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PAGE 6 POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 20, 2015 T ABOUT THIS with Daniel A. DiCenso IAN SMITH (April 8, 1919, Seluke, Rhodesia- November 20, 2007, Cape Although Great Britain sanctioned Ian Smith's Rhodesia, the USA continued to do business with the unrec- ognized country "It was Marxism I fought, not blacks. I have lived all my life among blacks. I know them. I respect them." With that quote in 1987, almost a decade af- ter he stepped down as Prime Minister of Rhodesia, andthe land he ruled was renamed to Zimbabwe, Ian Smith summed up his recollection of his time in office and the bloody Bush War that ravaged the country from 1965 to 1979 when he finally conceded to the Marxist gue- rillas, led by future president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, and turned the country over to majority rule. For many, this was the last step toward a new liberated Africa under black majority rule, and it was celebrated throughout the continent as well as the West, particularly in Great Britain. In the early 1960s, as the Empire began to crumble, many African nations earned their independence, some (like Kenya where the Mau Mau rose} after much violence and brutality. Under the leadership of Harold Wilson, .Great Britain began to concede to the new so-called "winds of change" blowing throughout Africa. By 1964, one of the last holdouts was South- ern Rhodesia. In the eyes of the newly elected Smith, a cattle farmer born to English settlers who had served the country during WWII in the Royal Air Force, majority rule was coming too fast, before the countries were ready. As chauvinistic as his idea may sound, it was not without precedent. For evi- dence, there were a number of surrounding countries with a newly-found independence that fell into the hands of dictators. One need look only to Uganda where Idi Amin began a reign of terror. Sekou Toure was ter- Was "Good Old Smithy Right"? rorizing Guinea, and Macias Nguema did his own number in Equatorial Guinea, massacring entire villages. Rhodesia would be no differ- ent, Smith concluded., Handing it over to majority rule, (basical- ly the Marxist guerilla fighters), would turn the country into a one-party dictatorship. Britain didn't see it that way and con- tinued to push for majority rule. Smith responded by unilaterally declaring independence from the Commonwealth in Novem- ber of 1965, a move Wilson de- clared illegal, hitting Rhodesia with full economic sanctions. But Smith stood firm and kept his nation going for over a de- cade. Trade with the USA and other nations ensured a steady economic flow in Rhodesia, but a bloody war was brewing. Two groups of Marxist rebels -- Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and Zimbabwe People's Revolution- ary Army, led by Mugabe's former ally turned rival Joshua Nkomo -- revolted against the Rhodesian government in a battle that would last more than fifteen years and take close to 20,000 lives, almost half of them civilians. Villages were raided and government build- ings attacked. Mugabe quickly rose through the ranks, earning a reputation as a tough cru- sader while leading his army, a reputation that was only strengthened while he served time in prison. Indeed, by the time the Bush War came to a close, Mugabe not only suc- ceeded in the signing of the Lancaster Agreement, but also in becoming president of the country that would be renamed Zimbabwe in 1982. Smith's unwillingness to com- promise has been blamed for the long duration of the war, and consequently the death toll, but he stood by his convictions. To further ensure the country not fall into a dictatorship, he enforced the voting rights which were open to all races. However, a certain level of education and qualified franchise was required. His reasoning was that villagers who were disad- vantaged either by education or economic standing could more easily be coerced or swayed by rebels and guerilla soldiers, giving the Liberation Army an easy way in. This applied to all Rhodesian citizens, but the reality is that those excluded were disproportionately black. Many had different standards of education, namely tribal over Western. Roughly seventy percent of the black popula- tion could not meet the voting standards, but Smith insisted in the importance of standards and resisting the rush toward majority rule. He also denied that it was racially motivated. "I think we should continue to strive for the best possi- ble government in Rhodesia, irrespective of the color of skin. We want the best government, not necessarily a black govern- ment, not necessarily a white government," he told a reporter in 1976. "Voting is exactly the same for the black man as it is for the white man. Black men can come into Parliament as can the white men. There is nothing in this country prevent- ing a black man from sitting in my chair provided he has the right ability. We have standards for black men and we have stan- dards for white men." When told that under the cur- rent requirements, there wasn't enough room for every black man to make it, Smith reminded the reporter that, "there isn't enough room for every white man either," but did concede that "there are certainly fewer of them [eligible black men] than there are white men." It seemed that a number of blacks were indeed in agreement with Smith's philosophies or at least willing to work with them (the Rhodesian Front, fighting the Liberation Army, was, eighty percent black). Ironically, one of his greatest defenders during the latter part of his leadership was Ernest Mtunzi, former UK representative of opposition leader Joshua Nkomo, who spoke highly of Smith. "Smith was misuttderstood in a lot of ways. He is an African, under- stands the African mentality. It wasn't his problem what hap- pened in Rhodesia. He came in 1965 after Winston Field, so he was along the system that had been created. If you look at the development of Rhodesia, Smith contributed enormously to that. 