‘Meet the Rhodesians’ …cartoons with false dream on white rule

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READING a satirical cartoon book by Rose Martin published by Bulawayo Books of Rhodesia 1974, titled Meet The Rhodesians, one has an illusion that Rhodies would forever rule this country as evidenced by the way blacks are portrayed as lesser beings in her cartoons.
She describes Rhodesian whites as superior beings together with their dogs, black nannies, gardeners’ and farms.
She says white Rhodesians are “law abiding, placid, sport loving, prolific, polite, well informed, energetic and optimistic.”
Ian Smith said that black rule would never in a thousand years come to Rhodesia.
Within a few short years he was proved wrong.
A black Bishop, Abel Muzorewa, had taken Ian Smith’s place.
A promise of a 1 000-year white rule became a 1000-day transition to black administration, but one may ask why black rule was drastically curtailed, was it just pressure from guerillas or the treachery of friends, particularly in South Africa.
To understand these factors, we need to look at the role African mythology played in the curtailing of white minority rule in Zimbabwe.
When Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were executed together with other first heroes of the First Chimurenga, she prophesied that her bones would ‘rise’ and lead the armed struggle against colonial rule.
True to her words, a bitter war was waged and the whites lost.
Rhodesia, it was often said, was a suburb masquerading as a country.
Yet the small white population of about 250 000 chose to defy not only the wishes of millions of their black compatriots, but also the bulk of world opinion, as portrayed by Rose’s cartoons.
On November 11 1965, Ian Smith spat against the wind of history when he ‘prophesied’ that white rule would last for a thousand years.
This ‘prophecy’ was destined to be drowned in bloodshed, giving credence to Mbuya Nehanda’s prophecy.
In April 1979 white supremacy gave way to black majority.
The election was not the end, but rather the beginning of white struggle for survival, as a bitter civil war raged, many whites regretted their revolt against majority rule.
One would also ask that if the ideological foundations of Rhodesia’s long defiance were so flimsy, how could she have survived such an intense battering .
Was it white greed?
No, the self protection of the three servants, two cars, one-swimming-pool way of life was the sufficient answer.
They displayed false bravery, but suffered appalling losses for such a small community.
Swimming pools were not so attractive for black young men sporting artificial limbs and tennis not so enjoyable from a wheelchair.
Their false bravery enabled the long, stubborn and in the end, hopeless war to continue.
Courage was not the sole prerogative of the whiteman for blacks fought with varlour on both sides of the conflict.
But most whites had the option to leave unlike their supposed counterparts on the Battle of Britain.
Some did leave.
There are those who are stalking our present Government, taking it to the SADC Tribunal Court for lawfully possessing land from them.
While most movements have a leader, was Rhodesian resistance inspired largely by Ian Smith?
Surprisingly, even after so much carnage and the advent of majority rule, the bulk of white Rhodesians were prepared to follow the lead of the visibly ageing Smith.
He kept on saying, “Everything I posses is in Rhodesia and I intend to remain here.”
Although Smith and his followers were allowed to stay in the new Zimbabwe, the question that remained on many politicians and academics was how could a ‘charismatic’ leader, without a single definable trace of charisma except determination, mesmerise so many whites into following him into such a dangerous cul-de-sac.
Ian Smith was no visionary, no demagogue and certainly no intellectual, but he was tough and stubborn.
As Andrew Young, the American Ambassador to the United Nations put it: “He is an intelligent ally –fighting politician, even he is not a man of culture.”
An editorial in the Johannesburg Sunday Times of May 28 1978 was even less kind.
“We suspect history will come to judge (Ian Smith) merely as an unsophisticated man from an unsophisticated country (Britain) – a man who simply lacked the vision that might have drawn Rhodesia along an entirely different path.”
In many ways, Rhodesia was unsophisticated and behind the times: In many ways it was a museum.
The failure to understand and adjust to change partly explains the Rhodesian enigma.
White Rhodesians could not and would not see beyond white supremacy: They never looked forward, but always backwards to the days of 1940 or to the old fashioned imperialism of Britain when it was Great Britain.
South Africa also influenced Rhodesian habits.
Much of the liberal tradition was borrowed from the Cape, the expatriate snobbery and paternalistic disdain of the ‘native’ was inherent from Natal and Rhodesian businessmen sometimes tried to emulate that sharp suits and equally sharp practices of the Johannesburgers.
Like white Victorians, white Rhodesians loved to commemorate everything with a monument.
The early pioneers conquered the land by force and defeated the indigenous Shona and Ndebele peoples, and all their plaques and statues seemed to say. “We fought for this land, by God, we’re going to keep it.”
White Rhodesians paid more attention to their roses, their Currie Cup cricket, their horses, their dogs and the level of algae in their pools than to the black people whose land they shared in unequal proportions.
On September 24 the Rhodesia premier made his famous ‘surrender speech’.
He accepted majority rule.
The 1 000-year-rule was dramatically curtailed: Instead the 1 000 years became a
1 000-day transition — from the September speech to the elections in April 1979.
These proved to be crucial days for Southern African countries.
Yet it was not an entirely inglorious surrender.
At the end of the majority rule elections, the Government arranged ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony for the foreign press and observers at the President’s residents.
They were to witness the old handing over to the new.
The bands played and marched in strict tempo — it was all discipline and boot polish:
A dignified resigned splendor.
The bugler sounded the farewell to white rule.
Ian Smith looked on.

1 COMMENT

  1. Yes ! Rhodesia ended. And the majority of whites left and What took their place was but a murderous , destructive , primitive regime that merely reinforced any racial prejudices that whites , anywhere in the world , may have had towards black people.

    Corruption , violence , genocide , complete incompetence. That was what replace white rule. White rule was replaced by a primitive society.

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