Wednesday , June 16 2021

Life in Focus: Ian Smith – the latest white leader of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe struggling to preserve minority government



When the final history of the colonization of Africa is written, Ian Smith will earn a little more than a footnote. He will be remembered as a Canute malodem, who was trying to resist the wave of the black rule that was constantly moving across the continent. If it never existed, the story of the average, astonishingly beautiful country, now called Zimbabwe, but once known as South Rhodesia, and Smith as ordinary Rhodesia, could be the same.

But rejecting Ian Smith by hand would be to forget how for 15 years his country has been holding international diplomacy and British domestic politics to redeem, and how Smith himself, the author of the unilateral Declaration of Independence of UDI and prime minister of last , but a white extraordinary regime in South Africa has once been a household name around the world.

Smith's story was typically colonial. His father, Jok Smith, emigrated from Scotland to Rhodesia in 1898, on the eve of the Burmese war, and settled in the small village town of Selluve, now called Shurugi. There he was running a farm and a mine, raising racing horses, and chairing local rugby and cricket clubs.

This obituary, as appeared on Thursday, November 22, 2007 (The Independent)

Young Yang, born in 1919, inherited Jok's energy and resilience. He was an invisible disciple, but as his father (and most of the Parents) a passionate athlete and lover of outdoor life.

When the war came in 1939, nothing was more natural for an adventurous and patriotic young man than to participate in the defense of the British Empire. Smith enrolled for training as a pilot and his war led him from Africa to Persia, the Middle East and Europe first with the 237 (Rodesia) squadron and then 130 squadrons from the RAF. He was shot down in Spitfire over Corsica and fought for five months with Italian guerrillas behind German lines.

Ian Smith at a press conference in 1977 (Gettys)

Decades later this military service would further complicate the attitude toward Smith, now a rebel and an enemy, but who had done more than his, to save Britain from Hitler.

He described himself as an "African British stock". But in many ways the Rhodesians were more British than the British. Cultural overlaps mean that many Britons of one generation simply can not understand why the "Good old dog" and "Pluto Little Rhodesia" have been held in such a formal disapproval.

Smith's first priority when returning home is to complete his education at the University of Rhodes in Gramountown, South Africa. But politics soon called. In 1948, he was convinced to run for parliament for the Liberal Party, and in August that year he bought a farm that won its first election and acquired a woman, his favorite Janet. She would have given him three children and an anchor in the heat of the struggle for independence of Rhodesia.

Until then, the country was a self-governing colony, but the pressure has grown to full nationality. For eight years, between 1953 and 1961, the chosen solution was the Central African Freedom Union of Nyasaland (now Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (today's Zambia) and South Rhodesia – conceived as a means of complete independence. But by 1960, the federation had broken down. In Nyasaland and North Rhodesia, the pressure to separate and the black rule increased. In the UK, attitudes are changing. Harold McMillan talks about the "winds of change" that blow through Africa, and the living ally of Britain, the United States, was pushing for decolonization.

Smith at home with his wife Janet, in Salisbury, now Harare (Getty)

However, the white minorities in South Rhodesia would not agree. The Federation collapsed, and in Solsbury a new white nationalist party, the Rhodesian Front, won the power. Smith was his deputy leader and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in the new government under Winston Field. But the field was too moderate for the front. Eager to announce independence early, his parliamentary party rejected him from power, and Smith took power. The "African British Stock" was in power. Six months later, in the UK general election, Harold Wilson's Labor Party defeated Conservatives. The scene was set for a confrontation between the colonial power involved with the power of the black majority and the white settlers who had conquered African soil.

The old white Rhodesia, joking joke, was "Drag the lunar fringes from above". Whether he was a lunatic, it was a matter of opinion. But in the suburbs of Surrey she looked like her countryside, her point of view at the golf club to the world, her undeniable security in her own values. The white population never exceeded 120,000, 3% of the total, and no more than a dignified English provincial town, but believed to have created God's own land.

Smith in Downing Street with Premier Harold Wilson in 1965 (Getty)

White rule in South Rhodesia, at least until the beginning of the liberation war, which began seriously in the late 1960s, was quite different from that of South Africa. The end product may have been the same, but it was supported less by brutality than by self-paternalism. Whites turn without a trace of self-awareness to "our black people". For the rest of his life, Smith contrasted with the pains of Nigeria, Congo and other new independent countries on the continent with the satisfactory stability of his white Rhodesia, the home of the "happiest black faces you've ever seen."

