Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973
Q: How to liberate Zimbabwe? — A: Learn to shoot straight
Q: How to liberate Zimbabwe?
A: Learn to shoot straight.
Last week Eddison Zvogbo, Director of External Missions for the African National Council of Zimbabwe (the African name for Rhodesia) visited Auckland briefly. He was interviewed for Salient by Joris de Bres.
Zvobgo was born in Zimbabwe in 1935. In 1961 he was the National Democratic Party Representative at the United Nations. This party was banned, and the Zimbabwe African People's Union formed. This union later split and Zvobgo became Deputy General Secretary of its offshoot, the Zimbabwe African National Union. He spent ten months in jail in 1963—64 for "using inciting language. In 1964 ZANU was banned and Zvobgo was placed in a restriction camp by the Smith regime.
When in 1965 Smith declared his independence from Britain, the whole ZANU executive including Zvobgo was imprisoned but no charges were ever laid against them. Zvobgo was thus under detention and imprisonment for over seven years.
In 1971, Smith met British Foreign Minister Sir Alec Douglas Home in an attempt to settle the dispute between Rhodesia and Great Britain. The settlement proposals they reached were rejected by the African people, and the African National Council was set up to work towards the liberation of Zimbabwe. The main aim of the movement is to achieve majority rule for the African people.
Zvobgo arrived here after a speaking tour of Australia. One senator there described Mr Zvobgo as "a terrorist" who was "engaged in guerilla activities against the people of Rhodesia."
Salient: Could you say something about the developments since the Smith Home settlement proposals were rejected by the people?
Zvobgo: When the report was released in London in May last year, showing clearly that the majority of Africans were opposed to those terms as the basis for a settlement, Ian Smith and his clique were stunned by the report and immediately sought to discredit it. After a few weeks there was anger in the Rhodesian front circles. They were looking for a scapegoat. They could not understand that Africans could reject those proposals. You see, they were confident that the Africans were unable to understand what was involved. They could not see how, after seven years of terror and mass detentions how anybody could stand up and say, let's reject the proposals.' And just to ensure that that would not be forgotten, the regime arrested people immediately.
A legislative programme was launched by the regime, calculated to create another South Africa in Rhodesia. The first two bantustans are being erected this year. These bantustans are tribal parliaments. According to the regime, the African people are tribesmen, they should be given their own parliaments, we feel that this is exactly what the South Africans have done.
How do the police get evidence that two people have had intercourse? They must go on the rooftops, trying to procure evidence, insert electronic equipment in keyholes, and through windows to see what's happening inside the room.
Is the apartheid policy in Rhodesia as pronounced as in South Africa?
Exactly. This is what Smith has been trying to do since the report's publication. Firstly, there is this creation of bantustans. Secondly, there is the question of strict control of movement. No African may leave his district for another without a written permit from the government; no African may come into any urban area without a written permit from the district from which he comes. Also the regime has embarked upon a policy of seizing the land of the various religious denominations.
The regime has proceeded to impose collective punishment. Now the last time the world heard of collective punishment was during Hitler's Germany. Besides, secret trials have increased: you must have learned of the secret trial of Peter Niesewand, the British journalist. [Mentioned in Salient 12 — Ed.] In his case, of course, it was world news because he was English, he was white and so on. Thousands of Africans are also processed through the so-called kangaroo courts there. No one has access to them, you can't attend them; all you learn is by rumour, that the man has been sentenced to death or that he has been detained or jailed. Now this has increased the fear among the ordinary people.
They could not see how after seven years of terror and mass detentions, how anyone could stand up and say 'let's reject the proposals.' And just to ensure that that would not be forgotten, the regime arrested people immediately.
Besides, Ian Smith is showing some signs of psychosis, in my view. I think he has lost total control of his own mind. For example, he is re-enacting the Immorality Act which was repealed way back in 1962 under which it will be a criminal offence for any white person to have sexual intercourse with a person who is not white.
But this hasn't been reintroduced yet.
No, it was on the statute books between 1894 and 1962 and was repealed under a previous government before Ian Smith came in.
One of the South African papers last week mentioned that the two Swiss imigrants to Rhodesia had been deported, presumably because they were living with African women. Would this be the general trend?
