One has to weep for Zimbabwe. Despite so very much promise its been an abject disaster for the last 35 years; through the white rule racism and violence that was Smith's Rhodesia to the present all encompassing failure of Mugabe.
This obit is from Times On Line.
Prime Minister who led the first colony since the US into rebellion with his Unilateral Declaration of Independence
It was Ian Smiths war-damaged left eye that drew peoples attention first: wide open, heavy-lidded and impassive from experimental plastic surgery, it hinted at a dull, characterless nature. The other was narrow, slanting and slightly hooded. Being watched by it was an uncomfortable experience. Each eye could have belonged to a different person.
A Foreign Office official, in a biographical note to the Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1964, caught the same contradictory appearances: His pedestrian and humourless manner often conceals a shrewder assessment of a particular situation than at first appears on the surface, and he should not be underrated.
The advice was not heeded. Thereafter he held the attention of a fascinated world for more than 15 years with his rebellion against the British Crown over the issue of preserving white minority rule in Rhodesia. He created an at first booming economy in the face of United Nations sanctions, and on a shoestring he fought a counter-insurgency war that for a while he seemed capable of winning.
His ordinariness and lack of artifice helped to make him an extraordinary leader. Farmer, sportsman and quiet-spoken, churchgoing Presbyterian, he saw the world in neat packets of wonderful chaps, terrorists, communists and traitors. He remained an obdurate opponent of black majority rule in southern Africa.
His cold reserve served him both as a wartime Spitfire pilot and in the face of a bawling British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. His obstinacy led his personal secretary, Gerald Clarke, to pass on to him a British complaint that once you have stated your position, they are unable to get you to move. Henry Kissinger perceived honour and courage in Smith when he delivered what were effectively the terms of Rhodesias surrender, and he wept. He was modest to a fault. Throughout most of his tenure at Independence, his official residence, anyone could walk down the driveway and knock on the front door.
Wilson was warned that there was a strong likelihood of a mutiny in the British Armed Forces if he ordered a military suppression of Smiths unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). Pik Botha, the former South African Foreign Minister, said that Smith could have won an election in South Africa in 1976, while Pretoria was secretly forcing him to accept black rule.
Smith is indelibly cast in the image of the arch white racist. But black Zimbabweans after independence admired him for his unbending, blunt criticism of President Robert Mugabe giving voice to opinions that they dared not utter. As economic decay set in, Mugabe would be haunted by the words of fellow blacks: It was better under Smith.
In fact Smith never evinced the coarse racism of many of his colleagues. His was an anachronistic vision of a sovereign Rhodesia that embodied the traditions and values of an unchanging Empire: he saw UDI as a short-term measure that would quickly be resolved, with Rhodesia independent but still tied to Britain through the Commonwealth.
The winds of change shattered his vision. By the time he became Prime Minister, he was up against a Britain that wanted not merely to introduce black rule, but to strip his Government of the powers of self-rule granted by Whitehall in 1923. With the brutality of post-independence Africa vivid in the minds of white Rhodesians, he persisted with what he saw as evolutionary, not revolutionary, change. But he remains condemned for ignoring the extreme disparity between the economic and social circumstances of blacks and whites, and his refusal to change the situation.
Ian Douglas Smith was born in the village of Selukwe in central Rhodesia, of a Scottish father, Jock, and Rhodesian-born mother, Agnes. He was educated at Chaplin School nearby with moderate academic achievement, captaining the first XV and running the 100 yards in 10 seconds. He began a bachelor of commerce degree at Rhodes University in South Africa in 1938, establishing an impressive academic record and rowing for the university.
War broke out in 1939 and in 1941 he joined the RAF Empire Air Training Scheme at Guinea Fowl in central Rhodesia. He was posted to 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron in the Middle East, flying Hawker Hurricanes.
Taking off from Alexandria on a dawn patrol in 1943, his throttle malfunctioned, he lost height and clipped the barrel of a Bofors gun. He crashed and rammed his face against the Hurricanes gunsight. He suffered severe facial injuries, broke his jaw, a leg and a shoulder, and buckled his back.
Surgeons at the 15th Scottish Hospital in Cairo reconstructed his face and, after only five months, he rejoined his squadron in Corsica. He realised his dream to fly Spitfire Mark IXs, carrying out strafing raids and escorting American bombers. In mid-1944 Smith was leading a raid on a train of fuel tankers in the Po Valley when he made the mistake of going back for a second run.
The Spitfire was hit by an anti-aircraft shell, caught fire and he baled out. He was soon picked up by the partisans. The five months he spent with them near Sasello, learning Italian, reading Shakespeare and working as a peasant, he regarded as one of the best times of his life.
