HE was reviled by Western Governments and black Africans alike, but in 1965 Ian Smith stood firm in maintaining that Rhodesia should be a white ruled country.
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HARARE, ZIMBABWE, (FORMERLY KNOWN AS SALISBURY, RHODESIA) (REUTERS FILE) (PROBABLY NOVEMBER 1974)
IAN SMITH RINGING LIBERTY BELL AT PARTY TO CELEBRATE THE NINTH ANNIVERSARY OF RHODESIA'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FROM BRITAIN ON NOVEMBER 11TH 1965
Background: HE was reviled by Western Governments and black Africans alike, but in 1965 Ian Smith stood firm in maintaining that Rhodesia should be a white ruled country. By defying Britain and declaring independence from the fading empire, Smith set the nation down a path of nearly a decade and a half of internal conflict. The former Prime Minister has kept a low profile in the 17 years since Rhodesia became the black African nation of Zimbabwe, but as Reuters Chris Bishop reports, he has not lost any of his conviction or passion.
Ian Smith - as Prime minister of the then Rhodesia, he took the brunt of the winds of change sweeping Africa.
Reporter question - "Once upon a time , Prime minister , you said that you would never see black rule in this country in your life time.Do you still stand by that ? Ian Smith- "Yes, I believe that is a fair comment and I think that if we ever get to a stage of having black rule then I think our policy would have failed."
November 11th 1965, the day Ian Smith said no to British pressure for black majority rule to transform his country into a rebel state and an international outcast.
Ian Smith - "But I want to assure you that it was a very emotional occasion and I was deeply cut up about that , because it was contrary to everything that I believed in.But I had to make a decision between Rhodesia , my country and what Britain were doing to us."
The political misgivings gave way to conflict. More than 60 thousand black Zimbabweans organised themselves into guerilla armies for a war which touched every family in the country. Ian Smith stood resolute against these forces and world opinion.
Ian Smith - " It meant people stepped out of line. I think some of them did get pretty strong punishment and when the security forces faced a situation where they knew there were certain people getting up to terrorism, I don't think it's surprising when you find some of their reactions were perhaps a little stronger than one might have expected normally.That's a part of life is n't it ?"
Attemps to solve the crisis around the table even went to a British battleship off the coast of Mozambique and talks with the former British Prime minister Harold Wilson.
It culminated in a cease- fire and the Lancaster House agreement in London, which provided the foundations for modern day Zimbabwe.
Ian Smith feels short changed by the transition.In his book, that took him eight years to write , he talks of a great betrayal and his disillusionment with modern day Africa.
Ian Smith - " Look at Africa , to the North of us today.Am I not correct when I say that they are all one party states ? And I believe the lot of the black man - they tell me this - is worse today , than before the black people took over.
Because their countries are riddled with corruption.Look at Zaire now, which is a classical example. We hear stories of Mobutu having overseas - 8 to 12 billions, not millions, more than hs country's national debt.Where did this money come from ? While his people were getting poorer."
In his late seventies , Ian Smith has long been retired from politics. But he accepts that he will long be held up as a hate figure in the world.
Ian Smith - " Well, I have got to live with this. I've had it for so long, and because I know it's not the truth, it runs off my back , like water off the proverbial duck's back.Don't worry, I don't worry about the things which I know are not the truth."
In his retirement on his farm, he does see some hope on the horizon for the leadership of Africa.
Ian Smith - " Well, clearly there is one outstanding example, and that is Mandela in South Africa, who I say, and I've said it before - history will record as the first black statesman ,as opposed to politician, produced by Africa. A statesman thinks of the next generation, a politician of the next election and just winning votes, so I would like to think that there were more people like Mandela."
With his book, Ian Smith has made up his mind and put his life in order as he reaches the twilight of his life. He claims his conscience is clear, and that people can now think of him what they like.
Ian Smith - " I haven't spent a great deal of time thinking on that and being introspective. I would hope that I would be remembered as a person who just tried to do the best I could for my country and improve the lot of the people in my country."