Friday, 6 September 2019

"No Liberal"

The late Miles Kington was famous for spoof letters to the editor praising the unlikely contribution to the game of cricket by recently deceased international figures. In the case of Robert Mugabe, life imitated art, because the late dictator really did love cricket, one of his few redeeming features. His sponsorship of the game in Zimbabwe must have eased the transition of the national team from being whites-only to a genuinely multicultural outfit.

David Steel met Robert Mugabe quite early in the latter's career, before Mugabe had become well-known on the international stage and almost certainly before the ceremony described in this article took place. He is said to have reported back with the succinct description: "no liberal".

That was amply proved in later years. Sadly, it took too long for the international community to recognise Mugabe's tyrranical nature. The mantle of the great liberator still clung to him, deceiving even the Americans for a time.

Mugabe had cause to feel bitter at being imprisoned for too long by the Smith regime in what was then Rhodesia, including not being allowed to attend the funeral of his son. There may be a grain of truth in his assertion that at the Lancaster House talks on independence, the new majority government had been given oral assurances that Britain would contribute to buying out white settlers' land for redistribution. Even if that were a promise broken, it does not excuse the violence against the latter and even less so that against his own people.

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