An African View of Southern Rhodesia
By GEORGE NYANDORO WHAl we, the Africans Whose country is at present the British territory known as Southern Rhodesia, are seeking politically can be easily stated. We are seeking the settlement of the difficult and worsening political problems of our country by constitutional means. We believe such a constitutional settlement can only be arrived at at a conference called and presided over by the British Government. Such a con- ference, we believe, should set itself to work out a constitution by which the rule of the majority can be established in our land. This is not a new policy with us. It is a policy which we have pur- sued with great patience and under extreme pro- vocation for as long as we have been able to organise a national political party.
Mr. Garfield Todd, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, in 1957 felt that the time had come to liberalise and to extend the franchise to allow at least a beginning to African participation in government. While he was out of the country, his own Cabinet forced him from office. This was the beginning of the present intransigent situation between the races. With Whitehead's Government came eventually the banning of the African National Congress, the emergency, the beginning of the repressive legislation aimed at hampering African political activity—which was to lead to the resignation of Sir Robert Tredgold, Chief Justice of the Federation's Supreme Court.
African political life began again after the formation of the National Democratic Party, which began to call for a constitutional con- ference. Such a conference was held in 1960 under the chairmanship of Mr. Duncan Sandys. The conference failed to reach agreement. The right- wing Dominion Party, then in Opposition, re- fused to accept the constitution. The African Party (National Democratic Party) rejected it be- cause it clearly opened up no possibilities of de- velopment towards majority rule—rather, it en- trenched minority rule. A referendum was held and the constitution was accepted by the pre- dominantly white electorate. The African Party held its own referendum at which everyone in the country was invited to vote. It overwhelm- ingly rejected the constitution. The National Democratic Party and; after its banning, the Zim- babwe African People's Union, until it, too, was banned, continued to call for a new constitutional conference.
They adopted two forms of pressure—one upon the Southern Rhodesia Government by dis- couraging Africans from registering as voters; both to show how unacceptable the constitution was to Africans and to make it unlikely that the constitution would work as intended. In spite of the frantic Government efforts, this campaign was highly successful. The `B Roll' did not go beyond 10,000 voters, of whom not more than 2,500 actually voted at the elections.
The second form of pressure was upon the British Government, through the United Nations, when we petitioned the world organisation to call upon Britain to summon a constitutional conference. We did not ask the world body to censure Britain, nor did we ask for sanctions. The British Government maintained that this was an internal matter in which the United Nations was not competent, and used its power of veto at the Security Council to render the resolution ineffective.
The British Government has gone out of her way to stress how powerless she is to act effec-
tively in Southern Rhodesia, and thus has taken the appalling risk of encouraging tacitly and giving credence to public statements made by Rho- desian Front Government Ministers that a uni- lateral declaration of independence is the best alternative if Britain' refuses the application for independence. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ian Smith, who was in London last year for talks with the British Government on the issue of in- dependence, is quoted as saying in the Rhodesia Herald of January 10, 1964:
Question : 'What would be the main reper- cussion apart from belt-tightening, if we de- clared our independence?'
Reply : 'I don't think there will be any belt- tightening when we are independent—the days of belt-tightening will be over. That's for sure. As far as the City of London is concerned, it might be a three-day wonder. For that reason 1 think a Friday afternoon would be a good time. By Monday morning all the excitement (if any) would be over.'
Statements are being made by the Rhodesian Front Government Ministers that Southern Rhodesia should declare its own independence— in effect, tliat the Government should rebel against the Crown. Mr. Winston Field has re- cently been in London and threats to take unilateral action are common talk in Rhodesia.
At this time, when Britain seems ready to do everything she can when called upon by her ex- colonies to help them solve their internal problems, we find it strange she should be so reluctant to do • anything to help resolve the desperate internal problems of a country which is still her colony. Further, although it is the African people, who are 94 per cent of the popu- lation—and not the Government of that colony— who are asking her to help, the whites as well as the blacks will benefit.
