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N.Z.U.S.A. Congress 1959. Curious Cove - New Zealand University Student Press Council

Racial Problems in Southern Rhodesia

Racial Problems in Southern Rhodesia

"If the Europeans who have opportunity and power at present bring the Africans into the growing civilised bloc now, there could really be partnership and happiness in Southern Rhodesia," said Mr. Garfield Todd in his speech on the racial problems in Southern Africa. "But if the emergent group is not tolerated, then they have in their hands a weapon that the Europeans have not, and that is the 7 million less civilised Africans."

Mr. Garfield Todd introduced his theme by sketching in the historical background to present-day developments in Southern Rhodesia. Until about 10 years ago the Africans were content to retain their traditional form of land-ownership. In the economic field (mining being the most important industry), the 2,250,000 Africans are the basis of the labour force. With only 300,000 Europeans, the necessity for cooperation between black and white peoples is fundamental.

In 1953, Mr. Garfield Todd became Prime Minister. He believed that the time had come for Europeans and Africans to combine more closely for their common interest. One move in this direction was blocked when his government failed to pass their Industrial Conciliation Act, which would have set up a common system of Trade Unions. Expenditure on African education, however, was trebled, in spite of opposition from some of the more reactionary European settlers.

About ten years ago a great change took place in the African's attitude towards education. Whereas previously it had been difficult to get Africans to attend even elementary schools, it is now a passionate desire on their part to become as fully educated as possible. "Nothing will keep them out of the schools today," said Mr. Garfield Todd.

He then went on to discuss the political situation. "It is not our aim to give universal suffrage in Southern Rhodesia, but to see that at least those who have been educated are enfranchised." In Ghana, the speaker felt that the universal franchise had proved "a stumbling block" rather than an aid to democracy. The people were not politically fit to exercise their vote.

Nevertheless, the answer to Southern Rhodesia's problems does not lie in the "go slow" policy. African nationalism has been encouraged by the recent and successful revolt in the Belgian Congo and by the promise of independence to Nigeria. The Belgian Congo borders Northern Rhodesia, and the possibility of gaining political independence more quickly by revolution must seem feasible to the African. The fear of armed revolt has always existed in the minds of the white people and this is one of the reasons why the more reactionary of these opposed Mr. Garfield Todd's policy to hurry along the liberal aim of greater equality between black and white.

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This reactionary attitude, which still regards all Africans as little better than savages, has its basis in the frontier problems of the late nineteenth century and in the fact that many Europeans know well only the more primitive Africans, who are their servants. This attitude must be modified in the near future because of the increasing level of literacy among the Africans and their growing political awareness.


Mr. R. S. Garfield Todd—Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia 1954-57; first went there as a missionary; now holds Rhodesian citizenship.

Mr. Garfield Todd again stressed the necessity for the white people to realise that the changing industrial and agricultural conditions, together with the rising awareness of a national identity, had brought about a completely new situation in Southern Rhodesia. The Europeans must appreciate these latest changes if they are to make use of the possibilities which have been opened for increased co-operation. "Then," said Mr. Garfield Todd, "they and their descendants can hope to be happy there in twenty-five years' time."

This is the eighth of a series of supplements published by the N.Z.U.S.P.C. informing students of the activities of their National Union.