Mugabe proves Smith right

via Mugabe proves Smith right – The Zimbabwe Independent November 13, 2015

RHODESIAN prime Ian Smith, who died in 2007 after dictating the pace of dramatic politics and events in what is now Zimbabwe for 15 years characterised by a devastating war and bloodshed, never doubted President Robert Mugabe will ultimately destroy the country, except on one occasion.

Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya

It became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What Smith said about Mugabe rushed to mind this week as the 50th anniversary his Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on November 11 1965 came and quietly passed without so much debate in the mainstream and social media.

Smith only doubted the wisdom of UDI and the subsequent sanctions, isolation and the intensification of the liberation struggle when he met Mugabe in April 1980.

At that meeting, Mugabe was incredibly civil and undertook to keep Zimbabwe as Africa’s jewel.

Smith, completely disarmed, rushed home in disbelief, and, over lunch, told his puzzled wife, Janet, that perhaps he had been wrong about Mugabe all along.
“Here’s this chap, and he was speaking like a sophisticated, balanced, sensible man. I thought: if he practises what he preaches, then it will be fine. And for five or six months it was fine …”
Years later he confirmed this story to different journalists, including myself.
But sadly the “sensible chap”, in fact, turned out to be what Smith feared: an embodiment of dictatorship and failure, just as he had warned his supporters after seeing a lot of post-colonial African countries plunge into tyranny and poverty.

Comparing Mugabe and Smith sloppily of course can be risky business and revisionist too. They were products of different social circumstances even if they lived in the same era and country. They represented, symbolised and fought for things worlds apart.

The irony is Mugabe ended up reproducing Smith’s rule in its various manifestations.

The dividing line though is clear. Smith’s views were more motivated by his underlying racist worldview and prejudice than fair assessment of Mugabe’s leadership quality and capacity.

After all Smith had fought took and nail to preserve white minority colonial rule in which the settler regime oppressed and dehumanised the black majority, while it exploited and channelled resources for sectional privilege.

In all Smith’s lamentations about Mugabe, the irony was lost on him that he was after all the one who hugely contributed towards radicalising liberation movement leaders and freedom fighters through his bigoted politics and fierce repression.

Yet what Smith predicted, like many African nationalists, including Julius Nyerere, feared for different reasons, about Mugabe can’t be ignored, particularly in a post-colonial era dominated by vile dictatorships that have wreaked economic, social and human havoc.

In short, Mugabe has tragically proved Smith right. He has also proved some African liberators’ worst fears.

During more than half a century of post-colonial rule, millions in African countries, including Zimbabwe, have been displaced, maimed and killed, as well as impoverished by poor leadership.

In their book Africa’s Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs, Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst argue Africans must now seek liberation through economic growth.

“If Africa’s first liberation was from colonial and racist government, and its second stage involved freeing itself from the tyranny and misrule of many of the liberators, the third stage must involve a change in focus,” they say.

“This will require concentrating on economic development to the exclusion of racial, tribal and religious issues that have plagued much of the continent in the past.”

While many African countries remain in the second stage of liberation, they point out, armed conflict has declined as democracy spreads from Cape to Cairo.

“Those countries nimble enough to exploit the real market advantages open to them have the opportunity to lead the rest of the continent to prosperity,” they say.

It remains to be seen whether the current positive trends of democratisation and economic growth across the continent will finally set Africans really free.


  • comment-avatar
    Yayano 7 years ago

    Mugabe is the worst thing that has ever happened to Zimbabwe. The guy has no interest at all in the country, everything he does is for his own gain even if it means people dying, losing livelihoods, he simply doesn’t care. He is indeed heartless.

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    R Judd 7 years ago

    Smith is not a yard stick by which to measure anything. This mans short sighted populism set the stage for what has been an ongoing tragedy.

    The Rhodesian Front government destroyed the independence of the judiciary and of parliament and so are best understood as the facilitators of all that ZANU and Robert Mugabe have done.

