The sun was gloriously warm in a cloudless sky, but otherwise it might have been a fair in rural England instead of 5000 miles south. At the Marandellas Agricultural Show pink-faced men drank pink gins while the prizewinning cattle were paraded.In the tea tent volunteer ladies served fruit salad and cream. In the display shed there were blue ribbons on the best rhubarb and brussels sprouts. Only occasionally was there a reminder that this was Africa: black men running suddenly out onto the field to set up jumps for the horses; the sign outside the men’s room, “Europeans only.”
A horse-loving family from South Africa, the Myburghs, had come to compete for the jumping prizes. And so, across from the small grandstand, three flags were flying: the union jack, the blue-and-orange of South Africa, and the standard of Rhodesia — in the middle, like Rhodesia itself. In the jumping, the Myburghs won most of the prizes.
“Go the nay of South Africa?” said the Salisbury businessman. “Never. We cannot turn back now on multiracialism. There are too few of us-225,000 whites to 4 million Africans, and they are having the population explosion.”
A banker agreed. “Our future is the internal market. We cannot continue to live and let the Africans contribute nothing to the economy. We have to educate the black people and put them to work. We have to get them out of subsistence farming. We have to create more jobs. We have to turn them into customers. It is an economic necessity, not sentimentality. In the end the Africans are going to be in control. Any sensible man knows that. The question is whether we are going to have enough time. The issue to most people is turning the country over to a bunch of ignorant, illiterate, stupid blacks. Ten years is probably the most we can hope for. We’d be lucky if the world allowed us ten years.”
But could Prime Minister Ian Smith survive politically if he agreed to a settlement that would mean African rule in ten years? Would his white party, the Rhodesian Front, support him? “I sincerely doubt it,” the banker said.
Salisbury is a city of the mid-twentieth century, clean and open, with wide, straight streets and parking meters and buildings of glass and concrete. No one would accuse it of harboring any charm. It is on a plateau 5000 feet above sea level, and the standard comparison is Denver. Only Denver is older and has more character.
In the new wing of Meikles Hotel a four-piece band played “People” and “I’ve Told Every Little Star” in the fancy restaurant. Roast lamb was wheeled around on a trolley. Through the windows the union jack could be seen in Cecil Square, flying over the spot where Cecil Rhodes first raised it. In the corridor there was a picture of Elizabeth the Second. Little England, it seemed, except for one embarrassment. The waiters kept saying “boss” and “massah,” like characters from Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The other end of the hotel had a veranda in weather-beaten Western style, and there was a bar with none of the restaurant’s bourgeois chic. A leathery-faced man sat on a stool drinking beer, his voice pure Glasgow although he had left home eighteen years ago and had not been back. He was a bricklayer. “You and I had to learn to get where we are,” he said, “and work. These Africans just want it all at once. And they won’t work: W-O-R-K. They want a subsidy, and that’s one thing they’re not going to get here anymore. I say, let them be paid what they earn.”
Separate but not equal
Rhodesia does not have South Africa’s intricate network of laws to keep Africans out of white jobs. But in practice, separate unions and separate living areas lead to separation at work. African pay for manual or semiskilled labor is as little as a half or a quarter of white wages. And the doors of apprenticeship for skilled jobs are virtually closed to black men. “They can’t even read a plan,” the bricklayer said. “You have to knock it down and do it over.”
Driving out to Marandellas, the milling company executive talked about his love for Rhodesia. He was there as a Royal Air Force trainee during World War II, fell in love with the place, and came back from England after the war. “It’s not an easy country to live in,” he said, “not what they think in England. You work harder and longer. I’ve just been in London— they come in at ten, then there’s a coffee break; they’d never make it here. This is a land of opportunity, the frontier. In Britain you have to have everything laid on — the bus at the door, cinema at the corner; even on holidays they tell you what time to get up.”
He agreed that apartheid was not for Rhodesia. “The average Rhodesian has a soft spot in his heart for the African. They’re some jolly nice chaps. They have to be brought more and more into the picture— into parliament, into the economy. But not because some bloody fellow stands up and screams, ‘One man, one vote.’ The only way we can grow economically is to bring the African forward — but in our time, not them telling us what to do.”
No love for England
Like most other businessmen, the milling company man was opposed to Ian Smith and his party before the unilateral declaration of independence and would like to settle the dispute with Britain now: “We have a great future, but not as an isolated, unrecognized country.” But he would not hear of Rhodesia giving up its independence as the price of a settlement.
“I gave six years of my life to Britain in the war,” he said, “but the way things are going there today I don’t want to be associated with it. They’re absolutely despicable. I wouldn’t hesitate to fight for Rhodesia today if it came to that.”
At the fair an old farmer, in Rhodesia forty years, expressed the same feelings about the mother country. “My family were parsons in England for 300 years,” he said, “but I don’t ever want to see the place again. The only thing that would take me there would be to buy a bull. They’re fools to drain themselves over this. They talk about ruling Rhodesia from Whitehall.
