A few weeks back, Jacqueline Zwambila – Zimbabwe’s envoy to Australia – was fingered for ‘wining and dining with white ex-Rhodesians.’ Chief accuser: ZANU-PF media. Let us not get sucked into ZANU-PF’s super storm of collective condemnation. Everyone born in Rhodesia before or at 12 midnight, 31 December 1979 is an ex-Rhodesian.
The ‘all ex-Rhodesians are evil’ syndrome is a ZANU-PF tactic of discrediting non-compliant white Zimbabwean citizens. I have no doubt that - second only to Apartheid South Africa - Rhodesia practised one of the harshest forms of colonial repression. The Southern African country produced its own genre of narcissist scoundrels – Ian Smith, General Peter Walls, Colonel Reid-Daly and P.K. van de Byl. Apart from racial segregation, Smith’s Rhodesia Front committed large-scale genocidal acts using Polish built T-55LD tanks, Canberra light bombers and Hawker fighter jets on refugees in Zambia and Mozambique. Wikipedia says there were 459 confirmed cases of anthrax poisoning in Rhodesia over the period 1959 to 1978 with over 10,000 people contracting anthrax between 1978 and 1980.
Surprisingly, ZANU-PF chooses to conveniently ignore the record of ‘good’ white ex-Rhodesians. Liberal Prime Minister Garfield Todd excelled in promoting ‘development’ of the Black community. He pushed a Bill allowing for multiracial trade unions, thereby undercutting the growing white nationalist influence in the workers movement. Lastly, in a bid to increase the number of Blacks eligible to vote from 2% to 16% of the electorate, he lowered property and education qualifications, although this was rejected by rightwing element. It is common knowledge how his daughter, Judith Todd, was forced into exile for her pro-black activism.
The list of ‘good ex-Rhodesians’ is endless: Alec Douglas-Home famous for his ‘six liberal principles’; Arthur Guy Clutton-Brock of Cold Comfort Farm; Trevor Huddleston; Fenner Brockway; Michael Scott and Mary Benson. Shona language expert George Fortune, social activist Eileen Sawyer and hundreds of high school heads at places like Goromonzi, Umzingwane, Fletcher, Tekwani and Kutama missions; heads of faculties at the University of Rhodesia and also principals at agricultural and teacher training colleges.
I get overwhelmed by a sense of ire when ZANU-PF ‘intellectuals' want to make us believe that only ‘white commercial farmers are ex-Rhodesians.'
Ironically, Zimbabwe has produced its own sizeable stock of post-Rhodesia lunatics – none of which are white, by the way. It is under the ‘black watch’ of President Robert Mugabe that 20 000 innocent Zimbabweans were murdered by his Fifth Brigade, not to mention massive de-industrialization, unemployment, large-scale starvation, hyper-inflation, homelessness and epidemics. The recalcitrant Ian Smith - in declaring UDI and committing the country’s resources to a huge military adventure – is no different from ZANU-PF cronies obsessed with militarization of state institutions. While Smith was paranoid about liberation ‘communists,’ Mugabe’s ‘high command’ is haunted by the phantom of ill-gotten wealth!
Says Vince Musewe: “This is a clear indication that ZANU-PF remains frozen in the past and refuses to acknowledge that the world has indeed moved on and that they must either move with it or be left behind.” I do not argue that the Rhodesian identity bestowed on me was acceptable, neither was I consulted to be labelled Zimbabwean. My point is that Zimbabwe has assumed pariah status but not all Zimbabweans – let alone ZANU-PF members - are ‘evil’.
Collective condemnation is unjustified. We may resent what some of the white ‘ex-Rhodesians’ did to us, but they were not all merchants of death. The trajectory of economic and academic supremacy black Zimbabwe inherited from white Rhodesia deserves accolades.
By Rejoice Ngwenya.
Director, Coalition for Market & Liberal Solutions (COMALISO)
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