Desperately Seeking Robert
An Exclusive Interview with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom from Pollsmoor prison in the Cape at around about four o’clock on February 11th 1990 was of course to change South Africa forever. A significant if little recognised move had been occurring in the coverage of TV public affairs and news by the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Hitherto tight control had been exerted by the Nationalist appointed bosses. The continuing fear of an internal uprising, the border war, the country-wide violence between various factions which increased with the prospect of democracy, and the resultant States of Emergency, made censorship of the media easier to justify.
But with the release of Mandela, the un-banning of the revolutionary movements and the return of the exiles, some of us working in the SABC TV news services recognised that a window of opportunity had been opened. The period leading up to the first South African democratic election would obviously be a time when politicians of every stripe seeking office would be falling over themselves to be seen by the voting public as transparent, honest, worthy candidates devoted to the truth and free speech. So we went ahead and took advantage of the situation. We organised ‘no holds barred’ live television debates with controversy as the key word. Town meetings were televised with politicians having to field questions from a live audience. There were special reports with the cameras looking into previously forbidden territory. In short, opinions were aired and ideologies were encouraged to clash.
This change was driven by the TV journalists themselves with the welcome addition to the old guard of young reporters and trainee producers, black and white, who had either been in exile or had been part of the internal resistance to apartheid. We had, and we believe the audience had, a great time with such live studio features as ‘Capitalism vs Communism’, the main protagonists being Joe Slovo, then General Secretary of the South African Communist party recently returned from exile, and the fiery Ken Owen, Editor of the Johannesburg Sunday Times.
We produced, as a live Sunday Night feature, an actual round table dinner party with waiters and food and drinks laid on. The guest list included black and white leaders of the main political movements. It was a memorable experience to see the Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), an extreme right wing group, uniformed and armed and still dreaming at that late hour of the total separation of the races, holding a conversation and chinking glasses with the recently un-banned South African Communist Party people. A morning English language newspaper devoted the whole front page to the show with a full picture of the ‘dinner’ and the ‘guests’ and the banner headline read: ‘Guess who came to dinner!’ Well, quite.
Some cynical TV critics in the South African English print media refused to be impressed. Unwilling to acknowledge the progress we were making in showing South Africa to South Africa they scribbled away on the lines of “too little, too late”.
However, the BBC correspondent for Southern Africa Graham Leach, who although still young was a veteran journalist who had covered foreign wars and ‘funny’ governments, was able, with a more dispassionate and seasoned eye, to spot the efforts which were being made even before the brief “golden age” of South African TV news broadcasting got under way.
As early as 1986 he phoned and asked if he could see me privately. Over a cup of tea at my home I explained that the emergence from the straight-jacket at the SABC was being driven from within by a group of jobbing journalists with the somewhat reluctant consent of the news controllers who had been persuaded to see the light as the new day was dawning. Even they had to take considerable flak from the politicians. On a hunting trip with then President PW Botha, a very senior TV news executive was asked if yours truly, moi, was a ‘Communist’ in view of the kind of questions I was asking of his various cabinet ministers. Apparently the President was somewhat mystified, if not mollified, by the reply that that was how modern TV worked!
Anyway, Leach told me he was writing a book about contemporary South Africa and asked if he could quote me concerning the background material I was able to give him. Tempted, I declined, thinking discretion would be the better part of valour. Nevertheless developments giving rise to the new liberated TV news coverage among other factors, found a place in his book.(1)
I was also particularly pleased that, unlike many of his white South African counterparts, the legendary black South African writer Z B Molefe, Deputy Editor of the widely read City Press of Johannesburg, noted the changes in TV news and current affairs coverage and took the time and trouble to interview me (“John’s Right to be Wrong,” Z B Molefe, City Press, Jan. 2, 1994, p.5).
During this “golden” time I had one foreign ambition: to interview Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. After all, he had been a mentor and an inspiration to many of the leading ANC/SACP notables who had been given sanctuary in his country and he was the leading revolutionary figure in Southern Africa, praised at home and lionised internationally until, on his release from detention in 1990, Nelson Mandela emerged as a world figure and stole Mugabe’s thunder.
I first saw Robert Mugabe in the flesh as he strolled across the foyer of Harare’s Hilton Hotel. It was October 1991. He was presiding over the ceremonies surrounding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting attended by fifty Commonwealth supremos led by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. The presence of South Africa as an observer marked a major breakthrough in international relations. Mr Nelson Mandela’s release from detention the year before and the consequent legitimisation of the ANC/SACP alliance was beginning to open all kinds of diplomatic doors. It also meant that the South African Broadcasting Corporation could join a hundred other media representatives from all over the world. I was selected to provide on the spot television coverage for the English language TV service.
