Thursday, December 13, 2007


I have wanted to write about this for a while now.

A few weeks back Ian Smith (voting above) died. He was a huge racist. Smith was the prime minister of Rhodesia from 1964-1979 (when Rhodesia ceased to exist in and Zimbabwe took its place). Smith spearheaded Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence from Britain, which was done in order to keep Britain from establishing a government including the other non-white 95% of the population. Pretty much from there on out Rhodesia struggled with the resistance movement and once Mozambique became independent and supported the resistance the jig was up. Ironically, even the Afrikaners couldn't stand the Rhodesians, they reminded them too much of Rhodes himself (for the Afrikaners Rhodes' coup attempt in the Transvaal, best/most horrible example Rhodes choice of burial spot for himself on a sacred mountain in Zimbabwe in an attempt to develop a religious following for himself; who wants a Rhodes Scholarship now?)

For a really description of life in Rhodesia for a man who has experienced both Smith and Mugabe click here.

What really interests me about Smith's life though is what he did after he lost power. For one he stayed in Zimbabwe, but he received remarkably good treatment from the man he had fought to keep white rule in Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe. I say this because unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe did not follow the line of forgive and forget as much. They don't teach 20th century history in school in Zimbabwe because it would be to damaging to the current regeme, the press is strictly controlled, and pretty much all of the white farmers were driven out over the past decade or so. Criticism of president Mugabe is certainly not permitted.

And yet until he left the country, Smith was allowed to keeping living on his farm and call Mugabe "mentally deranged." At one point when Smith was in South Africa for medical treatment, Mugabe threatened to have him arrested and prosecuted for genocide if he returned to Zimbabwe. He did, and was greeted warmly by immigration officers. I don't think Mugabe really meant it, he just wanted to make some noise.

What fascinates me is that Mugabe seemed to respect Smith. They had nothing in common, and though Smith was once an important political figure for Zimbabwe's white community there isn't much of one left and they certainly weren't a threat to Mugabe's power. Instead, Mugabe seemed to respect Smith as another dictator, perhaps treating him as he would want to be treated (would Mugabe really want to set a precedent for a undemocratic Zimbabwean leader to be held liable for all the death he caused? I don't think so). The dictator to dictator bond seems almost literary.

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