What rot. We made this place, and we’ve been running it for forty years. The people in Britain had nothing to do with it and know nothing about it.” Cattle were his business, and sanctions had not hurt him.
For a tobacco farmer who came out from England after the war, things were much worse. He was not making enough to pay off his loans. What would he do? “Oh, something will turn up. When you know you’re right, you come out ahead, don’t you? Every day you see what’s going on in Zambia and Nigeria and Ghana — and your country, too — and you know how right we are.”
Sanctions don’t hurt
Bulawayo is an industrial town, overbuilt during an economic boom that ended when the federation with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia and Malawi) fell apart five years ago. The Victoria Hotel, built a dozen stories high in the days of great expectations, now caters to a handful of guests.
A critic of the Smith regime, seen in his home, said things were actually looking up a bit in Bulawayo. The textile mills were turning out goods for home consumption. Sales to Zambia had recovered — the Zambians must be stockpiling. “We could go a lot farther toward austerity,” he said. “Sanctions have not hurt all that much yet.”
His wife intervened. “It’s the Jews who are spreading the sad stories,” she said. “They hope people will get scared and move out, and sell their factories cheap.”
A Jewish lawyer, a supporter of Mr. Smith, explained why he had joined the Rhodesian Front Party. “Are the Africans democratic?” he asked. “Do they tolerate minorities? I think we are entitled to ask those questions, and I am not satisfied with the answers.
“I supported Whitehead [Sir Edgar Whitehead, whose policy was “partnership” with the Africans and who was beaten by Smith]. But I was appalled at the African reaction; I realized that African nationalism was a monster. The Rhodesian Front was the backlash to Nkomo [Joshua Nkomo, nationalist leader now in detention], to the statement ‘We don’t want to share, we want to rule — now.’ It is self-preservation with me. I think this country would be a dust bowl if the Africans took over now; I think it would be worse for everyone. I believe that when we settle this thing with England — you notice I say when, not if— race relations will improve. We know we’re outnumbered. There has to be accommodation.”
A cement company president said he had opposed U.D.I. (unilateral declaration of independence) but was “solidly behind the government in keeping the economy going.” His company could last at least another year, spreading the work to keep employment up. “The government must hold out for independence,” he said. “There is no going back. And there can be none of Britain or the United States imposing this majority-rule stuff. We must convince the world that we are going to advance the Africans.”
The African viewpoint
Garfield Todd, former Rhodesian Prime Minister, lost his place in white politics because he argued for accommodation with black nationalism. Shortly before U.D.I., Smith placed him under restriction. He was confined to his ranch in Shabani, a lonely spot in the bush 100 miles from Bulawayo.
Over that 100 miles the Western veneer of Rhodesian cities dropped away, and it was Africa. The road thinned to two narrow asphalt tracks in the dust; in 100 miles, only three cars passed. Mile after mile there was nothing but red clay and sand and dry grass and brush, the branches bare or covered with yellow leaves after the dry winter. Suddenly an African boy appeared out of the tall grass, or a herdsman driving his long-horned cattle. On the road an occasional African family walked in bare feet, heading patiently for no visible place.
The rivers that the road crossed were dry until the Ngczi, which Todd has dammed. In his home, on a bluff overlooking the Ngezi, he talked in a way few white men in Rhodesia dofrom the African viewpoint. Silver-haired, he still seemed what he was when he came to Rhodesia from New Zealand thirty years ago, a missionary.
“It is better to go on with sanctions for five years than to settle on Smith’s terms,” Todd said. “Any settlement can only confirm white power. There is no hope for the Africans in such a settlement. And you have to face the fact that the Africans are going to prevail in the end. Continuing white domination can only lead to bloodshed. Soon this will not be a country where whites will want to live.
“While the next five years will be grim if you carry on with sanctions, it’s nothing like what will happen after ten or fifteen years when the Africans rise from their thralldom. They are not going to accept it. They are sick and tired of it.”
Mrs. Todd, a handsome woman in a white knit dress, wearing a string of pearls, spoke with less a tone of apocalypse than her husband. “There is no dialogue,” she said. “Maybe people see each other at work. Then they go home — the white man to his swimming pool and two cars, the black to his hovel. That’s the ‘Rhodesian way of life’ that we’re protecting. They don’t talk together, or sing together, or even go to church together.
“The Africans are doing better economically. But many cannot find a place in school for their children. And when one does get an education and works up to a responsible position, say as a school administrator, he is still a stranger in his own country; he cannot eat in a restaurant with white men, except one or two in Salisbury; he cannot find a place for a vacation.”
Todd spoke enthusiastically of Africans he knew, such as Nkomo, and said they had more intelligence and more character than almost anyone he had met. “The Africans are so kind and so happy,” he said. “It’s a great country, a beautiful country. How wonderful it could be. I myself have been escaping from paternalism. When you come to a place as I did thirty years ago, and you do everything, you are bound to think yourself irreplaceable. I hope I am outgrowing it in adversity.” Was he? One could not help wondering, for all Garfield Todd’s sincerity, whether the exaltation of everything African was not in itself a new, unwitting form of paternalism.