In a way it was something of a homecoming. I had spent seventeen important years of my life in what was then Southern Rhodesia. From 1957-1962 I had served as a police officer in the former colony. They were five memorable years: we were three thousand black officers and one-and-a-half thousand white officers serving and protecting the people and not oppressing them, contrary to left-wing racist propaganda. For the remainder of my time in the country I was a broadcaster and then, after being banned from the airwaves by the Smith government, I was appointed Public Relations Officer at the University of Rhodesia.(2)
Very importantly, I had met and married my wife in the former colony and in 1974, in the face of the guerrilla war, we packed up our young family and headed south as early ‘refugees.’ When I left the Rhodesian Police in 1962, Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain was still three years away but black nationalist activity had already begun. Names such as Ndabaningi Sithole and Joshua Nkomo were prominent, but it was not until his detention by Ian Smith’s government and his subsequent escape to form the Zimbabwe African National Union that Robert Mugabe became synonymous with the ‘liberation struggle.’
The ten years he spent in detention (1964-74) saw Mugabe occupied in planning future moves and obtaining higher education. He had graduated from the prestigious Fort Hare University in South Africa and since 1942 he had been a teacher, so we can presume that correspondence education was not too burdensome for him. But not content with one degree he is said to have obtained a quiver full.
By 1974 he was out of the country and ensconced in neighbouring Mozambique directing the guerrilla war against the Smith regime and gathering international support for Zimbabwe’s independence under black majority rule. Ian Smith, undefeated in the field but with South Africa’s support withdrawn from him, eventually capitulated across the conference table at Lancaster House in London. Rhodesia was restored as a temporary ‘colony’ of Great Britain and the fifteen years of Rhodesia’s going it alone were over.
In 1980, after a stormy run up to elections, involving accusations of intimidation from all sides, the people went to the polls. Britain’s temporary “Governor” Sir Christopher Soames declared Mr Robert Mugabe the victor and the revolutionary leader found himself Prime Minister. In 1987 he persuaded parliament to combine the roles of head of state and head of government in himself and became the country’s first executive president. Three years later, with the merger of the two main political parties, Zimbabwe effectively became a one-party state under Mugabe’s leadership.
And that was the situation in 1991 when Zimbabwe was host to “Chogm’, the acronym which journalists inevitably gave to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. “Chogm”, a pen- wielding wag from a foreign broadcasting station said, looking at some of the leaders of Commonwealth countries whose people had been reduced to penury by corruption and mismanagement, “is short for Commonwealth handouts to greedy mendicants”! He was probably annoyed by the shambles surrounding the arrangements made for the visiting journalists and by the fact that, with a very few exceptions, none of the leading lights were prepared to give an interview. All fifty heads of government seemed to have engaged in a conspiracy of silence. Hardly the way for “Chogm” to get good international coverage.
So I busied myself as best I could. At one stage I was reduced to interviewing a specialist in Commonwealth affairs and a couple of international journalists about the prospects for the ‘Meeting’. An interview which was syndicated by several of the international TV broadcasters so desperate was the need for some kind of “news”!
I had spotted Mugabe, however. I had corresponded with his staff and this was the chance for a scoop. But it was not to be. He had said what had to be said at the opening ceremony and that was that. But there sitting in a chair near the bar was the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki, not yet risen to the heights which he obtained. But certainly a coming man. He agreed. He would give me an interview. We gathered our camera team together, found a suitable room and did it. It was dispatched by line ready for playing into the next available news slot in Johannesburg. But the old regime at the SABC decided it was “not appropriate,” whatever that might mean, and only when I returned to Johannesburg did I hear that some bureaucrat had got cold feet about the content.
I tried again for Mugabe without success. Then came a bit of a breakthrough. Over a drink I became friendly with, let’s just call her ‘someone acquainted with the British delegation’. Prime Minister John Major, the brand new successor to Mrs Thatcher, was leading the Brits so, ‘what about an interview with him?’ ‘Well’, she said, ‘he has turned down an interview with the BBC and other British outfits but he is going to give a news conference.’ I knew that. I was after an exclusive. What if I wrote a set of suitably deferential letters. Couldn’t she push them under his bedroom door and those of other leading figures? She would do what she could. It worked; well half worked. I interviewed the British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. That interview my nervous bosses in Johannesburg decided to broadcast.
