The Great Betrayal
[From Instauration June 1998]
When the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was declared in Rhodesia it was subverted and eventually brought down by the British government, acting in concert with black Marxists, Communist-backed terrorists, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and surprisingly the "Apartheid" South African government. Ian Smith who believed in a Great Britain that no longer existed, saw this and subsequent events as a great betrayal.
The tragedy that befell Rhodesia was partially the result of Ian Smith's initial uncritical trust in the promises and fairness of the British Government and its administrators. Smith described his and his nation's character in a few words that said everything:
"You Rhodesians are more British than the British." So often I heard that during the war years 1939-45. It was a comment which pleased Rhodesians. To think that we were not British would be ridiculous. After all, what is our history? Rhodes' dream of a British route from Cape to Cairo.
The disillusion that Rhodesians would later experience can only be compared to the sense of betrayal traditional Catholics felt after Vatican II, when they woke up to learn that their Holy Mother the Church was no longer what she had been for centuries. Catholics had not changed their beliefs, the Church had changed hers. Smith's mindset was formed by the greatness of the British Empire in its imperialistic heyday when half the globe was under British rule. It became his misfortune to have to deal with an England that had already, under Eden at Suez in 1956, proven that Britain could no longer call the tune on the international stage. The leaders in the homeland were now only capable of governing willing and compliant subjects not rebellious ones.
Abundantly aware of his Scots-British heritage, Ian Smith retained an idealized notion of what it meant to be British in developing Africa at the apogee of British Imperialism in the early 20th century. "The British Empire," Smith and others were convinced, "was the greatest force for good the world had ever known." A small island off the coast of Europe, this mighty political, economic and military atom had spread Western Christian civilization over half the globe, introducing standards of freedom, justice, education, health and hygiene that the natives had never dreamed of.
Britain's elite, led by such notables as Cecil Rhodes, Lord Milner, Arnold Toynbee and Baron Rothschild, had formed a secret society -- the Society of the Elect -- dedicated to bringing all of Africa under British rule. The axis around which everything would revolve was the planned Cape to Cairo railroad of which Rhodesia was the linchpin. Lord Milner expressed the most clearly the fervor and messianic devotion to the realization of the Society's goal of economic development in Africa:
I am a British nationalist. If I am also an imperialist, it is because the destiny of the English race has been to strike fresh roots in distant parts....My patriotism knows no geographical, but only racial limits, I am an imperialist and not a Little Englander, because I am a British Race Patriot....It is not the soil of England, dear as it is to me, which is essential to arouse my patriotism, but the speech, the tradition, the spiritual heritage, the principles, the aspirations of the British race....Our first great principle is "Follow the race." The British State must follow the race, must comprehend it wherever it settles in appreciable numbers as an independent community. If the swarms constantly being thrown off by the parent hive are lost to the State, the State is irreparably weakened. We cannot afford to part with so much of our best blood.
It was this British spirit that Ian Smith mistakenly believed still existed. But such visionaries were no more. Following two fratricidal wars, which Britain itself initiated by declaring war against Germany, a natural and willing ally, the flower of British manhood and its Empire were gone. Proud nationalism gave way to a pale internationalism. Ironically it was the same elitist Milner Group which, blinded by arrogance or hubris on a national scale, led the British into murderous conflicts and bankruptcy. Following these disasters it was Smith's misfortune to have to deal with politicians like Harold Wilson and R.A. Butler and the "lords of a lesser England": Carrington, Sandys, Home, Soames and Owen. As for the absence of great British statesmen in the Rhodesian affair, the historian Kenneth Young said it best: "The spirit and courage that made Britain great were not extinct; they had simply emigrated [or been killed in the World Wars]."
All of the European countries had lost their empires or were on the verge of losing them by the end of WWII. More recently even the U.S.S.R., heir to the Russian Empire, fragmented. Western Christian civilization, which Smith revered so much, was in rapid retreat.
