The commentators and obituarists all opine that without Ian Smith, who died yesterday, there would have been no Robert Mugabe. Yet a close observer of Rhodesia, Judith Todd, daughter of one of Smith’s predecessors and no friend of Smith, when asked if events had not proved him right, admitted: “You have to say they called it right.”
I beg to differ with the said observers and suggest that their proposition is a lot of arrant nonsense.

There was no Ian Smith in Uganda, yet it was reduced to penury by a bloody dictator, former Sergeant Idi Amin. There was no Ian Smith in Rwanda yet it too ended in a bloody genocide. There was no Ian Smith in The Congo and yet it has had a string of kleptocrat dictators. There was no Ian Smith in the Central African Republic, yet it brought forth one Jean-Bédel Bokassa who had a penchant for storing choice pieces of his opponents’ cadavers in the fridge before eating them. The examples of former colonies moving smoothly from colonialism to independence to bloody dictatorship without an Ian Smith to hold up the process are too frequent in their occurrence to auatain this accusation.

Perhaps Mugabe might not have won an election if independence had come to Rhodesia in the mid-1960s as it came to all other African colonies, through the peaceful surrender of power to a black majority. But he was there and a force in Zimbabwean politics before independence: the chances are that he would have come to power sooner or later. The result would have been just the same.

One wonders what might have happened if Smith had still been hale and hearty today and a genuinely free and fair election were to take place in Zimbabwe with him on one side and ‘Chairman Bob’ on the other. One suspects that Smith might well have won hands down.

Smith flew Hurricanes and Spitfires in World War II and was seriously injured so doing. He spent time behind the lines in Italy with partisans after being shot down and thus may properly be said loyally and dutifully to have served his King with distinction in the late war against the Germans. He tried to serve the people of Rhodesia as he felt best. He left office with Rhodesia a net exporter of food and a sound infrastructure which responsible African government could have built upon to make Zimbabwe one of the richest countries on the continent.

Mugabe, on the other hand, wastes no opportunity to denounce our country in the most outrageous way, and has turned his country into a wasteland. Who, then, is the better man?

Now Mugabe has ensured, as Smith predicted, that its people starve, reduced to a state of penury remarkable even by the egregious standards of post-colonial Africa. Its infrastructure lies utterly destroyed, with inflation at something like 10,000% per annum, its currency and economy utterly debauched by a kleptocrat clique of genocidal gangsters and torturers. Just today Mugabe has set about destroying the platinum and diamond mining industry, the last element which brings in any sort of benefit to the economy. He and his clique of criminals will not suffer of course and he cares not a jot at the misery and suffering the people of Zimbabwe are forced to endure.

Was Smith so wrong in trying to prevent that happening?

One strongly suspects that an enquiry of the man in the Harare Omnibus (or rather the decaying hulk of what used to be an Harare Omnibus) would produce a reply that is deeply uncomfortable for all those on the left who wet themselves with pleasure and joy at Mugabe’s accession to power and who still cannot bring themselves to condemn him.

What they cannot bear above all is that a hate-figure, and a White Settler to boot, might have been right after all.