Over the last couple of days I have been helping a friend who is writing a biography for her sister. This has meant doing a lot of reading from a variety of sources of different perspectives on the brief history of the country once called Rhodesia. The reason is quite simple, my friend's father was probably the first clear victim of the terror campaign and her mother and youngest sister, then aged 4, were in the vehicle when it happened.
What I have found fascinating about the documents and different perspectives I've read on the history of the country, the events leading up to the Unilateral Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Bush War, Lancaster House Agreement and the handover to the best worst candidate who has done exactly what the much maligned white "settlers" were afraid would happen, has been enlightening to say the least. As one political commentator put, Ian Smith was not as cynical as those on the British side. He believed that an agreement had to be honoured, whereas the people he was dealing with would offer and agree anything - then calmly deny everything and tear the heart out of their discussions as soon as they faced a different audience.
What also became very clear as I read - and I was reading accounts from both sides of the fence - was that the British negotiators didn't give a brass farthing about the legitimate fears and concerns of the "settlers" (most of them second or third generation), had no intention of offering them any kind of lifeline and saw them merely as a nuisance to be thrown to the lions of political expediency as quickly as possible. This certainly becomes very clear as the media propaganda campaign wound itself into high gear and reads emotive words like "treason," "rebellion" and "illegal government" or, best of all, "corrupt kangaroo courts" as a description of the murder trial proceedings involving my friend's father's murderers. What became very clear was that the UK regarded the white population in Rhodesia (and this carried over against the white South African population) as a small handful of rich, parasitic individuals who had stolen the land, the infrastructures and even the cities from the poor downtrodden indigenous population.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The first white settlers entered the country that became Rhodesia in the 1880s and found - by the British government's own estimates - a few hundred thousand people, members of warring tribes. The British South Africa Company, chartered by Westminster to settle and develop the land, found itself with a major problem right from the start. The Matabele, a break away of the Zulu nation in South Africa, had arrived barely a decade before the BSAC and immediately set about subjugating the indigenous Shona. The first task the Company had to tackle was to bring peace to the tribes. That uncovered another problem - a thriving slave trade with the Arab held ports in Tanganyika and Kenya. It took 10 years and Regular Troops from Britain and India to eventually suppress this ghastly trade and put an end to the genocidal wars between the tribes. The Royal Navy even had to send three small gunboats overland to patrol the waters of Lake Nyasa and keep the peace.
In 1896 a Lord Carrington drew up the original documents dividing the land between the tribes and the settlers and drawing the boundaries for what would become the colonies of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). One of the ironies of the tragedy that unfolded between 1960 and 1974 is that it was another Lord Carrington that paved the way for the psychopath Mugabe to take control of the country. It is another common fallacy to state that the black population were , as in South Africa, excluded from the ballot box. They were not, but ZANU, ZAPU, the ANC and the "Patriotic Front" enforced a boycott of every plebicite the government held and promoted the idea that they could not take part as this would "legitimise" the "regime." The truth, again. is even more complex. They were not interested in any compromise, or in any settlement which protected the rights of the white minority to security, property ownership or citizenship. For them it was everything or nothing. No compromise, no accommodation - hand it all over and get out.
My friend's family became the first casualties in the political game played out over the trial of the murderers. In the UK Press they were portrayed as abusive farmers and it was even suggested that the victim had beaten and evicted people from "their" land to "steal" it and add it to his farm. These lies have never been withdrawn. The Crown even "pardoned" the murderers (The Rhodesians ignored it and hung them anyway.), but at no time was any expression of sympathy, regret or condolence offered to the family.
What no one on the anti-Rhodesia side has ever acknowledged or addressed is what did they think the white population, admittedly a minority, a mere 250,000 individuals in a population of 3 million would do or where would they go? Remember, they were there because the forefathers of those in Westminster and Whitehall saw a chance to make money out of them and the land.
It does strike me that there is a very similar campaign being waged quietly against Israel. Poisonous reporting in the UK media is driving some serious anti-Jewish feeling. Every dead Palestinian terrorist brings forth masses of column inches and hours of coverage on television - but the daily bombardment of Israeli civilians is never mentioned - unless it happens to hit something they can't avoid reporting. The same thing went on against the Rhodesians. They were all painted as brutal killers, devious white supremacists and land grabbing thieves. Every time the "talks" they were enticed to collapsed, it was reported that they had refused to compromise. When you actually look at some of the real documents that are in the Public Records and available from a number of sources now, you quickly discover that the British Government was looking after its own interests very nicely, playing both sides off against the middle to keep the African members of the Commonwealth happy and the white Rhodesians made a convenient whipping boy. A classic example was a new Constitution for the country which would have increased Black representation in the legislature and received the approval of the populace in a referendum. When it reached Westminster, instead of accepting and approving it - Westminster altered it, entirely without consultation with the people it affected.
The truth is that Westminster never has liked dealing with people who want a say in how they are governed. The same pattern can be found in their dealings with the American colonies in 1776, in Ireland in the 19th Century and early 20th, in Israel and India in 1945 - 47. Promise things they know they can't or won't deliver, place a "final solution" on the table with a take it or leave it and then walk away leaving a trail of victims they've demonised and pilloried behind them. Only the Americans, the Indians and the Israelis seem to have succeeded in salvaging their countries from the potential wreck. The Rhodesians are and were the victims of the forces of demographics, changing ideologies in the corridors of power and the "new morality" of those whose wealth was built out of the labour and efforts of those they shipped off to the colonies in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Like the 6 million white South Africans now, they are the casualties in the philosophy that drives our political masters - "Some must always lose out so that others can benefit." Funny how its never those who utter this who are among the losers.
There does seem to be a bit of irony in the fact that the same activist groups who campaigned to have the white minority in Rhodesia and South Africa thrown to the lions, now campaign tirelessly to protect any and every "minority" - except any white minority - from "oppression" or "persecution."
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