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Blair is More of a Devil Than Mugabe
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2005

The Post (Lusaka)
Posted to the web April 22, 2005

by Brighton Phiri

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair is more of a devil over Zimbabwe's land crisis than President Mugabe, Dr Kenneth Kaunda has said.

Commenting on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's revelation that Prince Charles was being despised for shaking his hand during the pope's funeral, Dr Kaunda said it was wrong for President Mugabe to be demonised for the British government's betrayal over its promises to facilitate Zimbabwe's land reforms.

"Before we can call comrade Mugabe all sorts of names, we must look at the history of this country (Zimbabwe). In this country's history, you will find colonialism, which meant land grabbing...then came federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland with the same land grabbing," Dr Kaunda said.

He wondered why Blair had been silent over the atrocities that Ian Smith's regime had committed against black Zimbabweans during the era of land grabbing, and the British government's failures to meet its promise to facilitate the land reforms in Zimbabwe, 10 years after independence.

Dr Kaunda said he was a living witness of the land reform agreement between President Mugabe, then Zimbabwe African National Union leader, Zimbabwe African People's Union leader, the late Joshua Nkomo, and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

"When Zambia was getting close to its independence, Rhodesia rebel leader Ian Smith declared that no black government would exist in his lifetime and none in a thousand years," Dr Kaunda recollected. "Soon after we got independence, Smith locked up all black political leaders, including Mugabe and Nkomo."

Dr Kaunda recalled that in 1974 he had organised a meeting with then South African president John Vorster to discuss the release of President Mugabe, the late Nkomo and others who had served 10 years in jail.

"I targeted Vorster because I knew that the British were not influential to Smith at the time. So I met Vorster in his train at Victoria Falls Bridge and I demanded among other things, the release of all the political detainees and withdrawing of South African military choppers which were killing the black combatants," he said.

Dr Kaunda said it was from his meeting with Vorster that President Mugabe and the late Nkomo had been released from jail and the deadly military choppers had been withdrawn.

Dr Kaunda said he had taken advantage of Thatcher's presence during the Commonwealth meeting held in Lusaka in 1979 to solicit for a meeting between the British government and Zimbabwean liberation leaders.

"I demanded for a meeting from my dancing partner Thatcher and fortunately she accepted that the meeting be held in London the same year," Dr Kaunda said. "But when I informed comrades Mugabe and Nkomo while we were attending a non-align countries' meeting in Cuba, both comrades refused, saying that they were not going to attend the meeting because they could not trust the British government. I sought the support of my late friend Julius Nyerere and late comrade Samora Machel to convince our colleagues to attend the meeting."

Dr Kaunda said while in London, the British government through Thatcher had pleaded with the Zimbabwean delegation to avoid discussing the land issue until after 10 years to enable her government to source for funds to facilitate the land reforms in Zimbabwe.

"So Mugabe and his colleagues did not talk about land in respect to the British government's promise. But 10 years down the line, the British did nothing. Come 1990, people were tired of lies and false promises," Dr Kaunda said. "This led to the problem of land in Zimbabwe. So how can you blame Mugabe? Demonise those who cheated and not Mugabe, who respected their promise."

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