But Robert Mugabe, he of the reputation for ruthlessness during the armed struggle; he, the exponent of doctrinaire Marxist economics who had not noticeably instituted them; he, who like me, had been touched by Jesuits in his youth, remained elusive.
I tried off and on for two years. Then came the breakthrough. President Mugabe said ‘Yes’. But he would not be interviewed ‘live’ from Harare via satellite into our Johannesburg current affairs studio. I had to travel back to Zimbabwe and record him there. That should be simple. No problem. Oh really?
The SABC bosses agreed that this was a major scoop. An exclusive. Mugabe rarely gave television interviews and had steadfastly refused to speak to the South African Broadcasting Corporation over the years. Although the SABC had made much of a filmed speech at a political rally in Harare some time back when Mugabe had uttered the chilling words, “A Boer ( White Afrikaner farmer) for a bullet. A bullet for a Boer,” to rapturous applause from his followers. Perhaps mindful of this the Nationalist appointed SABC “nomenklatura” were less than co-operative. I could go and do the interview, they said, but I could not take a camera team. ‘Why not?’ ‘Too expensive.’ But not to be outdone we arranged for the Harare based Reuters team to provide the technical crew. Reuters had been trying to get an exclusive with President Mugabe for years. They leapt at the opportunity and also did a neat deal with the SABC.
Reuters would provide my camera team free of charge, they would allow the SABC one screening of the exclusive interview and then all rights to the film would belong to Reuters. The SABC agreed and did a very bad business deal in the process because when I phoned Tim Leach of Reuters one week after the interview he told me that they had sold the film whole or in part to dozens of TV outlets and at present count had received fees of twenty-five thousand pounds sterling and rising! (This was1991 money.) Talk about penny wise, pound foolish.
I will now cut short the numerous stories of bureaucratic mess ups which we encountered inside Harare and present you with my much sought after interview with Robert Mugabe. This was carried out in his government offices in central Harare on what used to be Jameson Ave and now, if I am not mistaken, has been re-named Samora Machel Ave.(3)
The appointment was for 9 am. We got there early and watched Mugabe’s arrival which was at 8 am prompt. His official car was preceded and followed by military trucks bristling with soldiers and armaments. Entry to the building was a serious security matter. But at last the moment had arrived. We set up our equipment and he walked into the cabinet room, shook hands, sat opposite me, and as the crew busied themselves we chatted about this and that.
I took no notes of this exchange but I remember I felt compelled, seeking a reaction, to tell him that I had served in the Rhodesian police for five years from 1957 to 1962, noting that it was three years before Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence and so perhaps it made me rather ‘kosher’! That raised a smile. I was not compelled to tell him that I had been banned from TV and Radio by Ian Smith’s propaganda chief in 1969.(4)This I thought would be blatantly ingratiating. In any case, I guessed his security people had checked me out thoroughly before allowing me to get close to his vulnerable presence. What I did stress was that some of us in the SABC TV news service were now engaging in live current affairs programmes with the emphasis on free unrestricted exchange of views and that is how I proposed to conduct the interview with him. He had no objections.
Robert Mugabe was conservatively dressed in the western manner, no ‘Afro’ outfit for him, and he looked much younger than his then sixty-nine years. His clear, well modulated voice uttered standard English with hardly an accent. He exuded quiet confidence and a friendly demeanour. Ah, I thought, the Jesuit Fathers who had taught him when he was a lad at Kutama mission deep in the Rhodesian bush had done a very good job with some very good material.
The sound equipment was checked by the operator, the camera rolled, and the game was on. Remember, this was done in August 1993, nine months before South Africa’s first democratic election which brought Mr Mandela to power.
JOHN BISHOP: Your Excellency thanks very much for giving up your time.
JB: Let’s talk about South African/Zimbabwean relations first. The forthcoming elections and the violence there. You must be watching the situation closely.
JB: Need I ask? Which side are you backing? Which of those parties would you like to see win?
JB: When you say progressive forces would you include the liberal democratic largely white supported party. The Democratic Party?
JB: What about the other side? You know the history as well as anyone.
JB: Now you know there is a movement in South Africa among some Afrikaans-speaking people to have their own homeland. An “Afrikanerland”. On one of the maps it is projected that one of the proposed homelands might abut the Messina/Beit Bridge border.(5)What do you think about that?
