- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe When Zimbabweans go to the polls this weekend, at least one white farmer will be enthusiastically supporting President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front party.

Timothy Stamps, the health minister, is the only white member of a government whose leader seizes every opportunity to denounce "British settlers" before crowds waving placards reading "Zimbabwe for the blacks."

Yet Mr. Stamps is the inheritor of a 20-year tradition. In the first flush of enthusiasm for independent Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF drew considerable support from a white community eager to make amends for having supported the regime of Ian Smith.

Mr. Smith, 80, was the last prime minister of white-ruled Rhodesia from 1964 to 1979. He led a breakaway administration that resisted British attempts to lead the colony toward majority rule, and once vowed that whites would rule for 1,000 years.

Throughout his rule, Mr. Mugabe has kept at least one white in the Cabinet and five have served in total.

Others have been elected to parliament on the ZANU-PF ticket the last, Jacobus de Wet, another white farmer, is not seeking re-election.

[Mr. Mugabe, meanwhile, continued to advocate violence yesterday by urging his supporters to strike "with an ax" if they were attacked, Reuters reported.

["We want this election to be peaceful [but] I am not saying that if the opposition provokes you, you must fold your arms. If they attack you, you hit them back with an ax," Mr. Mugabe told an enthusiastic rally of 40,000 supporters in a stronghold of his ruling ZANU-PF party.

[At least 29 persons, mostly supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, have died in violence linked to the election or the occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms by pro-government militants since February.]

Mr. Stamps, who has a dairy farm near Mazoe, 30 miles north of Harare, is fiercely loyal to the man whom he calls "my president," and deeply resents his portrayal in the British press.

"You are burning our president at the stake. If journalists had written the same about [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill in 1940, they would have been interned," he said.

"Constantly reporting our failures and frustrations is something that depresses us. There is almost an atavistic attitude that you must fail because you are Africans. That is the cause of President Mugabe's anger."

In a government where ministers call each other "comrade," Mr. Stamps lapses easily into rhetoric heard in communist Cuba or North Korea. Zimbabwe is a victim of "violent and rapacious capitalism" and ZANU-PF's role is to safeguard the poorest against the harsh winds of "a benighted world."

He reeled off a list of successes, achieved in the teeth of the onslaught from the "immoral" West.

"We have the safest blood supply in Africa, thanks to our AIDS screening program, we responded far better to Cyclone Eline than some of our neighbors with much less help and there has been a massive expansion in the provision of education."

In 1979, the last year of the Ian Smith regime, 73,540 children went to secondary school. By 1998, this had risen more than tenfold to to 847,296.

Few whites have a good word for Mr. Stamps, who usually is branded an apologist for a repressive regime that has ruined the economy, broken its own laws and blamed "settlers" for every new disaster.

He responded to this criticism with a weary shrug. "I am always asked, 'How can you work for these evil people?' My answer is that I don't see them as evil. I see them as people who have been wronged."

Redressing the wrongs of the colonial era is, he said, Mr. Mugabe's life mission, and he argued that his fellow white farmers have a special duty to join ZANU-PF's crusade.

"They must open their eyes and look to the long term. The recalcitrance of some farmers, not all, has been our main problem in solving the land issue," he said.

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