Well, they have been deporting people during the last three years, but there was no law under which anybody could be prosecuted. You could come and take an African girl out, or an Indian girl out. The regime didn't like it, and if you were an alien they would deport you, but they couldn't jail you, you couldn't be prosecuted. Now they will be able to actually imprison people and we know, judging from by what has been happening in South Africa under the Immorality Act that once you go and do things that are so personal, you declare marriages void, you send the parties who want to marry to jail, simply because they are of two different colours. You are creating an apparatus along the lines of the Gestapo. How do you get evidence, how do the police get evidence that two people have had inter-course? They must go on rooftops, trying to procure evidence, insert electronic equipment in keyholes, and through windows to see what's happening inside the room. In South Africa, boys and girls have been jailed for holding hands. That has been held to be preparation for committing a crime. If a girl has been found with her shoes off in circumstances that create an opportunity, that has been held to be an attempt. Any stage beyond that they say you're finished, and the two go to jail.
True, there has been some unemployment among the African people, more unemployment, due to the lack of economic expansion, but we believe that this is healthy for the African in the long run.
I think the most cynical aspect of the Immorality Act is the fact that the people will now, or from whenever this bill becomes law, have to be classified according to race, along the South African lines. Its not directly the Immorality Act that requires it, its the Land Tenure Act. So Smith is to establish a race classification board just like the South African Race Classification Board. And people will have to inform the police of any person in their neighbourhood who is trying to pass for white; that person will then be arrested and brought before the race classification board if there is any doubt as to his whiteness. And then certain tests have to be used. I have been entertaining crowds in Australia describing these tests.
There is the straight hair comb test, where three types of combs are used in your hair. Three sizes, one is quite big with big teeth, another smaller and the other smallest. If the comb jams you've had it, because white hair is not supposed to jam the comb. And they test that, then the eyes, the nose, the bridge of the nose, the shape of the mouth, the skull, and so on.
A whole new super-science of race is emerging: to have to subject a person to an x-ray of the skull to determine what his rights are in a country is just horrible. This is what the regime is up to.
In separation in education, in health and residential areas, Rhodesia from 1890 has been an apartheid country. We are only pointing out here some of the most cruel and pernicious aspects of separation, of apartheid, being devised by the regime.
Could I ask a question about resistance to the Smith regime. You're from the A.N.C., but previously I understand you were a member of the Zimbabwe (Rhodesia African National Union or Zimbabwe African People's Union?
I'm still Deputy General Secretary of ZANU.
Everyone who has been in Southern African politics knows that there is only one solution; learning to shoot straight.
Could you explain to us the relationship — there was a move to reunite the two unions within Zimbabwe itself — and what is their relationship to the A.N.C.?
Yes, the whole process of setting up the A.N.C. was a very delicate business, ZAPU and ZANU had been outlawed in 1964, when we were jailed, and thus there page break had been no nationalist party operating lawfully between 1964 and 1971. When we decided to launch the A.N.C., the problem of course was the divided nature of the Zimbabwe movement. We decided we would bring the two together. We took the senior officers, or to be more legal, former senior officers of ZANU and ZAPU and merged them into one organisation — the A.N.C. We decided it was in the best interests of the African people if there was an organisation operating in the country, outside the context of ZANU and ZAPU but the mere fact that the people had become united within the country compelled ZANU and ZAPU abroad to also seek to unite, which they finally did three months ago. United they now have a joint military command between ZAPU and ZANU. The upshoot therefore is that ZANU and ZAPU abroad are open military organisations which have decided to unite for operational purposes under a joint military command. Within the country former ZAPU and ZANU members and other who were apolitical have come together under the umbrella of the A.N.C. We see the two roles as complimentary; that we should have an organisation within the country operating quite openly and within the context of whatever is called law there and another one a thrust from outside by ZANU and ZAPU to attempt armed liberation.
Since the joint military command was set up, has there been a clear stepping-up of operations by the liberation movements within Rhodesia and Zimbabwe? Is there any possibility of development of such as those achieved by the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies of actually winning some liberated areas?
