White Africans 

When my Great grandfather came out to South Africa in 1877 as a Baptist Pastor, I am sure he did not regard this as a long term move. A year later his wife joined him in the Eastern Cape and they never returned to their beloved Ireland.

Source: White Africans – The Zimbabwean

Eddie Cross

He became very much part of the life of South Africa where people of European extraction had lived for over 400 years. When he died and was buried in the Transvaal, he left behind a family who all went on to live and work in South Africa, my Grandfather going on to play a very significant role in the country, speaking Afrikaans like a native and a friend and colleague to many prominent South Africans in all spheres of life.

My father, started work in the Cape but when the Great Depression struck the country, he moved to Rhodesia in 1933 and remained here until he died. In fact, he never held any other passport than that of what was Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe. He never left Africa for any purpose. I was born in 1940 and have lived in Zimbabwe on a continuous basis ever since. All my education was here and my entire working life has been in Zimbabwe. We know no other home.

Yet when I was growing up, even though 95 per cent of the population was of a darker complexion and had a cultural background totally different from my own, to me the only truly indigenous people I knew were our domestic workers. Even then they were just shadows without personality or character – just servants who from the age of about 2 would call me Inkosaan and take orders from me. As a young white African I grew up in a segregated world with little or no contact with the majority population and certainly not at a personal level. When I married my wife at the age of 23, she, although totally raised in Africa, including Zambia, had never shaken hands with a black man.

It was only when I went to the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland that I encountered people of a different colour to myself who were my equals in every way. It was a shock but I quickly adjusted and made friends from all quarters of the country. It was an encounter with a young radical, who had just returned from Training in Algeria, that my transition was made complete. Through his eyes I saw the conditions under which the majority were living and understood the pain of second class citizenship and discrimination in every sphere of life. He became a Christian and I became a radical. Quite a swop.

The rest is history – struggle, conflict, international intervention and transition. We emerged out of this period as Zimbabwe with a new democratically elected Government where the local population of African extraction was, for the first time since 1890, in charge.

By this time the white populations of Kenya and other African States that had come to Independence from their former colonial masters, had shrunk to insignificant levels. The great majority of people with foreign passports and origin had returned to their home countries or migrated to countries where the majority of the population looked like them. In Zimbabwe this process was well underway by the time we came to Independence in 1980, it hesitated for a short while and then resumed. By 1990, less than third of the people of European extraction remained in the country.

In South Africa the situation was very different – there was a much larger population of people of so called “mixed race” and of European extraction. They had been there for nearly 600 years and were deeply entrenched. Half spoke an African language, Afrikaans, that is only spoken in South Africa and is a mix of many languages. Today, even 26 years after Mandela came to power, there are perhaps 5 million “white” people and even more people of mixed race.

We generally fall into two broad categories – those that remain because of ties to the land or assets and those who chose to remain. I fall into the latter and we as a family made that decision (it is a decision) in 1976 after our first family holiday to Europe where we found, to our surprise, that we were not at home there, we were strangers.

We are remnants of the colonial powers efforts to dominate and control and exploit for their own benefit, the resources of the new World. They ruthlessly carved up Africa and subjugated the people, bringing with them all sorts of things that were totally foreign to Africa. Education, health services, law, constitutional government, limited forms of democracy, Christianity, racial restrictions and exclusions, foreign languages, literature, modern arms and organisation. Suppressing the indigenous languages, cultures and religion and making all decisions – often with little or no consultation with the majority population. A sense of racial superiority and implied inferiority.

Now with Independence we had to face the reality that in African culture things are done differently, that we had failed in our most important responsibility – that of preparing the majority for their responsibilities when they came, as inevitably they would, to power. The result has been a total mess. We tend to forget that in many African countries the colonial powers left behind situations where only a handful had education and even fewer experience in how to run a modern economic system. They have had to gain those things by making mistakes – of which there have been many.

But gradually, actually the process is quite fast by historical standards, Africa is growing up and increasingly able to stand on its own in a very tough and competitive world. Africans have more confidence in themselves and are starting to take their place in the global economy as players.

But what of the White Africans? Actually we are anything but white – pink or brown would be more apt. We are still here and still a bit lost but finding our feet. Last night Janet Cawood died on her Ranch, Kleinbegin in the Beitbridge District. She and her husband Sam, settled in the District many years ago and were in every way outstanding examples of men and women who had made their homes here. Both spoke Venda fluently, both had families with deep roots in Africa going back hundreds of years, both loved their land and their country and its people. They were deeply respected by the local tribal leadership and played a key role in the general welfare of the Community. Building schools and clinics and providing care and services to all.

Many people of European extraction live like that and in no way can anyone argue that they are not Africans – they are and should recognised and treated as such. But we have much penance to pay for our past, but also should be recognised for what we achieved in such a short time. We have to accept we are a minority without power, only influence. We still have a role to play but we need to accept that we are no longer decision makers or in control. Like minorities anywhere in the world and throughout history, we have to look after ourselves and our families. If you cannot do that, you cannot live in Africa, if you can, we still have a life to live and the ability to contribute and in many ways we have a better quality of life here, than almost anywhere else in the world. Most of all, this is, in every way, home.


