After the reception, the guests were invited by Ton de Lange, owner of the castle, to attend the laying of a foundation stone by Mr. Smith for a small chapel to be built in the grounds of the castle. The stone was covered by a Rhodesian flag and, after a short explanation and dedication, was unveiled by Mr. Smith.
Most of the guests departed after this, and a select few were invited to join Mr. Smith and the de Lange family for a lavish dinner in Mr. Smith’s honour, in the restaurant of the castle. The dinner, thanks to the animated conversation between the numerous courses, lasted until 22:00 hours.
The following day - Monday - Mr. Smith held a press conference in the castle, attended by 10 - 15 journalists from Dutch national and provincial newspapers (most of which carried the story in the course of the week, several with full-page reports accompanied by photos). After the press conference, there were several private interviews for the larger daily newspapers, and an opportunity for the press photographers to take photos of Mr. Smith in the grounds of the castle.
In the afternoon Mr. Smith was taken to the Dutch TV studios, where he was interviewed by the VPRO channel, and from there he was driven to the airport in Amsterdam for his flight back to London and his connecting flight to Washington.
Before the press conference started, Ton de Lange explained to the reporters why Ian Smith had decided to include Holland in his trip to Europe, the only country besides Britain which he visited. Ton de Lange had lived for many years in Rhodesia and was a great admirer of Mr. Smith. Through mutual acquaintances he had invited Mr. Smith to spend a weekend at the Castle Engelenburg and launch his book there as well. Mr. Smith, who had been briefly based in Holland during the liberation in World War Two, accepted, and made the trip in the company of Denis Walker.
The main venue for the launch of ‘The Great Betrayal’ had, of course, taken place the preceding week in England, where the queues at the bookstores rivalled those for the launch of Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs. While in Holland, Mr. Smith was informed that the first print-run had already almost sold out, and that a reprint was already scheduled for the following week!
The following is the full text of the press conference held in Holland, and is reproduced here from a tape-recording. The text has not been edited in any way, apart from a few slight changes to the grammar in some of the questions, to make their meaning clear.
After being introduced by Ton de Lange, Mr. Smith made a short introductory speech.
I would just like to say a few words to you - I’m not going to talk at length because I would like you to ask your questions so that I know I’m dealing with things which are closest to your heart, but I’m grateful to you for taking the trouble to come here, giving me the opportunity to tell you what motivated me into producing this book. All right, personal feelings and views are always part of a thing like this, but above all what I’m trying to do is put over the truth about my country, Rhodesia, because it has been twisted against us and distorted for about the last 30 years. That was brought about because we had an argument with the British Government. We had to make an agreement with them, and they failed to honour that agreement, and after trying, and showing great patience, for a number of years, eventually we were forced to take matters into our own hands and insist on the implementation of the agreement. Now many constitutional lawyers throughout the world subsequently told me that our UDI was not an illegal action. We were simply insisting on the fulfilment of the contract, and that was perfectly normal and above board.
We were in this incredible situation where prior to our declaration of independence the British Government had always told us that we were the model of the Commonwealth in Africa. We were the only success story that they had. We were economically viable, we had brought about the conditions of western democracy which they believed in, we had law and order, justice, and our philosophy was to try to improve the standards of the indigenous people. They said to us: “Please keep going. The more we can use you as an example to spread our ideals to the north of Africa, the more we like it!” Because in all honesty all the countries in Africa to the north of us were one-party dictatorships and most of them followed the Communist philosophy. So that was what they told us up to the day before we declared our independence. The day after we declared our independence we were suddenly the greatest evil on earth, people who were trying to do the very antithesis of what they had previously told us they were happy we were doing. And because they were powerful countries - Britain, they got the co- operation of the United States, France and Germany - you can imagine how the media of the world turned against us, this little isolated country in the middle of Africa. We simply didn’t have a chance to answer them or put over our side of the case.Question:
Then, when the present Government came in - Mugabe’s Government - far from the situation improving, it got even worse, because they then turned the media in our own country against us. We only had one national newspaper, one radio and one television station. They took them over and used them as a propaganda machine for their own cause. Prior to that they were neutral, we never ever tried to control them. So once again the case was twisted and distorted against us. So that’s really what I have in the back of my mind, which has always been a source of great concern to me, trying to put over the truth about this little country of ours. Most Rhodesians will endorse what I say to you. We don’t mind being accused of doing things which we’ve actually done, but we take exception to being accused of doing things which we never ever did, and having abuse and insult thrown at us for those false reasons. So that, I hope, in a nutshell, in as few words as I can, I give you what I’m trying to do. I won’t go on - I could go on for a long time, indicating to you the injustices of the policy of the present Government - but I would rather you asked me questions, and I will try to the best of my ability to answer them. Once again, thanks very much for taking the trouble to come here and give me this opportunity to explain the case of Rhodesia to you. Thank you very much.
My name is Wim Bosma, I write for a daily newspaper, the “Volkskrant”. How long did it take you to write this book and why do you come now with this book after seventeen years?Smith:
Well, it’s taken me between about eight and nine years. For a long time after I was put out of Parliament - and I was thrown out illegally by Mugabe’s Government - I was still very implicated in politics, because I was the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe. Not only were local people coming to talk to me, but overseas people, all the foreign press, kept in touch with me because of the fact that I had been Prime Minister, and because they believed they could get a more balanced view from me as to what was happening in the country. If they talked to Mugabe and his Government they got the slanted view of just them and their Communist philosophy.Question:
When I said on a few occasions to people and reporters who came to see me: “Why are you coming to talk to me?” - these were overseas reporters - “You know I’m no longer in the Government,” I got a very clear answer on a number of occasions. They said “Mr. Smith, when we’re talking amongst the media people downtown, they say to us ‘if you want the truth, there’s only one man to go and speak to, and that’s Ian Smith. He’s not afraid.’” Other people were genuinely afraid, because apart from taking over the communications media, which was the first thing they did, so that they could run their psychological war - brainwash people - the next thing they did was establish their CIO - in other words a Gestapo - and certainly one of the most efficient intimidatory machines in the world. People were genuinely afraid. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that intimidation is a terrible thing. I don’t only tell you this. You’ve got to ask the Matabeles, who occupy the western part of our country - they say they’re not only a tribe, they say they’re a nation, they’re an offshoot of the Zulus from Natal - and they have tried to stand up to Mugabe. For the first year or so things went well, because they had Nkomo in, Mugabe had brought him in to represent the Matabeles. But they saw that the Matabeles were losing out in Matabeleland, even in their own territory, their own country. All the top positions in government and in local government were being given to foreigners, to Shonas, Mugabe’s people.
