Smith’s short 1 000 years of white rule


AFRICAN mythology of the local Zimbabwean people will forever be entrenched in the way they live.
When attending a social, traditional or religious function in any Zimbabwean village, one is struck by the correctness of the people’s behaviour.
It took many painful years for Zimbabweans to be where they are today, and they are enjoying the same life that their colonial masters lived 100 years back.
Yet the same whites want to turn back the hands of time.
One interesting fact was when the then Rhodesian Prime Minister, Ian Douglas Smith ‘prophesied’ that blacks would never rule in a thousand years.
A prophecy that was doomed because within a few 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 1 000-day transition to black administration, but one may ask that why was white rule drastically curtailed?
Was it just pressure from guerillas or the treachery of friends, particularly in South Africa?
To understand how Ian Smith’s prophecy was curtailed, we need to look at the First and Second Chimurenga and now the Third Chimurenga and 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 black compatriots, but also the bulk of world opinion.
On November 11 1965, Ian Smith spat against the wind of history.
He said white rule would last for a thousand years, but this prophecy was destined to be drowned in bloodshed, giving credence to Ambuya Nehanda’s prophecy.
In April 1979 white supremacy gave way to black majority.
At last, Rhodesia witnessed a one-man-one-vote election.
A thousand years had become a mere 14.
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.
While in essence Rhodesia’s political creed was a modern, albeit still muscular, version of the 19th century paternalism.
A Christian gloss was added.
Then the package was dressed with Churchill and the Battle of the Britain phrases.
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 from the liberation war and tennis not so enjoyable from a wheelchair.
Their false bravery enabled the long, stubborn and in the end a 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.
Others stayed because of gritty determination and some because their government imposed severe monetary restrictions on would-be emmigrants.
They became financial detainees.
Some are stalking our present Government for lawfully possessing land from them. Others are ambushing Zimbabwean properties in foreign lands.
Recently a group of 12 former white commercial farmers approached the European Court in Belgium to attach US$45 million worth of diamonds from Zimbabwe that were on auction.
While most liberation war movements like ZANU and ZAPU had visionary leadership, 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 Smith.
He kept on saying, “Everything I posses is in Rhodesia and I intend to remain here.”
However, an editorial in the Johannesburg Sunday Times of May 28 1978 was 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 enigima.
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.
Like white Victorians, white Rhodesians loved to commemorate everything with a monument.
The early pioneers conquered the land by force and defeated the indigenous people, and all their plaques and statues seemed to say, “We fought for this land, by God we’re going to keep it.”
This was a fierce kind of patriotism.
It was a love affair with a country – with rolling hills of Nyanga, the mysterious Balancing Rocks, the crystal-clear champaigne quality of the air and the invigorating climate, the sense of space and boundless opportunity, the purple jacarandas, the delicate fragrance of jasmine in the carefully tended suburban gardens and rugged wild smells of Africa, but not with its people.
White Rhodesians paid more attention to their roses, Currie Cup cricket, horses, dogs and the level of algae in their pools than to the black people whose land they shared in unequal proportions.
World hostility overwhelmed the white fortress in Rhodesia.
It compelled the stubborn white rulers to transform themselves into Zimbabweans in three years.
But that time was not enough to forge a multi-racial society in the country as evidenced by some remnants of the Rhodies who still believe life under smith was better.
They have been paid back in their own coin.
Rhodies failed to learn that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.


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