Near the end of the war, he and three other Allied fugitives made their way through occupied Italy to the Maritime Alps. At one point the conspicuously tall, fair-haired Rhodesian strode unhindered through a German checkpoint. He led his tiny group over the mountains, walking barefoot on ice, until they reached an American patrol on the other side.
In 1946 he completed his final year at Rhodes where he was also elected chairman of the students representative council.
Two years later he bought his farm, Gwenoro, in the plains of Selukwe, married Janet Watts and, in elections in July, became the Liberal Party MP for Selukwe, the youngest MP ever in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament.
Fundamental change shook southern African politics in 1960, when he was chief whip of the ruling Federal Party in the Parliament of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation. Harold Macmillans tour of Africa ended with his winds of change speech in the South African Parliament. Rhodesian whites saw from close up the bloody aftermath of Congo independence. The federation was breaking up and independence was inevitable for Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, as Zambia and Malawi respectively but, to Smiths bitter resentment, not for Southern Rhodesia.
At home, the voice of Joshua Nkomo was propelling a tide of black resistance with the hitherto unheard of demand for black majority rule now. White opinion hardened. Smith was behind the formation in 1962 of the Rhodesian Front, which easily won elections in December the next year, with Smith Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
He first encountered the Foreign Office at a meeting with Rab Butler, the Foreign Secretary, at Victoria Falls in December 1963. Butler grandly declared that Britain was very happy to agree to independence for Southern Rhodesia, at least at the same time as Zambia and Malawi.
Smith asked Butler for the undertaking in writing. Butler demurred with: There is trust between members of the British Commonwealth. Smith wagged his finger at Butler, and said: If you break that, you will live to regret it. The expression perfidious Albion was fixed in his vocabulary from that day onwards.
In April 1964, Smith became the Rhodesian Fronts leader and Prime Minister. Almost immediately, he imprisoned the entire leadership of the black nationalist movement, paralysing it for a decade.
Harold Wilsons Labour victory in October that year was a drastic setback to Smiths hopes. He rebuffed Wilsons opening approaches, and it took Winston Churchills funeral in January 1965 to bring them together.
Smith attended the funeral, but was not invited to the lunch afterwards at Buckingham Palace. He was at his hotel when the Queens Equerry arrived, and expressed Her Majestys surprise at his absence. Smith left immediately and was warmly received by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Wilson also buttonholed him there and asked him to come to 10 Downing Street that afternoon. Both men surprised each other at the absence of personal animosity, but their discussions were the first in 15 years of missed chances.
It was becoming increasingly clear that Rhodesia was heading for a unilateral declaration of independence. Smith, reinforced by a clean sweep by the Rhodesian Front in an election in May, held that illegal independence and the maintenance of civilised standards was better than the chaos that white Rhodesia believed would follow an African government.
The Government was fully organised for the likelihood of sanctions.). Wilson also betrayed his sympathies with Smiths remark, I dont think Rhodesia is in a position to have one-man, one-vote tomorrow.
On board the cruiser, Wilson tried to humiliate Smith. He took the admirals cabin and put the Rhodesians in non-commissioned quarters with a shared toilet. In their first meeting, he shouted at Smith, who rose, stared at the Mediterranean for interminable minutes and then told Wilson to behave himself. Back in Salisbury, his Cabinet rejected the proposals.
Wilson and Smith next met in October 1968 on board the assault ship Fearless. This time Wilson, on the advice of his secretary, Marcia Williams (now Baroness Falkender), treated Smith hospitably, but resolution remained elusive. Edward Heaths Conservative Government in 1970 made far more progress with Smith and an agreement was ready for conclusion, pending only the approval of the black population. Unrest and resistance greeted Lord Pearces mission to assess black opinion, and there was no further progress.
The 1970s dispelled the complacent image of a booming, peaceful UDI Rhodesia. Guerrilla forces opened their long war against Smith in December 1972. In October 1974 John Vorster, the South African Prime Minister, launched his policy of dtente with black Africa. He demanded that Smith release the black nationalist leaders in detention. Smith gave in and agreed, and the relationship with his most important ally was suddenly undermined.
Without warning Smith, Vorster removed the contingent of South African police guarding the northern border against guerrilla incursions. Smith was shocked. One could expect this from the British, he said, but now with the South Africans, there was obvious deceit. Vorster kept on squeezing Smith. The supply from South Africa of fuel, munitions and aircraft spares for what was now a substantial war began to dry up. The Rhodesian war effort was severely curtailed.