Gradually and gradually their opposition increased, and they began to voice their opposition. So Mugabe decided that this had to be dealt with, and he had a North Korean-trained Brigade at Inyanga, right at the other end of the country to Matabeleland, on the borders of Mozambique, and he sent this into Matabeleland, and they massacred over 30,000 Matabeles. Those figures will be given to you by missionaries, by church people, and so I don’t think that these have just been twisted for the convenience of politicians. They remember that. Even in the recent last election I was told - because I went to Matabeles and spoke to them, the people who were in the queue going to vote, and asked them what they were going to do. The thing above all that came out was the word “Gukurukundi”, that was the North Korean Brigade that massacred the Matabeles, so they haven’t forgotten that, although this took place in 1982, a long time ago.
So I’ve gone a long way around telling you why these people say that reporters have been told if they want the truth “they must come and speak to you,” because most of the other people are afraid. And I know, some of my own personal friends and old supporters all can say to me “we agree with you, get on and do it, we’re telling you in private, but please don’t ask us to say this in public.” Because I’ve learned, and they’ve all learned, that apart from physical intimidation there is a thing called financial intimidation. They told me that they got very clear messages from Government Ministers saying “Do you support the opposition - Smith and those people? Because if so, we want to tell you you’re not going to get any more Government contracts!”
So, I was busy, I was doing other things, but in the end I thought I mustn’t go on being busy for the rest of my life until one day I die. Let’s get on and write this book, because I do want to record the history of Rhodesia, fairly, and I believe truthfully, and it’s taken me about eight years I suppose because I wasn’t in a position where I could just say I’m going to write now. That was my life, I lead a busy life, I’ve got other things to do. I run a farm and I still have people coming to see me. Apart from the reporters I mentioned to you, the local people. Today I have more black people than white people walking in through the gate of my house, which is always open, to talk to me. And I’m surprised at how many of them say: “Can you please give us the benefit of your experience, your wisdom. What do you think we should do? Our children are hungry.” The children were certainly never hungry when the country was called Rhodesia! So that’s why it was done in bits and pieces when I had time, and then I went away - sometimes I went overseas on business and trips for a month or so and when I came back I had to gather up and start again - but, eventually, here it is.
What does Brummen mean to you? Did you specially select this place to come and speak to us?Smith:
Because you’ve got a wonderful person here who has had experience in Rhodesia, and who took a liking to Rhodesia, and who tells me - and he’ll probably tell you - that that helped play an important part formulating his character and his philosophy for his life in the future. It instilled him with dedication and pride for a cause. He learned that cause when he was in Rhodesia, so - I’ve never met him in my life before, until this day - through mutual friends I was given the invitation to come here and meet him. We also had a lot of Hollanders in Rhodesia, immigrants, a very large number came there, many of them farmers. There are still many of them there. A number of them came back here when they thought things were going wrong, but I’ve never lost contact with them. I met the son yesterday of the person who used to be your ambassador in Salisbury - my wife and I struck up a great friendship with him. He came and spent a weekend once with us on our farm. I met his son yesterday. He recalls very little of what I told him because he was very young when his father died, so obviously he hadn’t shared his father’s experiences, so that’s another reason why I came, I have never lost contact with Hollanders, who were great Rhodesians.Question:
Is the Zimbabwe as we know it now, the Zimbabwe you were fighting against all your life? When you started UDI, did your fears of what could happen to Rhodesia correspond with what it is now?Smith:
I’m sorry to say, yes. We thought when Mugabe came in it would be a tragedy for us, because we were satisfied that he was a dedicated Communist, a man who had often said he did not want to come to the negotiating table - he wanted to take the country through the barrel of a gun. Those were his words, and reported as such. However, at Lancaster House he was forced to sign an agreement which said he must forget the past and indulge in reconciliation, and work together, that was part of the agreement. If he hadn’t committed himself to sign that agreement, then the agreement we have today would never have been brought in.Question:
For about the first year he behaved in keeping with that. I went to see him the day he won the election, as I mentioned in my book, and I was really surprised at the reasonableness of the man and the reconciliation that he seemed to have espoused. He told me that he couldn’t get over how lucky they were inheriting this ‘Jewel of Africa’, this wonderful country, with its infrastructure and professionalism, and the skills of the working man, that it was his intention to keep it that way. I was taken aback. He said the same thing in public. Many of the investors and industrialists who came to see me and speak to me at the time were also agreeably impressed. I said well, let’s hope it continues.
Then... He was wise. He waited until he was firmly established, until he had his own military commanders in command. Prior to that he had to be careful, because the old people, the old Rhodesian people were still in control of all the security, and we had reached the agreement then that he wouldn’t be given control. Because about... it was more than a year - I think it was nearly eighteen months after coming to power, there was this sudden change. I went to see him regularly. He thanked me for coming and giving him the benefit of my experience, telling him what the white people thought, because they were important. And I and my party genuinely tried to help. Suddenly one day, one morning he got out of bed evidently and had - perhaps he didn’t have a rush of blood to the head - perhaps he just decided logically that the time was now right, he was in control, so he said we are now going ahead with our true philosophy of creating a one-party Communist dictatorship. It came like a bolt out of the blue. Those same financiers and industrialists who had previously told me how impressed they were, then came back to me and said “Well, what’s happening? Because if this is what he’s doing, then thanks, we’re on our way out, we’re going!”
So I went to see Mugabe, and usually he greeted me with great courtesy, welcoming. I said “What are you trying to do, because this is a complete change to what you’ve said before, and this is damaging our country.” He said “Oh no, I think you’re exaggerating.” I said “I’m not, because more of the industrialists and financiers have come to speak to me,” - because I was the leader of the opposition, and I was the person whom they had previously spoken to, and had given them hope and encouragement. And I said “They’ve told me they’re on their way home now. And I’ve got to tell you that for the first time since you’ve come to power, if you go on talking like this, I will have to criticise you in public, something which I have not done since you came to power. We have tried honestly to help you. That is the truth.”