JB: But to press you. What if there is this group that says, ‘We feel threatened. We will be overcome by numbers. We have to have our own small area.’
JB: Now can I ask you about three prominent visitors. Nelson Mandela, Clarence Makwetu(6)and Chief Buthelezi.
JB: At your invitation?
JB: Well what did you say to Chief Buthelezi?
JB: But you will be aware that Chief Buthelezi has stated several times that he visualizes a sovereign Zulu kingdom. Would your remarks concerning an ‘Afrikanerland’ apply to that idea?
JB: So why not apply the same criteria to an “Afrikaans” area?
JB: President de Klerk has been visiting President Chiluba in Zambia. What about reciprocal visits between Mr de Klerk and you?
JB: Is it planned?
JB: It hasn’t arrived yet?
JB: Now can we come to internal Zimbabwean affairs. The big story of the last few weeks. The Land Acquisition……
JB: Well it ………
JB: But I think you have said that if you got thwarted in this, you might do that, take land without compensation.
JB: What does that mean?
JB: Now your political opponents inside Zimbabwe have said that you are using the land question as a political gimmick. That you are going back on an undertaking that you would only take unproductive land and that you will seriously endanger the economy of the country if white productive farm land is taken.
JB: But it is said that you took millions of hectares and it was badly worked and…it is just lying there.
JB: The question is whether you went back on an undertaking.
JB: But you wouldn’t want to upset the very good agricultural economy of the country?
JB: Arising out of that, what are you running here? Is this a mixture of the social and the free market? Have you moved away from the Marxist-Leninist idea of the state?
JB: The command economy, the…
JB: To leave them out?
JB: Make one of your own?
JB: Now that is Zimbabwe. Harking back to South Africa…
JB: Do you think that South Africa’s new government should be urged to form the kind of system you have here?
JB: A lot of people will say that you are somewhat behind the times now. Marxism has collapsed in Eastern Europe, that the system has failed…even this mixed economy and socialism that you are talking about. That this is the time for the free market and capitalism again.
JB: Well the argument is that eventually everyone will have some capital
JB: Just about five minutes left to go your Excellency.
JB: Zimbabwe and you. You are seen in some quarters as running a tight ship here. You are the captain. It is a totalitarian system. You have no free media. You have party placemen and women around you…
JB: And while there is not exactly fear…
JB: …you have the total state. So what price democracy?
JB: Well the media. What about television?
JB: Can they do what I am doing to you here?
JB: Aren’t they the opposition?
JB: Well they might when you try them out at the next election.
JB: When you try them out at the next election.
JB: But strong opposition is good for democracy is it not?
JB: Would you favour it?
JB: You don’t mind personal criticism. Well argued criticism is alright for you?
JB: Let me ask you about your personal philosophy. Somewhere you described yourself as a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. Is that still so today?
JB: But you reject the excesses of Stalin and Lenin and Mao?
JB: President Mugabe how can you make compatible your Catholic faith with Marxism-Leninism at a theoretical level bearing in mind that at least three prominent popes in the twentieth century have said that Marxism-Leninism preaches atheism and the class struggle. How do you react to that?
JB: Do you not find an incompatibility with your faith and your politics?
JB: But some of those Jesuits are not doing that. They have deviated from the tenets of the Society somewhat have they not?
JB: Mr President I seek impressions because that is part of my job. Some say, “Robert Mugabe is an austere man. Very clever. But difficult to know. He keeps his own counsel.” True or false?
JB: Is your health good?
JB: Would you have changed anything during that rise to power? That terrible guerrilla war, all that blood. Do you regret that deeply?
JB: Mr President thank you very much.
JB: He certainly disagrees with you enormously.
* * *
I grabbed the next plane to Johannesburg to make the deadline for the evening show. But it was a whole week before a mere portion of the interview was broadcast! The frightened bosses were at it again! You have the advantage of the unexpurgated edition.
Looking back on that conversation in the light of what the President of Zimbabwe said then and what has occurred in the intervening sixteen years, several questions spring to mind. What happened to Robert Mugabe? Why did he decide to change his image from benign, pragmatic, revolutionary leader with a modified Marxian philosophy, to destroyer of his country? Destruction is not too strong a word for the state in which Zimbabwe finds itself in 2009. And why did he embark on the disastrous land grab escapade turning the ‘breadbasket of central Africa’ into a nationwide bread queue?
