Lessons from Zimbabwe


In the late 1980s and early 1990s I had the privilege of making five extensive business trips to Africa, selling the rail car servicing equipment we had developed. I visited Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe I made a couple of good friends, Fred and Jenny Keane-Young who lived in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city and head office for Zimbabwe Railways. Fred was the Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer for Zimbabwe Railways.

Southern Rhodesia had achieved its independence from Britain in 1980, and had changed the name to Zimbabwe, and changed the name of its capital, Salisbury to Harare. Its first president and the one who remained in power until recently, was the notorious Robert Mugabe.

Zimbabwe countryside

Most people know Zimbabwe as a poor African country, but it was not always so. In fact, in the decades before Mugabe took over, Zimbabwe was known as “the bread basket of Africa”. It is a spectacularly beautiful country, incredibly rich in agricultural and natural resources. But Mugabe was a Marxist/socialist, and the deterioration set in almost immediately. Mugabe’s obsession was taking land from white farmers and giving it to black farmers, particularly his family and cronies. Almost none of them knew anything about agriculture, and besides were taken up in business and politics, and so neglected their farms. When I first arrived nine years later the decline was well underway, and starkly observable.

Zimbabwe home

Fred and I used to go out to the villages in Matabeleland on the weekends, where he and Jenny had set up, for lack of a better term, little missions in dozens of villages, with a store where the locals could buy staple goods at significant less cost, and without having to walk 10 or 15 miles to a store in town.

Fred and I would talk about all sorts of things, including the sad fact that he had major problem in talking the villagers out of practicing female genital mutilation. It was embedded in their culture.

Fred’s superior at Zimbabwe Railways, the Chief Mechanical Officer, was of course a black African. (Fred was African born, so he was an African too, but the wrong colour.) This CMO had been educated in Russia, and immersed in Mugabe’s Marxist ideology, and so that was his worldview. But then, Fred told me, a few years earlier the CMO had been sent to a conference in East Germany, and on his way home had visited West Germany. Fred said that when he returned, he called Fred into his office, looked at him across the desk and said: “They’ve lied to us.” Reality had bitten the head off his Marxism.


Another anecdote. Emerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s Minister of State Security, and, Minister of Justice, and had a well deserved reputation as a nasty and ruthless enforcer. I was sitting on a plane waiting to fly from Harare to Bulawayo and chatting with the fellow in the seat next to me. He was a businessman and of course had some concerns about the direction the country was going. As we chatted, a convoy of black Mercedes-Benz rolled up beside the plane, and out of the lead car stepped a rather menacing looking individual. My seatmate lowered his voice and said: “We have to stop talking now.” I asked why and he said: “That’s Emerson Mnangagwa, and he’s dangerous.” (He’s now Zimbabwe’s president)

Canada is not quite there yet, but my point is that Robert Mugabe’s worldview was Marxist/socialist, totalitarian in nature, and anti-business unless it was businesses owned by his family, and cronies, or supportive of him and his friends.

J T beard

I would argue that the government currently in charge in


Ottawa, and recently voted for by 65% of Canadians, is the Liberals supported by the Greens and the NDP. They’re all friendly to Marxist/socialist ideology, totalitarianism, and supportive mainly of businesses owned by family and friends or political supporters. (photos are Justin Trudeau and one of his totalitarian heroes.)

On the other hand, they’ve proven to be sanguine or even dismissive about a wide range of human rights. They also have no problem with creating or allowing the conditions whereby Alberta’s main industry, oil and gas, has been decimated, and taken down with it tens of thousands more businesses and individuals.

Like I said, were not quite there yet, but were well on our way. It’s time to leave!

I’m Dave Reesor

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