Game Is Over For The White Man

Game Is Over For The White Man

This was written in 2002...

I am afraid as events unfold it is difficult to provide a positive counter argument.

'The Game Is Over For The White Man Throughout Africa'

By Max Hastings

The London Daily Mail - 13th Sept, 2002

Among most British people, Robert Mugabe inspires much more anger than Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's leader murders his enemies out of sight.

Whatever horrors he is brewing in his secret laboratories and factories, they have not been unleashed upon the world at large.

Mugabe, by contrast, terrorises his white subjects under floodlights.

Farmers are driven from land they have tilled for decades.

Casual brutality is the nation's staple diet, and heaven knows there is little else to eat.

Zimbabwe is sinking into a slough of corruption, starvation and bankruptcy to satisfy the megalomania of one man.

If Tony Blair announced tomorrow that Britain intended to invade Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe from power, I suspect that the news would be far more enthusiastically received than a declaration of war on Saddam Hussein.

Yet, of course, neither Britain nor the United Nations will depose Mugabe.

Many miles and the colonial legacy divide us from his crumbling country.

His tyranny poses no threat to the outside world.

His victims are his own people.

For all the sentiment expended upon Zimbabwe's white farmers, most people in Britain recognise that their fate was sealed more than two decades ago when black majority rule came to the former Rhodesia.

Since 1980 it has merely been a question of how long the dwindling number of Rhodesians could stick it.

After the bitterness of the civil war there never seemed a realistic prospect that a multi-racial society would survive for long.

For 100 years, the white man lorded it in old Rhodesia.

Now a black tyranny does so.

The remaining whites will be driven out of Mugabes's Zimbabwe.

The wise ones will leave while they still have the skin on their backs.

Just or unjust, that is reality.

I would go further and suggest that the game is up for the white man throughout Africa.

It does not matter whether this is a good or bad thing - it represents the tide of history.

For four centuries, white immigrants and their decendants have pitched camp in Africa.

"We belong here. We are as much Africans as any of Mugabe's war veterans" a Zimbabwean farmer will say.

Yet, in the eyes of Africa this is not true.

The white man is always the alien, the outsider, the former ruler whose very competence is a painful embarrassment even to the most educated black Africans.

However much those Zimbabweans, or their South African counterparts, love the countries in which they live, few black Africans will today acknowledge that the white man belongs among them.

He is perceived as a leftover from the past, flotsam drifting on the beach of history.

The remaining whites will not be driven out in a single dramatic purge.

Over the next 30 years, they will simply be prodded, frightened and squeezed until they slip away piecemeal, as the children of a good many friends of mine has already done.

In a succession of lurches and surges, Africa is reverting to a dark continent.

Over the past 40 years, since the colonial powers began to depart, all the world's efforts to provide advice and aid have been frustrated by cultural resistance, lack of education, population explosion and above all, corruption on a vast scale.

Many Western nations suffer from political corruption.

But they are rich enough, and the corruption modest enough, for their economies and political systems to co-exist with it.

Across Africa, however, rulers have systematically stripped national treasuries of their wealth.

It was recently estimated that 95 BILLION Pounds has been illegally removed from the continent by national rulers since the colonial powers departed.

No society can prosper amid corruption on this scale.

We take for granted the honesty of our judges, accountants - yes even after Enron - banks and bureaucrats.

Honesty is not only the best policy, it is indespensable if any economic system is to prosper.

In Africa, the only wholly successful modern industry is the theft of cash from businesses, aid funds, government coffers, utilities, mines, wildlife charities etc.

In the days when I travelled in Africa a lot, an old hand in Nairobi explained a few home truths to me.

"In this society, if you don`t use power to enrich yourself and your family you are not merely behaving foolishly, you are thought to be acting wickedly" he said.

"There is absolutely no understanding here of the ideal of the community, of people at large. There is only the family, the tribe and yourself."

There are a few exceptions such as Nelson Mandela.

But for most of the continent, that cynical piece of wisdom is as true today as it was 20 years ago.

Almost every African state is governed solely in the interest of its ruling clique.

National bankruptcy does nothing to diminish a bottomless appetite for first-class travel and absurdly pretentious embassies abroad.

Look at the roll call in London alone - some of the most expensive real estate in the capital is occupied by the diplomatic missions of some of the poorest countries of the world:

  • Malawi in Grovener Street
  • Tanzania in Hartford Street
  • Zambia in Palace Gate
  • Zimbabwe in the Strand

By almost every economic measure Africa has gone backwards, not forwards, since the 1960's.

