Proposals for a Settlement by A. J. A. Peck
Published by Three Sisters Books (1977)
IN 1977 at the height of the liberation struggle A J.A Peck, a Rhodesian penned the book Proposals for a Settlement.
It was during the time when the white government despite it becoming clear that it was losing power still held on.
And the author through his book tried to conjure up ways on how the Rhodesians and blacks could iron out differences.
As much as Peck wants to portray himself as the voice of reason, and speak on behalf of both the Rhodesians and blacks he fails.
The deep rooted arrogance is evident throughout the book.
Peck believes the Rhodesians are superior to blacks.
Peck seizes every opportunity to remind the reader how superior the Rhodesians were and how the future of the country would not be bright without the Rhodesians.
“The white people of Rhodesia are not ordinary white people,” he writes.
“Ever since the Rhodesia has been established a system of selective immigration has been followed, so that we can truthfully say that our white population is a cut above other white populations in the world.
“The white people of Rhodesia are the salt that has brought the ‘saltness’ of Western civilisation.”
Peck also showers praises on Ian Smith the man behind the suffering of the black people he claims to be speaking on behalf of.
“It would be ungracious not to pay tribute to Mr Ian Smith’s courage and his qualities of leadership that have to so great an extent kept the nation’s morale high,” he writes.
Ironically the author appreciates the fact that the Smith regime made a huge blunder in denying the blacks access to fertile land.
“The Land Tenure Act, for instance,” Peck writes.
“Did the RF leadership really think that even the most liberal African would ever be anything other than permanently outraged at being deprived of the right to own land in no less than one-third of the country of his birth and of his ancestors.”
True to the point noted by Peck the unfair distribution of land during the colonial era was one of the fundamental reasons that pushed thousands of sons and daughters of the soil to take up arms and rise up against white rule.
Indeed blacks felt cheated as they were forced to live in arid lands while prime land was shared among the few white farmers.
It is also the issue of the unfair distribution of land that pushed the black government in 2000, 20 years after independence embarked on the Land Reform Programme to redress the issue.
Prior to the Land Reform Programme only 4 000 white farmers occupied the country’s prime land.
However, as mentioned earlier Peck holds the thought that white Rhodesians were the drivers of the agriculture sector and white farmers should never be removed from the farms.
“I believe that the African peoples of Rhodesia will not be such fools as to attempt to drive away and to disposes the good farmer, or to create conditions under which he feels that he cannot remain here at all,” writes Peck.
“Kill the hen that lays the golden egg, drive away the good farmer, and Rhodesia will become just another poor country with its people starving and its leaders running to the rich countries of the world for handouts.”
The assumption by the writer that the country’s agriculture would not survive without the white commercial farmers has been proved wrong 37 years after the publishing of his book as black Zimbabweans are now in control.
Today more than 400 000 black households that benefitted under the Land Reform Programme have transformed the agriculture sector.
Through his proposals in the book Peck suggests that blacks should remain loyal to Rhodesians as they were more superior.
He encourages blacks to take pride in serving their ‘white masters.’
“You (blacks) have, already, the privilege of being possibly the best educated, best informed, best fed, best clothed, best housed and best paid people in Africa,” Peck writes.
The author discourages black people from retaliating against white rule and laws that seemed unjust as, “the police and the magistrates and judges and civil servants who administer those laws administer them to you as fairly and justly as they can”.
As much Peck wanted to stand out as the voice of reason, he fails and even the blacks were not convinced by his suggestions as they left them at a disadvantage.
It is for this reason that they did not stop the fight against the Smith regime, but carried it through till independence was attained.