Jan Raath in Harare
President Mugabe unleashed a devastating new blow to Zimbabwe’s mortally
wounded economy yesterday, announcing a new law giving the state a controlling
stake in mines operating in the country. Under the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, the Government can take over 51
per cent of companies mining strategic fuels and minerals, taking 25 per cent
without paying. The balance of 26 per cent it needs for a majority shareholding will be paid
for, it said. However, the Bill brazenly asserts that payment will come from
dividends earned from the state’s shares in the companies it takes without
having to pay. It gives the state seven years in which to do it. The Bill justifies its seizure “in virtue (sic) of its original ownership of
all useful minerals in its subsoil”. Companies mining other minerals will be
taken over by indigenous Zimbabweans. The method of payment is not specified.
Much of Zimbabwe’s mining industry has been wrecked by Government
interference but the ripe plum remaining is the fast-growing multibillion-dollar
platinum industry. The largest company with such interests is Zimplats, the
local subsidiary of South Africa’s Impala Platinum, which is the world’s
second-biggest producer of the precious metal. Already producing $10 billion (£5 billion) of platinum a year, Zimplats is
carrying out a billion-dollar expansion programme to double its output and make
the mine one of the world’s biggest. It is by far the biggest foreign investment
in Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980. Also in the Government’s
sights is the London-based Rio Tinto’s Murowa diamond mine, which has cost $78
million to set up and is on the verge of starting a $270 million expansion. No comment was available from either of the two companies. The Zimbabwe
Chamber of Mines said that it was studying the Bill. Doug Ver-den, a spokesman,
said: “It doesn’t look good.” The proposals are regarded by economists as the logical extension of the
lawless invasions of white-owned farms that began in 2000 and set off the
decline of one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. “The Government is invading the property rights of the mining companies,”
John Robertson, an economic commentator, said. “It's political patronage. The
dividends will go to the select few as a reward for service to the ruling party.
It is shallow and damaging in the extreme.” The Bill specifies that any company showing “wilful noncompliance” in
surrendering its shares will have its mining licence cancelled. Any future
mining investments will be required to give the controlling share to the
Government or black Zimbabweans. “It is going to put a stop to all new mining
development,” said Mr Robertson. Last month the Zimbabwe parliament passed a Bill to force foreign-owned
companies to sell 51 per cent of their shares to black Zimbabweans. Mr Mugabe
has yet to sign the Bill into law. Before the platinum company committed itself
to its investment the Government signed an agreement guaranteeing that the
venture would not be nationalised. November 21, 2007
President Mugabe unleashed a devastating new blow to Zimbabwe’s mortally wounded economy yesterday, announcing a new law giving the state a controlling stake in mines operating in the country.
Under the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, the Government can take over 51 per cent of companies mining strategic fuels and minerals, taking 25 per cent without paying.
The balance of 26 per cent it needs for a majority shareholding will be paid for, it said. However, the Bill brazenly asserts that payment will come from dividends earned from the state’s shares in the companies it takes without having to pay. It gives the state seven years in which to do it.
The Bill justifies its seizure “in virtue (sic) of its original ownership of all useful minerals in its subsoil”. Companies mining other minerals will be taken over by indigenous Zimbabweans. The method of payment is not specified.
Much of Zimbabwe’s mining industry has been wrecked by Government interference but the ripe plum remaining is the fast-growing multibillion-dollar platinum industry. The largest company with such interests is Zimplats, the local subsidiary of South Africa’s Impala Platinum, which is the world’s second-biggest producer of the precious metal.
Already producing $10 billion (£5 billion) of platinum a year, Zimplats is carrying out a billion-dollar expansion programme to double its output and make the mine one of the world’s biggest. It is by far the biggest foreign investment in Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980. Also in the Government’s sights is the London-based Rio Tinto’s Murowa diamond mine, which has cost $78 million to set up and is on the verge of starting a $270 million expansion.
No comment was available from either of the two companies. The Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines said that it was studying the Bill. Doug Ver-den, a spokesman, said: “It doesn’t look good.”
