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Rhodesia was 'successful' because essentially it was a province of SA

18 Mar 2019 at 09:26hrs | Views
This week, I am going to start by doing something that we journalists don't normally do. Often we think our duty is to criticise or point out wrongdoing but never to praise even when praise is due. But this week I want to express tons of gratitude to the authorities in Harare.

Two weeks ago, I highlighted in this column the plight of Wilmington Park and reported that some staff or contractors of the Harare City Council or National Parks rushed to Wilmington Park just before Christmas to cut some trees on the Mukuvisi Woodlands side of Paget Road and left two big logs blocking half of Paget road.

On 6 March, 6 days after the column was published, the authorities took action. A truck and some staff came by and removed the logs. My wife and I were returning home from town when we saw the log removal in progress. I took some photos from inside our car, one of which is published here with this piece.

The authorities deserve commendation for acting swiftly. We hope they will similarly act swiftly to repair the streets of Wilmington Park as they have become an eyesore and giving Harare a bad name. From dust you came, to dust you will return is supposed to be the refrain for human beings. But for streets? Come on, dear authorities, don't let the streets of Wilmington Park return to dust. Please do something before the dust completely takes over.

The photo published here shows the log removal at the Limpopo Road junction with Paget Road. You don't need to strain your eyes to see that this junction has already returned to dust. We await with keen interest the response of the authorities.

Remembering the linkages

Now to my main topic of the week: Last week this column ended where I was trying to show the "linkages" that existed between the USA and apartheid South Africa, and by extension SA's sister-nation (sorry province), Rhodesia. History shows that there was a lot of collaboration in various fields among South Africa, Rhodesia, USA, and Britain long before Zimbabwe gained independence.

So in the absence of hard evidence, I am at liberty to explore the circumstantial evidence. And here, dear reader, I invite you back to Ben Geer's question quoted in last week's column: "What were the Americans doing diverting a contingent of their soldiers en route from Vietnam to fight in Rhodesia? The American ex-serviceman who disclosed this to Geer said he was not aware of any further American involvement in Rhodesia. So how do we explain it?

Last week, I asked readers to remember the year 1976 because it is critical in the history of Rhodesia and its links with South Africa. If we are not able to crack the "links", we will not understand what Geer tried to put across in his 1997 book, "Something More Sinister". So I chose this week's headline deliberately: "Rhodesia was ‘successful' because essentially it was a province of South Africa."

Some Rhodies may take offence, but please hear it from Ian Smith himself before your blood pressure goes up. In his 1997 memoir, "The Great Betrayal", Smith tells how South Africa under Johannes Voster betrayed Rhodesia in 1976 by forcing him (Smith) to accept Henry Kissinger's proposals for black majority rule in Rhodesia.

Smith and a few of his cabinet colleagues were invited to Cape Town to meet Kissinger and Vorster to discuss the American proposals. Smith reports in Great Betrayal: "We talked over lunch, and the consensus was that the offer [Kissinger's proposals] seemed to be the least of the various evils facing us. Kissinger was right: The free world was weak and decadent, and on the retreat. We could get along without the rest, but without South Africa's assistance, there would be serious problems, and it had been made clear that there were a number of areas in which South Africa could turn the screws on us…"

Smith goes on: "After a while, Vorster asked us Rhodesians to join him and Hilgard Muller in one of the side rooms. Vorster said that it was necessary to inform us that his government had come to the conclusion that they were no longer able to go on supporting us financially and militarily. Vorster went on to say that he felt strongly the need for urgency and therefore we should make our decision, which would enable me to make public my acceptance that night.

"For a few moments, there was a stunned silence on our side, and then I expressed surprise at his suggestion in view of what I had explained earlier to Kissinger - the need to take my cabinet and caucus with me, and the requirement of a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without which the whole exercise would be abortive."

