“A statesman thinks of the next generation, a politician thinks of the next election.” – Ian Smith, the last prime minister of Rhodesia
Talk is cheap, but walking the talk is another matter altogether. Ian Smith, the last Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who once thumped his chest and asserted truculently that black majority rule would not happen in the hallowed lands of Rhodesia, not even in a thousand years, did not consider himself as a “statesman” even though he knew exactly what a statesman was.
Rather, in his book The Great Betrayal, published in 1997, he points to Nelson Mandela as one, knowing that Good Old Nelson would not touch the land issue in South Africa, and with that the fate of the millions of landless Black South Africans would have been sealed for good. Clever cat, Mr Smith – and his people! But we are not fooled by such antics, not any more!
As those of you who follow this column will know, I have been revisiting Smith’s book in these columns in the expectation that what he reveals about himself and the people he led will throw light on the present and lead to a better understanding of Zimbabwe – where I have now taken up residence.
In the book, he passionately believes that he was betrayed by Britain and South Africa to give way to black majority rule in Zimbabwe. But, in a typical case of myopism, he fails to see his own much greater betrayal of the millions of people (including the real owners of the land, the Blacks) over whom the country’s state apparatus ruled with an iron rod. He readily admits, without apparently seeing the irony of it, that after nearly 80 years of colonisation, the Africans they ruled over were still, in 1965, no more than “tribesmen…who had no education and were unable to read and write”, and as such “did not understand the meaning of the word ‘constitution’”, because they “had never exercised a vote in their lives”.
Incredibly, he fails to see what had brought about this sorry state of affairs – like a father who has neglected to educate some of his children and then dismisses them for being uneducated!
Blind to the beam in his eye
He tries to paint the impression in his book that apartheid only existed in South Africa. He is scathing about it, saying: “A division within a unitary country based purely on race, declaring that white people were first-class citizens and blacks were second-class citizens, was unprincipled and totally indefensible,” he wrote. “Not only would it be impossible to gain support for such a philosophy anywhere in the world, but most important of all, it would create bitterness and hatred among the great mass of the people – a blatant affront to them, based purely on race.”
But what exactly did Ian Smith and the European-descended people who came to make their homes in Rhodesia do to the black people they met? Were they not turned into “second-class citizens” in their own land?
Though Ian Smith claims so hard in his book that black Zimbabweans were not oppressed, and that he has abounding respect for black people, yet his words and actions prove the contrary. He enjoys the “high kill-rate” his soldiers inflicted on the African freedom fighters who fought against his government for their independence. He calls them “terrorists”.
“We had mounted a number of successful attacks, the kill-rate was high and the security forces were revelling in taking the offensive,” he writes.
But just listen to Smith praising colonialism: “The starry-eyed liberals [of Britain] were trying to atone for the guilt complex associated with their country’s past history. They have allowed themselves to be brainwashed by communist propaganda which besmirched colonialism as suppression and exploitation…
“In reality colonialism was the spread of Western Christian civilisation, with its commitment to education, health, justice, and economic advancement, into areas which were truly ‘darkest Africa’. The people in these areas of sub-Saharan Africa had never seen a white man, had no written language, no medical facilities, and no currency, so barter was their only means of trade. For some unknown reason, they had never had contact with Western civilisation until, in some parts, as recently as 100 years ago.
“What makes this all the more surprising is that in northern Africa there had been some of the earliest civilisations, going back 4,000 years,
pre-dating our modern Western civilisation. [Here, he was referring to the great black civilisations of Ancient Egypt, Nubia, etc.] But if one
studies history, what is demarcated on modern maps as north Africa is truly western Arabia, with the people occupying those countries being of Arabian stock – their culture, traditions, history, language, religion and race are Arab.”
In effect, Ian Smith denies that Ancient Egypt was black or built by black people, like most Western and Arab scholars shamelessly do today. In the very next paragraph after making that fantastic claim, Smith credits the “remarkable development and advancement of the people of sub-Saharan Africa today” to colonialism.
“So I say to the people of Europe,” he writes, “that if their countries were involved in the colonisation of sub-Saharan Africa, they should hold their heads high, be proud of that historical association with forces that brought light to the Dark Continent, helping its peoples to emerge into modern civilisation.”
Yet, astonishingly, he concedes that: “The metropolitan powers divided sub-Saharan Africa while sitting at their desks in London and the other capitals of Europe, drawing lines on a map, and certainly never taking the trouble to consult the local people on the ground.”
A great truth
And here Ian Smith begins to tell a great truth that most Westerners, and even most Africans, don’t want to acknowledge today. He writes: “At
the level of the extended family, or kraal, the leader [of the traditional system he saw in Rhodesia, which also cuts across the continent] emerged naturally through acceptance by the family, and, as long as he enjoyed their respect and confidence, he was their representative and spokesman.
“Whenever a problem arose which involved other kraals in their area, the kraal-heads held a joint meeting. If the problem extended beyond their area of jurisdiction, they chose from their midst their representative, or headman, to convey their message to the chief, who was the leader of a much larger section of people. A chief usually ruled the people of between four or six headmen.
“Most problems were solved at that level, but if not, the chief would take it to the next meeting of the Provincial Chiefs’ Council (there were 5 provinces). Finally, there was the National Chiefs’ Council. An analysis of the system points to many advantages. I know of no method which gives more honest and genuine representation, stemming from the ‘grassroots’ and ensuring that the people’s feelings are accurately submitted and explained [emphasis added].”
Ian Smith continues: “The system is devoid of corruption, nepotism, intimidation, propaganda and brainwashing, all those evil and undesirable ingredients which play such an important part in modern government. Those of us who live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and understand the traditions and customs of the people, have no option other than to condemn the actions of the major free world countries: in their typical arrogant manner, they took it upon themselves to lay down preconditions to the grant of independence.
“The countries concerned were compelled to abandon their tried and proven system, and replace it with the Western democratic system. Everywhere it has been implemented it has resulted in disaster and the complete antithesis of what was anticipated… It is easy, when you live ten thousand kilometres away, to prescribe solutions, knowing that if the whole thing blows up and goes sour, you do not have to live with the results.”
You can only shout hallelujah to such a revelation! Interestingly enough, those who established this system of governance so supreme to anything Ian Smith knew were mere “tribesmen” who “had no education”!