By Violet Gonda
08 April 2013
UK’s ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher died Monday morning after suffering stroke.
She was 87.
Baroness Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979-1990, was Britain’s first female Prime Minister and was arguably the most significant British leader of the 20th century. She also had an unprecedented three consecutive terms as Prime Minister.
Thatcher was described by many, including the late US President Ronald Reagan, as a woman with incredible aura and charisma, although many critics accused her of dividing the country, creating an ethos of capitalist greed and not supporting industry. She is also accused of doing little to advance women’s issues.
Her achievement was to transform the British economy and serve notice on the old style socialists.
Thatcher was also heavily criticized for refusing to back sanctions against South African apartheid and dismissing the African National Congress as, “a typical terrorist organization.” She preferred to pursue a policy of “constructive engagement”.
In Zimbabwe Thatcher would be remembered for helping bring about a ceasefire during the liberation struggle, as it was under her government that the negotiations to end the war took place. The Lancaster House Agreement in 1979 was her first international achievement right at the beginning of her first term in office.
Dr Simba Makoni, a former Minister of Finance in the ZANU PF government, was in the party’s support team for the Patriotic Front negotiation team in London during the Lancaster House talks.
Makoni, who is now an opposition leader, has fond recollections of that period as he was an exiled student in the UK when Thatcher assumed office and endured some of the drastic policy changes she introduced there.
“But as one in the negotiating teams of the Patriotic Front during the Lancaster House Conference, I do recall her influence on her team led by Lord Carrington that resulted in the December 21st agreement that led to our independence in 1980.
“Even though she was not involved directly her firm hand was felt throughout the negotiations,” Makoni told SW Radio Africa.
He said more significantly Thatcher accepted primary responsibility for solving the Rhodesian problem after the Commonwealth Summit in Lusaka in 1979. “That’s what led to Lancaster House negotiations and that is also why we spent nearly three month haggling there and she kept insisting through her negotiators that we wouldn’t leave London until there was an agreement.”
It’s reported that Thatcher had a good relationship with President Robert Mugabe and their relationship grew stronger after independence when Mugabe became Prime Minister.
The “Iron Lady” was British Prime Minister during the Gukurahundi massacres where 20 000 Ndebele people are estimated to have been killed by Mugabe’s North Korean trained Fifth Brigade between 1983 and 1987.
“The British covered it up and went on to knight Mugabe in 1994, four years after Thatcher left office,” said a commentator who did not want to be identified.
ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa remembers Thatcher as the British leader who at least managed to bring development towards a ceasefire in Zimbabwe, but said her government was part of a plot to destroy his party’s armed wing – Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).
“We in ZIPRA accuse the British of having been part and parcel of that plot to destroy ZIPRA and to destroy ZAPU as a party. They were responsible. In fact we think they hired the North Koreans to do that because the British themselves did not want blood on their hands.”
Dabengwa said the British worked behind the scenes during the Matebeland disturbance and made sure there was no publicity about the atrocities in their own country.
“They stated it very clearly. We know it. ZIPRA was too close to the Russians. It was during the Cold War and Russia was the enemy, so similarly ZIPRA was the enemy,” the ZAPU leader said.