South Africa’s Jacob Zuma is looking to Zimbabwe for policy ideas to shore up support for his unpopular government
Marian Tupy writes:
Back in 2000, a poll conducted by the South African Helen Suzman Foundation found that only 9 percent of Zimbabweans thought that “land reform,” which is to say expropriation of mostly white-owned commercial land and its redistribution among black Zimbabweans, was the most important issue in the forthcoming election. That low number ought not to have surprised anyone who spoke to ordinary Zimbabweans. A tiny portion of blacks saw their future as subsistence farmers on tiny plots of ancestral land. They saw themselves as manufacturers, accountants, lawyers, doctors—just like everyone else.
Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old Marxist who has been in charge of Zimbabwe since 1980 and who was recently nominated for yet another stint in the highest office, saw things differently. The election, which he thought he might lose, would be fought on the issue of land distribution. Conveniently forgetting that most of the farm land changed hands under his presidency and was, thus, legitimate under the laws that he promulgated, Mugabe stoked anti-white resentment. Along with the usual electoral shenanigans, such as voter intimidation and out-of-date voter rolls, land reform helped to return him to office.