'It didn't only benefit the whites, it benefited the blacks." Mtunzi also said, "Smith was being realistic. If you give peo- ple something before they are ready, they are going to mess it up. And that has happened. If he had had the opportunity to work with the people and help bring them up, Zimbabwe would be a better place now. Smith did make it better dur- TownSouth Africa): ing his government. There is no reason why he could not do that if he had been allowed to go on." Indeed, Rhodesia's economy was doing really well under Smith, earning the country the title of "the breadbasket of Africa." It was, to be sure, an in- equitable system. The very fact that seventy percent of blacks did not meet the standards of qualified franchise speaks vol- umes in itself but, years later, many black Zimbabweans ad- mit to having had a better life under Ian Smith. Patrick Kombayi, a political figure in Zimbabwe recalled, "The roads that we are using to- day were all built by Smith. The entire infrastructure is Smith's. We never suffered the way we are suffering now because Smith took care of the economy that supported all people and they had enough to eat. When he left power the British pound was on a par with the Zimba= bwean dollar, but President Mugabe has killed all that." What ruined Smith was his infamous speech in which he asserted that "not in a thousand years" would he see Rhodesia give in to majority rule. His crit- ics still use that cherry-picked line as proof of his racially driven intentions, leaving out the context in which the quote was stated. Agree with his ideol- ogy or not, those words take on a different meaning in the con- text of the entire quote, which reads, "Let me say it again. I don't believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia -- not in a thousand years. I repeat that I believe in blacks and whites working together. If one day it is white and the next day it is black, I believe we have failed and it will be a disaster for Rhodesia." However, it cannot be denied that this quote was the final crippling blow. Under pressure from the United Nations, the USA was beginning to waver. Henry Kissinger was even sent on a special visit to try and convince him to give in. Smith finally resigned to international pressure when South Africa, Rhodesia's strongest ally, ended support. In 1979, Smith dissolved Par- liament and with a heavy heart signed the International Settle- ment. After a brief transitory period, Robe~ Mugabe became president of the country that would be renamed Zimbabwe within two years. At first, there was much hope for the future of Zimbabwe and Mugabe seemed like the sort of leader the new Africa needed. He promised reconciliatory re- gime with whites and would use the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 to buy back land from willing white sellers and redis- tribute it to the black majority. Smith himself was invited to stay on in Zimbabwean politics and the former prime minister even second-guessed his earlier skepticism about his former prisoner turned president. "Here's this chap, and he was speaking like a sophisticated, balanced, sensible man," Smith Smith's autobiography, in which he blames Great Brita/n for what transpired in what is now Zimbabwe. said of Mugabe. "I thought: if he practices what he preaches, then it will be fine. And for five or six months, it was fine." True enoflgh, almost immedi- ately after Mugabe was elected president in April of 1980, almost half of Rhodesia's white population left the country. It looked like an unfair prejudiced move, but many of the blacks who had backed Mugabe could soon attest to how right those who fled the country were in their suspicions. That, in fact, has been the irony of Mugabe's brutal and disastrous legacy, the black majority has suffered the most under him, and a lot more than they had under lan Smith. The first indication of Mugabe's murderous intentions was his conflict with former ally Joshua Nkomo, leader of the Zimbabwe African Pedple's Union which had now feuded with Mugabe's ZANU (Zimba- bwe African National Union). It started as a common politician squabble with Mugabe initially denying Nkomo the position of Minister of Defense, but the situation soon turned far ug- lier when ethnicities became a factor. Mugabe had a long animosity toward Nkomo's tribe, the Ndebele. By the late 80s, Mugabe's paranoia took over and he launched a mas- sive attack against the Ndebele people, sending combat troops into their village in Matabele- land and massacring civilians. Nkomo fled the country and found refuge in the UK, but close to 20,000 Ndebele were slaughtered. Mugabe's killing blow to Zim- babwe was his fast-track Land Reform initiative launched in 2000. For a decade, he abided to the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement and bought back what land he could from white farmers. By 1997, how- ever, he had grown impatient with how slow the program was moving and the number of farms still in white hands. He then simply ignored the terms and began taking the farms by force. Between 2000 and 2002, almost all of the country's white- owned farms were invaded, seized, and the whites chased (Continued on Page 15)