Since Ian Smith and most of his early comrades were born and educated in Africa, they were deeply influenced by Cape society, which was still energetic and healthy. As members of the British Empire, gentlemen lived under an unwritten code of behavior: law and order in society; discipline in schools; never let your team down. In extremis it may even be necessary to die for your cause.
Smith himself attended South African schools and Rhodes University, where he took his degree in Commerce. He was an active sportsman: rugby in winter, cricket in summer and rowing whenever possible. Of simple origins, he lived by Juvenal's principle, mens sana in corpore sano, regrettably unaware of the corruption and venality of the members of the privileged classes with whom he would eventually have to deal.
When WWII erupted Smith immediately joined the British Air Force. He served first in the Middle East and eventually in Italy, where he fought bravely until he was shot down. Exhibiting the same grit and doggedness that his later contemporaries would have to contend with, he made his way back to the Allies and resumed his flying.
In August 1948, Smith made the career decisions that were to determine the course of his future life. He bought a farm, married and began his political career by becoming a member of the Rhodesian Parliament. At about this time Rhodesia was looking forward to dominion status.
Rhodesia had never been directly ruled by Whitehall. It was settled by pioneers from the Cape and governed under Roman-Dutch, not English law. Britain only assumed nominal control over Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company in 1923. The Rhodesians kept control of their internal affairs. Indeed, they had always enjoyed a kind of de facto independence, which, when the time was appropriate, they endeavored to make de jure.
In Smith's opinion a fatefully wrong decision concerning Rhodesia's future was made in 1922 when the Rhodesians rejected the offer of General Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa, to join the Union of South Africa as its fifth province. Had the Rhodesians elected to do so, Smith argues, the Boers would never have been able to take over the country. The Rhodesians would have been a part of a larger British-run South Africa, with greater economic opportunities and a greater British interest in supporting its African possessions. White immigration from Europe would have accelerated. Under British rule, tribal and racial differences could have been better managed.
A second fateful decision pertaining to Rhodesia's future, in Smith's view, was the establishment and subsequent disestablishment by the British of the Federation of Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia, eventually Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (later Zambia), and Nyasaland (later Malawi). When in 1962-63, Britain decided to grant Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia independence without proper consultations with Sir Roy Welensky, then head of the Federation, Southern Rhodesia was left in the awkward position of having only limited self-government. Welensky voiced his resentment of the British decicsion, referring to English deceit, duplicity and treachery, but to no avail. In response the Rhodesians took matters in their own hands, established a new party, the Rhodesian Front, and began the quest for full independence in earnest. After all, the British had through the years assured the Rhodesians of full independence one day. At the Victoria Falls Conference in June 1963 the British Minister for Central African Affairs, R.A. Butler, had been even more specific, telling the Rhodesian delegation: "I am in the pleasant position to be able to tell you that Her Majesty's Government has given the deepest consideration to your request that Southern Rhodesia will get independence no later than the other two territories."
When, some months later, South Rhodesian Prime Minister Winston Field, Ian Smith and Roy Welensky confronted British Prime Minister Alec Home about Rhodesia's independence, Home confessed that although he personally was in agreement with Rhodesia's right of full independence, he was fearful that the OAU, the Afro-Asian block in the Commonwealth, and the members of the Non-Aligned Movement (of which Marxist Robert Mugabe was then chairman) would object. In any case Home could not make a decision until after the impending election in which Harold Wilson was the Labour Party candidate. If he won, Home said, he would grant independence. If not, the issue would have to be taken up with the new government. (Why the honorable gentleman did not do this when he had the power has never been explained. After all, the OAU and the Afro-Asian bloc did not vote for British Prime Ministers.) Ominously, Home warned the Rhodesian delegation of the dangers in anny unilateral declaration of independence.
When socialist Harold Wilson took over as British Prime Minister from Home and the Rhodesian-born Smith succeeded Field as Rhodesian Prime Minister in April 1964, the hopes for Britian ever consenting to Rhodesia's independence were about nil. Increasingly, under the pressure of black nationalists like Nkomo and Sithole as well as the OAU and the UN, the British advocated more black representation in the new government, leaning to slogans like the one-man one-vote. Smith observed that, though it never works, it is a consistent ingratiating tactic of white liberals to acquiesce to almost all demands of black extremists.
