UN2K: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT ROBERT G. MUGABE
OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE,
AT THE MILLENNIUM SUMMIT OF THE UNITED NATIONS:
NEW YORK, 8Th SEPTEMBER, 2000
Co-Chairpersons of the Millennium Summit
I rise to address this historic Millennium Summit of our one world body, the United Nations. We are gathered here to observe the New Millennium whose arrival we have been privileged to witness.
I ask whether this passage of time is a marker of qualitative change in the human condition and contact; whether the change of time is human change in qualitative terms? Has the passage of time by way of days, decades and centuries and a millennium, transported us all into a new commonwealth of diverse yet united peoples of the world living in one village? Is everybody and are all the peoples of the world in the 21st Century by where they live, how they live, what they eat, what they own and even how they die?
Sadly for most of us in Africa and the developing world, we must reply in the negative to most of these questions. We are still stuck in problems dating back to the days of slavery and colonialism. We remain burdened with the unfinished business of the 20th century, including even the problem of the "colourline".
In Zimbabwe, and only because of the colourline arising from British colonialism, 70% of the best arable land is owned by less than one percent of the population who happen to be white, while the black majority are congested on barren land. We have sought to redress this inequity through a fast track land reform and resettlement programme to effect economic and social justice in terms of ours constitution and laws. And what has been the response from some interested quarters?
Their response has been staggering beyond description. My country, my Government, my Party and my person are labeled "land grabbers", demonised, reviled and threatened with sanctions in the face of accusations of reverse-racism. W. B. Du Bois must be turning in his grave for having thought the problem of the "colourline" would disappear with the 20th century.
But our conscience is clear. We will not go back. We shall continue to effect economic and social justice for all our people without fear or favour.
We understand that contrary to most forms of life, we mark the fullness of the 2nd millennium not by enlargement as always becomes life in its fullness, but by a dramatic shrinkage. Our world has shrunk into a global village, and time, place and distance continue to shrink inexorably by the day.
The biggest challenge for us still relates not only to cyberspace, nor to the great superhighway responsible for shrinking our world and for creating near-incestuous contact but in answering the age-old question, "who is my neighbour", whichever part of the globe, the Creator, in his infinite wisdom, placed you. Is the man, the woman, the country, the region and the continent on my doorstep neighbourly? Is the culture or civilisation that meets mine doing so in the spirit of respect and mutual understanding through genuine dialogue?
The question my compatriots and I face in Zimbabwe, the question put to me by a peasant who, is my neighbour, is about when this globalised environment will spare him a patch of land to till. He asks when the ugly anomaly which history gave him in respect of land ownership shall be resolved to enlarge his own freedom so he can begin to be like the rest of mankind? He asks why a predatory political economy that the United Nations rejected and helped fight in the 1960s, throughout the 70s and in the 80s now has once again found so many globalised protectors? He wants to understand why a system which is at the centre of poverty; at the centre of race relations; at the centre of denying developing countries their sense of sovereignty and democracy is made to appear so right, just, fair and a damning standard?
We are either makers of a new world based on new democratic principles of economic and social justice, or we remain in the old world with some conquering nations still set on old agendas of shrinking the rights of some nations as they enlarge their own conquest, sanctifying this under the cover of good governance, transparency, anti-corruption, democracy, human rights and digital technology.
We risk importing the spirit and contradictions of the Victorian era of slavery and colonialism into the new millennium and the New World. We risk the hypocrisy of demanding the reform of national governments and institutions in developing countries while doing nothing to reform the undemocratic structures and practices of international bodies such as the Bretton Woods institutions and indeed the United Nations itself.
Co-Chairpersons, if the new millennium, like the last, remains an age of hegemonic empires and conquerors doing the same old things in new technological ways; remains the age of the master race; of the master economy and master state, then I am afraid we in developing countries will have to stand up as a matter of principle and say not again.
The time has come for the practice of political and economic dominance of poor nations by the rich to give way to the birth of a new interdependent world that recognises and respects the diversity and dignity of all cultures and civilisations. In this connection, I am pleased that the United Nations has declared 2001 as the "Year of Dialogue between Civilisations".