As a lifelong student of the Bolshevik and Maoist Revolutions and with full knowledge of Stalin’s notorious land collectivisation policy of the 1930’s, why on earth did he think the imposition of such a failed policy in Zimbabwe, an emerging country in Africa in the early twenty-first century which had a thriving agricultural and mining industry, could lead to anything but catastrophe?
If this was so, by what fearful lengths he went to prove it. The parliamentary elections in March 2008 - when the starving people of Zimbabwe, despite frightful intimidation including beatings and killings by government forces, voted against Mugabe - were disregarded. By June of that year, in the face of worldwide condemnation, the wily octogenarian went ahead with a widely criticised Presidential election in which the opposition Movement for a Democratic Change refused to take part. Mugabe declared himself the winner and thus extended his power for another five years.
A UN Security Council resolution deploring his actions threatened to levy sanctions against Mugabe and his henchmen. But this was vetoed by his new found trading partners - Communist China and Russia. South Africa under its then President Thabo Mbeki supported the veto but not without much opposition from within his party and the South African trade union movement.
By July 2008 it looked as if a deal was being cobbled together by regional and international vested interests under the chairmanship of Thabo Mbeki. An arrangement by which Robert Mugabe would remain President and share power with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Something Mugabe had sworn publicly that he would not do. However, on 11 September 2008 it was announced that a deal had been struck whereby Mugabe and his arch-enemy Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, had reached a power-sharing settlement. Was this the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule and the dawning of a new era for Zimbabwe’s downtrodden people? Time would tell.
Perhaps in years to come some post-graduate student of African Studies will research the subject of Robert Mugabe’s metamorphosis, from benign and well-loved leader of his people to a feared and hated dictator, and present us with an absorbing paper.
This interview is one of eighteen engrossing dialogues recorded in John Bishop’s latest (unpublished) book, South African Voices and Visions: Reflections on the Revolution of 1994 and Prospects for the Future.
Covering the period 1990 to 2008, other South African personalities interviewed include: Nelson Mandela; former Foreign Minister ‘Pik’ Botha; Economist and independent Political Analyst Moeletsi Mbeki (brother of President Thabo Mbeki); internationally acclaimed Islamic scholar Professor Ali Mazrui; Ninety-year-old veteran anti-apartheid opponent and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Helen Suzman; independent Political Analyst and veteran of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, Professor Sipho Seepe; internationally sought authority on the South African economy, Dr Azar Jammine; advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Dr Anthea Jeffery; US investigative reporter Steve Emerson in a TV linkup with South African Muslims. These and other luminaries speak truth to African power with unprecedented candour (not to say career/life-threatening courage!) from their various fields of experience and expertise.
The first 30,000 words of South African Voices and Visions may be viewed online at www.authonomy.com - which extracts have drawn high praise from browsers. Sadly, however, it is only available in its entirety by downloading via Kindle Books at Amazon.com ($7.99), for which one must own a “kindle” (an electronic ‘book’). Yet this unique and truthful record deserves the widest possible readership. Anyone able to assist in its mainstream publication, therefore, should contact CO in the first instance: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) South Africa. No easy path to peace, G. Leach. Methuen,1986.
(2) cf. More Conversations by John Bishop, Viking/Penguin, 1993, “Broadcasting in Southern Africa,” pp. 233-266.
(3) President Samora Machel was the revolutionary Marxist leader in Mozambique whose guerrilla forces overthrew the Portuguese colonial government in 1974. Robert Mugabe had been given safe haven by Machel and a place to plan the Zimbabwean revolution. Samora Machel died in a plane crash near the South African border on 19th October 1986. Suspicion was raised at the time that South African authorities had been complicit in the death of Machel and his companions, despite the fact that they had recently signed a non-aggression pact known as the ‘Nkomati Accords’ with Mozambique which set out to guarantee the safety of the borders of the two countries. A subsequent commission of inquiry found that the Tupolev aircraft and its Soviet pilot went off course and crashed. That it was simply a tragic accident, But this explanation has never been fully accepted and in February 2006 Mr Mbeki’s South African government announced that an enquiry would be re-opened into the mysterious death of Samora Machel. Meanwhile, see my interview with ‘Pik” Botha, the last white South African Foreign Minister, in my book South African Voices and Visions.
(4) Full story appears in More Conversations, op.cit., pp. 233.
(5) Zimbabwe’s southern border with South Africa.
