Wednesday 21 November 2007

Between Smith and Mugabe - no difference

The bastion of white rule

The death of Ian Smith the last minority rule white leader of Rhodesia that then became Zimbabwe is a milestone in the history of that country.

It so happens that it is the regime of Ian Smith that appears to give Robert Mugabe the perverse legitimacy that allows him to be revered as a freedom-fighter, a part of history that is invalidated but current events in Zimbabwe.

I would not go into the history of Rhodesian independence or the liberation struggle, which is well documented in other places.

We know that Ian Smith never believed in black majority rule, but the state of affairs in Zimbabwe today leaves us almost in acquiescence with that view.

White achievement and black squander

In his words, “We have never had such chaos and corruption in our country, what Zimbabweans are looking for is a bit of ordinary honesty and straightforwardness.” And that was in 2000.

Whilst many would see his time as one of the worst in racial oppression, he also said, “We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people than any other country on the African continent; that was what Rhodesians did. I wonder if we shouldn't be given credit for doing that.”

I do not see Robert Mugabe - The Grand Despot of Africa - being able to boast in that manner and really there are very few African leaders that have measured up to the quality of leadership, organisation and governance of the worst of the people they replaced.

In the end, the Zimbabwean state apparatus has nothing good to say about Ian Smith and we have the Information minister saying he was a man who brought untold suffering to millions of Zimbabweans and bidding him “Good riddance”. As if the situation is any different now.

Smith and Mugabe no different

I cannot see how this is not also a prophecy that would read as contemporaneous at the demise of Robert Mugabe, because death somehow has a way of getting at men who believe themselves immortal and so, I view this other statement as poignant - Zimbabwe will remember Smith (Mugabe) for his unrepentant racist attitude and the killing of thousands of innocent people – This came from the state television.

There probably are more similarities between Smith and Mugabe including their dislike of meddling Britain and their radical racist rhetoric; apart from the war that pitched them against each other for independence, they have both lead their country into isolation but I do wonder if life was not better for the blacks in one regime than the other.

No words said against Ian Smith today seem to sound any different from what we should all expect to be said of Robert Mugabe when he departs this mortal coil – they both destroyed their fatherland in the pursuit of a vision that was both evil and unsustainable.

I wait for the day when this chapter of developing history would be closed forever and the people of either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe shall be free to determine for themselves the real course of what should be a prosperous future.

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