    Then as now, all voices of reason and common sense were shouted down

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      Only Fools 7 years ago

      Judd! Smith ran a country through sanctions fought a war against Mugabe and ZANU (ZANLA)costing millions a day, and had no AID from any country, but still managed to pay the bills educate and give free health to blacks, and you condemn him by saying “he is not a yard stick by which to measure by”!! And then finish your quote by saying , “This short sighted populism set the stage for what has been an ongoing tragedy” Why blame him for how Mugabe behaves? Blame the white man again.

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      Jono Austin 7 years ago

      Yes Judd, that old chestnut-‘It’s all the white man’s fault’

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      Yayano 7 years ago

      @Rudd, take this calmly and remember that Smith was in charge for 13 years and in those 13 years there were fully fledged sanctions, a full scale out war and yet in those difficult circumstances he managed to make sure that life was at least liveable.
      Contrast this to Mugabe. You talk of the judiciary under Mugabe’s watch there hasn’t been any judiciary to talk about. Any judge making a decision Mugabe does not like is attacked first at a rally and then later thrown out so that the next judge will make sure he gives a judgement favourable to Mugabe.
      There is no rule of law and everyone is under threat. People have been killed or disappeared and Mugabe’s regime has done absolutely nothing if its not to its liking.
      Properties, businesses have been taken over by Mugabe’s people with no recourse to the courts. Look at Telecel now.
      Mugabe has lowered the bar so low I hope no other leader will ever attempt to mimic Mugabe’s destructive legacy. He has been utter hopeless.

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      UmWrong 7 years ago

      Mr Judd,

      While you are correct that Smith made some errors in judgement, his methodology for weathering the storm which descended upon his premiership is unparalleled.

      His paternalistic regard for educating the African community is well and thoroughly documented, but the cause-effect relationship of his decisions is documented just as thoroughly. Ghana, Congo, Zambia, Central Africa — he looked to those places as mistakes by European powers. They failed to develop their respective countries before turning the reins loose.

      Looking at Zimbabwe now, nearly all infrastructure is Rhodesian. Have you seen the national railways? They’re still Rhodesian in colour.

      Even signs pointing to Umtali, Wankie and Enkeldoorn still adorn certain posts.

      Smith made mistakes, but I believe his heart was in the right place.

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    khubu 7 years ago

    Only now that people are seeing that Mugabe is not right….
    Mashona wanted a one party state in 1980. No one condemned the killings of innocent Ndebele people during Gukurahundi.
    They wanted Nkomo eliminated, unfortunately he passed on.
    All Mashonas its time you enjoy the VICTORIES OF YOUR FATHER MUGABE.

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    If we had the statistics I would bet Bob has directly and indirectly been responsible
    for more death’s of black people than Smiths army at the height of the war.

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    So in the last 50 years, this country( call it whatever you want) has spent 30 years alltogether under sanctions.I really wonder why we have such strategic impotance for the west,china ,east, russia, india and so called black africa as a whole.Maybe some clever people out there know that we are sitting on something that we do not know about.

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    Johann 7 years ago

    Mugabe does whatsoever he is told to do by the Chinese Communist party. Everyone knows the Chinese are shrewd business partners and would naturally want a return on their investment of weapons and training for a pseudo war of liberation. The odd thing is that the native population to this day believe that they were liberated by Zipra and Zanla whereas in fact they just changed one colonial master for another with Mugabe at the helm. Mugabe is not even free, merely a simple puppet who speaks well, he has no clue of economics or justice. A Zimbabwean will vote for Mugabe not because he liberates them but because he is black and this exposes them as being more racist than any white man. Possibly Zimbabweans were better off under the rule of the now extinct British Empire than they will be under the ruthless rule of the Chinese.

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    R Judd u sound biased. Unfortunately I don’t c any blame u put on smith . He was after the welfare of ppl bot driven by greedy ,babarism and africanism