The proposals are regarded by economists as the logical extension of the lawless invasions of white-owned farms that began in 2000 and set off the decline of one of the most prosperous countries in Africa.
“The Government is invading the property rights of the mining companies,” John Robertson, an economic commentator, said. “It's political patronage. The dividends will go to the select few as a reward for service to the ruling party. It is shallow and damaging in the extreme.”
The Bill specifies that any company showing “wilful noncompliance” in surrendering its shares will have its mining licence cancelled. Any future mining investments will be required to give the controlling share to the Government or black Zimbabweans. “It is going to put a stop to all new mining development,” said Mr Robertson.
Last month the Zimbabwe parliament passed a Bill to force foreign-owned companies to sell 51 per cent of their shares to black Zimbabweans. Mr Mugabe has yet to sign the Bill into law. Before the platinum company committed itself to its investment the Government signed an agreement guaranteeing that the venture would not be nationalised.
by Farisai Gonye Wednesday 21 November 2007
HARARE - Zimbabwean police on Tuesday said they have begun retraining
officers in public control and management ahead of elections next year but
denied hiring army instructors to help with weapons handling exercises.
The police, headed by President Robert Mugabe loyalists, has in the past
been accused by churches, local human rights groups and the African
Commission on Human and People's Rights of brutality against citizens and
targeting opposition supporters and government opponents for arrest.
Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka said the refresher courses were also for
police officers to "acquaint themselves with electoral conduct and voter
"There is no military involved. All our exercises are being conducted by
police trainers," said Mandipaka in reply to a question whether military
instructors were helping with the training exercises.
But sources, including some police officers, who have undergone the
refresher exercises said military and police instructors have run the
courses since they commenced on October 29.
"The military trainers took us through rigorous and intensive physical and
weapon handling drills," said an assistant inspector who is on the refresher
"There were also heavy doses of propaganda on how we should defend the
country's independence from hostile Western countries that are using local
opposition parties as fronts," he added.
Mugabe accuses the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party of being a stooge of Britain and the West, a charge the party denies.
Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party go into next year's joint presidential
and parliamentary elections deeply unpopular with voters because of acute
food shortages and skyrocketing inflation that have characterised Zimbabwe's
eight year economic recession.
However, analysts say Mugabe and his party, in power since 1980 are most
likely to win chiefly because the MDC is too weakened after the opposition
party split into two rival formations two years ago. - ZimOnline
by Thulani Munda Wednesday 21 November 2007
HARARE - Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono yesterday ruled
out an immediate intervention to avert the cash crisis gripping the nation.
Addressing the business community and the National Incomes and Pricing
Commission (NIPC), Gono said the monetary authorities will "watch and see".
"We will watch and see. It's not like we can't do anything. We can but we
need Zimbabweans to sober up," Gono said.
The central bank chief spoke as Zimbabweans spent long hours in bank queues
due to a crippling cash crisis being blamed on runaway inflation estimated
at more than 14 000 percent.
The shortages have worsened in the past week, forcing some financial
institutions to limit the amount of cash they give to depositors.
Some banks now limit the amount of cash depositors are allowed to withdraw
in order to accommodate more customers.
Financial institutions blame the shortages on inadequate allocations of cash
from the RBZ.
Some economic analysts had expected Gono to print more money to ease the
cash shortages, a development that would have triggered further increases in
prices of goods and services.
Yesterday's meeting sought to allay fears triggered by speculation that the
country could be headed for another government blitz on business activity.
The central bank chief said the meeting was part of efforts by the bank to
reassure the business community and the general public that all efforts "are
being taken to speedily promote the return to normalcy in terms of the
supply of goods and services."
He said the bank was doing its best to return the operating environment to
normalcy following damage to business caused by the controversial government
decision to order a 50 percent reduction in prices. - ZimOnline
by Own Correspondent Wednesday 21 November 2007
JOHANNESBURG - The Commonwealth says it has not completely shut the door on
Zimbabwe and welcomes current regional efforts to find a permanent solution
to Harare's political and economic crisis.