(6) Mr Makwetu was then leader of the Pan Africanist Congress Party which broke away from the ANC and went its own way. As its name implies it was a revolutionary party much more “Africanist” than the racially inclusive African National Congress Party. Mr Makwetu resigned from office and was replaced in December 1997 by Rev Stanley Mogoba who was regarded as more moderate. The PAC are very much a minority party and made a poor showing in the South African elections of 2004.
(7) Walvis Bay is a natural deep water harbour on the north west coast of what was South West Africa, now the independent state of Namibia. Quarrelled over for centuries by the colonial powers, it was integrated into SW Africa by South Africa when the latter received both territories as a Mandate from the League of Nations after the First World War. But the status of Walvis Bay remained in limbo until the date for the democratic elections in South Africa had been set. Sovereignty over Walfis Bay was transferred to Namibia in February 1994.
(8) President Mugabe was presumably referring to a delegation of farmers who previously supported Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1965.
(9) Chibero Agricultural College was the leading and long established agricultural training institution with a high reputation.
(10) The Zimbabwe land question was still in the news in December 1996 when Sapa-Reuters news agency carried reports that President Mugabe’s government had formally rejected conditions attached to a British offer in October 1996 - that Whitehall would resume its stalled programme of providing cash to buy up white-owned farms but only if the farms were acquired with the full respect for the owners’ rights and that the land was not seized. Ziana, the Zimbabwe news agency, made it clear that, “Zimbabwe will not acquire land on a willing-seller, willing-buyer principle…but only on the basis of the need and in accordance with the country’s laws.”
The land question festered on and in February 2000 a referendum was held on a new Constitution for Zimbabwe. Among the proposed changes was a clause permitting the government to confiscate white-owned farms for redistribution to black farmers without payment of compensation. But Mr Mugabe was in for a shock. In the intervening years an opposition to his party had grown within Zimbabwe despite the many restrictions placed in its way. Young black intellectuals, some of them beneficiaries ironically of Mr Mugabe’s excellent mass education programme, with some support from a growing number of discontented black voters and the small white indigenous group still in the country, managed to attract sufficient votes to overthrow the proposed draft constitution.
No to be outdone, Mr Mugabe pushed an amendment through parliament taken word for word from the rejected draft constitution. He ordered his lieutenant, a certain Chenjerai Hunzvi, to lead hundreds of self-styled “war veterans” on to the white-owned farms and take them over forcibly. The dispossession was carried out brutally in the full glare of the world’s TV cameras. Some deaths occurred, there was much bloodshed and destruction of land, buildings and vehicles. The formerly productive land stopped producing, the white owners had their property confiscated without recompense and thousands of their black workers were left unemployed and destitute.
(11) Ironically, share participation by workers in Britain was part of the platform of Thatcherism. The Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often spoke of the scheme as “workers’ capitalism.” The Tory Mrs Thatcher and the Marxist President Mugabe were in agreement on this point if on nothing else!
(12) While it is quite true that Catholic clergy take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and that enclosed orders live a life in common, those who do so are professed clerics who undertake to live a life of prayer, service and sacrifice. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity, including Catholics, live in the secular world, making a living in a capitalist milieu and by financial contributions make it possible for the clerical system to exist. I should have put this to President Mugabe but I was not quick enough on the uptake.
(13) The Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom taken by the Ian Smith government on 11 November 1965.
(14) The Rhodesian guerrilla war was a bloody conflict stretching over some sixteen years and fought largely in the shadows. Atrocities against civilians, and who did what to whom, remain a hotly disputed issue. The true extent of culpability will probably never be established.
A feature of the war which is not generally known is that the Rhodesian government forces were largely composed of professional black soldiers and police fighting side by side with their white compatriots. There was no mass defection to the guerrilla forces of Mr Mugabe from the defence force. Although of course he and Joshua Nkomo had armies numbering thousands with arms equipment and bases in the Frontline States launching raids and infiltration across a very long border, stretching the security forces to the limit.
At the handover during the run up to the first election which had Mr Mugabe declared the victor, the Rhodesian security forces together with Mr Mugabe’s returned fighters recently emerged from the bush and, rather ludicrously, London bobbies complete with helmets, supervised, albeit in a tension filled manner, the voting procedures. When I attended the aforementioned ‘Chogm’ meeting, I was most interested to see senior black officers of my old regiment, the Rhodesian police, on guard duty wearing medal ribbons issued by the British government, by Ian Smith and by Robert Mugabe. Very shrewd of the President not to take away old soldiers ‘toys’!