On Tuesday 21 September, Ian Smith met his cabinet back home in Salisbury for a whole morning and afternoon session, and later they went to Parliament to announce the cabinet decision. "Finally," he reports in his book, "with one exception, the caucus agreed with me and the cabinet decision. They accepted that we were confronted by the one country in the world [South Africa] which controlled our lifeline, and which had now issued an ultimatum leaving us no alternative.

"On Friday 24 September [1976], I therefore broadcast to the nation, giving them the sad news. During the following week, my office was inundated with messages of commiseration over the betrayal."

Confession by a province

So you have heard it for yourself. The man himself, Ian Douglas Smith, confessed that: "We [Rhodesia] could get along without the rest [of the world], but without South Africa's assistance, there would be serious problems, and it had been made clear that there were a number of areas in which South Africa could turn the screws on us… Vorster said that it was necessary to inform us that his government had come to the conclusion that they were no longer able to go on supporting us financially and militarily…"

Back home in Salisbury, Smith's cabinet and caucus "accepted that we were confronted by the one country in the world [South Africa] which controlled our lifeline, and which had now issued an ultimatum leaving us no alternative."

So if Rhodesia were "successful" as a sovereign nation in the sense that all of us understand, why would SA's withdrawal of financial and military assistance create "serious problems" in Rhodesia? Why would SA control Rhodesia's lifeline? And what constituted that lifeline? Why did Smith worry that Rhodesia could get along fine without the rest of the world, but "without South Africa's assistance, there would be serious problems"? Did you hear it: Rhodesia would be fine without the whole world, but not without SA! As Smith put it: "There were a number of areas in which South Africa could turn the screws on us."

In effect, Rhodesia's so-called "success" was a contrived one, wholly dependent on the largesse of SA. Without SA, Rhodesia would not have been the "country" that thumped its chest across the world. That is the linkage I am trying to probe, and the deadly consequences it gave birth to.

Today, millions of people inside and outside Zimbabwe are not able to get a perspective on matters Zimbabwean, either because they suffer from collective amnesia or collective mischief. They think that Zimbabwe under the leadership of black Africans have failed because, unlike the white rulers of Rhodesia, the black Africans are just bad managers of the country.

But that is a fallacy. As Ian Smith acknowledges, Rhodesia survived as a country, including UN sanctions, because Big Brother SA acted as its World Bank. SA was there to support Rhodesia financially, militarily, politically, economically, socially, etc. SA even offered to be the sanctions buster for Rhodesia, including rebranding Rhodesian manufactures as made-in-South-Africa goods and selling them on to the world.

Any nation will be "successful" if there is a big brother superintending over its affairs and putting money in its treasury when it needs it and even when it doesn't need it? In addition, other white governments in the region (principally the Portuguese in Mozambique and Angola) were also keen to help Rhodesia succeed.

The black man's burden

Fast forward to post-independence. SA's relationship with Zimbabwe has totally changed. Though SA is still Zimbabwe's largest trading partner, the Big Brother relationship where SA bankrolled Rhodesia and further gave it military, political, economic and other assistance is gone forever. Black people are not kind to themselves. They can forgive white colonialists for killing black people, but they cannot forgive themselves. So white SA helped white Rhodesia to "succeed", but black SA cannot help black Zimbabwe even if Zim is drowning. The fault is written in our stars.

Just consider this: It is said that in 2008 when Zim was considering replacing its hyper-inflation-eaten currency with a more durable one, a Zim delegation went to see their SA counterparts to explore the possibility of adopting the rand as a medium of exchange on this side of the Limpopo River. At the time, Tito Mboweni was the governor of the SA central bank.

Unimpeachable sources say Mboweni gave the Zim delegation such a hell that the Zimbabweans decided that Mboweni should go to hell first. That delegation, I hear, was led by a certain E.D. Mnangagwa. Today, Mboweni is back as SA's central bank governor, serving a second tour of duty. Can you see why E.D. Mnangagwa's government on this side of the Limpopo is not too keen to take up the many suggestions that Zim should join the rand union or adopt the rand as the sole medium of exchange?