Speaking in Uganda ahead of the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting (CHOGM) starting on Friday in the East African country, Commonwealth
secretary-general Don McKinnon said the door would always remain open for
Zimbabwe to rejoin the organisation of former British colonies.
"The Commonwealth's door will always be open and welcoming to Zimbabwe's
return," McKinnon told members of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human
Rights Institutions on Tuesday.
President Robert Mugabe pulled his country out of the Commonwealth in
December 2003 in protest at the decision made at the organisation's Abuja
summit that year to maintain Zimbabwe's suspension indefinitely.
Zimbabwe had been suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 following an
election widely seen as flawed.
Its continued suspension caused a major split among Commonwealth leaders at
the Abuja summit, with South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia
extremely upset at the move.
The Commonwealth boss said the body continued to "encourage people-to-people
links" with Zimbabwe.
"Those links are very important. I certainly want the Commonwealth's
people-to-people links with Zimbabwe to continue," he said, adding that
engagement with Mugabe's government depended on the Harare authorities.
Zimbabwe's government has insisted it does not see value in belonging to the
Commonwealth and has rejected the counsel of many other international
bodies, preferring to stick to a small circle of selected friendly countries
such as China.
"I have to respect that decision even if I don't agree with it: that's their
sovereign right. What it means is that we leave our options open," the
Commonwealth chief said.
He welcomed the ongoing Southern African Development Community initiated
talks being spearheaded by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
"Commonwealth governments in the region are involved in that process, and
they wouldn't thank me if we did anything but support it," he said.
Meanwhile, delegates from Zimbabwean human rights organisations have
appealed to the Commonwealth to re-engage Zimbabwe in order to bring about
changes in the country.
The delegates who participated at the two-day Commonwealth Forum of National
Human Rights Institutions said the organisation should not turn its back on
Zimbabwe as this sends the wrong signal to potential dictators within the
grouping that withdrawal of membership grants them the liberty to violate
fundamental human rights with impunity.
The delegates asked the Commonwealth to lay down explicit and concise
benchmarks for the re-admission of Zimbabwe. - ZimOnline
by Patricia Mpofu Wednesday 21 November 2007
HARARE - Lawyers for Zimbabwe's banned Daily News newspaper have written to
the government's Media and Information Commission seeking guidance on how to
proceed with an application for a licence to publish.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu last week reconstituted the MIC and
tasked the body to review the ban imposed on the privately owned paper and
that was the largest circulating paper in the country when it was stopped
from publishing four years ago.
Mordecai Mhlangu, the lawyer for Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ)
that published the Daily News, told ZimOnline the company last Thursday
wrote to the MIC seeking guidance in view of the fact that the firm
submitted an application for a licence about two years ago which the
commission was yet to consider.
Mhlangu said: "The MIC already is in possession of a full application for a
licence by the ANZ submitted long ago. We wrote to the MIC seeking
clarification as to what additional requirements, if any, they need and when
exactly do they intend dealing with the matter."
ZimOnline was on Tuesday unable to get comment on the matter from the MIC.
The Daily News was banned in 2003 after the Supreme Court ruled it was
operating outside the law because it was not registered with the (MIC).
A tough government media law requires journalists and their companies to
register with the commission in order to operate in Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu has said he wants the matter of the Daily News resolved. But
journalists and political observers remain skeptical that the government
would allow the mass circulating paper it often accused of being a voice of
the opposition, months ahead of tricky presidential and parliamentary
elections next year.
The issue of media freedom is part of ongoing talks being mediated by South
Africa between Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. - ZimOnline
by Lizwe Sebatha Wednesday 21 November 2007
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis has driven more
than 30 percent of prospective students out of school, a students'
representative body claimed yesterday.
In a belated message commemorating the International Students Day, the
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) said "flagrant" violations of
academic rights by President Robert Mugabe's government have denied
prospective students the right to education.
ZINASU co-ordinator Washington Katema said this year's national
commemorations focused on the denial to a right to education of prospective
students in the country.
"Today, more than 31.5 percent of prospective students in Zimbabwe are
out of school as a direct result of Mr Robert Mugabe's misrule," said
It was not possible to verify the number of school-going students out
of school. No comment could be obtained from Higher and Tertiary Education
Minister Stan Mudenge.