  • comment-avatar
    Makaranga 1 year ago

    This is fine – to look after yourself and your family – but this is now creating a New White African. A corrupt white Zanu African. This has undone the social fabric of the nation – where looking after yourself comes first with Zanu White Africans. The notion that corruption and playing lip service to Zanu Democracy as a White Zanu African is now good in the eyes of the world and the diaspora – means that this author is actually out of touch with reality. Eddie seems to think that taking over businesses for Zanu Cronies has not undermined the rule of law. The murder of 25 000 Matabeles and the destruction of 300 000 jobs in commercial agriculture is okay if it means “looking after yourself and your family?” Eddie needs to ask James Makamba how he feels about his son working for Zanu as a modern day Goebells – and where it got Zororo in the end. The list goes on – Mahachi, Ushewokunze, Border Gezi, Mujuru, Nyagumbo et al. That is no it mention all the other Zanu murders over the years – and even Eddie’s mate ED was poisoned in Gwanda! Eddie has written a piece that points to people attempting to ignore Zanu modus operandi or that we are just dumb idiots to believe his every word?

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    Charlie 1 year ago

    Oh Eddie, still harping on about’a quality of life better than many places in the world’! You need to get out more, NZ and Aussie have a hugely superior quality of life to the existence you call ‘living’ in Zimbabwe. If having a maid makes it superior, and I think you people think it does, then I’ll happily vacuum and clean my own home and live in paradise. NewZealand is safe, prosperous, free and there are beautiful beaches everywhere. The people are peaceful, kind and considerate. You don’t have to wake up every day to the racism, lack of discipline and infrastructure destruction of your ‘heaven on earth’ Zimbabwe. Mate it’s a desolate dump and a shadow of itself circa 1995. Either travel more or keep quiet ……it’s boring to the rest of us who lost everything!

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    anthony simmons 1 year ago

    Apologist. !!

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    Joe Cool 1 year ago

    Cross is the ultimate apologist and excels at ‘playing both ends towards the middle’. There is nothing stopping African governments from rejecting education, health services, law, cell phones, Mercedes Benz’s etc etc and, until they do, it means that they see themselves, on balance, as being better off for ‘colonialism’.

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      Nyoni 1 year ago

      Eddie has his opinion . He is old now and Africa is his home . We must love where we came from and the unfortunate part of it is our so called African leaders truly believe they have a plan . That plan is each person for themselves and that mindset will stay until we all realise black,brown or white it simply doesn’t work that way in our world.

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    MaMlambo 1 year ago

    Mr Cross my take is that people are people regardless of color. The whites imported or planted class structures in the colonies.This is how the west prospered for centuries.

    Making us all their workers was a huge mistake. I suggest u go to Aussie and New Zealand where the indeginous are still marginalised. The end is coming there too.
    Basically whites have a complex… Trump is an example.

    • comment-avatar
      Charlie Cochrane 1 year ago

      You’re hilarious. You have the complex, you wake up in a world where NO black country, town or even village is run well and where whites build civilised societies, and you despise yourself. How abouttrying, just trying , to takea look in the mirrorand blame yourself? One thing I learned from my white cultureis that you can never succeed if you’re always a ‘victim’. Grow up or shut up!

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    GoRobin 1 year ago

    Eddie was infected by the zanuvirus a long time ago and there is no known cure for the disease.

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    Tatenda Mhofu 1 year ago

    Black, white, yellow and blue, rich, poor we must have seen now we have one commonality, we are bound ultimately by the same fate, destiny. Let’s all work to make this country a better place not only for us but for our progeny. Future generations. Yu are super rich today, your grandchild is in the street. Yu need to think beyond yourself, the sins we are committing today will visit our children to the 10th generation. Where are the children grandchildren of the first cabinet crew of1980. Some of them are in the street. Yu think this is lie. Let us work to eradicate poverty and not to stoke it. Iwe neni tine basa.

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    Dr Ace Mukadota PhD 1 year ago

    Economic fact about S Africa – in 1994 at time Mandela came to power there were 40 million people in the country & today almost 60 million.
    How can a country sustain itself with regard to feeding these extra people, finding homes & creating jobs as well as health facilities ?

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    Dr Ace Mukadota PhD 1 year ago

    Eddie Cross does not understand the free market when it comes to currency exchange. He wants to take the country back to Ian Smith days when the country had a very overvalued exchange rate and USD were handed out by the Reserve Bank.
    25 zollars to one USD when the black market is 40 – says it all. Abolish exchange control and let the market decide what the price of one USD should be. Until you do that the RBOZ will be up to its old shenanigans awarding friends and politicos cheap money – like the country has done for the last 50 years !