A magnanimous compromise for victors


THERE are some who mischievously want people to believe the 1979 negotiations at Lancaster House ended Ian Smith’s rebellion of November 11 1965 when, paradoxically, it is the very gun the settlers had used to defeat blacks in the First Chimurenga which brought the rebel leader to his knees.
The Lancaster House Conference provided a soft landing to Ian Smith and settler-rule at a time the Patriotic Front were on the verge of shooting their way into the then capital, Salisbury (Harare).
The Conference also came to the rescue of Britain by restoring to it the power to ‘decolonise’ after the Rhodesian rebels had rudely defied its authority.
And the composition of the teams to the talks represented an accurate picture of Zimbabwe nationalist politics to this day.
We had on one side Bishop Abel Muzorewa representing the kind of black leaders who had been moulded to think like the whites as envisaged by the 1961 Constitution.
As expected, Ian Smith was in his corner.
Today we have even more dangerous caricatures of Bishop Muzorewa’s mould in the shape of Morgan Tsvangirai and Evan Mawarire.
The 1961 document was very much like the proposed Home-Smith discriminatory proposals of 1971 which sought to see Africans disproportionately represented in a white dominated parliament.
The emphatic ‘no’ given to the Pearce Commission was an accurate reflection of the thinking of Africans.
This was in line with the philosophy of the Patriotic Front leaders who had been united by a common cause to dismantle the discriminatory institutions of racist settlers.
That is why Cdes Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, as leaders of the Patriotic Front, sat opposite Muzorewa and the Rhodesian chief rebel.
Obviously in the Patriotic Front leaders’ corner must have been the spirit of those who had been killed by the settlers during the First Chimurenga.
And of course the words of the revered spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda, who predicted ‘Mapfupa angu achamuka’, must have echoed in the ears of Nkomo and Mugabe as they sat at the Conference table.
Back home guns were blazing, this time in almost every corner of Zimbabwe including urban centres, Salisbury not exempted.
Not only were the settlers losing militarily, but also morally, for rebel Rhodesia was placed in the same category as apartheid South Africa.
Attempts to stop the armed struggle by faking majority rule through the creation of an ‘Internal Settlement’ with Bishop Muzorewa as the first black Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia were dismissed with the contempt they deserved.
Guns continued blazing and Muzorewa and Ndabaningi Sithole were exposed as hopeless liars.
The two had boasted they would easily persuade the ‘boys’ to lay down their arms.
Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who at one time looked like she would recognise Muzorewa after the sham ‘majority’ rule elections, changed her mind in Lusaka.
At the August Commonwealth meeting, she was told in no uncertain terms by Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere that they would continue arming and supporting the liberation struggle.
The so-called Iron Lady must have heard of the release of a 5 000-strong Maliza Maliza guerilla unit from Tanzania whose brief was to ‘finish up’ the struggle.
To Thatcher and the British, it would give some semblence of respect if the colonial power was to be seen to be in charge of a process that would transfer power to the majority blacks.
From facts on the ground it appears the cash-strapped Rhodesian war machine was on the verge of collapse as the united Patriotic Front’s juggernaut rolled on relentlessly.
As it turned out, the Lancaster House Conference turned out to be a magnanimous compromise for the victorious Patriotic Front.


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