Zimbabwe in perspective … from ‘divide and rule’ to ‘starve and rule’


By Prof Artwell Nhemachena

INFLATION is sharply rising again in Zimbabwe amidst Western sanctions.

The sanctions imposed on Zimbabweans constitute what I call the imperial ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics, which are often used together with the ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics. 

Of course, the imperialists would not want Africans to correctly discern the fact that the sanctions are designed to serve the imperial interests of ‘starve-and-rule’.

The Shona people describe such imperial tactics as ‘kurova imbwa wakaviga mupinyi’. 

When Zimbabweans analyse the Western sanctions, they need to apply such indigenous aphorisms that expose Western machinations on Zimbabweans. 

Zimbabweans who understand the Shona aphorism ‘kurova imbwa wakaviga mupinyi’ will not fail to see the evil in Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabweans. 

Put differently, Zimbabweans who are in states of denial of the evilness of Western sanctions are not applying indigenous lenses, which would assist them incorrectly understanding the sanctions as a deliberate tactic of ‘starve-and-rule’.


This aphorism clearly indicates to Zimbabweans that Westerners are beating them with sanctions not because they consider them as deserving human rights but because they consider Zimbabweans to be ‘dogs that can be beaten while one is hiding the whip or log’.

So, Westerners hide behind democracy, human rights, good governance, rule of law etc., when they execute their ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics on Africans and on Zimbabweans in particular. 

Western sanctions have nothing to do with human rights, democracy, the rule of law or good governance. They have everything to do with treating Zimbabweans as dogs, which, when they defy their masters, are beaten using hidden sticks or logs.

The Western sanctions are not meant to help Zimbabweans or to ensure democracy and human rights observance; they are a deliberate imperial strategy which I call the ‘starve-and-rule’ tactic.

I urge African scholars and thinkers to theorise Western sanctions not in terms of human rights, democracy, rule of law or good governance but in terms of what I call the ‘starve-and-rule’ tactic or ‘theory of starvism’.

Zimbabweans repossessed their land to effectively enhance the human rights of indegenes who were robbed of their land during the colonial era.

One major problem in Africa is that academics simply mimic Westerners without critical thinking or applying indigenous lenses. 

The reason Zimbabweans are divided and why some Zimbabweans are fooled to believing that Western sanctions are meant to assist human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance is that African scholars have failed all these years to teach African, particularly Zimbabwean, students to use indigenous knowledge systems to theorise what is happening to their continent and countries.

Westerners have always depicted and treated Africans as indistinct from nonhuman animals. 

Around the 1600s, some Westerners even wrote that Africans had tails and had each, one big foot that also acted as an umbrella when it was too hot or when it was raining. 

They wrote that the Africans would raise their umbrella-like foot when it was hot or raining.

These perceptions have not changed in the 21st Century. Only that the Westerners hide behind human rights and democracy, in the logic of kurova imbwa wakaviga mupinyi and ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics.

The Western media condemns African Heads of State who supposedly stay too long in power.

The ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics are evident in the sharp price hikes in Zimbabwe. 

These are targeted to starve Zimbabweans to the point where they deliver themselves to the devil that is beating them. 

Like dogs that have been beaten by someone who is hiding the whip or log, Zimbabweans are expected to eventually ‘put their tails between their legs’ and stop barking and biting the devil that is covertly beating them.

The entire game is not about human rights, democracy, good governance or rule of law. 

In any case, the West itself does not have good governance, democracy, rule of law or human rights records having enslaved and colonised Africans for centuries for which no reparations have been made to date.

Zimbabweans have experienced hyperinflation which has inflicted suffering on both the employed and unemployed. 

Zimbabweans are experiencing hyperinflation, which is eroding the wages and salaries of many workers. When there is hyperinflation, Westerners are quick to blame the Zimbabwean Government. 

They forget that many decades ago, the IMF and the World Bank coerced Zimbabwe to privatise its enterprises and to retreat from controlling and directing the economy. 

When the IMF and World Bank advised  Zimbabwe to privatise its enterprises, they argued it would enhance efficiency. 

Yet, ironically, after privatisation, the same Westerners blamed Zimbabwe for the failure of its economy.