The International Students Day is commemorated annually on 17 November
to mark the 1939 student unrests against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by
Germany, which resulted in the execution of nine student leaders.
The unrests led to the detention of over 1 200 students in
concentration camps and the closure of Czechoslovakian universities and
Challenges facing Zimbabwean students include ever-rising tuition
fees, shortages of learning material and an exodus of lecturers and
The challenges highlight an eight-year political and economic crisis
marked by world record inflation estimated at more than 14 000 percent and
harassment of student leaders perceived to be anti-government.
ZINASU has on numerous occasions led street protests against high
tuition fees that have forced many students out of school as most parents do
not afford them.
Zimbabwe's education system has taken a heavy battering since the late
1990s, largely due to under-funding and neglect by the government. -
by Nigel Hangarume Wednesday 21 November 2007
MASVINGO - A solidarity march to back President Robert Mugabe as ZANU PF's
candidate in next year's presidential election failed to take place in
Masvingo at the weekend after the party's provincial leadership refused to
In what sources said was a de facto boycott, several members of ZANU PF's
Masvingo provincial executive did not attend a meeting called by the party's
Women's League head Oppah Muchinguri to wring an endorsement of Mugabe's
ZANU PF's women's and youth wings have been drumming up support for Mugabe
by holding meetings and marches in all of Zimbabwe's provinces ahead of the
ruling party's extraordinary congress next month which the party's key
central committee says is being held to endorse Mugabe as presidential
But discontent has persisted among some top party leaders who feel the party
and country need a leadership renewal and had secretly pushed for Mugabe to
be replaced at the congress.
Muchinguri told ZANU PF women and youth leaders in Harare last week that the
marches were to quash "discord among some presidential candidates" unhappy
over Mugabe's continued stay at the helm.
However, Muchinguri and ZANU PF youth leader Absalom Sikhosana saw their
campaign facing a major glitch in Masvingo despite claims last week that the
province was solidly behind Mugabe.
Although the meeting went ahead without the senior politicians, Muchinguri
did not have it her way and the planned march failed to materialise, the
sources said. Muchinguri was accused of "hijacking" the province and of
commandeering the executive to convene a meeting without adequate notice,
"We felt Muchinguri had no right to chair a meeting in our province when we
were there," one of the sources, who is in the executive, said. "If she had
an issue, like organising the solidarity march which she wanted, she should
have made the proposal and left us to consider."
Masvingo provincial spokesman Kudzai Mbudzi confirmed the meeting had been
hastily arranged and that he was among those who had not attended. Mbudzi, a
former soldier, said the women and youth wings had not properly
"I did not attend the meeting but I hope all went well," Mbudzi said
yesterday. "I can't say anything about what happened because I'm in Harare.
"Maybe the lines of communication were not proper, which is why most of us
could not make it. We don't know who in the provincial executive Muchinguri
told about the meeting."
Muchinguri could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Zimbabwe's liberation war veterans have announced they will also hold a
"million man" march this month-end to back Mugabe's candidature.
The march is pencilled in to take place in Harare's high-density suburb of
Highfield, regarded as the bedrock of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. -
by Hendricks Chizhanje Wednesday 21 November 2007
HARARE - A Zimbabwe women's pressure group on Tuesday launched a
campaign to demand 50 percent representation in decision-making positions
ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), a group that promotes the
participation of women in politics, said although women constitute 52
percent of Zimbabwe's 12 million people, they are still not fully
represented in leadership positions in politics.
"While women constitute 52 percent of the electorate they continue to
play the role of the voter and not the candidate . . . The subdued voices
of women are evident in the legislature, judiciary and other national
processes," said WIPSU in a statement.
The pressure group said it was demanding that President Robert Mugabe's
government allocates 50 percent of positions in the executive, the cabinet,
the legislature, public service, the diplomatic missions, to women.
The pressure group said out of the 10 provincial governors in
Zimbabwe, only two, Angeline Masuku and Thokozile Mathuthu, were women.