The drive back to Bulawayo was into the sun. The mystique of Africa — the space, the big sky, the emptiness—for the moment overwhelmed politics. Then at the side of the road there were two African women and a man. The man was hitchhiking. He carried a battered tin toolbox. What was in it? Some dried ears of corn, his supper. He had a 200-acre farm there in the bush, with eighteen head of cattle and a cornfield. The woman minded that. He worked in a mine, driving a Jeep twelve hours a day for $1.42. The whites in the mine made as much as $11.20 a day.
Attempts to draw the hitchhiker into political talk were turned aside. Then he asked, “Are there Africans in England?” Oh, yes, quite a few. “How do they make out?” They get good pay. The conditions of life — well . . . The African smiled.
Thirty miles on he got out, startled and apparently pleased at the offer of a handshake. And so back on the road to Bulawayo, the white liberal conscience assuaged.
Outnumbered 18 to 1
“Anyone who says this country cannot go the way of South Africa is dreaming.” The comment came from a foreigner in Salisbury, one of the professional observers there least clouded by illusion. “At the time of U.D.I.,” he said, “I thought 50 percent of the whites really wanted ‘partnership’ with the Africans. Now I think it would be 10 percent, at most. Every day that there is no settlement, the hope is less.
“People talk of the demography — the 4 million Africans to 225,000 whites — as if it assured moderation. But that’s been exploded. This minority can hold out indefinitely. By that I mean fifteen or twenty years. That’s why I think the British ought to get the best they can out of Smith and settle. Then things might calm down here, the better white people might have some influence again. With American money for education, you could change the whole situation of the Africans in a relatively short time. Then you’d have some Africans with an income, who could bring meaningful pressure for change. And the connections with Britain would still count for something. But the day they get so tied into the South African orbit that they can’t get out, the hope will be gone. Every day without a settlement I think is tragic.”
No hope for peaceful adjustment in Rhodesia was seen by the only white opposition member of parliament, Dr. Ahrn Palley. Some would call him bitter or cynical; he would call himself a realist. There is nothing in his talk about the nobility of the African, or of the white man.
“All you can hope for in Rhodesia is the least amount of suffering,” Dr. Palley said. “Gradual acceptance of black and white may be possible in the United States because the whites can afford to be magnanimous there. A majority can be magnanimous to a minority. What is impossible is for a minority wielding power to give it up.
“The businessman may talk about more African consumption, but he doesn’t extend that concept to ownership of a bank or a bazaar or an office building — much less to a house next door. Farmers won’t have any of it; they depend on a supply of cheap labor. And it’s no use having education without the opening up of apprenticeship and staff jobs to Africans.
“One thing I should make clear — the European in this country is not cruel, not deliberately unkind. He likes Africans. It is just the economic motive. The white carpenter is not going to let an African compete for his job. Maybe in some other place the logic of an exposed position could restrain a white minority, but here safety is seen in the presence of South Africa next door. And yet Rhodesia cannot be as secure for the whites as South Africa; the population balance is so different, and the economy is weaker. We’re chasing stability in this country, and we’ll never achieve it.”
Optimists in the face of defeat
In the parliament building — another bit of old Britain, with officers in wigs and knee breeches the Minister of Information in the Smith government, John Howman, spoke in a pleasant, reasonable voice about race relations. “We have a priceless advantage in Rhodesia,” he said, “in that we have always got along rather well. We are not and we are not going to be racialists. We have to live with these chaps. I was born here, my children were, and we don’t want to do any damned silly thing that would make it an unfit place to live. Britain has trusted us for forty years, and we’ve behaved responsibly.
“It shocks me that we’re all in danger of losing sight of our main enemy, Communism, while we carry on this little internecine war. Nobody really knows what the answer is to race relations. For us to argue about a perfect solution while the Communists try to enslave the world — we’re around the bend.”
Down the street in a musty office was the man who dominated Rhodesian politics for so long, until the Rhodesian Front swept him away —Sir Roy Welensky, ex-boxer, exrailroad worker, still an optimist in the face of defeat. “The Rhodesian Front’s dominance must pass someday,” he said. “Emotions will calm down. This country is multiracial by long constitutional inheritance, and it will stay that way — unless, of course, we become part of a certain state that practices apartheid.”
It was a few weeks later that the Smith government moved to amend the constitution without regard to entrenched clauses. A letter from a friend in Rhodesia to London spoke of the sense of “political frustration" but went on: “If you can only forget it all, Rhodesia is so beautiful now &emdash;warm and sunny and the trees are every color from deep mahogany to vivid green. Sunday morning I went riding, miles across the open country. We flushed a buck and chased secretary birds and guinea fowl . . .”Someday Rhodesia will have to have her own Alan Paton to cry for her.