The leader in Salisbury, after Rhodesia declared independence (Getty)

But even before the Labor came to power, white Rhodesians suspect that Britain would simply impose a black rule on them. This feeling grew only during the months of fraudulent talks between Smith and Wilson before the break. His own views, as recorded in his 1997 memoirs The Great Treasonwere frank: "In Britain itself, we were grounded by a socialist government that wanted to calm down the cult of Marxist Leninism at the expense of the old traditional values ​​of the British Empire. the double standards, the deception and the blackmail we faced. To call it rude, "wrote the state representative of the salon," we had absolute horror. "

On the morning of November 11, 1965, after the last Harold Wilson phone call, Smith took the fateful step. The very announcement of the UDI is a parody of the US Declaration of Independence, full of lofty "interventions" and "therefore", but in practice a charter of a white rule. Each member of the Cabinet approved and signed it before Smith broadcast on the nation's radio and tell the Parents that they had refused to surrender to the "Communists" in Africa and Asia. "We strike for the preservation of justice, civilization and Christianity," he said.

Britain's initial response to this long-awaited challenge was sanctions. In all of Wilson's initial reflections and his prediction that UDI would fail within "weeks without months", it was clear from the outset that he would never use force to displace the regime of rebels. Sanctions designed to stifle oil imports from Rhodesia and the export of its vital tobacco crops have caused inconvenience. But the common border of Rhodesia with South Africa makes the measures ultimately unworkable.

Soon began a quiet effort to reach a compromise. First came "conversation talks," followed by a meeting between Smith and Wilson on board the HMS Tiger Destroyer in the Mediterranean in October 1966. In 1968, the two leaders tried again at HMS Fearless outside Gibraltar. But there was no overcoming of the main disagreement – about Rhodesia's refusal to renounce the UDI and its existing constitution and return to the British front, pending an agreement acceptable to the black majority.

The protesters in London in 1968 demonstrated against Smith's resistance to rule the majority (Getty)

The next half a dozen years were the apogee of the Good Old Smoker's Birthday. In the UK, the owners and leaders of conservative newspapers loved him, and soon a more sympathetic Torric government won power. So far, the sanctions were no more than a joke, partisan activities were conveniently held by the Rhodesian security forces, and every internal white opposition was mainly muted by the home arrest of former Prime Minister Garfield Todd in 1972 and the exile of his daughter Judith. ,

But there was a sinister obstacle – though it did not look like that at the time. In 1971, Smith made a deal with conservative Foreign Minister Alec Douglas-Home, who would legalize UDI in exchange for a new constitution that pushed the black rule into the farthest from the future. However, the agreement was largely rejected when the African population was consulted by the Pearce Commission. Smith rejected Pierce's report as "absolute deceit," but then the Nibmar formula – "Without independence before the majority" – was undeniable. Any hope of securing an independent, internationally recognized white Rhodesia has disappeared.

For a while, life continued as before. But in the mid-1970s two events sealed the fate of the Smith regime. The first was America's new concern after the Cuban raids in Angola that South Africa could fall into the Soviet sphere of influence. This led Smith face to face with the global geopolitics and diplomatic power of the United States ruled by Henry Kissinger. Even more important was the collapse of the African Empire in Portugal in 1975. Suddenly, an independent, black-dominated Mozambique was on the eastern border of Rhodesia. The Partisans had their shelter. The war could no longer be disputed.

The last four years of white rule were a series of increasingly desperate maneuvers to Smith to delay the inevitable. The workforce returned to power in London. South Africa, as long as the vital ally, but now beginning to seek diligence with its black neighbors in the north, began to distance itself from the Salvation parachute regime. Differently, Smith attempted to include Abel Musoreva and Ndabanning Citihol, Rhodesian "domestic" black leaders, and even Joshua Nomo, the leader of Matabal and the most prestigious "black" black politician, in search of a solution. Since the 1976 Kissinger-sponsored conference failed, Smith played his last card from an "inner" settlement, all the while raging through the betrayal of the South Africans and, of course, the British.