But if Mboweni had been a white SA central bank governor in the days of Rhodesia, he would have readily given any assistance the Rhodesians asked for. The "link" between Salisbury and Pretoria/Cape Town was much direct. So it was easier for Ian Smith to run Rhodesia without much hassle. Big Brother SA was there to bankroll him and even correct him.

Not so Mugabe or Mnangagwa. There is no Big Brother SA treating Zim as its 10th province. That is the big difference between now and then, and why Zim has been treading water for nearly 20 years and SA looks on hands folded.

In fact, Zim was fortunate that its land reform started 6 months after Nelson Mandela had stepped down as president of South Africa and a pan-Africanist, Thabo Mbeki - God bless his large heart - had taken over. From what ensued, if Mandela had still been in office, Zim's land reform would have suffered serious damage as Mandela would not have provided the protection that Mbeki delivered to Zim, even though Mbeki was under severe pressure from the West to ditch Zim.

Thank God for Mbeki

But thank God for the life of Thabo Mbeki who understood the value of land to a dispossessed African. Mbeki stood resolutely behind Zim even when the West, knowing that SA was critical to Zim's survival, wanted Mbeki to do otherwise. But Mbeki's stock response was that Zim was not the 10th province of SA; Zim was a sovereign country, and therefore he couldn't interfere in Zim's internal affairs.

Mandela could not, and would not, have done that knowing it would affect his Western-imposed angel status. But Mbeki did it and suffered for it. His political career was partly cut short because of his stance on Zim.

Talking about Mandela, I am always reminded of 29 August 2007 - a day that will forever live in infamy. On that day Mandela allowed his hand to be twisted by Britain to criticise Mugabe in a damaging way in a major speech during the unveiling of Mandela's statue in Parliament Square in London. As I watched Mandela on TV succumb to the British intrigue, the respect I had for him evaporated. Mbeki did no such thing despite all the pressure and intrigues the West played on him.

This is where I think Zim sometimes doesn't do itself justice. Zim does sometimes forget its friends who stood with it in the heat of battle - and when sweet victory is won some of the critical friends are forgotten. Otherwise what can explain how no permanent public honour has been bestowed as yet on Mbeki by Harare when London was quick to do so for Mandela.

If London can build a statue for Mandela in Parliament Square in Westminster, why can't Harare build a statue for Mbeki in African Unity Square or name a street after him as was done to Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Sam Nujoma, and Kenneth Kaunda. If Churchill can have a street named after him in Harare, Mbeki deserves it even the more.

Many years ago, I was told by the Ghanaian ambassador then accredited to Zimbabwe of the huge effort he had to make to convince the Mugabe government to honour Ghana's first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, with a street name in Harare. Other African greats who helped the cause of Zim independence had been so honoured, but not Nkrumah. Yet the effort Nkrumah made towards the liberation of Zimbabwe was legendary. His fight in international forums for Zim (then called Southern Rhodesia) made him enemy number one of Rhodesia's white governments.

Apart from writing books to conscientise the world of the plight of Southern Rhodesia, and giving military training and substantial arms to the black nationalists in Rhodesia, in addition to providing educational places in Ghana at government expense for black Zimbabweans, Nkrumah also took the unprecedented step to break diplomatic relations with Britain in December 1965 when London refused to do anything to reverse Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of independence, which Nkrumah saw as "illegal".

I have gone to the British National Archives at Kew in London to see the Nkrumah files there. It is astonishing to see, in the exchange of correspondence between London and Accra, how a former colonial power could literally beg one of its former prime colonies not to sever diplomatic relations with London for fear that other countries would follow suit. This was at a time when Ghana's umbilical cord was still attached to Britain as the "Mother Country".

Yet Nkrumah was forgotten by Harare until the Ghanaian ambassador pushed from pillar to post to get a street named after Nkrumah in Harare, this illustrious son of Africa who did so much for Zimbabwean and African liberation. Don't forget the friends who stood with you, Zimbabwe.

Next week I shall continue to explore the "links" between Rhodesia and SA and how it impacted on the lives of black Zimbabweans.

Source - businesstimes
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