Sunday, November 25, 2007

Zimbabwe's slide to horror, as Ian Smith dies

The latest movement by Mugabe's kleptocracy is nationalisation, without compensation, of the country's mines. According to The Times, the largest mining company, ironically, is Zimplats, a subsidiary of South Africa's Impala Platinum - reaping the rewards of the ANC government's appeasement and support for Mugabe. Also facing this hteft is Rio Tinto. Of course, the appropriate response by both should be to get their workers to install explosives in the mines and blow them up. Short of sending their own mercenaries in to defend their property against Mugabe's regime, there is no alternative.
Meanwhile, Rhodesia's last leader - Ian Smith, has died in Cape Town. Mugabe's regime loathed him, in fact back when Chris Laidlaw was being NZ's sycophant to the regime Mugabe expelled Smith from the Parliament at Harare. Smith is largely seen as an unrepentant racist, who wanted to move from Empire to white supremacist rule. Certainly the now infamous acronym UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) for Rhodesia was universally condemned. Smith saw the results of decolonisation in some parts of Africa, particularly Belgian Congo, and was less than impressed. There was a strong desire for Rhodesia to gain independence, peacefully, and to retain a political system based upon what was inherited from the UK.
However, internally it was divided. The black majority saw independence elsewhere and was agitating for majority rule, the white minority feared being overwhelmed. At the time the Rhodesian Parliament's franchise for voting was dependent on income and education, much of the black population did not qualify and of those who did, many boycotted as Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo's resistance movements called on them to do so. When Smith became PM in 1964, he threw much of the black resistance movement in prison - and the next year undertook UDI. The UN Security Council condemned it, and sanctions were imposed on the newly independent Rhodesia. Smith believed it was necessary to maintain stability and had the backing of white-run South Africa, and the fascist president of Portugal, Antonio Salazar. The UK tried over many years to negotiate a way forward for Rhodesia to have universal suffrage. However, as South Africa started a process of detente with black Africa, and Salazar died allowing Portugal to decolonise and move towards liberal democracy, Rhodesia became increasingly isolated. South Africa no longer assisted in the fight against the communist black rebel movement. In 1976, Henry Kissinger told him he had to allow for universal suffrage within two years.
Smith tried, valiantly, to save Rhodesia from what he saw, rightly, though few accepted it at the time, a bleak future of rule by communist autocrats. He negotiated with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a moderate black nationalist of the United African National Council (UANC) and ZANU, two black African parties that were not aligned with the Mugabe/Nkomo communist guerrila movement. The so called "Internal Settlement" was an attempt to achieve black majority rule peacefully. As a result, Rhodesia's first election under universal suffrage was held in 1979, with the UANC winning power. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
However, the "Internal Settlement" still maintained 28% of Parliament chosen for almost exclusively whites only seats, with continuity of the white dominated judiciary, civil service and armed forces. While there was a vision of a transition towards broader involvement at all levels, Mugabe and Nkomo continued to fight for a revolution. Nevertheless, the election which was held was deemed to be free and fair by international observers, with a 63% turnout.
In other words, despite calls for a boycott from ZANU-PF and ZAPU, the majority voted and a majority government emerged. However, it was damned by the UN and not recognised by the UK or the US administrations.
ZANU-PF (backed by China with North Korean support) and ZAPU (backed by the USSR and its satellites) had long been fighting a civil war against the Smith regime. They had strong backing from neighbouring Marxist dominated Zambia and Mozambique. This battle was bloody, with the communist militants engaging in activities such as shooting down an airliner then summarily executing the survivors. Bloody fighting continued on both sides, until both the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia government, ZANU-PF and ZAPU agreed to negotiate in what was known as the Lancaster conference.
The agreement was reached including much aid from British taxpayers and agreement to fund so-called land reform - or rather purchases of white owned farms to be redistributed. Mugabe, as head of ZANU(PF) became President, as Zimbabwe's freest elections ever were held in 1980, and his party came to power. He promised to maintain a private enterprise economy, but as time would tell, Mugabe was to start a slide downhill to tyranny. He talked openly of one-party rule, and Smith was ejected from Parliament when the remaining whites only seats were abolished, and as his criticisms of Mugabe's regime were tolerated less and less. The 1990 election spoke volumes, as opposition candidates were harassed, some murdered, and the President gained the right to appoint 30 MPs of his choosing. The 20,000 Ndebele massacred by Mugabe's 5th brigade in the 1980s should have warned others, but Ian Smith saw it as vindicating his opposition to black majority rule. In truth, it reflected the acceptance of the murderous thugs of ZANU-PF.
Ian Smith may seem vindicated today, he warned of Mugabe and he saw him as a "communist gangster", which he is. Mugabe seduced the international community enough in the early 80s to get power, and since then to be a more murderous, violent, corrupt and despicable leader than Smith ever was. Smith, at worst, was racist and failed to make early steps to move Rhodesia to a peaceful transition towards universal suffrage. The creation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia was too little too late, but had it happened ten years earlier it may have seen a united government able to fight the communist militants. Indeed, one can perhaps blame the Carter, Wilson and then early Thatcher administration for not sticking by it. However Ian Smith did not bulldoze people's homes while they were in them, he didn't massacre civilians in the street, and he didn't steal millions from the state to enrich himself and his cronies. He was no hero, but history should look fonder upon him than Mugabe - they were both authoritarians of their own kind, but only one destroyed an economy, engaged in indiscriminate murder on a wide scale and halved the life expectancy of the population. Smith's biggest mistake was seeing it being a fight of race, not one of ideology.
As the Times reports, more than a few Zimbabweans say it was better under Ian Smith, and I don't mean white ones.

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