The politician of Victoria Falls in Zambia in 1965 (Getty)

Grumpy and bitter, he accused everyone, except himself, of the blind alley where he had led Rhodesia. David Owen, the new Minister of Labor, was a special object of hatred – "a small, arrogant little man who was trying to do a job that was too big for him." An internal settlement with Sitol and Musoreva was signed on March 4, 1978, but it was too little and too late. So far, Nobomo and Robert Mugabe, the nationalist leader of the Shona majority, have stepped up the Patriotic Front. "Terrorists" have created chaos and white emigration cost the security forces the equivalent of a battalion of fighters per month. The end was just a matter of time.

On June 1, 1979, after 15 years of prime minister, Smith was succeeded by Bishop Muzoreva as the interim Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity. The sanctions were lifted before the planned Lancaster House conference in London, chaired by Tori's new foreign minister, secular and casual Peter Carrington – for Smith – the personification of Perfidial Albion.

Smelly Carrington turned Margaret Thatcher – who instinctively shared Smith's view that Mugabe and Nomo were terrorists – believing that they should be part of any agreement. Thus even the Tories rejected their Rhodesian whale and relatives. The Lancaster House Agreement was duly signed, which ended the guerrilla war and all party elections scheduled for March. As expected from Smith and was afraid of the British, the result was a convincing victory for Mugabe.

Election campaign: The leader is trying to retain power in 1964 (Getty)

To his amazement, Smith later wrote in his memoirs, his first encounter with a man he believed to be a solid Marxist revolutionary, revealed that Mugabe was a man who "behaved like a balanced, civilized Westerner, the anti-Communist gangster antithesis I expected ". For some time, there was an uneasy cohabitation, as the prime minister-neophyte occasionally consulted with the tough leader of the white opposition in parliament. But every similarity of truce was destroyed the following year when Mugabe clearly stated his intention to create a single-party state. Since July 1981, the two have never met. Smith remains in politics, head of the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe, as the Rhodesian Front has been renamed. His real role, however, was like a self-contained Kassandra, for whom the constant decline of his country has created a continuous refrain to "I told you".

But unlike many white, demoralized by Mugabe's constant attacks, Smith did not leave the country. After leaving his active policy, he split his time between the 5,000-acre farm in central Zimbabwe and Harare, where he lived in a modest bungalow – almost as it happened to the Cuban embassy – the last post of these Communist regimes to which he attribute the wickedness of Zimbabwe and Africa.

In 1994, his wife Janet died, but Ian Smith still remains in the public eye. Three years later, he published his memoirs and, to the end, continued to report on the lawlessness of the Mugabe government, his corruption, greed and incompetence, and in particular his plan to return the white farms – a step, according to Smith, will further damage the traditional support of Zimbabwe's economy and thus reduce the standard of living of blacks whose interests claim that Mugabe has a heart. In this forecast he was tragically correct.

Smith voted in 2002 (Getty)

After all, Smith was somewhat softened, but he was so stubborn and carefree in his heart, as always. He still wore the necktie of Spitfire's old pilot, and accused him of falling over everyone but himself. He still condemned the foolishness of the atonement of totalitarians of any religion or color, and remained faithful to the retreating vision of the lost Paradise paradise. Of course the watch could not go back. Salisbury has long since become Harare, and Cecil Square has been renamed to honor the Organization of African Unity. By the end of Smith's life, old hostile communism was no more than all intents and purposes, and in Zimbabwe there were more elephants than whites.

Mugabe's degradations ensure that Smith makes sense. You did not have to be an unbuilt white supernatant to complain about Zimbabwe's collapse as the revolutionary Mugabe had turned into a brutal, lunar totalitarian that demanded a terrible price from a country that had everything in independence: international goodwill, a decent social infrastructure, and relatively advanced industry and agriculture.

"We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people from every country in Africa," he says. "This is what the Ruthenians did, and should not we give credit for this?" But Mugabe's tyranny – as Smith's own exploit in stopping the history watch for 15 years – was just another aspect of the tragedy of the continent.

Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, born April 8, 1919, died on November 20, 2007.

Rupert Cornwell dies in 2017


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