The point that I am making here is that the ‘starve-and-rule’ tactic works best when the African States are first of all forced to privatise their enterprises such that they are no longer able to cushion their populace from the so-called private corporations, which are beholden to Western states’ machinations.

If African states had refused to privatise and to follow the prescriptions of the IMF and World Bank, the West would not be able to execute their ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics on Africans. 

Africans would then be cushioned by their State enterprises.

The economy is too important for African States to devolve to Western corporations, depicted as private investors. 

Their interest is not to cushion Africans but to starve them, particularly when Western States impose sanctions on Africans.

The US simply orders American corporations located across the world, including in Africa, to cooperate in sanctioning the host States. 

Put differently, it is in the interest of Africans and African States to ensure there is effective, rapid and wide indigenisation of the economies in Africa. 

African States have more control over African indigenous economies and corporations than they do over transnational corporations that are headquartered in the US and Europe.

African States become resilient and strong not by devolving their State enterprises through privatisation to transnational corporations, but by retaining and running their own-State enterprises, and by indigenising the economies in Africa. 

Africa will not survive and develop merely by adopting Western advice and aid.  

It is those who lack strategic thinking and uncritically rely on Western aid and advice paradoxically weaken Africans.

The reason Africa is poor is because Africa has been gradually and covertly shifted away from its strategic position in the world. Africans are starving even as they are standing on rich resources and African States are collapsing even as they are standing on rich resources. 

Without ownership and control over their economies, African States cannot effectively control their citizens because economies are crucial for the daily survival of the populace. 

States that have ownership and control over their economies have more control over their citizens because they can satisfy their stomachs.

Yet African states were fooled to privatising their state-owned enterprises. 

The African states pleased the IMF and World Bank, but they rendered their own citizens vulnerable to Western ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics.

Of course, ‘starve-and-rule’ tactics have a long history in Africa. 

During the slave trade, slave hunters starved enslaved Africans who resisted the system of slavery. 

During the Transatlantic journey to the so-called New World, African slaves who resisted were not only starved, but they were also thrown into the sea to become food for sharks that trailed the slave ships.

This long history shows that the Western politics of sanctioning Africans has nothing to do with human rights, good governance, democracy and rule of law. 

It has everything to do with ‘kurova imbwa wakaviga mupinyi’.

During colonisation, the likes of Cecil John Rhodes destroyed African crops, livestock and granaries as a way to weaken African resistance to colonial rule. 

After that, the same Rhodes proceeded to offer aid to Africans but on the condition that they stopped resisting colonial rule.

The ‘starve-and-rule tactic’ works on the basis of politics of the stomach. 

Who would want their stomach grumbling day and night? 

It is trite that before one can live peacefully with other human beings, one first has to live peacefully with one’s stomach.

This is the foundation of the imperial ‘starve-and-rule’ tactic. 

They know that one goes where one’s stomach is. 

Zimbabweans are suffering, not because their State has failed. 

Rather, Zimbabweans are suffering because imperialism is playing politics of ‘starve-and-rule’, in addition to politics of ‘divide and rule’.

There is wisdom in African States repositioning themselves to strategically own and control the economies in Africa. 

If the duty of a state is to protect its citizens, then it is the duty of African States to protect their citizens from the vulnerability that comes with foreign ownership and control of economies in Africa.

When Western States torpedo African economies, the effect is similar to the era when colonialists destroyed African granaries and crops in order to weaken their resistance to colonisation.

The way forward is to indigenise, Africanise and nationalise economies in Africa. 

Instead of running all over the world attracting, and providing concessions to, foreign investors, African States must encourage and provide concessions to, indigenous Africans who may be based locally or abroad so that they invest in their countries and on their continent. 

This is what would constitute real strategic repositioning for Africa. 

The US has a strong economy not because it has a lot of foreign investors but because it owns and controls its economy.

Africans must therefore own and control their economies, including their land and other resources.

The Wester media do not condemn those who stole our land and developed it with stolen resources but condemn us for repossessing the same.

Zimbabwe is on the right path despite the West still playing politics of ‘starve- and-rule’ on Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe has been strategically repositioning itself for strength and freedom in a real sense, but of course, just like slave hunters, the West is quick to punish those repositioning or positioning themselves for genuine freedom and sovereignty.


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