01 December 2007

Deja Vu -- All Over Again

It's been over a week since Ian Smith's death and I still don't know exactly what to say. Many comments have been in the press and on the web giving varying views of his place in the history of Zimbabwe. I have mixed feelings. I never met him. I never lived under his rule. I did once meet one of his farm workers. I did live in post-Smith Zimbabwe. A few observations:

I remember living in Harare in the early '80's and having to dodge the then Prime Minister's motorcades almost every time I went to town. It was dangerous to encounter one since the soldiers shot first and looked to see if your car was stopped or not, later. I remember friends being roughed up by soldiers in bunkers on the city's main golf course, guarding the presidential mansion grounds which were surrounded by barbed wire and closed circuit cameras. Old-timers told how Ian Smith rode to work with only his chauffeur and walked alone down the sidewalk from the car to his office. I was shocked that the beloved father of the nation needed such protection while during war-time, the architect of UDI didn't. That caused me to begin to look more closely at Smith as a man rather than as just the symbol of an unjust societal system.

I hold Smith responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths due to his refusal to move toward a society where all men had full political and social rights. Had he been willing to compromise in the late '60's and early '70's, the war could have been avoided. Probably Mugabe would never have risen to power in ZANU and would never have come to rule Zimbabwe. This would have saved not only lives, but livelihoods. For this reason, I think Smith's overall legacy is negative.

However, I am convinced that Smith truly loved Zimbabwe. For that reason he eventually decided to surrender power rather than destroy the country by continuing to cling to power. It is at this point that he must be seen as far superior to Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is destroying the country rather than surrender power. The people mean nothing to him.

Perhaps, the best words as this time are "Wakafa wakanaka." In English we'd say, "Only speak well of the dead." May Ian Smith find God's forgiveness for the wrongs he committed and reward for what good he accomplished.


Gerri said...

Wow. Those are some strong words that you have used against Smith. I will admit that I do not really know a lot about what he was like and what he got up to. Since his death there have been a number of reports comparing him to Mugabe and they were not so positive at all. After reading this post I swallowed hard and am left wondering what will come when Mugabe’s rule comes to an end.

Tauratinzwe said...

The future after Mugabe is indeed terrifying. Who can rebuild the country?

I fear that power will be taken by one who will emulate Mugabe. Those who would make good leaders will be unable to gain power due to the violence of others. It seems that most Zimbabweans will accept almost anyone and anything to avoid a return to the violence of the war and dissident eras.

I pray that my fears are unjustified and that a wise and just leader will emerge. The people and land of Zimbabwe deserve a time of peace and prosperity to recall vana vevhuu (children of the land) who are in the diaspora.