WIPSU director Rutendo Hadebe told ZimOnline yesterday that the group
had already met the leadership of the various political parties in Zimbabwe
to lobby for quotas for women ahead of next year's elections.
"We are targeting the public offices and voters. We have already
targeted political parties. We intend to achieve 50 percent representation
(for women) at all decision-making levels," said Hadebe. - ZimOnline
By Patience Rusere
20 November 2007
Sources among civil society activists report that there is growing
discontentment with the leadership provided by opposition political leader
Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of the Movement for Democratic Change and head of
one of its two factions.
Tsvangirai has been put on the defensive in his own party by the extremely
negative response at the grass roots level to last month's dismissal of
Lucia Matibenga as the chairwoman of his opposition formation's women's
assembly and her replacement with Theresa Makone, wife of the faction's
director of elections, Ian Makone.
The MDC had already alienated some civic activists by voting with the ruling
ZANU-PF party in parliament in August to pass a constitutional amendment
that was hammered out in South African-mediated crisis negotiations. The
bill unpalatable to many in civil society because it made sweeping changes
in the electoral framework - among them letting parliament select a new
president if the incumbent were to retire or die.
In a Web article published by NewZimbabwe.com, National Constitutional
Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, a leading civil society voice, is quoted
as saying that Tsvangirai has "made so many mistakes" that he is unfit to
govern the country in the eventuality that a political transition should
take place in the country.
A source with the Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition told NewZimbabwe that Mr.
Tsvangirai does not seem to understand the requirements of a democratic
Civil society sources said such statements accurately reflect current
sentiment among civic groups, which are losing confidence in Tsvangirai.
Neither Madhuku nor any senior official in the Crisis Coalition could be
reached for confirmation.
But Zimbabwe National Students Union President Promise Mkwananzi, speaking
from the Netherlands, told reporter Patience Rusere that Madhuku's comments
mirror what many civic groups are thinking though most are not prepared to
say it openly.
Elsewhere, five female supporters of Matibenga said they were beaten up
Sunday outside the Tsvangirai faction's Harare headquarters and needed
medical attention. The five women are Staten Ndlovu - said to be four months
pregnant - Violet Tazvivinga, Judith Hwiri, Abigail Marongweza and Violet
They said they had demanded to see Tsvangirai when they were set upon by
young party members who blocked them from entering and physically assaulted
Violet Sanean gave reporter Patience Rusere an account of events Sunday.
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabweans endured hours in long queues at banks on Tuesday
as a cash shortage forced limits on withdrawals, with the country in the
midst of an economic crisis.
"Things have gotten worse since the weekend," said an official at a bank in
central Harare where a queue of waiting customers snaked outside the
Bankers blamed the shortages on a drastic cut in allocations from the
central bank, but central bank governor Gideon Gono denied the charge.
"We have pumped in a lot of money in the form of this support and that
support ... but you find the situation where there is no cash," Gono told a
"So we have taken the view that we will watch and see. It's not like we
can't do anything. We can, but surely to what extent. We need to sober up as
Banks were dispensing half the daily cash limits to customers.
"We have decided to limit withdrawals so that everybody at least gets some
money," one banker said.
Between May and September 2003, the country experienced critical cash
shortages that saw customers queuing for hours to withdraw their savings.
The southern African country is in the midst of an economic crisis,
characterised by the world's highest rate of inflation -- currently at
nearly 8,000 percent -- shortages of basic foodstuffs like sugar and cooking
oil, and mass unemployment.
Gono also spoke out against a crackdown in June against businesses accused
of profiteering, saying it hurt ordinary citizens when shops ran out of
"We don't want a return to the three-month period of madness between July
and September when the real casualty was the man on the street.
"We are living in a hyperinflationary environment and we urge stakeholders,
our politicians, to tell consumers the truth, that things cannot remain the
In June, the government ordered businesses to halve the prices of goods,
accusing them of fuelling inflation and working in conjunction with
President Robert Mugabe's foes in the West.
By Blessing Zulu
20 November 2007
Negotiations between Zimbabwe's ruling party and its opposition resumed in
Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, and sources informed on the talks said
the parties hoped to reach agreement in principle on all major agenda points
by early December.
