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Joshua Nkomo named dogs after Ian Smith and his wife

by Staff reporter
01 Jul 2023 at 07:53hrs | Views
WHAT Ian Smith and his Rhodesian Government had not anticipated was the resilience of the country's nationalists.

They remained courageous and refused to regard the hardships and strenuous challenges they faced; always ready to be a sacrifice until the glorious day the Union Jack was lowered and the Zimbabwean flag went up amid raucous cheer.

The racist ideology such as the civilising mission and the doctrine that blacks were lesser people was at the core of the justification for colonisation, which the sons and daughters of the soil fought tooth and nail against.

White settlers believed in such theories of superiority which purported that whites were more advanced than blacks, who they believed were of low morality and incapable of controlling themselves.

This racist ideology was the basis for a series of discriminatory legislation such as the Sale of Liquor to Natives and Indians Regulations of 1898, which prohibited the sale of alcohol to black people in Southern Rhodesia as well as the Immorality and Indecency Suppression Act of 1903, which criminalised sexual acts between white women and black men.

Rhodesia was established under the sponsorship of Cecil John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company and he firmly believed in the White-Man's Burden idea of the duty of the Anglo-Saxon race to help "civilise" the "darker" corners of the world and regarded British imperialism as a positive force for this purpose.

The settlers that occupied Zimbabwe shared this view of the world and treated the indigenous black people as children that needed guidance, protection and civilisation.

Racial segregation permeated the colonial project at every level, whether it was in sports, hotel facilities, or the use of public conveniences and amenities.

But the rightful owners of the land would not sit back and watch while they were treated unfairly so the long and hard journey to liberate Zimbabwe began.

In his autobiography, The Story of My Life, the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo says Smith could not afford to kill them although he needed to halt their efforts to take back the country.

"Ian Smith's illegal government knew they could not break our spirit. They feared to kill us since that would alienate the few friends they had in the world. They wanted us and the cause we stood for, out of the way. So they shut us up to rot quietly in Camp 5 of the Gonakudzingwa protected area in Gonarezhou Game Reserve.

"There were four of us at the start; Joseph Msika, Lazarus Nkala, Stansilas Marembo and myself. About four months later, the guards discovered that Stansilas was missing; he had gone on a visit to Camp 2. The police, using tracker dogs, found him and he was taken away for detention at Gweru Prison. So the  three of us remaining were together for the next nine years," says Dr Nkomo.

He says the objective was to cut them off from the world.

"To make it forget us and us forget it. But that was not easy. The radios were our life line. One was built into the top of a little bedside medicine chest that I made myself during the relatively relaxed initial period of restriction — a little Sanyo, using the same batteries as my pocket torch, so that I could buy replacements without difficulty.

The other was hung on a pole fitted under the seat of our earth latrine and the guards never found it there," says Dr Nkomo.

The other camps remained in occupation, a couple of kilometres away in the forest, he says.

"The paths were patrolled not only by the usual wild beasts but also by our own fierce looking dogs. It was the dogs that enabled us to keep in touch with the other prisoners. Each camp put out food for the dogs at fixed but different times of the day so they made a regular circuit of the camps. We fixed up little pouches behind their collars, so messages passed from one camp to another.

"It was a tragedy for us when the police shot the dogs — but that was not because of the message system, which the guards never discovered. It was because of the names we had given the animals," says Dr Nkomo.

He continued: "There was Ian Smith, after the illegal prime minister, a female dog called Janet, after his wife, and an ugly beast called Van der Byl.

"A big fat dog we called Dupont, after the pompous man who became president of their illegal state — and there were others named after other ministers. When the police came round to inspect us, we would call ‘Smith, Smith' and the dog would come running up to be patted."

The late nationalist says the conditions in the camp were reasonably tolerable.

"The food was the sort of plain diet given to African farm workers — plenty of sadza and some of the sort of low-grade beef that they called ‘boys meat' because it was especially for black servants. In winter, the camp was cold and in summer the heat was frightful.

The shade trees had been cut down for a kilometre around the huts, for security, and the only shade was under our grass-roofed shelter. Few used to move around it as the sun shifted and hope for a breeze," says Dr Nkomo.

As the years went by, he says, some of the prisoners started to grow tense, fighting over some of the silliest things.

"Even the mildest people grew tense in prison. Another time, in the early darkness of a very hot night, we heard a loud noise of fighting from the nearest of the other camps. It went on for some time and then the sky lit up as the thatched roofs of the shelters caught fire. Then came the sound of gunfire and sudden silence.

The row died down as suddenly as it had started; perhaps the violence had done people good in some way. But the remarkable thing was the effect on the senior police officer in charge of the camps. I had seen him, of course, but only on routine business; we had never talked.

"This time he came to me and said; ‘I'm very sad today and I come to you today, Nkomo, as leader of these people. I am here guarding you not because it is a pleasure, but because it is my job. Many of us white people are carrying on with our jobs because we believe at the end of it all there will be peace in the country.

"We know that in the end you will succeed and you will run this country. But after the violence last night, I wonder whether after all this suffering you will be able to work together. If you can't work together, it is not just you the black people who will suffer. We whites too will suffer," says Dr Nkomo.

The late Father Zimbabwe says this showed that there were white men who understood why they were at the restriction camp.

"We were not just fighting against white people, or for our own black people, but because of our conviction that in the end, we would all have to live together in Zimbabwe," says Dr Nkomo.

Racism in colonial Zimbabwe was also informed by a sense of fear, given the fact that whites were grossly outnumbered in the country and they were always afraid of being overwhelmed by the black majority. This contributed to their determination to control black people and "keep them in their place".

Politically, blacks were excluded at every level and the Public Services Act of 1921 prohibited black people from employment in the civil service. Blacks were also largely disenfranchised through a series of qualifications.

The 1923 Constitution enforced income and property restrictions that were unattainable for the majority of blacks.

The decision by blacks living under the heavy-handed Ian Smith regime to join the protracted liberation struggle, culminated in the black majority rule on April 18, 1980.

"So the years passed. The three of us — Msika, Nkala and Nkomo — were truly isolated from the world in the heart of the game reserve. After the first seven years, we were allowed family visits lasting one hour every three months and that was our only outside contact.

"Listening to the radio was like looking through a telescope at a planet far beyond our reach," says Dr Nkomo.

Source - The Herald