I could see for the first time that he was annoyed. When I left he didn’t greet me good-bye as he had done previously. From that day on he has refused to talk to me. So I got a very clear message that under a one-party dictatorship, there’s only one thing you do, you agree with the establishment. You’re not allowed to disagree. And generally that’s what all the people of our country have learnt. From there on the country has gone down, and they are obsessed with one thing only - keeping themselves in power. One of his ministers once conceded this to me, that above all, the thing that impressed them most about their induction into Communism was - once you get into power, you stay in power...forever. If you let anybody remove you, you are incompetent and unintelligent. That’s what they do through their control of the communications media and the intimidatory machine, their control of the bureaucracy, its civil service four times the size of what it was when they took over, an army six times the size. And Mugabe has stated publicly - it’s printed in Hansard - when he was criticised once: sure we expect all civil servants to be members of our party ZANU(PF). And they told me, once every month a circular goes round the office asking them to put down how much money they are prepared to contribute to the party funds. And, they say, they do it, because everybody knows that if you’re not a member and your name is not on that list, there is no promotion. They also vote themselves every year, through Parliament, taxpayers’ money to the extent of $100 million per annum for ZANU(PF), not one cent for any other party.
So with all of those things at your disposal, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it is for any opposition to be effective. I think they’re beginning now to lose some support, because the people are suffering, and when people come and tell you that their children are hungry, when they had to get into a queue - a year or so ago - at 2 o’clock in the morning, when it was cold, and it can get cold in the winter there, in order to try to buy a bag of mealie meal, which is the staple food. And there was a shortage of food. And that was because they drove farmers out of production by trying to keep the price down. They thought that would help their comrades if they kept the price down and gave them cheap food. In actual fact they didn’t get cheap food, they gave them no food! That was the lesson which in time they learned. So I hope that gives you some answer to your question.
How would you describe life for the whites in Zimbabwe at the moment?Smith:
Well again that depends on what bracket you fall into. If you’ve always been in the upper crust and you’ve got adequate financial resources, then you can live reasonably well. If you’ve got children to educate, you’ve got problems, because the standard of education has dropped dramatically in the schools. If you’ve got health problems, the standard of the health services has dropped off dramatically. Of course there are one or two private institutions, and these have developed since this Government came in, and the conditions there are better. But money is involved, so that’s, I should imagine, the main problem affecting people. If you’re in the working class groups, it is more difficult. If you’re a pensioner, people who have retired, who’ve got their homes but are living on a pension, then you’ve got serious problems. I can sum the problem up in a nutshell by telling you that the Rhodesian dollar used to be worth one pound sterling, 100 pence. In fact it was 101 - 102 pence at one stage. Even Harold Wilson had to concede that when they devalued the pound, Rhodesians did not devalue their dollar. A hundred pence! The Zimbabwe dollar today is worth 5 pence, so you can imagine how pensioners who get a set amount of pension every month manage to live when the return has come down to one twentieth of what it was when it was a Rhodesian dollar. So those things do affect their lives.Question:
Do you expect South Africa will go the same way in the next 20 years?Smith:
I hope not. I hope not. They’ve got the advantage of having a wonderful man by the name of Mandela. If only we had a Mandela things would have been different in our country. He’s a man who has shown great compassion, true reconciliation, unlike Mugabe who preaches reconciliation but practices retribution. Mandela genuinely is trying, and he’s shown great maturity and wisdom. Now I don’t say that there are no problems in South Africa, that it’s going to be an easy ride. When you consider what they inherited, no, it’s a rough ride, and he’s on a bit of a tightrope trying to reconcile the different factions amongst the black people, within his own party, because they all came together to fight against apartheid, and he’s got to try and ensure that he doesn’t break them up, because I don’t think that would help South Africa. I think if he can keep them together and try to spread his philosophy among those that are inclined to be a bit on the extreme, then again that could only be an advantage.Question:
I think the new constitution with which he was landed by the National Party was the wrong constitution, and that has created problems. We were led to believe it was going to be different. What the National Party should have done, what they should have included - greater decentralisation, evolution of power. The kind of confederation the same as they’ve got in countries like Australia, Canada, even to a certain extent the United States. Switzerland is a fine example here. Where you’ve got people with different cultures and philosophies, even languages, that is inherent in their constitution, because they have written in that constitution eleven official different languages. Now if you say to those different people, like the Cape Coloureds in the Western Province, or the Zulus in Natal, look you’re with your own everyday affairs - the education of your children, your health, your social security - that’s your business, get on with it, then I think people have got nothing to fight about, or squabble about. But if you tell them that those affairs are going to be controlled from Pretoria, then they begin to get a little concerned, and I understand that. So, that was a great mistake, this constitution which the National Party eventually produced for South Africa. And it’s no use them now saying well, but it’s over to Mandela, why doesn’t he change it? Anybody who understands politics knows that you can’t do that, because if he changes it, he is going to antagonise some of those people whom, as I told you before, he is trying to keep together. He should have been given that, so that it was a fait accompli. I believe that would have helped him tremendously.
So, he’s inherited problems which he should not have inherited, but overall I say I’m reasonably sanguine - perhaps that’s a strong expression, you can never be sure about politics - there are great problems, but I think he’s the best bet for South Africa, and I think today South Africa is the best bet in Africa, the best hope. So I say let’s do what we can to help this country, which is the powerhouse of Africa, and I think any good which develops in their country will overflow their borders into the surrounding countries, because of the influence that they have. What we’ve got to try to do now is establish a sub-Sahara economic council, similar to what they’ve succeeded in doing in Europe, getting all the people there to work together and assist one another economically. Have I given you some sort of answer?