Negotiators for the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and both
factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were under
pressure to wrap up the talks because ZANU-PF and the African National
Congress party of South African President Thabo Mbeki, talks mediator, both
have congresses in December.
Sources close to the talks said discussions Tuesday focused on Zimbabwe's
political climate in the approach to the elections slated for March 2008,
looking at political violence, Western sanctions and the politicization of
Sources in the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai said that if ZANU-PF
does not implement key agreements concerning the voters roll and reform of
the electoral commission, they will seriously consider boycotting next year's
International Crisis Group Senior Analyst Sydney Masamvu told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that President Mbeki is also
under pressure from the international community to produce a political
solution by December so that he can go to the European-African summit
opening in Lisbon Dec. 8 with something tangible.
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye
20 November 2007
The European Union will send an envoy to Zimbabwe ahead of the
European-African summit next month in Lisbon at which European ministers
have promised to deliver a "very firm and very clear" message to President
Portugal, which holds the EU presidency and is hosting the summit, is under
pressure to mollify European member states which opposed Mr. Mugabe's
participation in the summit but were overruled by the loose consensus among
European states that all African countries should be involved, and African
solidarity with Mr. Mugabe.
Britain was most staunchly opposed to Mr. Mugabe's participation, though
backed by Sweden and the Netherlands. Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared
that no senior official of his government would attend the summit if Mr.
Mugabe were present.
But a number of European nations nonetheless insisted Mr. Mugabe be
confronted with his record on human rights as well as the country's
ever-steeper decline, and put pressure on Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis
Amado at a top-level meeting Monday in Brussels to send an envoy to the
country and region to assess conditions.
In a statement issued following that meeting of the EU General Affairs and
External Relations Council, Amado said the EU will send a "very firm and
very clear message" to Mr. Mugabe about "the development of the situation in
Amado explained to reporters in Brussels why an envoy needs to be sent.
Editor Patrick Smith of the Africa Confidential newsletter in London said it
is clear that Portugal is under pressure to ensure the summit addresses the
By Carole Gombakomba
20 November 2007
The Zimbabwean Ministry of Health acknowledged to parliament that it is
concerned about the poor quality of the water that the Zimbabwe National
Water Authority is delivering to city residents since taking over urban
systems earlier this year.
Officials from the ministry told a meeting organized by the house committees
on health and local government that random analyses indicated a health risk
to the public.
ZINWA managers said the authority's financial problems have diminished its
ability to procure water purification chemicals. But they stopped short of
acknowledging that the water they provide to urban residents is unfit to
drink. However, authorities in large cities like Bulawayo have reported
widespread outbreaks of diarrheal disease.
Members of the public attending the hearing complained about the poor
service they say ZINWA has provided since taking over water systems in
cities including Harare, Bulawayo, Marondera and Mutare under legislation
passed in 2006. Residents of various cities have also complained of massive
increases in water rates.
Critics of the legislation say the government of President Robert Mugabe
directed the takeover in order to take control of cash flows from urban
water rates, which were a major source of revenue for local authorities,
most controlled by the opposition.
Lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, chairman of the house committee on health, told
reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that parliament is
probing ZINWA operations, including questionable billing practices.
International Herald Tribune
By Alan Cowell Published: November 20, 2007
Ian Douglas Smith, the former prime minister of Britain's rebellious colony
of Rhodesia, who rose to power and slipped from it, committed to an
unshakable belief that Africa without whites would not work, died on
Tuesday. He was 88.
His death was reported by the BBC, but there were no immediate details on
Even when politically eclipsed, after Rhodesia became Zimbabwe with a black
majority government, Smith clung to the view that whites were still needed
to guide the new country's economy, help insure "good government" and
maintain "standards." And, a full quarter century after he relinquished
power following a guerrilla war that claimed 30,000 lives, most of them
black fighters and civilians, he showed no remorse or repentance for the
bloodshed that many ascribed to his opposition to black majority rule.