The guerilla campaign started in December last year before the establishment of the joint military command. True, at the moment there is no territory which has been liberated but the guerillas have been extremely effective in being implacable, mainly in the tribal trust lands. Reading the Rhodesian Hansard for the last two months you get the impression that the regime is actually panicking. They've tried everything in the book to contain it and haven't succeeded. They have now decide to move 600,000 peasants from the northern reserves to resettle them. They refer to this as the 'Malaya model' as the British did this in Malaya. But they haven't been able to actually get hold of the guerillas as such What the government is doing is giving public transport to guerillas when they move the people from those regions and are putting them in other areas where the campaign has not yet become as heroic. We see that the current campaign is just as effective, if not superior in certain aspects to the campaigns being carried out in other theatres in South Africa. Certainly it hasn't reached the scale and standard of the campaign in Guinea-Bissau or Frelimo's campaign in Mozambique. But those shortcomings stem from various strategic peculiarities of the Rhodesian military theatre. It is not like Mozambique in terms of topography, and problems of access to the theatre. The Zambesi river is a cruel river which can be crossed only at certain points and this is where the Rhodesian security forces in combination with the South African security forces, have concentrated. Swimming across is quite a hazard. Some parts which are passable are infested with crocodiles. The current campaign has largely succeeded because Frelimo has liberated most of Mozambique which adjoins Rhodesia and our forces have been able to rise to the occasion and flood the country.
Thousands of Africans are processed through the so-called kangaroo courts, there. No on has access to them, you cannot attend them, all you learn is by rumour, that the man has been sentenced to death or that he has been detained or jailed.
What is the best way to liberate your people?
Well look, everyone who has been in Southern African politics knows that there is only one solution; learning to shoot straight. There is no other way — any other thing is sheer pretence; it would be ducking the problem, trying to avoid reality. The reality is that the regime, because of the privileges and rights it has created for itself, is not prepared to talk. Its reply to every suggestion of giving up its power is detention, is shootings, is killings. The only way is an armed struggle. But we have had to do some tightrope walking here, and recognise that our theatre has certain peculiarities. You need a united people within the country under an organisation which is not itself participating in an armed struggle. But you need a very big liberation army operating at the same time. Hence the A.N.C. itself does not carry arms, so Smith has not yet been able to ban it. He would have long outlawed it; the fact that he hasn't is a pretty good indication that the A.N.C. has done nothing to transgress the law, but simply unites the people.
Is the A.N.C. a political party?
Well it is not a political party but a political organisation. The activities of the A.N.C. are not limited only to political matters. They spill over into the social and economic fields and therefore have a much wider than purely political objective.
It's a criminal offence for foreigners to donate money to any of the official partie I have asked a friend to donate money to the Rhodesia front, just two dollars and announce in Salisbury that Smith is a good guy and he's given him two dollars from abroad. I wanted to see if he would get arrested. Apparently he has hot been arrested; which shows that if you give to Ian Smith, that is perfectly ok, if you give to the African National Council you have committed a crime.
I decided the only thing they really couldn't censor was South African law reports, the all—English law reports, text-books on the law of trusts, the law of torts, criminal law and jurisprudence.
Have you many whites supporting you?
There are a few whites who go all the way with African nationalist movement in Rhodesia — very few — but they are there all the same. We have a university lecturer, for example, doing 20 years for his part in the movement. We have of course, your two New Zealanders, Garfield and Judy Todd, Judy is on my staff, but she was in jail and so was Garfield. He is now restricted to his ranch. We have two couples this year who were jailed, who were just too young. I mean, the two boys were 19, and the two girls were 18, and they decided to overthrow the regime, and plotted in a hotel in Salisbury. They were arrested on the spot and given five years each. We have some who work, who support the objectives of the A.N.C., and of any African nationalist party, but who disapprove of resorting to guns at any stage, and this is really the position of the church people except for the Dutch Reformed Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Because Ian Smith is Presbyterian, the Presbyterians are ready to support him, but otherwise, these page break Christian bodies, while denouncing the regime and while expressing clearly that our goals are just and fair, nevertheless flinch from any suggestion that one may have to kill to reach these goals.
Is the white populace generally behind the regime?
It is difficult to assess how much support Smith has from the general white populace, but judging from his election results, he takes every seat. Looked at purely from that angle, he has 100% support, since no other white party, and there are four other white parties has ever been able to get even one seat in Parliament. But then, only yesterday when Hitler was at the height of his power, he had the Germans march like one boot, they fought as if they were 100% in support of Hitler; topple Hitler, and soon millions of Germans were horrified by what Hitler did.
Do people vote this way out of fear?
If you are known to be anti-Smith in a particular area, they don't necessarily throw you in jail, but there arc pay-offs, and tread-offs in the game of survival by whites. If you don't play the game, then the regime and its functionaries don't play the game with you either. Pat Bashford, the leader of the Centre Party, has been saying quite openly that this is Nazism, that the regime uses Gestapo tactics against its opponents. They have smear campaigns on any person who is white who supports the African cause. The public is encouraged to look at him virtually as a traitor, and not many people are prepared to stick their necks out. So they acquiesce, and when elections come apparently they all vote Ian Smith.