Yes. But I’m wondering if... [rest of question indistinct, but basically asking if there is anyone in Zimbabwe able to take over from Mugabe].Smith:
I’m satisfied there is somebody now, satisfied there are a lot of good black people now, professional people, with high qualifications, and confident people. I speak to many of them and they express their concern to me, and they are unhappy at what is happening in their country. They say the present Government has brought disrepute to the black people generally, because of the disaster which they have created - a country riddled with nepotism, corruption, jobs for pals, inefficiency, and this has brought disgrace to their country - the first black government. They would wish to see change, and they would hope they can contribute to all the change. But you have to bear in mind what I said earlier - what a terrible thing intimidation is. Don’t expect them to stand up now and stick their necks out, because under a one-party dictatorship, if you do that you only get one thing - you get a chop on your neck. So they will not show themselves.Question:
But I want to tell you that if there’s a change they will be waiting and ready. I believe this applies to the Matabeles as a whole people, a nation, because they believe they have been betrayed, not only the whites. So there’s hope. But you can never be a hundred per cent sure about this game of politics, so don’t put your shirt on that. But I think it’s better to be positive, to live in hope, than to be negative and throw up your hands in despair.
Sorry, but I don’t understand - you mentioned the Matabele. Do you expect that these people will rise against the Shona?Smith:
Yes, because they have always been at odds with the Shona, ever since history started, because they came to that country and chased the Shonas out of Matabeleland, took over Matabeleland. That went on until the white man came. They used to have raids into Mashonaland a couple of times every year and steal cattle and maidens. And every year they gradually pushed the Mashonas further and further east. If the white man had not come there wouldn’t have been any Mashonas left in what we call Zimbabwe today. They would have all been over the border in Mozambique. We stopped them. That was the cause of the Matabele War, when Lobengula was thrown out, and eventually died, because the white people - the pioneers - said, you’ve got to stop it, we won’t allow you to do this.Question:
So, you see the change coming from the Matabeles?Smith:
Well, I don’t know about a change. What I’m telling you is, that I think they feel the same. They have not changed, but when you have had to witness 30,000 of your people - men, women and children - just massacred and thrown down old mine shafts, that sort of thing, and for many years that story was not allowed out because they would not allow people into those areas, the Government. Gradually now more and more is coming out. I believe the Matabeles still have the same feeling. I think they would be prepared to live in peace with the Mashonas if they were given a square deal, but not if they have Mashonas put into all of the top positions in their part of the country, to the exclusion of the Matabeles. Why shouldn’t the Matabeles have those positions and run their own country? But only comrades of Mugabe - and most of them relations - get the top jobs, wherever they are. In spite of the fact that they have no qualifications - the only thing they have is a party card and their profitable relationship. That’s why so many of the big companies and the institutions in the country have gone bankrupt, because they insisted on putting people at the top who have no qualifications, and so what do you expect to happen? It didn’t worry them because all they did was use taxpayers’ money to keep them afloat, and that’s easy when you control a business.Question:
I have two connected questions. Looking back in history, looking back at UDI, do you now with hindsight think it was worth it all? The second question is, could there have been a possibility at that time that you could have taken the road that South Africa took, the road of negotiations, or was that moment in history one that couldn’t have been otherwise?Smith:
We tried to be honest, and it was a small community, you know, where everybody knew everybody, and under those circumstances I think you’ve got to try to be honest, because everybody knew what was going on, and we honestly tried to tell the truth. So I set up, on three occasions, a committee of high civil servants and ministers of the Government to analyse the question of our UDI. I said you must tell us if you think we are wrong. On all three occasions they came back with the same answer and said they believed we had no option. We had got to a stage where people were beginning to lose confidence in Rhodesia and we were having emigration for the first time in our history. People were leaving, professionals, skilled people with ability. That was a drain, a skills and brains drain. They were leaving because they had seen Africa around us, what had happened there in countries to our north - Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo. We had seen people streaming through, with lorries and cars just packed with the few of their belongings they could gather together, telling us dreadful stories of how before their eyes and the eyes of their children they had seen white people just shot and killed, women raped in public. So you can imagine what this built up in the minds of us Rhodesians.Question:
So people said are you going to allow the same thing to happen to our country? They started going. From the moment we declared independence, instead of them going, they started coming back, our population started going up and there was confidence in our country. So much so, that over a period of quite a number of years after our declaration of independence we had the greatest rate of growth in our economy of any country in the world. So sanctions proved to be a tonic, contrary to what Britain and America had hoped they would do.
We created a wonderful united nation for people who were dedicated to Rhodesia, who were prepared to improvise, implement, work harder without asking for anything in return, to help their country. There was a spirit which, I wonder, has ever been known in any other time in history? Maybe in Britain, at the time of the Battle of Britain, the fight for London, and so on, maybe, that kind of thing. But I know Rhodesians, professional people, who used to work overtime, give an extra hour or so each day, without being paid for it, to help their country. So it was a tremendous period for us, one that helped establish a great nation.
Your second question referred to a comparison with South Africa, whether we should have taken longer. We did not rush this. We went on for a couple of years trying to get Britain to honour the agreement which they had made with us at the Victoria Falls. The British minister in charge there promised us that we would get our independence before Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the other two parts of the Federation, which was in any case in keeping with what we had been promised previously. At the time of the Federation we were given the choice - do you want independence or do you want Federation? Huggins, Sir Godfrey Huggins, our then Prime Minister, wanted Federation. We had a referendum and he talked Rhodesians into accepting that that would be the best thing for us. But written into the constitution was a clause which said the Federation could not be dissolved. I remember clearly, because I was a young Member of Parliament then, and I asked that very question in Parliament. I was told “it cannot be dissolved.” But when it became convenient for Britain to dissolve it in order to appease the OAU - the Organisation of African Unity - they broke the agreement, and dissolved it. But we were promised by Butler at the Victoria Falls - Butler, who was the British Minister - of course we could have it, we promised it to you. What an honour it would be for Britain to give you your independence. Then they reneged on that.
We tried for a couple of years. But when we landed in the situation I previously told you about, when people were losing confidence, we ran out of time. But we took a couple of years to try and settle it, desperately. We didn’t want a UDI. But when you see your country going down and when terrorism had started - and the terrorism was mainly against black people, not white people - these communist- inspired politicians had learned all the dirty tricks of the trade. For the first time in our lives we were experiencing petrol-bombing. Now what a terrible thing when you live in a hut built of wood poles and a thatched roof, to wake up at night suddenly with the thatched roof above you on fire, burning, and when you go to open your door you find that it’s been wired closed outside! You can’t get out and you’re roasted alive inside. They were doing that to their people, not to white people, in order to convince them that they had to support them politically. But that was the sort of situation, and I’m sure that I don’t have to continue to emphasize the point to you that we had a duty to defend our law- abiding citizens, most of them black.
