Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Zimbabwe is 30 today! Why no fanfare in the press?

2nd June 1974
Rhodesia’s Black leaders rejected concessions which rebel Prime Minister Ian Smith had hoped might lead to Britain’s agreement to independence. Smith’s proposal was to increase from 16 to 22 the number of seats in parliament set aside for Blacks at the upcoming election. The offer was rebuffed by Bishop Muzorewa of the African National Council who complained that it would take decades at such a rate of increase to attain parity of racial representation in the House of Assembly.

In the election a few weeks later Smith’s Rhodesian Front won 75% of the White vote and all 50 White-reserved seats, the moderate Rhodesia party took 19% of the White vote, and a group of hard-line independents who claimed that Smith was selling out White interests took 6%. Bishop Muzorewa criticised the sweeping victory: “The White electorate is possessed of a demon of fear. They have voted for speeding up a confrontation of races. They have voted for more years of sanctions, isolation and pseudo-independence.”

2nd June 1979
Rhodesia formally declared an end to White rule and changed its name to Zimbabwe.

2nd June 2009
Robert Mugabe’s thugs chant: ‘We will eat your children’ (via Sarah, Maid of Albion)

Well, whaddayaknow, the race-realists excoriated by Bishop Muzorewa were proved right. I’m amazed.


From Africa scholar Ronald Oliver’s classic history ‘Africa Since 1800’:



From about 1974, guerrilla activities were conducted by armies which were distinct from the political parties which formally controlled them – ZAPU’s Zimbabwe Independence People’s Army (ZIPRA) and ZANU’s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). In 1975, Robert Mugabe left Rhodesia for Mozambique, where he played an important part in directing the war, working closely with President Machel. By 1976, guerrilla activities had escalated into outright war fought on a number of fronts and, by 1979, the nationalist forces had succeeded in penetrating deep into Rhodesia, almost as far as Salisbury itself. South Africa became increasingly concerned by the scale of the conflict and changed its policy from one of support for the white government into one designed to promote the emergence of a ‘friendly’ black government installed in an independent Zimbabwe. As early as 1974, the South African prime minister, Vorster, tried without success to negotiate with the nationalist leaders, and the next year he even joined forces with President Kaunda of Zambia to put pressure on the Rhodesians. In 1976, Ian Smith made one attempt to achieve an ‘internal settlement’ by holding talks with Joshua Nkomo: when they failed, Nkomo left Rhodesia for Zambia. Later that year, the American secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, visited southern Africa and, as part of a wider mission, met all the main actors in the Rhodesian drama. Astonishingly, he obtained Smith’s agreement in principle to settle for African majority rule within two years, but the only response of Nkomo and Mugabe was to escalate the fighting and to form a Patriotic Front to unite the efforts of ZAPU and ZANU. At length, in 1978, Smith concluded an internal settlement with the ‘moderate’ African element, led by Bishop Muzorewa, Sithole, and Chief Chirau, with whom he agreed to share power, pending one-man/one-vote elections in April 1979. By this time, the strains of the mounting struggle were clearly beginning to tell upon the European population. Whites were emigrating in significant numbers, even though compelled to leave most of their property behind them when they did so. Of those who remained, many were by now conscripted at least for part-time service in the defence forces. Despite strenuous attempts to Africanise the army, it became increasingly doubtful how wholeheartedly such forces would fight against their fellow countrymen in the guerrilla movements. And the Rhodesian economy showed signs of disintegrating under the burden of war.

Thus, when Bishop Muzorewa emerged victorious from the election of April 1979, it was apparent that, even though Rhodesia had taken the momentous step to a mainly black government, there would be no lasting peace and no international recognition until the nationalists in exile had been accommodated. Lord Carrington, who became British foreign secretary in May 1979, at once addressed himself to this problem. Essentially, it was a matter of persuading Muzorewa and his colleagues to submit themselves to a fresh election, to be held after a brief period of resumed British rule, during which the exiles would be permitted to return to the country and join fully in the election campaign. Equally, it was necessary to persuade the exiles to drop their military activities in favour of political action and to trust in the fair conduct of the election. Carrington’s initiative received much support at the routine meeting of Commonwealth prime ministers at Lusaka in August. Leaders of the front-line states joined in putting pressure on the various parties to attend a constitutional conference in London, which in the event dragged on from September until December. Just before Christmas, it was judged that sufficient mutual trust had been achieved for Lord Soames to be sent as governor, with wide powers but no force other than a contingent of military ‘monitors’ 1,400 strong, to supervise the reabsorption of some 25,000 guerrilla fighters and the conduct of the election which followed only two months later.

The result of the election of February 1980 was probably a surprise to all who took part in it. Of 100 seats in the new parliament, Muzorewa’s party won three and Sithole’s party none. Of the exiles, Joshua Nkomo’s party, which had enjoyed the hospitality of Zambia and the material support of the Soviet Union, won twenty seats, all in Matabeleland. The overwhelming victory, with fifty-seven seats, went to Robert Mugabe’s ZANU/PF, the party with a reputation for uncompromising Marxism, which had been hosted in exile by Machel of Mozambique. The remaining twenty seats were reserved for whites, and all went to the Rhodesian Front. If there was momentary dismay felt in western countries, this was certainly reciprocated in those of the Soviet bloc, whose satellites were not even invited to the independence celebrations which followed on 18 April. Meanwhile, Mugabe’s early speeches and public statements had been reminiscent of those of Jomo Kenyatta when he assumed power in the Kenya of 1963. Reconciliation was the keynote. Pragmatism rather than dogma was to be the guiding light. Black and white would walk into the future arm-in-arm and with full confidence.

Roland Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2005) pp 280-282.

3 comments:

Frank said...

"The remaining twenty seats were reserved for whites, and all went to the Rhodesian Front."

I wonder if it wasn't possible for Smith to insist on white rule rather than slowly moving towards black rule. Or maybe Rhodesia should have just joined SA when it had the chance.

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What Sam Francis would say on SA and Zimbabwe today?

SA is looking increasingly like Zimbabwe, and apartheid only ended in '94. The much lauded "Rainbow Republic" is now proving to be a huge failure. The apartheid breakup of SA would have achieved peace.

fellist said...

I don't think any individual White nation can stand alone Frank. It'll come to be all or none.

Anonymous said...

The craven stance of SA regarding Rhodesia looks so pathetic now..

Where did it get them? Nowhere. They still had to deal with sanctions and incursions themselves. And how much time did it buy them, ten more years and they were destroyed - betrayed. We can see now that they should have thrown in their lot 100% with Rhodesia.

I say this as a former liberal/student type who dutifully didnt buy South African products in the 80s. If I could go back to my younger self I would slap him hard and tell him to wake the fuck up!