Three years ago Bill Clinton toured the continent and delivered a series of supremely cynical speeches, proclaiming that the West would henceforward be coming to Africa's aid.

It sounded like rubbish then and it is rubbish now.

The West has no intention of bailing out Africa, even if Blair has surges of compassion for the place.

Donors are tired of giving cash of which only a smidgen reaches the people for whom it is intended.

Food deliveries to starving people will continue, but these do nothing to salvage collapsing economies.

The end of the Cold War means that no great power feels a need to buy influence there.

For many years, African leaders bitterly denounced "imperialist interference" in their countries.

Today, they are learning that international indifference is far more painful.

For most of Africa's people the future looks even grimmer than the past.

Aids is ravaging populations.

The statisticians expect its consequences to grow much worse before they get better.

The influential American academic Phillip Bobbitt, in his recent book Shield of the Achilles, observed that he sees only misery ahead for Africans in the 21st century, as disease, famine and corruption relentlessly assail them.

There was a vivid moment a couple of years ago during the first stage of the British intervention to support the struggling government of Sierra Leone.

Its prime minister asked a visiting British politician, in the presence of journalists, if it might be possible for his country to become part of the British Empire again.

Most of those present believed that the Leonese leader was serious.

The problems of African societies are so huge, so deep- rooted, that the few honest and decent politicians despair.

They grasp at any straw to rescue their countries.

It is a tragic spectacle and few experts see a way out.

When the West does intervene in any African society, it is essential to stay for at least 10 years or more to have any hope of making lasting progress.

The Americans failed miserably in Somalia a decade ago, because they treated it as a short term problem.

The British Army training team in Sierra Leone has done a good job, but the lasting need is for civil assistance - to teach people to collect taxes, administer courts and run infrastructure projects.

We are talking, of course, about something embarrassingly close to neo-colonialism.

Many Africans would be delighted if there was more of it about.

But political obstacles remain overwhelming, the imperial memory too fresh.

Almost every Western attempt to help Africa founders, sooner or later, amid the morass of political prejudice and cultural division.

Zimbabwe's remaining whites farm the land incomparably more efficiently than their black counterparts.

But this makes their presence more intolerable, not less so, to the likes of Mugabe.

The big fib, propagated at the time of African independence, was that local people wanted the right to vote.

Not so.

They scarcely cared a fig for ballots, most of which were soon rigged anyway.

They wanted the land, cars, houses, swimming pools of their erstwhile white rulers.

They still want these things, in Zimbabwe and South Africa generally.

Sooner or later, most African leaders find it expedient to hand over the white men's toys to their own people, without all the bother of explaining that these things should be won through education, skills, enterprise, and hard labour over generations.

I was never a supporter of Ian Smith's Rhodesia, which was founded on a huge injustice to the blacks, and sustained by cruelties as horrible as those of Mugabe today.

White minority rule in South Africa was a loathsome thing.

Thank God it has gone.

But it remains a tragedy to see black-ruled Africa sinking into the swamp of history.

Outsiders can do little to save it from itself as long as it remains a continent of tyrants, and democracy is making no headway at all.

There is one striking oddity about Africa's misery today: passions remain entirely internally directed.

Whereas in the Middle East resentment of the rich West spawns terrorism and active hostility, above all towards the USA, even Mugabe's denunciations of Blair lack conviction.

Africa's rulers are overwhelmingly preoccupied with their personal cravings for wealth.

Their subjects merely struggle to survive.

Some observers believe that this may change as the power of Islam grows across the continent.

The influence of the Moslem religion may generate a new assertiveness, even aggression, a decade or two onwards.

For now however, African passion focuses exclusively upon their own societies, and upon futile thrashings to make some brand of authoritarian Socialism blossom amid the failling crops.

You may have noticed that even as more and more whites are obliged to quit Africa, growing numbers of black Africans seek to migrate to Europe and the United States - refugees from the economic catastrophies their own rulers have created at home.

On every plane that bears sorrowing whites away from the continent of their birth into exile in Europe or Australia, there are also many seats occupied by departing blacks who are just as much victims.

It is a bitter historic irony.

I believe that the remaining whites will continue to trickle away from Africa until there are only a handful of communities left between Cairo and The Cape.

Then the white outside world may notice less, and care less, what happens to the continent because we shall perceive no kin there.

Africa's story will have become an exclusive black disaster.

Well there you have it.

It is sad but true, history repeats itself.