Can Smith really be a saviour?


Former rebel leader, Ian Smith seems to be slowly weaving his way back into politics, thanks to the current discontent which is increasingly leading most people, especially the older generation, to believe life was better in Rhodesia.

Now part of the so-called United Front, the 73-year old, although denying that he wants to lead the country once again, seems to have a hidden agenda and has increasingly been criticising the government of corruption, nepotism and incompetence.

Smith, who once boasted that blacks would not rule the country for a thousand years, although they did it in 10, and even called them baboons telling black university students in Afrikaans to go up the mountain, is apparently now seeing himself as the saviour of the very people he once despised (and probably still does as he is perhaps indirectly claiming that they cannot afford to run a country and should leave it to the whites.)

There is no doubt that Ian Smith has better credibility than any of the political leaders in the United Front which smacks of the transitional government he set up in 1988. But the big question is, can he really be a saviour? IF so, of which people?

Smith has always maintained he is a true capitalist and conservative even more committed to ensuring that the private sector thrives than the leader of the capitalist world, the United States. If he still maintains this stand, can he therefore be a saviour of the majority, who are adversely affected by the current reforms and drought.

There is no doubt the present government has made some blunders but it has also made tremendous strides in transforming the lives of the ordinary man. Those who grew up in Rhodesia know this. They can now stay wherever they choose, if they can afford it. They can now eat and drink wherever they choose. They can send their children to schools of their choice. They now have access to finance and a host of other things.

Indeed, things may not be that rosy but it must not be forgotten that people now have very high expectations, so it is difficult to satisfy everyone. In fact, one of the major criticisms of the present government is that it maintained colonial and other structures rather than taking the more risky course of initiating substantial economic reform and structural change. Smith now claims to be a saviour yet he was the architect of most of the ills that bedevil this country today.

Nepotism was rife in Rhodesia. If you wanted to join the railways, for example, you had to give the name of a relative employed by that parastatal. What worse nepotism can there be? Corruption was so rife. White civil servants plundered government equipment but they were never brought to book.

As pointed out in this newsletter before, Smith’s only advantage was that because whites only represented 5 percent of the population, such ills were easily swept under the carpet. Moreover, since the ruling minority represented the “civilised” class, their misdeeds were not exposed as this would have reflected badly on the blacks who were constantly told of the saintly nature of the whites.

It was not uncommon for blacks to be told that had it not been for the white man’s colonisation of their country they would still be in the dark ages, living in the bush, running naked and surviving on wild fruit. The big question is, has Smith’s thinking really changed since then?


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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