But then you haven’t answered the question of, with hindsight, what did it bring? In the end there was a black government coming into power - was it a different government, a different system, than if it would have happened...Smith:
Yes, because I actually brought in a black government. I brought in a black government, and I handed over to a black prime minister, Muzorewa. And if we could have had that, it would have been better. At Lancaster House, Carrington said to me - when I told him that this constitution was going to bring in Mugabe and a communist government, he laughed at me - he said “My dear Mr. Smith,” looking down his Lordship’s nose at me, “you are totally wrong. We have given you a constitution which is going to ensure that the government in Zimbabwe, the first government, will be composed of Muzorewa, Nkomo and Smith.” I said to him, “No, my friend,” - no, I didn’t call him ‘my friend’ - “I’m afraid I must tell you, you don’t understand the African.” He was one of these arrogant Englishmen who thought he knew more about my country than I did! History proves he was wrong and I was right.Question:
So, if we had been allowed to continue with our philosophy, which was one of evolution as opposed to revolution, I think we would have succeeded. I believe that the spread of western democratic government is an evolutionary process. When you are trying to bring in people who, remember, when the white man first went there, could neither read nor write, had no schools, no hospitals, no currency, who had never had a vote in their lives, and who told me when this new constitution came in, that they didn’t want a vote - it wasn’t part of their system.
In actual fact I believe their tribal system is a better system than the western democracy which we forced onto them, because it is devoid of corruption, propaganda, nepotism. The leader is the leader of the family at kraal level. They are never voted in. Just comes to the top as the father, of that extended family. You can’t influence him by trying to buy his vote, or by intimidation. That just wasn’t part of the system. He came right up to the top. They had honest government. I will tell you, and I would argue the fact, that in many cases under our western democracy we don’t have honest government. If you think of the power of television, especially in - I don’t want to be personal - but countries like the United States of America, the power of money, corruption. All right, I think one’s got to be practical and I’ve said that in time these people would gradually come in. Their children go to school and then go to university, as they do now. And I think you’ve got to say “OK, you understand what a constitution is, your fathers didn’t, they never heard of it!” Maybe we’ve got to bring them in to our system - but I believe it’s got to be evolutionary, as opposed to revolution.
Why were you not able to continue that process of evolution you started in Zimbabwe?Smith:
Because the British Government came to the conclusion that it wasn’t fast enough. The OAU pressurised them.Question:
But the British Government had been against you for a long time. What were the factors - was it the war, was it sanctions after all, or were you just tired?Smith:
No, the British Government hadn’t been against us, the British Government, as I told you, had been strongly in our favour, and encouraged us to continue. It was only after we declared UDI the next day, that they came against us. Then, finally - I could ignore Britain and America, as I’ve said to you, we were thriving - in the end it was the one country in the world which controlled our lifeline: South Africa. In the end they forced us, nobody else could force us. And at that stage we were getting more on top of terrorism than ever before in our history. The security reports indicated that the terrorists were fed up living in the bush, having a rough life. We were getting more and more of them coming back to us. One of our crack units - the Selous Scouts - they had more terrorists in that than they had our own troops! They were coming and joining us to fight against them. So things were going our way.Question:
But then, Vorster, the South African Prime Minister, suddenly decided he was going to practise a thing called detente. He said he could work with the black leaders to our north and get them to agree with him in solving first the Rhodesian problem and then the South African problem. He told me he had them eating out of his hand. I said to him “What do you mean? You are going to get them to accept South Africa with your philosophy of apartheid?” And he said “Yes.” I just laughed at that. I said “You can’t be serious!” He said to me “My dear friend, you’ve been so out of touch with the world around you for so long, you don’t know what’s going on today.” But again, history proves I was right and he was wrong. They took him for a ride. And sadly, he used Rhodesia as a sacrificial lamb, and sold us to Kaunda and Nyerere, whom he mentioned personally by name, and said they had committed themselves to working with him. And when we disagreed with him, they put the screws on us. They stopped the flow of fuel to our country, contrary to what their people wanted to do.
At one stage he told me that his soldiers were now saying they didn’t want to fight in Rhodesia because the cause in Rhodesia wasn’t theirs - they believed in apartheid, we did not believe in apartheid. When his Generals, after that meeting in Cape Town, when the South African Generals came up to Salisbury, as they often did because we were working together - Vorster first said to me “Sure we’ll support you, because the higher to the north we can hold the line against communism, the better,” and he said “I think the Zambezi is a better line than the Limpopo, let’s work together,” and we had very close contacts with him - when his Heads of Staff, when his General and his Air Force General came up shortly after I got that message from Vorster, and my Generals told them what Vorster had told me, they just laughed and said “Oh, absolutely ridiculous, we’ve never ever had a complaint. In fact our people ask to come up to Rhodesia, they enjoy it.” And Vorster had told me they were beginning to object, so obviously that was not the truth. So that’s where our problem lay. In the end, the people who controlled our lifeline could dictate to us.
