Review of All for Nothing? My Life Remembered - Oskar Wermter SJ

No 57 August 2011

Book Review


ALL FOR NOTHING? My life remembered, by C.G. Tracey
Weaver Press, Harare, 2009, 326 pp.

By Oskar Wermter SJ

The late C.G., ‘farmer, entrepreneur, businessman, plant-breeder, racehorse owner and
breeder, sanctions-buster, chairman and director of many companies, husband, father and
gentleman’ finally wrote it all down, relentlessly recording facts and figures. He is not a very
exciting writer. The reader will sometimes nod off, unless he happens to be a passionate
farmer as the viagra professional sale author was, interested in cows and crops, in breeding animals and plants,
managing farms and factories.

But this record of what Rhodesian farming was like is valuable. It does show us what a
highly skilled occupation farming was, how much ingenuity, imagination, intelligence, highly
specialized knowledge in many fields, enormous guts and courage as well as sheer hard work
was needed to be a productive farmer and uk sale sildenafil entrepreneur.

It shows very clearly that the post-Independence ‘cell-phone’ farmer is a ludicrous creature
that cannot possibly succeed (nor did his pre-Independence counterpart – not all Rhodesian
farmers were as clever and hard-working as C.G. Tracey – large numbers failed and went

This sober record shows also the blind spots of this remarkably versatile and resourceful man.
We do learn something about the living and working conditions of his farm workers. Like the
better type of Rhodesian farmer he does feel responsible for him, in a traditional, patriarchal
fashion – he defends the old system of giving farm workers ‘rations’ – food rather than cash
wages. Too much money is considered dangerous in the hands of irresponsible natives who
will drink it all away, to the detriment of their families. There may have been some truth in
this. Still, did it never occur to him that an adult worker simply has a right to his wages in
whatever form he wants? That he must be allowed to look after his family in a responsible
fashion. On the long run acquiring this sense of responsibility would have benefited the
family more than control by the employer. I am afraid such thoughts, or any human rights
thinking, would not have been understood by Tracey, though an active member of a Christian

It is also remarkable that this leader of the farming community, so well connected in
Rhodesian society, never met any nationalist leader before Independence. He met Tom
Mboya of Kenya earlier than any Zimbabwean leader. He makes the sale online cialis pills usa point that he was not a

racist; he employed graduates of Chibero College as managers on his farm and worked well
with them. But there is no indication that he understood the aspirations of the local majority.

Even though a well-known figure in public life, he followed his father’s advice not to go
into party politics. He distrusted party ideologies. As a very pragmatic person, he believed
in economic success, without getting involved in political power games. He was useful to
politicians because he was remarkably successful as ‘sanctions-buster’, but he had no time for
the political class as such.

Perhaps most surprisingly, there is a chapter on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence
(UDI, 1965), but none on the War of Liberation. He was not involved in the military effort
himself. His contribution to the Rhodesian war was finding loopholes so as to evade trade

What he reports on trade sanctions, by the way, should teach all contemporary Zimbabweans
a lesson who believe that the current restrictions against the ruling class deserve to be
called ‘sanctions’. They don’t. The isolation of Rhodesia in those years, banning all members
of the United Nations from trade with Rhodesia, simply cannot be compared to the little
inconvenience suffered by the ‘elite’ of today.

The last chapters tell the story of the vicious onslaught on farmers, their families and farming
livelihood by war veterans in the years of ‘land redistribution’. Even then the old pragmatist
tried to strike deals. Though on the whole unemotional and diflucan order sober in his style of recording
events, a certain bitterness and sadness does characterize the last pages.

‘Zimbabwe is in danger of joining the ranks of derelict African countries – its agriculture,
and particularly its tobacco and food sectors, have been mortally wounded. An atmosphere of
mistrust and corruption is widespread’. On a more hopeful note he concludes that those ‘eight
decades cannot be taken away, although the developments of which we were proud have been
so misused’.

The book seems to show that there was much good in Rhodesia, but also much blindness, and
it all ended in tragedy. The question, which the title of C.G. Tracey’s life story poses, remains
unanswered: ‘All for nothing?’