Smiths impotent anger was clear in his remark then: I longed for those carefree days when I was flying around the skies in my Spitfire, saying to myself, Let anyone cross my path and he will have to take what comes his way. Vorsters first attempt to bring Smith and the black nationalists together was in August 1975.
Smith laid down his position, the nationalists barked demands and the meeting broke up in chaos after about an hour. His trip to Pretoria on September 18, 1976, to meet Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, signalled the final stage of his rebellion. A few months before, he had made his famously regrettable statement: I dont believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia, not in a thousand years.
The meeting in the American Embassy in Pretoria was an event of great emotion for both the Rhodesian farmer and the worlds most powerful diplomat. Kissinger proposed black majority rule in two years, and any subsequent proposals would be infinitely worse. As he spelt out the situation, Kissinger was wiping tears away from his eyes. This is the first time in my life I have asked anyone to commit political suicide, he told Smith. You have no alternative. I feel for you.
Smith was sunk in despair, but awed by Kissinger. He spoke with obvious sincerity and there was great emotion in his voice. For a while words escaped him, Smith recalled. Kissingers ultimatum was the coup de grce, he said. We were rudderless after that.
The Geneva conference between the Rhodesian delegation and the African parties followed in late October. Under Ivor Richards ineffectual chairmanship, it fizzled out after two months. In September 1977, Smith did the unthinkable. Without consulting his cabinet, he flew to Lusaka in the private jet of Tiny Rowland, the Lonrho chairman, for a days talks with Kenneth Kaunda, a few kilometres from a major guerrilla base. The Zambian President couldnt have been kinder, but the initiative failed.
Smith again tried to settle without the rest of the world and pursued a settlement outside the military alliance of Nkomos and Mugabes Patriotic Front. On March 1978, he signed the internal agreement with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole and two tribal leaders. The country's first one-man, one-vote election in April 1979 drew a 63 per cent turnout and was won by Muzorewas United African National Council (UANC). The country became Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Almost no one recognised it, and the war continued.
Margaret Thatchers Conservative victory in May that year resulted in the Lancaster House constitutional conference in London under Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary.
Smith was irrelevant at Lancaster House, raging fruitlessly against the treachery of almost everyone from Carrington to members of his own delegation. When they voted in November on the proposed constitution, Smith was the only dissenter. He boycotted the post-agreement party, and went to dinner instead with his former RAF colleagues and Douglas Bader. He refused to attend the nauseating signing ceremony on December 19.
On March 2, 1980, near the end of vote counting in the just-ended election, it was clear that Mugabes Zanu (PF) was heading for an overwhelming victory. Smith was surprised to receive a call to meet Mugabe at his house. Mugabe assured Smith that he would adhere to a private enterprise economy to retain whites confidence. He referred to the country as this jewel of Africa.
Smith went home in astonishment and told his wife he hoped that he had not been hallucinating. Mugabe behaved like a balanced Western gentleman, the antithesis of the communist gangster I had expected, he said.
Zanu (PF) won 57 out of the 80 black seats created by the new constitution, with Nkomos Zapu securing 27 seats and the UANC only three. Smiths Rhodesian Front won all 20 of the seats that had been reserved for whites.
He met Mugabe several times, until, in 1981, Smith criticised Mugabes plans for a one-party-state. Mugabe stopped the meetings. In December 1982 Smith was briefly arrested and he was forced to surrender his passport.
To Mugabes chagrin, Smith was returned to parliament in the 1985 elections, but a year later was suspended for denouncing black majority rule, and again in 1987 for dismissing Mugabes threats of sanctions against South Africa as a waste of time. Before he could return, the constitutional provision for the 20 reserved white seats was abolished.
In early 2000, a small contingent of so-called guerrilla war veterans occupied part of Smiths farm at Gwenoro, as part of a mass invasion of white-owned land. In March that year, he appeared with Muzorewa and Sithole to launch a new political party. To the relief of his friends and family, it was never heard of again. Thereafter he slipped out of the public eye.
From Cape Town, where he settled, and on tours abroad, he continued to speak out against Mugabe and his terrorists, as he called them. As Zimbabwe plunged ever deeper into economic chaos, he took a gloomy delight in the fulfillment of his predictions. His sense of grievance at what he saw as his abandonment by Britain and South Africa was expressed in the title of his memoirs, The Great Betrayal (1997).
Smiths wife, Janet, and his son, Alec, predeceased him. He is survived by his stepchildren, Jean and Robert.
Ian Smith, former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, was born on April 8, 1919. He died in Cape Town on November 20, 2007, aged 88