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Complex Zimbabwe

August 13, 2008

Re "They beat him, but not into submission," Column One, Aug. 7

As a former Rhodesian, I'm irritated by yet another sob story about poor white farmers in Zimbabwe. The Times neglects to mention that farmer Mike Campbell's ilk were among former Prime Minister Ian Smith's most fervent supporters in his resistance to African rule. People like Campbell refused to compromise with African demands for freedom until it was too late, and they lost everything.

Also, it must be remembered, the whites appropriated their farms from the Africans in the first place without any form of compensation. Though I detest what President Robert Mugabe has become, I don't see the Campbells as innocent victims.

The South African whites, noting events north of the border, made a brilliant deal with Nelson Mandela to hand over political control while keeping hold of the economy. Whether the much-revered Mandela should have accepted this hollow bargain is increasingly being called into question among young South Africans.

In Rhodesia, the whites tried to pull off the same bait-and-switch, but too late. Whatever happens in Zimbabwe in the long run, the post-Mugabe era will allow the Africans to control every aspect of their nationhood, both political and economic.

Leon Whiteson

Los Angeles

Thank you for bringing the tragic plight of white Zimbabwean farmers to the front page of The Times.

In our current age of often misguided political correctness and passive kowtowing to ruthless dictators in the Third World, stories of the oppressed masses crowd the media; whereas the stories of misaligned, hardworking, strong-willed people like the Campbells are mostly overlooked. White Zimbabwean farmers are not strangers in a strange land. They have lived and farmed in that country for many generations.

Zimbabwe was once a breathtakingly beautiful, well-run country, with a thriving economy, plentiful food and happy people. I know, having been there. Mugabe did not "liberate" Rhodesia. He destroyed it, while the world stood by.

He should have harnessed the skills and knowledge of the stable, white African farmers to train future generations of stable black and white farmers. (This model is being successfully used on farms in neighboring South Africa.) Instead, this crazed madman, in his hatred, racism and greed, has disrespectfully destroyed the very people and the farms that for more than a century put abundant food on Zimbabwe's table. Ironically, Mugabe's "land redistribution" has brought the entire country to its knees, with millions crippled by extreme poverty and hunger.

Julie Naested

San Diego

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