ON June 25 2002, Charles Stuart Kennedy interviewed former black US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Edward G. Lanpher, who summed up his assignment as US representative at the 1979 Lancaster House Conference in the words: “My role was to represent the US.
Our role was to be supportive of the British toward the edges of the conference and to intervene where we thought it was the right thing to do and in support of the British.”
Kennedy is an oral historian of American diplomats.
He is the founder and current director of the Foreign Affairs Oral History Programme at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.
Since 1985, he has conducted over a thousand oral histories of retired American diplomats.
His interview with Lanpher was six months after former US President George Bush signed ZDERA into a law (December 21 2001) that imposed illegal sanctions intended to force a restoration of exclusive white interests in Zimbabwe.
The ‘Jack Crow’ Law had been crafted by the Rhodesian Selous Scouts-backed MDC fronting the black face of Morgan Tsvangirai.
The British, who had convened the 1979 Lancaster House Conference, needed US support to avert a military end to the conflict in Rhodesia.
Their fear was that a military victory by black Zimbabweans would result in irretrievable losses of racially exclusive colonial interests.
Worst of all, it would set a bad example for the ANC’s Umkonto Wesizwe and SWAPO.
So, in essence, the black Ambassador’s assignment as US representative was to safeguard exclusive British white settler-interests at the expense of his own black kith and kin.
Unknown to the black-American’s black Zimbabwean kith and kin, fighting to shake-off predatory white domination, Lanpher’s role was that of a snitch.
In that regard, it is important to explain that the idea of ‘kinship based on skin colour’ is not overstretched here.
It is what has informed the deprivation of black people across the Western world for over 500 years.
In Lanpher’s own words: “Mrs Thatcher, the Prime Minister, didn’t much like black communists, as I recall.”
There were white communists, yellow communists, olive communists, European communists, Asian communists, Arab communists, ‘but the British Prime Minister particularly disliked communists who were black like the US representative, Lanpher’.
In the capitalist and imperial West, ‘communist’ was a blanket term used to refer to Russian and Chinese associates.
Communists were associated with wanting to nationalise and share everything.
Communists were associated with nationalisation and equitable redistribution of national wealth.
In that regard, communist became the bogey term used to frighten the racially exclusive beneficiaries of capitalism and imperialism.
Communist became the bogey term used to demonise those being armed by Russia and China to fight Western colonialism with the idea of redistributing their stolen heritage.
And, in that global context,: “Mrs Thatcher the Prime Minister didn’t much like black communists,”
“The British ran a very clever and very tough conference. They brought all their intelligence resources out of Africa and devoted them to working the streets of London. They tapped everybody’s phones. They were on top of this like a blanket.”
And Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, didn’t much like black communists when the conference came to the question of land which had been the nationalist primary objective for going to war.
Thatcher didn’t much like black communists who wanted nationalisation and redistribution of land and, in Ku Klux Klan parlance, the Anglo-American coalition ‘set a nigger to catch a nigger’.
The issue about who would fund post-war land resettlement in Zimbabwe was discussed outside Lancaster in a ‘private meeting’ involving just the black-American Lanpher and the black communists, Mugabe and Nkomo, whom Thatcher didn’t much like.
It was discussed in a venue that was not official and therefore not neutral ground.
It was discussed in the private lounge of a private house owned by Sonny Ramphal, who was Secretary-General of the Commonwealth at the time.
Less than 20 years down the line, the reason the discussion had been made private and without note-takers would no longer be in doubt.
The unrecorded commitments made by the black Ambassador would be conveniently reduced to being his word against the word of the black Patriotic Front nationalists.
That is how much of a snitch Lanpher was.
The nationalists had framed the all-important question as: “Will you buy out the white farmers?”
The land had been the reason they had gone to war.
Mugabe and Nkomo claimed that the black Ambassador promised that the US would provide the funds to buy out white farmers.
It would not be the first time the promise had been made. Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State during Détente, had made the promise way before the nationalist military victory which Lancaster was trying to avert.
The circumstances had then been less compelling than the 1979 circumstances after the defeat of the Rhodesians at the Battle of Mapai where ZANLA forces, commanded by Cde Dominic Chinenge (now Vice-President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga), had forced a hot extraction of the South African backed Rhodesians leaving their dead.