Ten years ago, you came to America, I believe, you talked about sanctions and you went on record at that time that after all they did have a bite. Were you quoted correctly then, do you still think so?Smith:
Well, in the respect that I’ve just told you what South Africa did to us, yes. Not prior to that. Prior to that we were going well. But our economy, I repeat, developed, and we produced things which we’d never produced before in our country. And we were thriving, the economy was growing. We could have gone on, and in the end we would have won, yes.Question:
The British influence in the seventies - is it reasonable to say that it was to punish what happened in the sixties?Smith:
What are you referring to in the sixties?Question:
Oh, our declaration of independence. Yes, they were certainly bitter and antagonistic. I repeat, the day before our declaration we were a model for Africa and they supported us, the day after we were the greatest evil on earth! And, they took strong exception to us standing up to them and defying them. And there was a lot of revenge. I suppose we did have a few friends - the Conservatives - who were trying to help, but as I state in the book, I had better understanding with Harold Wilson, who was Labour, than I had with some of the Conservatives, because they were just blatantly dishonest, they pretended to be our friends.Question:
And did that change after the election of Mrs. Thatcher?Smith:
Mrs. Thatcher, yes. Sadly, shortly, sadly she came too late. She was influenced by Carrington against her better judgment. I had that confirmed to me by some of our Conservative friends in London. Carrington, and the then Prime Minister of Australia, who was working and trying to curry favour with some of the black leaders and subsequently hoped to become Secretary of the Commonwealth. He applied for the job, but they threw him out, they didn’t want him - a devious Australian. Those are the people who got together and persuaded Margaret Thatcher to stand back for a little bit, in the hopes that Lancaster House would prove the right answer. And I think she was led to believe that it would. And as I told you, what Carrington told me, that that went wrong which should not have gone wrong.Question:
Perhaps I should make this point to you - that there was a clause in the Lancaster House agreement which said that any party which resorted to intimidation would be disqualified. Lord Soames, whom the British sent out as their Governor, confirmed to me, I think it was ten days before the election when I went to see him. He always sent for me, very courteous when he spoke to me. I said “I believe you have had over 1,000 affidavits confirming intimidation?” He nodded his head and said “I thought you were going to talk about that. We’ve got a plan - we’re going to disqualify Mugabe and ZANU(PF) in three of the main provinces, those on the eastern side, closest to Mozambique. If he’s disqualified there, he will not win the election.”
And that was correct, the arithmetic was correct, although I said to him “There’s intimidation everywhere!” But he said “We couldn’t get away with it, disqualifying him everywhere. We’ve worked out that this will be the best practical solution.” Three days before the election when I went back to him and said “Are we still on course for this disqualification?” he said “No, I’ve had a message from Peter that it’s cancelled, telling me it’s not on. The OAU will not accept it and therefore we cannot.” I said “What do you mean you cannot, are you going to break the agreement?” He said - and shook his head almost sadly, Lord Soames, and said - “My dear friend, that’s the world we live in today...” So that ditched us, you see, if it hadn’t been for that, our supporters would have won the election, not the Communists.
Why was the difference of opinion that big, from Carrington?Smith:
Because the OAU was growing as a major political force in the world. At that time I think there were about 47 or 48 members of the OAU - I think they’ve got 50 today. You know they’ve all got a vote at the United Nations and their vote counts for as much as the vote of Britain or the United States. So in the end if you want to get something passed and accepted at the United Nations, to have 50 votes on your side is a very powerful influence. The one thing you’ve got to say about the OAU, whether you like them or not, whether they are Communist dictators or not, they stand together. If anybody attacks any member of the OAU, they all rally round. That doesn’t happen in the Free World. The OAU is a unity - they are united.Question:
Even the Arab countries?Smith:
They support them, although they’re not really part of Africa. I mentioned that. If you look at all the countries, from Egypt across the north, Libya, right across to Morocco, they’ll always be orientated northwards towards Europe across the Mediterranean. Their culture -if you say to an Arab “What is your culture, what is your religion, what is your language, what are your traditions?”, they will say “Arab” not “African.” They are joined to Saudi Arabia, Jordan. I believe that is really western Arabia, it’s not Africa. But Africans love to incorporate it, because they think they’re wallowing in oil money and they’re going to get support from them, and they want their support in international organisations. I believe it’s about time that Africa stood on its own feet. Africa is really sub-Saharan Africa. But today they incorporate these Arab countries for the reasons I’ve mentioned.Question:
Do you see anything in something like a white homeland somewhere in Southern Africa? Orania?Smith:
I don’t think so. I think the white people have got to accept that they’re a part of Africa. I think we’ve got to learn to live together. I don’t think it’s practical politics. You know, Orania, what is that - there’s room there for a few thousand people. So, how can you figure it out? The original concept of apartheid was to create, or divide, South Africa into two. The first person who mentioned apartheid was the first Nationalist Prime Minister, Dr. Malan. Then, Verwoerd and the rest. We had never heard of it, I think 99 per cent of the National Party had never heard the word before. When I read old Dr. Malan’s speech and tried to analyze it - I was then a young Member of Parliament in Rhodesia - it seemed to me the kind of thing he was trying to do was emulate what Britain had often done. In India they divided it between India and Pakistan. In Palestine they, and the rest of the world, divided it between the Arabs and the Jews. In fact, in Ireland the British divided it between the Catholics and the Protestants, didn’t they? But there you had groups of people who in the main were concentrated in certain areas. All right, we heard horrific stories about India, about how 3 million people were massacred because they were on the wrong side.Question:
I couldn’t believe that the practicalities would ever apply in South Africa, because there was no part of South Africa where you had - where you’ve got - exclusively whites, and another part where there were exclusively blacks. The white people were all over South Africa, so how could you implement it, even if you thought it was a good idea? What could you do with the farmers in the west, in the Cape Province, and in Natal - say to them “Abandon your farms and come to the Northern Transvaal”? This is unrealistic. So I had to - when I read his speech and analyzed it, and talked to a number of my friends up there - I had to come to the conclusion that this was absolutely impossible, it was a pipe dream.
But it subsequently became dishonest, because, subsequently, the National Party Government themselves, led by Vorster, said - he told me - “We’ve got to change. It won’t work. I’ve been told by our friends in Britain, the only people who are prepared to speak to us, I’ve been told by them - don’t come and talk to us any more. You and your philosophy of apartheid are the greatest evil on earth.” And in those days Communism was supposed to be the greatest evil on earth, so Vorster was shaken when he told me this. So he said “We’ve got to change,” but he didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. He left it to P.W. Botha, who, whatever else you might say against him, started to do what Vorster had told me six years previously he was going to do. P.W. Botha started, and unfortunately slipped up. Something went wrong halfway through. And then de Klerk continued, but, as I say, I think he bungled it by bringing in the wrong constitution, which, far from helping Mandela, has impeded him.