Indeed, as Zimbabwe slid into corruption and decline under the despotic
President Robert Mugabe, who took power in Zimbabwe's first elections before
independence in 1980, Smith sensed events had vindicated his long-running
refusal to dilute white dominance.
"I'm pleasantly surprised at the number of people who come to me and say:
when you were in the chair we thought you were too inflexible and unbending.
We now see that you were right," he said in an interview during a visit to
London in May 2004, at the age of 85.
Yet, for all he reviled Mugabe and his followers as "gangsters," after first
agreeing to cooperate with his country's new black rulers, he stayed put in
Harare, the capital, insisting that his descent from the first settlers who
arrived to colonize Rhodesia in the 1890s bound him to Zimbabwe.
Even after Mugabe ordered a massive and bloody campaign to strip the
country's white minority farmers like Smith of their land in the early
2000s, he kept on farming two estates in the center and south of the
"There have been five generations of my family here," he said in the
interview, recounting how his parents and grandparents were buried on one of
the farms at Shurugwi in central Zimbabwe. "That's our history and we are to
going to stay there. The only thing that could make me leave would be if I
believed I no longer had freedom of thought."
As he aged, he remained bitter that, in his view, successive outside powers
including the United States, South Africa and most of all Britain had broken
promises, betraying Rhodesia's white minority and its leaders in the name of
And to the last, he disparaged Mugabe and his allies for their determination
to remain in office despite international condemnation of despotic rule and
rigged elections. "They are not stupid, these blacks," Smith said in the
2004 interview. "Keeping themselves in power is what they are good at."
Throughout his life and particularly during the war years when his white-run
army fought an increasingly bloody insurgency mounted from neighboring
Zambia and Mozambique Smith evoked diametrically opposed responses.
To his followers, Smith embodied what they considered the quintessential
virtues of white Rhodesians: He was patriotic, resourceful and resilient, a
man without pretensions who showed a defiant readiness to play rough when
"An honest Rhodesian," a political poster proclaimed in 1964. "Trust Mr.
Smith. He will never hand over Rhodesia." The image and the message did not
fade over the years. When peace and majority rule came to his country in
1980, Smith was the only leading politician to oppose acceptance of a
negotiated Constitution that buried white supremacy, and Rhodesia, forever.
In the eyes of his opponents, his attributes were different. The labels
attached by black nationalists and other critics were obdurate,
intransigent, devious, racist, fascist and evil. Second only to the
apartheid rulers of South Africa, he became black Africa's symbol of
iniquitous white rule.
Smith's father, Douglas Smith, emigrated to the territory in 1898 from
Hamilton, Scotland, settling at a modest village called Selukwe as Shurugwi
was known under white rule - 200 miles southwest of Salisbury, now Harare.
The father experimented with gold-mining and cattle-farming. Eventually, he
established a butcher shop, renowned for its sausages.
Many of Ian Smith's followers could not lay claim to such "pioneer" lineage,
which, though brief in the gaze of history, was a totem of pedigree in
Rhodesia. Tens of thousands of his followers arrived in the colony after
World War II, leaving a depressed Britain to embrace a life of privilege,
and laying Smith open to the charge that his support lay among settlers of a
country that was not their own.
Smith was born on April 8, 1919, in Selukwe, where he later owned a
7,500-acre cattle spread. After his political fall in 1980, he spent much of
his time there. But, as he aged he spent more and more time in Harare,
particularly after black squatters occupied part of the farm in September
2001, under Mugabe's land expropriation campaign, and refused to leave.
A little-known political figure, who referred to himself as "a back-room
worker," Smith attained office as deputy prime minister in 1962, the year
his party, the Rhodesian Front, first won power. In 1964, a cabinet revolt
against his predecessor, Winston Field, gave Smith the job of prime
On Nov. 11, 1965, Smith announced in emotionless tones that Rhodesia had
unilaterally declared itself independent from Britain, rather than bow to
pressure from London for concessions toward the black majority. He ended his
broadcast proclamation of the rebellion with the words: "We have struck a
blow for the preservation of justice, civilization and Christianity and in
this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless
His black compatriots were aghast at his display of defiance, but their
resentments were countered by a state machinery that encompassed detention
without trial, an efficient secret police and, later, martial law in most of
the land. Condemnation of the rebellion heaped up. The United Nations
applied international sanctions intended to cut off Rhodesia from the rest
of the world in 1966. Smith was unrepentant. "No African rule in my
lifetime," he said. "The white man is master of Rhodesia. He has built it
and he intends to keep it." Later, in 1976, he declared that there would be
no majority rule, "not in a thousand years" in Rhodesia.
