British Aplomb

British Aplomb

whitezimsMugabe of Zimbabwe told the remaining whites this weekend that they better leave soon.

Although it isn’t the first time he’s made such a statement about the estimated remaining 40,000 whites in the country, this time seemed more serious.

He made the announcement in a convocation of regional chiefs. In Zimbabwe where government doesn’t exist except as Mugabe decrees, local governance is in the hands of regional chiefs that his administration appoints.

In farming communities that were almost exclusively white 20 years ago, many savvy black Zimbabweans took the white land Mugabe allowed them to conviscate, but they continued to contract the previous white owners as managers.

It’s the only reason the country hasn’t totally and completely collapsed.

But this weekend after his proclamation at the chief’s convocation, Mugabe warned that he would “remove those” chiefs who still undertook this arrangement.

“Don’t enter into contract farming with whites. It’s a dangerous, dangerous arrangement that we don’t want,” Mugabe warned.

Britain, however – which is the homeland that most whites could return to – isn’t so accommodating, anymore.

British law allows anyone who was born there or born of British parents to claim citizenship. That includes most of the remaining Zimbabwean whites who were forced to renounce their British citizenship to remain in Zimbabwe.

That alone piques the British aplomb.

But more fairly, the British have been accommodating returning white Zimbabweans for more than two decades. There is a feeling back in London that the ones who have remained had so many opportunities to return before, that there’s no reason to be nice, now.

So the British embassy in Harare which processes returns is charging outlandish fees to do so. By deciding to use the blackmarket rate for the Zimbabwean currency, rather than the official one used for all normal business, potential returnees are being charged 15 times as much.

London’s Daily Mail said the government “defended the move, saying [it] was obliged to recover all its costs worldwide.”

What needs to be pointed out is that many of the whites who remain really have nowhere in Britain to return to. They are multi-generational Zimbabweans, whose fathers and grandfathers and great-grand fathers all retained British citizenship but who never lived there, so were technically born of British parents. Maybe could find them a connection, but nothing realistic remains.

I see the problem as much with British policy as with the notion these are people who tried to play both ends of the table.

Moreover, a large number of white Zimbabweans are falling into terribly poverty. The costs of processing return citizenship, much less the costs of airline tickets and other resettlement costs, are likely beyond a large portion of them.

This means it’s unlikely many of the remaining whites will heed the old man’s call.

And that’s kind of scary, if old man Mugabe really wants to have his way.