Wilson once told Smith: "For you and me to come to an agreement is no problem. What we have to do is produce an agreement which I can sell to the rest of the world, and in particular the OAU." To which Smith commented: "That bunch of Communist dictators." Wilson's response: "You cannot divorce yourself from the world we live in."
The British wanted nothing to do with the decisions made at the long-established Indabas (congress of native chiefs and headmen of Rhodesia). The British preferred to defer precisely to the demands of those who had the least support of the native tribes and who were certain to wreck what was left of their Empire.
But now, for the first time, Whitehall had to deal with someone whose roots were not in Britain but in Africa. Smith and his fellow white Africans, with their realistic knowledge of Africa and its needs, favored a gradualist approach to increasing the number of blacks in high office. They were sincere in their approach and had already done much for black advancement. They knew that an immediate black nationalist takeover would be as disastrous as it had been in Ghana in 1957, Nigeria in 1960, the Belgian Congo in 1960, followed in quick succession in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda and Kenya. The story had always been the same: tribal violence and massacres, political opponents imprisoned, streams of dispossessed white refugees, rampant corruption and one-party dictatorship. Only Portugal and South Africa supported the Rhodesians in their gradualistic development of African leaders.
Smith quotes Nigerian Nobel Prize Laureate Wole Soyinka to make his point:
African dreams of peace and have been shattered by the greedy, corrupt and unscrupulous rule of African strongmen. The dream has evaporated because of the treachery and betrayal of leaders with their pursuit of power and wealth. One would be content with just a model cleaning up of the environment, development of opportunities, health services, education, eradication of poverty. But unfortunately even these model goals are thwarted by a power-crazed and rapacious leadership who can only obtain their egotistical goals by oppressing the rest of us.
Convinced finally that Wilson would never accede to Rhodesian independence, the Smith government on November 11, 1965, chose the dangerous route of Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The proclamation echoed the spirit and text of the American Declaration of Independence. It began:
Whereas in the course of human affairs history has shown that it may become necessary for a people to resolve the political affiliations which have connected them with another people and to assume among other nations the separate and equal status to which they are entitled....
Smith stressed his determination that there would be no diminution of African advancement and prosperity and that it was the whites' intention to bring the glacks into the government on a basis acceptable to them. He concluded his remarks:
To us has been given the privilege of being the first Western nation in the last two decades to have the determination and fortitude to say: "So far and no further." We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a role of worldwide significance. We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birthright....We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity -- and in the spirit of this belief we have thus assumed our sovereign independence.
The reference to Christianity must have galled the Communist bloc and even made the Anglo-American Establishment a little nervous.
Britain declared UDI illegal, demanded that voting rights ensure eventual rule of the country by the majority blacks, and called upon the UN to impose sanctions, including an embargo on oil shipments. Several diplomatic attempts were made by both sides to come to a settlement. The first was made in 1966 aboard HMS Tiger off Gibraltar, the second aboard HMS Fearless in 1968. Both attempts failed -- in Smith's opinion -- because Britain would not budge from its basic demand, namely, no independence before African majority rule. Smith decried Wilson's kowtowing to black nationalist and OAU demands as unrealistic, insisting instead on Rhodesia's successful gradualistic approach to the empowerment of the country's blacks. Finding Wilson's and his liberal associates' apparent guilt complex with regard to past British colonialism rather bizarre, Smith viewed colonialism positively as the spread of Western Christian civilization, with its commitment to education, health, justice and economic advancement into "darkest Africa," where there were no written languages, no medical facilities, no currency and where economics was still at the barter level.
The embargo was mostly overcome with the assistance of French, Japanese, Italians and other trading nations. When the U.S. cut off all shipments of transport, tractors, farming machinery and earth-moving equipment, other nations filled the gap. When the U.S. stopped importing and processing high-quality Rhodesian chrome, the U.S.S.R. sold the U.S. an inferior grade at twice the price. More threatening to the Rhodesians, however, was the increase in cross-border terrorist raids, especially from Zambia, aided by Britain. Perfidious Albion was showing its treacherous side.