Smith's relations with the West - Britain in particular - were not improved
by the series of negotiations through which London, the lawful authority in
Rhodesia, sought to end the rebellion. Each round of discussions ended with
mutual accusations of deviousness and deceit. Each collapse of the
negotiating process bought Smith a little more time to extend minority
domination. Each time, black anger deepened.
For the black majority, the rebellion was the worst of affronts, an
institutionalized humiliation, and in December 1972 nationalist guerrillas
attacked a farm in northeastern Rhodesia with rockets, to start a war that
eventually took 30,000 lives.
Only in 1976, and under pressure exerted by Henry Kissinger through South
Africa, Smith's main ally, did the Rhodesian leader acknowledge the need for
majority rule. And even then, it was a grudging acceptance, which Smith was
slow to carry out.
On March 3, 1978, he signed an agreement called "the internal settlement"
with moderate black leaders who had pledged to eschew the violence of the
war. Under the arrangement, Smith agreed to step down, and handed over power
to Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who won elections in April 1979. The vote was
condemned by the guerrillas, who took no part in the process.
Their exiled leaders, Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, dismissed the settlement as a
ploy, since it enabled whites to retain control of the army, economy and
legislature. The agreement won no international recognition, and the war
In the fall of 1979, however, Britain presided over what was to be its final
conference on Rhodesia. Only Smith, a member of Bishop Muzorewa's
delegation, resisted the terms that led to British-supervised elections and
lawful independence the next spring. Mugabe came to power. The white
Rhodesians' rebellion had finally crumbled.
The Constitution drawn up at Lancaster House in London contained compromises
guaranteeing that whites would have 20 of the 100 seats in Parliament. The
Rhodesian Front, Smith's party, won them all in the first elections in 1980,
and despite wartime threats against his life, he stayed on, asserting that
it was in the interests of his white followers and at their behest that he
Initially, Smith and Mugabe cooperated with one another. After labelling
Mugabe a bloodthirsty terrorist, Smith described him in the early 1980s,
shortly after independence from Britain, as "a very pleasant change from
what most of us had expected."
But Smith never apologized for leading the country into war and never came
to terms with what he depicted as inevitable decline under black majority
"We gave Rhodesia 15 wonderful years extra," he said in an interview on his
farm at Shurugwi in 1983. If he had not declared unilateral independence in
1965, he said, "then this sort of scene would have come earlier. We gave the
country 15 exhilarating years. It was a privilege to make a stand against
Communism. We held the line back."
The final rift with Mugabe came in 1985 at the first post-independence
election when white voters showed a surprising degree of support for Smith,
giving him 15 of the 20 seats reserved for whites under the Lancaster House
Using language that provided a foretaste of the virulent criticism of white
attitudes that accompanied his land policies in the early 2000s, Mugabe said
the vote showed that "the enemy of yesterday is still today's enemy." From
then onwards, he shunned Smith. Two years later, Smith left Parliament,
claiming he had been forced out illegally by Mugabe.
While he played a modest, behind-the-scenes role in political life, Smith
never regained the prominence of his days as a rebel against the British
crown. He did not figure prominently when an opposition group, the Movement
for Democratic Change, began to challenge Mugabe in 2000. And when Smith
visited Britain in 2004, meeting with British Conservative legislators, his
stay went virtually unreported in British newspapers that once chronicled
his every move.
To the end, Smith insisted that his regime condemned in the outside world as
racist and unlawful had been beneficial to most of the country's people.
"There are millions of black people who say things were better when I was in
control," he said in an interview in 2004. "I have challenged Mugabe to walk
down the street with me and see who has most support. I have much better
relations with black people than he does."