White man – black heart

'The only white man buried at Heroes' Acre'


In life he was despised by most white Rhodesians, branded as a communist troublemaker and deported by Ian Smith in 1971. I

n death, he was acclaimed by black Zimbabweans as one of the greatest white Christians who ever worked in their troubled land and President Robert Mugabe declared him a National Hero only moments after he died in North Wales at the age of 88 in 1995.

Today, it’s unlikely many young Zimbabweans (50 percent of the population is under 15 years of age) will recall the life and times of Guy Clutton-Brock, the man who carved his name onto the hearts of thousands of freedom fighters who turned white-ruled Rhodesia into black-dominated Zimbabwe in April 1980.

“Some say he was a living saint but I regard him as a very great man who was inspired by noble principles which he adhered to throughout his life,” says historian and journalist Lawrence Vambe from his new home in the English Midlands.

“His approach to Africa’s future would not now please many of his former colleagues in the co-operative movement which he founded here,” said a writer in the Mwana Wevhu column of the Harare based Financial Gazette of 9 February, 1995. “They, in their enjoyment of power, have become victims of the same worldliness that he saw as so destructive of man’s true humanity.”

Guy Clutton-Brock was a scion of the British establishment. Born in Wales, his father was a stockbroker. He gained a history degree at Oxford University and later he studied theology at Cambridge University where he obtained special mention for his character and intellectual attainments.

In 1948 he and his wife Molly arrived in Southern Rhodesia as lay missionaries of the Anglican Church. They were stationed at St Faith’s Mission, Rusape where Clutton-Brock was an agricultural adviser.

He concentrated on co-operative work and some of the young people he groomed included Didymus Mutasa, Robert Tichaendepi Masaya, John Mataure, Cornelius Sanyanga, Moven Mahachi, Dr D.C. Matondo and Herbert Ruwende.

In the mid-1950s Guy Clutton-Brock met with the nationalist leaders Robert James Chikerema, George Bonzo Nyandoro, Paul Mushonga, Peter Mutandwa, Dzawanda Willie Musarurwa, Eddison Sihole and Kufakunesu Mhizha and St Faith’s soon became the Mecca for black nationalists.

Following the inauguration on September 12, 1957 in Mbare of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress Guy Clutton-Brock identified himself with Rhodesia’s wretched of the earth. He prayed for “thousands and thousands” to join the SRANC and introduced to cheering Africans a couple who had crossed the “colour line” by marrying – Patrick Matimba and his white wife.

European settlers in Rhodesia went insane with anger and branded the youngish white missionary and his wife as a couple of “communist troublemakers.”

“He was probably the most courageous and selfless white man I’ve ever met in my life,” the late veteran nationalist James Chikerema told me.

Clutton-Brock later helped establish Cold Comfort Farm on the outskirts of Harare. One of his key supporters was a small, dynamic and at the time very Christian man, Didymus Mutasa.

As the nationalist fight against white rule hotted up in 1970, Guy Clutton-Brock was the first European to be threatened with deprivation of his Rhodesian passport. In 1971 he was deported and Cold Comfort Farm Society was declared unlawful.

Hardwicke Holderness (author of Lost Chance –Southern Rhodesia 1945-1958, Zimbabwe Publishing House) now in his 90s and living in England, summed up his ‘offence’ when he told Clutton-Brock – “Your real offence is turning yes men slaves into independent human beings.” – Trevor Grundy is a journalist, broadcaster and author.

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