WASHINGTON DC —
When Zimbabwe came out of a brutal war of liberation in 1980, then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe offered a hand of reconciliation to former white minority colonizers saying oppression by blacks or whites was despicable.
Mr. Mugabe called for co-existence between the Rhodesian Front, then led by Ian Douglas Smith, and liberation parties – Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu and the prime minister’s Zanu PF.
At that time there were almost 300,000 whites living in the new Zimbabwe. Today, according to official records, there are only about 40,000 whites left in the southern African nation. Some of them came under attack during Zanu PF’s land reforms that started in 2000.
What does it mean to be a white person living in Zimbabwe?
Among the people who have pledged allegiance to Zimbabwe’s national anthem, are whites who were born and bred in Zimbabwe.
One of them is David Coltart, an attorney, former Rhodesian serviceman and education minister in the defunct 2009 unity government, who says this is his only home.
Coltart says most Zimbabweans, who like their black counterparts endured years of brutal abuse at the hands of white settlers, are not racists.
“I have an affinity for the flag. I love our national anthem, I love the tune though some of the words are offensive,” he says.
According to the former Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker, his family has been living in harmony with blacks for many years, an indication that whites are part of life in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe remains a wonderful place to live in because despite all the hate speeches being spewed out by Zanu PF the fact of the matter is that we have remarkably good race relations in this country.”
This is despite the fact that Coltart was in the Rhodesian military fighting against so-called terrorists aligned to Zapu and Zanu.
The former lawmaker is well-known for assisting in the crafting of a comprehensive booklet on alleged Five Brigade atrocities in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces in the 1980s, which left thousands of people dead and displaced.
Another white Zimbabwean, Ian Kay, who describes himself as a family man, says his roots are in Marondera province.
“Zimbabwe is my home, there is no need to leave. It’s my birth right and so don’t take political rhetoric too seriously. A handful of people wanted me out,” says Kay.
He used to play with black children when he was a child and this made him feel wanted by local communities.
He was attacked by some suspected Zanu PF activists when Zimbabwe introduced its land reform program in 2000, resulting in more than 3,600 white commercial farmers losing lucrative land to indigenous people.
MDC lawmaker, Eddie Cross, who supported black nationalists when they took up arms against the Smith government, echoes Kay’s sentiments, saying he also loves Zimbabwe.
“Society as a whole, I don’t feel any discrimination at all. My constituency is 100 percent black and I am part of the community,” he says.
However, Cross believes that whites need to be careful about what they say and do in the country.
More than 4,000 white commercial farmers used to occupy prime land in Zimbabwe before most of them were pushed out by blacks whose ancestors lost their land to white settlers when first came to the country.
Some of the whites were killed and others maimed in the skirmishes with land invaders.