LONDON – London mayor Boris Johnson, who is also reportedly tipped to be the next Conservative Party leader, has openly admitted that Britain played a “shameful” role in Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

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In an article published in a UK daily The Telegraph, Johnson stated that Zimbabwe was now the second poorest nation in the whole world, adding that former British prime minister Tony Blair had a hand in the southern African country’s mess.

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“… It is vital to recognise that Zimbabwe was not always like this, and did not have to be like this. This [Robert] Mugabe tyranny is no accident – and Britain played a shameful part in the disaster,” Johnson wrote.

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In a flashback, Johnson took readers back to the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement in which the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher granted independence to Rhodesia. It was that agreement that also guaranteed compensation for Britain’s setter farmers.

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Diverse backgrounds

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But in 1997 when Blair and the New Labour came in “and in a fit of avowed anti-colonialist fervour, they unilaterally scrapped the arrangement. The overseas development minister, Vlare Sort, made it clear that neither she nor Blair gave a stuff about the former colonial farmers” .

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Short made it clear that Blair’s administration would not accept a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe.

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As Clare put it at that time: “We are a new government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were colonised not colonisers.”

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Johnson said it was that betrayal of Lancaster House that gave Mugabe his pretext to launch his “pogroms” against the whites.

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Sad saga

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New Zimbabwe.com reported that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party was delighted by Johnson’s statements, with the party’s UK chairperson saying Nick Mangagwa saying they had been “vindicated”.

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“In his article Boris said a lot of objectionable things but the most revealing is the blame on Tony Blair for the problems that are in Zimbabwe,” Mangwana was quoted as saying.

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Mangwana said the worst bit of “this sad saga” was that Zimbabwe was placed under debilitating sanctions for taking back the land which indeed needed to be redistributed.

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Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.

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‘Whites will never own land’

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Mugabe said the reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances.

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At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.

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The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle.

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Mugabe made headlines last year when he vowed that whites would never be allowed to own land in Zimbabwe.

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Mugabe at the time also warned black Zimbabweans against partnering with whites in agriculture deals.