Dalrymple points out that the potential long-term, and even short-term, effects of the move to change the South African constitution to allow white-owned land to be expropriated without compensation are of course

catastrophic.

A crisis will be produced

to dwarf Zimbabwe’s, with starvation and famine avertable only if 10m or 15m South Africans succeed in finding somewhere to migrate to.

Julius Malema

The motion in parliament was proposed by Julius Malema, who leads the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). They dress entirely in red. The EFF

calls for radical redistribution of wealth, as if an economy were a stew or soup to be ladled out in portions.

The EFF leader,

who, if the large financial scandals connected with his person are anything to go by, excludes himself from his own economic egalitarianism, said in 2016 that he was not calling for the slaughter of whites — not yet.

Dalrymple explains that South Africa’s ruling party

does not consider the current ownership of land legitimate, for only illegitimacy could justify expropriation without compensation. Even without putting it into practice, therefore, the motion is likely to have a deleterious effect on South African farming and agricultural production, for who would invest in property that can be seized at the stroke of a pen, and is not regarded truly as his own?

As if a collapse of agricultural production were not bad enough, expropriation without compensation would also bring about

either the collapse of the South African banks, for South African farmers are deeply indebted, or confer huge debt obligations upon the government. And this is so even if (what is very unlikely) the redistribution of land were carried out in other than a grossly corrupt way, without political favouritism.

Rhodesia is super

Rhodesia, writes Dalrymple, has been

condemned, loudly and insistently, as if it were the greatest threat to world peace and the security of the planet.

By the time he arrives, it has

no friends, only enemies. Even South Africa, the regional colossus with which Rhodesia shares a long border and which might be expected to be sympathetic, is highly ambivalent.

He expects to find, therefore, a country in crisis and decay. Instead he discovers one that is

thriving: its roads are well maintained, its transport system functioning, its towns and cities clean and manifesting a municipal pride long gone from England.

Miss Rhodesia

In the operating theatre

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.47.37Writing of his Bulawayo days as a house officer at Mpilo Hospital (‘a large building of red brick in the parsimonious British municipal style of the 50s, with metal-framed windows and no embellishments’), Dalrymple says he learnt little in the operating theatre because

I wished to learn little. Assisting at operations was, for me, a kind of slow torture. It is one thing to take infinite pains yourself, quite another to watch someone else doing it.

It is a law of surgery that

Mpilo hospital opened in 1958

Mpilo hospital: it was opened in 1958

the assistant can never satisfy the surgeon. He either pulls the retractor too hard or not hard enough, but never just right. There is an old joke about a medical student who asks the famous professor of surgery: ‘And how would you like your stitches cut today, professor? Too long or too short?’

The layman may think

of the operating theatre as a place of drama,

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.41.33and it is true, says Dalrymple, that

there are moments of drama, or rather of crisis, but for the most part there is only tedium exacerbated by the desultory conversation between the anæsthetist (if he is not wholly absorbed in his crossword) and the surgeon concerning their sailing dinghies, dogs or vegetable gardens.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.42.27Dalrymple admires the surgeon’s

capacity for prolonged concentration, up to ten hours at a time; the concern for the welfare of patients that such an effort implies; and the coolness with which crises, when they arise, are handled.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.41.45He remembers a surgeon accidentally cutting an artery,

and the strong instantaneous jet of crimson blood spattering his face and soaking his mask. It was enough to make even a brave man flee, but in one swift and sure movement of his finger he staunched the jet, and the crisis was over before it had properly begun.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.45.53This

was not work I could enjoy, and I never left the theatre without feeling great relief.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.42.01Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 18.40.33

Prophylaxis through lynching

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 07.56.22One of Robert Mugabe’s first acts on attaining power, writes Dalrymple,

was to order the prophylactic suppression, supposedly in the name of freedom, of Matabeleland, a potential source of opposition.

This was

far, far worse, in point of brutality, than anything done by the regime that Mugabe’s replaced.

Dalrymple has a patient

whose husband was tied to a stake, soaked with petrol, and burned alive in front of her by Mugabe’s ‘activists’, his crime having been to vote for the opposition.

Postcard from Salisbury

Rhodesia was in many ways admirable. The settler regime was, writes, Dalrymple, 'in truth a remarkable one, with a very small élite who produced and ran a functioning, though not of course a just, state'.

Upon qualifying as a physician, Dalrymple sets off with alacrity for Rhodesia, a place which he finds to be in many ways admirable. He has landed a job at a hospital there. The settler regime, he writes, is ‘in truth a remarkable one, with a very small élite who run a functioning, though not of course a just, state’.

The wounded amour propre of subject peoples

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 08.56.33Many people, writes Dalrymple,

would rather be misruled by their own than well governed by strangers.

The greatest harm inflicted by colonial régimes, he argues,

was to the pride of the colonised. It was not the larger injustices that moved them (it seldom is), but the disdain and contempt in which they were so obviously held by the colonisers. Unrequited admiration is bad enough, but to admire those who regard you as beneath consideration, and as congenitally stupid and lacking in capacity, is painful indeed.

African epiphany

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 08.50.31Dalrymple recalls a simple experience after which he would ‘never laugh again at the taste of people of limited means to make a comfortable home for themselves’. He describes his moment of understanding that ‘rejection of bourgeois proprieties and respectability’ is ‘shallow, trivial, and adolescent’. Moreover,

my rejection of bourgeois virtues as mean-spirited and antithetical to real human development could not long survive contact with situations in which those virtues were entirely absent.

(1998)