You had some problems with the publisher Harper-Collins, and you have found another publisher, I believe?Smith:
Yes, I’ve got very good publishers now - Blake. Blake Publishing.Question:
You didn’t have to change the text for them?Smith:
No, I never changed one word. No, I had no intention of changing one word, because I’ve told the truth, and you mustn’t change the truth just in order to appease people, so that’s where it is today.Question:
And, you said that Mr. Mugabe has done a lot of things wrong. Are there any things he did well in the past few years?Smith:
Well, I would have to think, I would have to think hard, to think of anything he’d done well. I’d have great difficulty, I must say. But I’m open to conviction. I say this to you, and I say it to other people, even black people in my country: you tell me, please. And I’m still waiting for the answer, because they are all suffering, there’s no doubt about it, the black people there will tell you their life has deteriorated. Their children are suffering.Question:
Although they have produced more schools- yes - the standard of education has deteriorated. I can take you to schools in our country where there are no teachers, no books for the children. What’s the good of having schools like that? You see, we always said, sure we want to bring them up, but we want to try to bring them up to our standards, and not drop our standards down to some lower level. We tried, we did as much as we could. The greatest amount of money in our budget was on African education.
A very interesting aspect came out at the break-up of the Federation. In those days I was Minister of Finance, not Prime Minister, so I was a chairman of the break-up committee. The main task of the break-up committee was to allocate the finances of the Federation between the three territories. We had a committee of British civil servants and our own civil servants, and it was the British civil servants who pointed to the fact that, in Rhodesia, we had done twice as much, proportionate to population, in the fields of education, health, housing, recreational facilities, and overall general facilities of culture, for the black people. We had done twice as much as Britain had done for their two northern territories!
So I think that amplifies the point I make - that we were trying, very hard. I remember once the question of providing more educational facilities, and education for every black child, came up in Parliament. Of course we had black Members of Parliament. And I said well, let’s have a look at this, let’s set up a committee to investigate. Anything we can do to improve the education and health of the black people, I was always in favour of... So we set up this committee, that sat for quite a long time, about a year. They took extensive evidence and in the end the report came to Parliament, and the Minister of Finance said to us “In order to give every black child the same education as the white children, tomorrow, would take the whole of the national budget. There wouldn’t be a dollar for anything else.” So that indicates to you the impossibility of trying to do it immediately, in keeping with our standards. And then the Minister of Education came in and he said even if you could find the money to build the schools - the bricks, the mortar, the cement - he said we wouldn’t have the teachers. It takes 20 years to produce a teacher, from the time that child is born. So what would be the good of producing all these schools if you have no teachers? So I think that amplifies the point I make, that you’ve got to try to do these things in keeping with the practicalities of life, the possibilities, not just deal in ideological philosophies which are out of the clouds. We were trying. We tried hard.
I came across this quotation of yours during the time of Rhodesia - they were the happiest black faces in Africa, in Rhodesia...Smith:
I think I said “in the world”, the happiest black faces in the world, and I stand by it.Question:
But then why are these people in such great majority voting for the politicians which you abhor so much?Smith:
Because they know if they don’t vote for these politicians, somebody comes to them with a gun in his hand, and they know what’s going to happen to them. We had conclusive proof in those first elections, as I’ve told you, over 1,000 affidavits given to Soames, of blatant intimidation. And more than intimidation. Don’t let’s pretend they’re not very clever when it comes to keeping themselves in power! The election was over three days. They had their people through every little town and village in the country, these terrorists, they’d been there for quite a few years with their guns, intimidating people. They went around a few days before the election and said “There are three days, the first day is for Mugabe, the second day is for Muzorewa, and the third day is for Nkomo.” You remember, they told them that. Then, when the election came, the first day, that night before they went around, the same people, and told them all “You’ve got to vote tomorrow or else!” So they’ve been told that the first day was for Mugabe, and then the following night they’ve been told they all have to vote tomorrow. So they all went “tomorrow”. There were queues miles long. They were afraid. So, it’s not surprising that in the end he got more votes than anybody else.Question:
But do you really think that was the determining factor of the outcome? I can imagine that it would have an effect on the outcome, but...Smith:
If you put yourself in the position of these poor people, I repeat: illiterate people who can neither read nor write, who have never voted in their lives before, and were suddenly confronted with this! What was uppermost in their minds was that they had people with guns, and they had seen people being killed simply because they would not support the Party. They killed people, they just shot them! Don’t let’s pretend that it was simple and straightforward. I want to assure you that there was no doubt in our minds from the security reports that we had received. Sure, they had committees on the ground, ZANU(PF) had been there all the time, with their guns, had been there for a long time.Question:
Many was the time when our Security Forces - we didn’t have enough security forces just to be everywhere all the time, they used to have to go from place to place - very often when they came back to a place after having been away for a week or whatever it was, that the black people said “Thank goodness you’ve come back, these people are here demanding food,” and if you don’t give them food, you know what happens! “And then even worse,” they said, “sometimes they are demanding our wives,” - that upset them even more. But again, when you’ve got a man with a gun - and you haven’t got a gun, you’re living in the bush without electricity, without a telephone, in those primitive conditions - you put yourselves in that situation... not easy!