Meanwhile the Rhodesians were hardening their position. A new constitution was being finalized that, among other things, would declare Rhodesia a republic. Representation in Parliament was to be proportional to income tax contributions, thereby preventing full black representation. Smith objected to this racial division, preferring a genuine meritocracy guaranteeing equal rights for all civilized persons. He was overruled on the grounds that it would take too long for the blacks to make any impact in Parliament. On March 1, 1970, the new constitution went into effect.
When the Conservatives won the British general election a few months later, with Edward Heath as Prime Minister and Alec Home as Foreign Secretary, hopes rose again for a settlement. By March 12, 1972, an agreement appeared to have been reached. The whites accepted it; the blacks did not.
All hopes for a Rhodesian settlement were dashed when the Portugese government was overthrown by a left-wing military coup on April 25, 1974, and South Africa was forced to provide more protection to its northwestern and northeastern frontiers against terrorist attacks originating in Mozambique and Angola. The new situation compelled the South African government, under Prime Minister Vorster, to institute a policy of detente with the black states to the north at the expense, of course, of Rhodesia. Through the years the Rhodesian and South African Security Forces had cooperated in confronting the terrorists. Even Vorster once said:
Sure we'll support you because the higher to the north we can hold the line against communism, the better. I think the Zambezi is a better line than the Limpopo, let's work together.
In Smith's opinion the reason for South Africa's turnabout was fear that its own apartheid policy was in jeopardy -- a policy, incidentally, Smith disagreed with because it alienated the races when they should be trying to get along with each other.
As the Rhodesians were soon to learn, the South African detente policy corresponded in large part to the British appeasement of the black extremists. The South Africans proceeded to abruptly withdraw their police detachments from Rhodesia and to release terrorist leaders from detention. In due course, under a South African initiative, arrangements were soon made for all contending parties and states, black and white, to meet in an attempt to resolve the Rhodesian problem at Victoria Falls Bridge in August, 1974. The talks collapsed and Rhodesia lost some of the gains of previous years.
The reason for the sudden shift in South African policy from support of Rhodesia to detente occurred at about the same time Smith was asked to attend vital talks in Pretoria with Vorster and Henry Kissinger, who had come with proposals of his own. America had become increasingly concerned about Communist inroads and successes in Africa and apparently concluded that the time was ripe to offer advice. Kissinger admitted right off that he had come on a sad mission, namely, to preside over the demise of Rhodesia. He argued, rightly as it turned out, that it would be better for Rhodesia to settle now because if Carter were to win the upcoming presidential election in the States it would be much more difficult. Moreover, Kissinger continued, the Western world, including the U.S., had become too soft and decadent to resist black pressure for long.
In effect, something like the British and black nationalist plan would have to be accepted immediately. Kissinger outlined the steps Smith would have to take or face complete isolation and defeat. The first step was to set up a council of state consisting of three whites and three blacks, with a white chairman. They would be given two years to work out a new constitution, which had to lead to majority rule. The plan had the backing of Kaunda and Nyerere, thus guaranteeing its acceptance. The free world would provide a trust fund of $2 billion to guarantee pensions and foreign exchange for those who wished to leave the country. When Smith said he would have to consult with his governmen and obtain a two-thirds vote in the Parliament for acceptance, both Vorster and Kissinger seemed surprised and annoyed.
The military authorities in both South Africa and Rhodesia balked. Their security forces had been doing very well against the terrorists. The Rhodesian Selous Scouts had just had their most successful cross-border raid into Mozambique, destroying a terrorist camp and killing 500 of the enemy with no casualties of their own. As for the South Africans, their forces had also become more aggressive. In a very successful incursion into Angola, their forces were within striking distance of Luanda only to have them recalled immediately on American instructions. Had the South Africans been permitted to take Luanda, Savimba would have become the popular leader with the support of the free world. The Russians and Cubans would have had to retire from the scene. But detente -- appeasement -- prevailed.