Have events in other parts of Africa dis- credited the whole of British colonial policy since the war? In fact, the events in East Africa of the last few weeks show how important it is for a settlement in Southern Rhodesia to be reached quickly.
You cannot equate African nationalism with Communism.
What happened in Zanzibar merely shows that to solve a minority problem by putting a minority in power is no long-term solution. The creation in place of the present colony of Southern Rho- desia of an independent State which will feel naturally friendly to Britain and which will be able to overcome its minority problem depends on a speedy resolution of the present deadlock.
Apart from the now regular incidents in which Africans are killed by white policemen, there is the effect of other possible deaths on the racial feelings created and encouraged by the present political impasse. There are four Africans now under sentence of death for offences which do not in civilised countries carry the death penalty. Africans cannot accept things as they arc, the minority government spends money it can ill afford on the army and the police, the economy grows more and more stagnant. Euro- peans are leaving the country by the thousand, and Ministers and Members of the Legislative Assembly talk of 'taking the bit between our teeth.'
What can Britain do to avert such a pre- carious situation? She must make it clear, not only that she will not grant Southern Rhodesia independence under the present constitution, but
also that she will not tolerate a unilateral declaration of independence from Southern Rho- desia. And she must do this publicly, not just in private conversations with Mr. Field. We are now suspicious that Sir Alec Home will. relent, giving Mr. Winston Field to understand that if he declares Southern Rhodesia independent, Britain will reluctantly accept the fact. Or even that they may be finding some formula by which Britain will not actually grant Southern Rhodesia its independence and yet Southern Rhodesia will not actually have to rebel in order to take it. For all we know, Britain may not even have decided what she will do, faced with unilateral declaration by the Southern Rhodesian Government. All this encourages men like the Deputy Premier Ian Smith and his Cabinet col- leagues to think they could get away with it. The British Government must remove from the scene the possibility of unilateral action, which is as dismaying to many Europeans and to the Euro- pean opposition party as it is to us. Britain should also make it clear that should the minority. government declare itself independent of her, she will, beside her overall responsibility of subduing the rebels, immediately freeze all foreign reserves; withdraw imperial preferences; withdraw loan guarantees; and will not recognise currency and travel documents; that the Governor will be ordered to take direct control of Her Majesty's forces in the territory.
The consequences to Britain if she permits the minority Government to declare independence will seriously affect her international standing. Not only will it split the Commonwealth, but will bring Britain into head-on conflict v. ith the Organisation of African Unity; the large majority of members of the UN will be arraigned against her, and it may strain Anglo-US relations.
Once the British Government takes the courageous stand outlined above, the possibility of unilateral action will disappear.
The demand for independence by Winston Field's Government should be sufficient reason for the calling of a full-fledged conference by the British Government. It is difficult to see how the present Government of Southern Rhodesia could refuse to attend a conference held to see whether and how Southern Rhodesia could proceed to independence.
What should such a conference do? The British Government has made its position clear. Sir Alec Home said to the United Nations Assembly and he quoted himself in the House of Commons on November 12 last year: .'We have accepted the principle of self-determination in that qualifica- tion; we have accepted that the majority should. rule. We insist, as far as we are able to do before independence, that minorities must be protected because this is the very essence of democracy.' Therefore the conference should apply these prin. ciples to Southern Rhodesia.
If Britain finds she no longer believes in these principles, or that they apply to soine countries but not to others, then let her say so. We shall know where we stand. But if she does still believe in them, it is her urgent duty to apply them and enable us to apply them in our country. Urgent because the longer the situation develops, the harder it will be to bring people to a con- ference table.
Of course the British Government claims that she has difficulties. But these are not ()lour mak- ing and let it be clearly understood that they must be overcome. The economy of the country is running down. Race relations are deteriorating. There is little time left.
(Next week Aldan Crawley, MP, will write on Southern Rhodesia)