[Indistinct - the question referred to a controversial book written by Bruce Moore-King, an ex-member of the Rhodesian mounted infantry unit, the Grey’s Scouts, titled “White Man, Black War”, which was extremely anti-Rhodesian and pro-ZANU(PF)]...Smith:
Sorry, but I don’t recall the man...Question:
Well, in short, the story was about the horrors of war, what they have been doing, torturing people, and he had to leave the country at a certain point. He came back, I think, in 1986. His story was - “Well, now I’ve come back and I don’t know if I can live here in peace. What was it all about? Why did I have to fight this war, why did I do those things?” Do you feel anything for these kinds of feelings of people who fought for you, and then in 1987 he looks back and thinks “Well, I have a better life in Rhodesia now than I’ve ever had,” - because he was very young when the war started, he was a boy, so he didn’t know anything else.Smith:
Well, I don’t recall the actual case you refer to, but there were a few cases of people who did that. I think it helped them sell their books, you know. I hope I’m not being too cynical, I honestly believe that. I have never personally met a person who said that, but I wouldn’t like to try to suggest that 100 per cent of Rhodesians supported me.Question:
But he did support you 100 per cent...Smith:
Well, perhaps it pays him now to change his mind, he can sell that. If he goes on saying he still supports me, do you think he’ll ever sell a book?Question:
I don’t know how well it would sell - or your book will...Smith:
But there’s no comparison, because I’ve been consistent. He has evidently changed his mind! There were a few people who did that, sure, they’re entitled to do it, but I wonder, I question their sincerity. Let me go back for just a minute - we were talking about intimidation and you said “Why do people go on voting for them?” You know, Edgar Tekere was one of Mugabe’s right-hand men, he was one of the founders of the ZANLA army. He broke with them, because, he said: “I can’t go on with this sort of stuff, we in the bush never fought for this kind of thing.” And he stood one election against Mugabe, and he frightened him - with everything against him, as I’ve told you, the communications media, the finance, and so on - he got 20 per cent of the votes. That shook them! He told me that in that election four of his candidates who were standing for him just disappeared from the face of the earth, they never saw them again. You don’t hear about that outside. Five of his candidates one day - there were headlines in the paper - said: “We’re standing down. We’ve seen the light.” So they didn’t stand. I met one of them after the election - because I get around, I talk to people, I meet them - and I said to him “Tell me a little bit about this light that you saw.” He said “We got a visit from the CIO, and they told us if we went on like this, our wives and our children would get the message...” What would you do?Question:
In the following election, in Gwelo, the Mayor of Gwelo - or he had been the Mayor - strong man, he stood against Muzenda, Mugabe’s Vice-President and Number Two, he was then a Member of Parliament in Gwelo. Things were going badly for Muzenda, so much so that the predictions were that he was going to be beaten. But you can’t have your man beaten if you’re running a show like Mugabe’s, and especially your Vice-President!
One night he was coming home from a meeting, this ex-Mayor of Gwelo, and a motor car pulled up alongside of him and somebody opened up with a machine-gun on his motor car. They meant to kill him. They didn’t, they wounded him badly, he had to come to hospital in Britain for treatment. Somebody saw the two people in the car, they were subsequently arrested and brought before the court. One was Muzenda’s personal bodyguard, the other one was a member of ZANU(PF) Youth Brigade. They were convicted and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. They appealed to the Appellate Division, and the Appellate Division upheld the sentence of nine years imprisonment. That day they received Presidential Pardon from Mugabe - they didn’t serve one day! You know, if you go to Gwelo and talk about ‘freedom to vote the way you want to...’
There was a meeting in Sinoia, up to the north of Salisbury - Mugabe’s home country. There was a bit of opposition beginning to form. There were a few people who were prepared to stand up and say “No, it’s not right, let’s vote for one of these other parties - Tekere or Muzorewa.” The local Youth Brigade broke up that meeting. There were some police there and they arrested two of these youngsters - we were surprised, I took my hat off to them, because the police sometimes hesitate...
The Magistrate sentenced them to so much community work, and I think six strokes of the cane or something like that - they were schoolboys. That day they received Presidential Pardon, and, what made it worse was that the following weekend one of Mugabe’s ministers went and addressed a public meeting at the same place in Sinoia, and said to the people there “If there are magistrates in this country who think they can pass sentences like that against ZANU(PF), they better think again! We won’t accept it!” You can imagine how that affected the judicial system in the country. Mugabe has said, and it’s on record, “If we get a decision from the Appellate Division which is contrary to the philosophies of our party, we will not accept it!” That’s where we live.
Why do you still live in Zimbabwe? Why didn’t you leave?Smith:
It’s my country, I was born there, I’ve got a farm there. I’ve got children and grandchildren there.Question:
You never felt for one moment...?Smith:
I don’t believe you can solve a problem by running away from it, I’ve often said that. They tried to get rid of me. I was arrested on three occasions. I’ve had my passport confiscated, and my papers and my few old guns on my farm that are used for predators. I just went on leading my life normally, so in the end they came to the conclusion they were wasting their time, and they leave me alone now... so far...Question:
So they have never trusted you...?Smith:
I was arrested on three occasions! Oh yes, they still threaten me. If I criticise them they put my face in the middle of the screen at peak TV news time and say “Look at this terrible man. He tried to repress us before, and he’s still going on.” But I don’t pay any attention. I don’t think it helps. I think you’ve got to be positive, as opposed to negative. I’ve always believed that worrying about that sort of thing doesn’t help. If anything’s going to happen to me, then that’s my fate. So fortunately I don’t allow myself to think about it. Sadly, my family, they think about it, and they used to worry sometimes. But I’ve never permitted myself to fall into the trap of thinking about it and thus worrying about it. I think I’ve succeeded so far.Question:
Did any members of your family leave the country?Smith:
I have a daughter and her husband who live in Cape Town, but the rest of my family, they live in Zimbabwe, in Harare, so I’ve got children and grandchildren there. But that’s their decision. I’ve never tried to influence them. I do not believe that the sins of the fathers should be visited on the sons...[this last remark was followed by laughter, and Mr. de Lange then indicated that there was time for one last question]
Do you call your country Zimbabwe or Rhodesia? You still talk about ‘Gwelo’ - do you use the old names?Smith:
Yes... yes... and I enjoy using them because I was proud of being a Rhodesian. I’m not all that proud of being a Zimbabwean today. But I’m a practical man - I know it’s called Zimbabwe, I’ve now got a passport which is a Zimbabwe passport, and when I fill in forms that say where do I live, of course I put Zimbabwe, I’ve got to. In fact, if you visit our country and you’ve got to fill in a form - if you’re a visitor - saying where you were born, and you were actually born in Rhodesia, and you put down ‘Rhodesia’, the person at the desk will say “You cross that out and put Zimbabwe!” But I know some people who said “But I wasn’t born in Zimbabwe, when I was born it was called Rhodesia.” If you don’t change it, you don’t go in! Those are the sort of people you’ve got to deal with.Mr. de Lange:
May I thank you all very much...Reporter:
Thank you very much for coming.Smith:
Thank you, once again, thank you for taking the trouble to come and listen to me, I’m grateful to you for helping me to put over the truth.Question:
Did you bring some of your books?Smith:
Yes, a friend of mine in the back here has brought some...[At this point the reporters all moved forward to examine copies of Ian Smith’s book, and the press conference was over.]
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