Within a very short time after the Kissinger visit, another conference was set up in Geneva in 1976 for all parties to discuss and hopefully agree to the U.S. plan. By that time, however, Jimmy Carter had been elected president. Kissinger was out and Cyrus Vance was in.The Labour Party was back in Britain. Immediately and not unexpectedly the British caved in to more demands of the black nationalists. When the exasperated Rhodesian delegation returned to Salisbury, Smith tried to explain to Ivor Richard, the British representative, that pandering to the arrogance and excesses of black extremists only encouraged them to make more outrageous demands. Conciliatory gestures and concessions were usually seen as weakness by peoples outside the Western Christian orbit.
Despairing of any settlement involving external countries and British advisors, Smith attempted an "internal settlement" with only black and white Rhodesians present. Learning about this, the British tried to set up their own conference in Malta to which they invited Nkomo and Mugabe, who were now operating outside Rhodesia as part of the "Patriotic Front." In March 1978, an "internal settlement" was signed in which Smith and three popular black leaders would share control of the government until power was transferred to the black majority. The agreement was rejected by guerrilla leaders.
In the country's first universal franchise election, April 1979, Bishop Muzorewa's United African National Council received majority control of the now black-dominated Parliament. In June 1979, however, the U.S. announced it would still not life sanctions, despite the fact that Vance and Andrew Young seemed satisfied with Rhodesia's progress. Kissinger's warning about the difficulties of dealing with President Carter proved true. Smith writes bluntly about the American president:
Carter's hypocrisy and rank dishonesty were unbelievable and unforgivable. . . .It was obvious to any thinking person that he had only one objective in mind: winning himself black votes in the coming presidential election.
Even though Bishop Muzorewa was officially head of the government of national unity, internal and cross-border terrorism, mostly originating and orchestrated from Mozambique by Robert Mugabe with Communist support, intensified. What disgusted Smith most of all was that the terrorists were also receiving moral support from Britain and the U.S.
Being inexperienced in African politics, Bishop Muzorewa all but disregarded the advice of Smith and fell for the guile of Lord Carrington. But with Smith removed and a more pliable Muzorewa in charge of Rhodesia, now becoming known as Zimbabwe, the British convened another meeting, the Lancaster House Conference, of all the aggrieved parties, including the external factions. The conference dragged on for months, with British diplomats usually reconciling differences in favor of Mugabe and Nkomo and away from Muzorewa. When Smith warned the British representatives that the way things were proceeding Rhodesia would wind up with a Mugabe government, the erudite Peter Carrington responded:
My dear Mr. Smith, I want to assure you that our whole strategy has been formulated to ensure that your prognosis will not eventuate. Quite the reverse. We have no doubt that your next government will be formed by a combination of
Muzorewa, Nkomo and Smith. Moreover, should your worst fears materialize with a victory for the external factions, the leader will not be Nkomo and not Mugabe. Even Nyerere has confirmed to us that all of them have accepted that Nkomo, as the first leader of African nationalism in Zimbabwe, will be the leader of the first government.
Mugabe, mostly through intimidation of the populace, which the British had promised they would not permit, won hands down. With the combined wisdom of Carrington, Jimmy Carter and Pik Botha, the dice were loaded against Rhodesia. Smith commented, "The Communists had been trying in vain to destroy Rhodesia. They have now succeeded."
Smith considered the failure of the British government to abide by the terms of the Lancaster House agreement (to protect voters against intimidation) as one of the most devious and dishonest actions in history. Smith could only blame Carrington's underhandedness, noting bitterly: "During my world of politics I have come into contact with my fair share of devious characters, but I regard Carrington as the most two-faced of them all." Smith could only smile when he heard Secretary of State Haig, in another context, refer to Carrington as "a duplicitous bastard."
Smith continued to represent the white community so stubbornly and so forthrightly in Zimbabwe as the head of the opposition that Mugabe eventually had him expelled from Parliament in 1986.
