Re-reading Ian Hancock’s fine history of liberal white politics in Rhodesia reminds me that the first politician in that sad country to harass and intimidate his political opponents was not Robert Gabriel Mugabe, but Ian Douglas Smith. Smith and his Rhodesian Front party arrested, tortured, silenced, detained, and killed black opponents of white rule. As far as I know, no white opponents were murdered, but they were arrested, deported, silenced, shouted-down in public meetings, made the victims of malicious innuendo, traduction, and defamation, and otherwise intimidated if they dared oppose RF rule. I know at least one opponent who committed suicide rather than kill his fellow citizens in defence of white privilege. These actions, Smith insisted, were for the maintenance of Western, Christian, values. Bah, humbug! As early as May 1965, in Smith’s first election as an incumbent prime minister, he prevented any white or black opposition politician from gaining access to state-owned media. In contrast, Smith himself was treated with great deference and respect, despite continuing to hold racist views that would have shamed a Klansman, after Mugabe came to power in 1980. He should have been tried as a war criminal. In a more just world, he would have been.
The terror that Robert Mugabe has unleashed on his homeland is different in scale, perhaps, but not in kind from that of Ian Smith. The evil that men do may well outlive them.
Ian Hancock : White Liberals, Moderates and Radicals in Rhodesia 1953-1980. New York: St Martin’s Press.