Tuesday 12 July 2011
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
On Friday 8th Trish, Rhiann and I flew up to Victoria Falls to visit the
site where that famous Scotsman David Livingstone while a missionary made
famous with his visit in 1856.
We very much now understood we were in Africa proper when we arrived at
the airport. Under the rule of Robert Mugabe everybody but himself has
been blamed for the dreadful state the country is in economically.
Things got so bad that in 2009 their own currency the Zimbabwean dollar
had been so devalued that a One Trillion Dollar note exists and you can
buy one on the street today for one American dollar should you wish,
though you will be overpaying.
The wildlife at the lodge where we are staying is impressive as the lodge
is perched up above a waterhole which is frequented by herds of Buffalo
and Elephant as well as various buck and warthog of Pumba fame. We have
now seen and eaten Impala, Warthog, Buffalo, Ostrich and Crocodile. The
rest we have only seen.
One evening we went for a cruise on the mighty Zambezi river, which forms
the border here between Zimbabwe and Zambia and a little further West
Botswana and Namibia. We did not expect much from the cruise but we had an
incredible encounter with Hippo. They are huge and comical looking beasts.
Their comical look however belies the fact that they are cited as being
the most dangerous creature in Africa – that is of course after the tiny
Mosquito and man.
The next day at the lodge I got chatting with one of the guys who looks
after the game. He was a little cautious at first but he soon relaxed and
gave me a potted history of Zimbabwe. He was in the minority ethnic group
or tribe of the Ndbele. The Shona of Robert Mugabe are in the majority.
Although resigned to have this regime for some time longer he was
cautiously optimistic about the future. He told me of how he believed the
Ndbele had been persecuted and murdered in large numbers by Mugabe’s
In Zimbabwe apparently 15% of the population own 85% of the land. My
friend said he also supported the policy of taking land from the white
farmers back into the hands of indigenous people, though he said he did
not support the violence used in some cases. He also said that the
productivity on the land that was grabbed was down to 20% of what it was.
This view was also repeated by others. He also said that of course when
one looked at who had the land now inevitably it was supporters or friends
of the government. He and others also said to me that in many cases not
one seed had been planted on the land that had been grabbed.
This very issue, of “whose land is it?” is the same issue that has
challenged many countries over the last half century. These are countries
that (mostly) were colonised by white Europeans a few hundred years ago,
spilling blood in many cases to claim the land their descendants now
Those occupying the land today will say that their descendants spilled
blood and won the land in battle or that they settled it fairly. They will
with some justice say that they have improved the land and that is
productive – they may even have paid for it legitimately on the open
The indigenous people may say that the land was originally taken unjustly
and that their forefathers occupied this land. They may say that these
colonists took the best of the land and only the poor and the unproductive
land has been left to them – the indigenous people of the country. They
may have no land on which to build a home, no land in their own country in
which to grow crops and feed their family.
This is not an easy problem to solve but one which Mauritius for example
dealt with by the Government speaking to the minority Francos and saying
you must release us land for those that have no land on which to build
homes otherwise tensions will rise and there will be unrest. The
landowners acceded and it seems an amicable solution was found.
In Scotland where it has often been said that 7% of the population own 87%
of the land, a community can force a land owner to sell land for community
benefit and compensate the landowner at market price. No blood is shed.
However it seems that here in Africa people and politics are still sadly
motivated all too often by “tribalism”. White against black, black against
white, tribe against tribe, political party against political party.
However, again unlike Scotland where a peaceful democratic process has
been followed to form our own Parliament bloodshed seems all too quickly