To Smith, the main villain responsible for the betrayal of Rhodesia was Britain. With an almost total ignorance of African realities and with an incomprehensible subservience to the OAU and the Afro-Asian block, Britain subverted a just and legitimate Rhodesian government in favor of a Marxist stooge. It seemed to Smith that Britain wanted nothing more than to rid itself of its African responsibilities at the expense of the resident whites who would be the ones to suffer the most by the sell-out.
The second villain, in Smith's view, was South Africa. Scrambling to salvage its own apartheid system, it helped serve up Rhodesia as a sacrificial lamb in a pathetic attempt to placate the blacks further up north.
It is sad, Smith notes, that the once highly respected British Commonwealth, which stood for the principles of democracy, justice, human rights and free enterprise, has become a total fraud. Today, the majority of African countries enjoying membership are either one-party or military dictatorships. Sad too, in Smith's eyes, is that even the Queen, for whom he had tremendous respect, can no longer speak her own words. She has now become the mouthpiece of British party politicians. Even if the government were to become Communist, Smith laments, she would have to utter their sentiments and platitudes.
The current state of affairs in Zimbabwe is fast approaching that which prevails in the perpetually benighted states to the north: high living for Mugabe's clique, creeping impoverishment, rampant bureaucracy, a bloated army, white emigration, budgetary problems, mounting debt, even food shortages. All of which incites racial hatred against whites and the confiscation of many white farms. From having been for many decades an asset to all Africans, black and white, Zimbabwe is today a deficit state requiring all manner of aid.
Nor are all of Mugabe's critics white. Early on in his administration, he used his North Korean-trained brigade to massacre thousands of Matabeles -- a major opposition tribe. Smith would not be surprised to see black tribal warfare break out at any time.
President Mugabe, having put Rhodesia on the international dole, now claims the West is trying to "recolonize" the country economically. He told a group of visiting Chinese: "As Third World countries, those who dominated us politically in the past now want to dominate us economically." If by "recolonization" Mugabe means better living conditions, better schools, better management, less corruption and less incompetence, then many black and white Africans would passionately favor "recolonization."
Smith believes more fervently thanever that the Rhodesian evolutionary, rather than the revolutionary, approach to black advancement is the only correct solution to the race problem. He rejects the claims that Rhodesia was ever racially biased against blacks:
[The] new constitution, far from trying to entrench our white people, did the reverse, and facilitated and encouraged the participation of our black people. The constitution was accepted by and carried the signatures of representatives of the British government, the Rhodesian government, and the black nationalist leaders. It enshrined the principle of "unimpeded progress to majority rule" and the British representatives involved in drawing up the constitution estimated that it would culminate in a black majority government within ten to fifteen years. If this is the manner in which white Rhodesians attempted to perpetuate their rule of the country, their incompetence, not to say stupidity, was most remarkable.
Characteristic of the good nature of the man, Ian Smith, the white African, concludes his reminiscences on a hopeful positive note, putting his confidence in a fellow African, Nelson Mandela, whom Smith calls Africa's first black statesman -- a man who thinks of the next generation rather than of the next election, as do most black African politicians. Pessimists will recall that Smith had hoped that Mugabe would cooperate with him. Alas, after a few years Rhodesia had become another one-party, dictator-for-life African state.
Sub-Saharan Africans, white and black alike, Smith believes, should look to the south with fresh eyes, to Nelson Mandela's new South Africa, and devote their energies to the development of an African Common Market as a powerhouse for all of Africa. Black Africans should also realize that the OAU is not really a black African organization. It is an Arab-dominated group, whose membership includes Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, and whose present chairman is an Arab. Not a single African attended its recent summit in Morocco. British subservience and American deference to the OAU probably has more to do with the 50 bloc votes that organization wields in the UN than for any genuine concern for black Sub-Saharan Africa.
In summary, the Anglo-American Establishment not only did not support Ian Smith's effort to establish an African state based on the principles of European Christian civilization in Rhodesia, it actually worked to destroy it.