Of course, ‘those they defeated’ in this regard, refers to the British – who were the colonial powers over the then Rhodesia – for which, the ruling ZANU PF establishment fought for independence for what is now known as Zimbabwe.
That may sound an accurate piece of history and reasoning – since surely, as one of the nationalist movements of the 1960s and 70s, under normal circumstances, it would be quite bizarre for them to be lectured on human rights by the very people who brought racial injustices and oppression.
Yet, there is always more to any story that meets the eye.
As much it may be correct that the British colonized the land between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers – by granting a charter to Cecil John Rhodes’ BSAC (British South Africa Company) on 20 December 1889, which was later revoked in 1923, with the then Southern Rhodesia becoming a self-governing colony – there were some important events that the people of Zimbabwe may not be too aware.
So many of us have heard of the UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) announced by then Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith on 11 November 1965.
We may also be familiar with the outrage expressed by the British at what they interpreted as ‘rebellion from the Crown’ – thereby, pushing the UN into imposing an economic and trade embargo on the country – but, how many understand why Smith took such reviled action?
Well, before believing the tall tales uttered by the political powers in Zimbabwe – brazenly proclaiming that they ‘brought majority rule by defeated British oppression’ through the liberation struggle, thus had no moral high ground to teach ZANU PF about human rights – we need to understand a few historical facts.
The main reason Smith worked feverishly hard for UDI was because the British were actually demanding majority rule in Rhodesia.
Yes, you heard me – the British actually called for ‘one man one vote’ before most of those shouting on top of mountains about ‘having fought for this country’ ever came on board.
The talk of independence for Rhodesia had been discussed and debated, oftentimes fiercely and emotionally, for some time before the UDI – more so, after the collapse of the Central African Federation (putting together Southern and Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland) in 1963 – which immediately resulted in Zambia and Malawi being granted their independence by Britain.
The only country left without majority rule was Southern Rhodesia – which the likes of Smith adamantly and ferociously resisted – yet, the British insisted on.
In fact, four of the five conditions laid down by the London administration for independence – first under Alec Douglas-Home, and then Harold Wilson – were that there be ‘principle and intention of unimpeded progress to majority rule’; immediate improvement of the political status of the African population; progress towards ending racial discrimination; and any proposal for independence acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.
Interestingly, another Harold (Harold Macmillan) and British Prime Minister, made his famous ‘Winds of Change’ speech in the South Africa Parliament, in Cape Town, on 3 February 1960 (before ZANU PF was even formed) – as a sign of this change of heart by the colonial masters, and their desire to see the people in their colonies granted total independence.
Unsurprisingly, Smith would have none of that, and proceeded to unilaterally declare independence for Rhodesia – of course, with the issue of immediate majority rule kicked out of the window.
Would it, then, not be safe to say that, the first sanctions imposed on this country by the British and her allies were actually in support of the black majority of Zimbabwe, and the respect of our human rights?
In fact, can we also not add that.- with the current set of targeted restrictive measures on a few individuals and entities in independent Zimbabwe, our government has proven itself no better than Smith – opting to be sanctioned than implementing genuine democratic reforms, which benefit the majority?
Thus, before stubbornly resisting any pressure by ‘the British and her allies’ to respect the fundamental rights of the people of Zimbabwe – under the pretext that ZANU PF ‘fought against these colonizers’ – those in power should be reminder that, before most of them even joined the liberation struggle, the same British were already demanding majority rule.
Ironically, the targeted sanctions they make so much noise about today, are actually child’s play compared to the trade and economic embargo imposed on Smith’s Rhodesia – both as coercive measures for these oppressive regimes to respect the dignity and honor of the ordinary people of this country.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]