The Rhodesian political or election campaigns are something quite different from the campaigns you carry out in New Zealand; there is no issue other than whether you want Africans to rule. The questions of economic progress, or development in the country, or anything, are irrelevant, Ian Smith sang an offensive song during the last campaign, an Afrikaans song called 'A Baboon Climbed the Mountain'. He sang it first at the University of Rhodesia. That summed it up, he didn't have to explain what his policy was. Baboons, as far as he and whites are concerned, are Africans.
Because Ian Smith is Presbyterian, the Presbyterians are ready to support him but otherwise these Christian bodies, while denouncing the regime and while expressing clearly that our goals are just and fair, nevertheless flinch from any suggestion that one may have to kill to reach these goals.
It's the kind of rally where only one question has to be asked: "Where am I standing," you see, and their audience guess, "in the fatherland?" he says no, no. They suggest the Transvaal and other things until someone says,' on the Kaffir, you're standing on the African, or on the Bantu. He says 'Yeah', and all the Boers jump up and down. That's the election campaign. In campaigning like that, its really fear and intimidation, it's a question of emotion.
Do you think sanctions have had a very serious effect?
When you look at the Rhodesian budget last year, and look at earnings and investments, it has just reached where it was in 1965. Smith says that is progress; the economy is surging ahead in that it has reached the level where it was in 1965. That shows the extent to which sanctions were not totally useless.
Sanctions have had effect in Rhodesia in two critical areas, farming and commerce and industry. Farmers were the hardest hit by sanctions. The tobacco industry crumbles. The regime was buying tobacco at 28c a lb from the farmers and then stockpiling it, wailing for markets. Sometimes markets materialised, through under-the-counter deals but the result was that Rhodesian tobacco became less and less competitive on the world market because there were so many middle men involved in smuggling it out.
Farmers lost their biggest market which was the UK and Smith asked them to diversify and to pull out of tobacco growing and go into other forms of agriculture, ignoring the millions of investments farmers had made on their farms in order to grow and process tobacco. Farmers are deep in debt.
Now the second area is that farmers have been unable to get spare parts for some of their machinery like the service on tractors that they used to get from Canada. So you see them actually rusting on farms. And in Parliament white MPs who represent the farming community are very bitter towards the Minister of Finance for not giving them larger foreign currency allocations.
Commerce and Industry have been hit hard too. Factories have really been sunk if their machinery was British, German or American.
I understand the Ford factory has reopened.
Yes it has. And that was one question I was taking up with the Canadian Foreign Ministry because the Ford in Rhodesia is not Ford USA but Ford of Canada. And the Americans say 'don't come to us, it's not our business' except for the fact that Ford USA own 62% of Ford Canada.
What about Fiat?
Fiat, yes the Italians have been bringing in cars. So have the West Germans, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagon. The Germans deny any responsibility for these cars coming into the country, I have examined their records in Bonn and they show zero deliveries between 1965 and 1971. Now I once asked the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Bonn to put a call through to a motor firm in Salisbury, the garage which keeps Norwegian, Swedish and Mercedes Benz cars. I told him to say he was a German exporter of Mercedes Benz cars and do they need any. There in our presence we heard the manager saying "call back to me in ten months time. I've just taken delivery, my entire warehouse is full of Mercedes cars." We then switched the thing off and I said "Do you deny that Mercedes Benz car are going?" And he said that "well now I can't deny it, but none are ordered directly for Rhodesia from here." What has happened is that French businessmen who are sympathetic to Rhodesia have ordered the cars and sold them to Portuguese car dealers who sell them to Rhodesia or sell them to South African car dealers and tell them to sell them to Rhodesia. So you still find new cars coming in. But you ask for the price — way beyond the reach of the ordinary person. The Volkswagen is nearly double the price that you find in any other country. And the settlers have felt the pinch very badly; the secondhand car market has boomed because new cars are beyond reach.
A friend sent me Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle". Now nothing could be more subversive. The regime looked at it and saw that it was a castigation of the Soviet Union and said, "Yeah, it will do Zvobgo some good, because he is a communist leader."
Now, the sanctions have not been useless, they have been bitten. They have not achieved their purpose of toppling the regime because certain governments will not co-operate, Australia, for example. I had an argument there with Dr Cairns, the Minister of Commerce. He argues that the Rhodesian tobacco that is being smoked in Australia came into the country before UDI before 1965, suggesting that none of their tobacco is reaching Australia, which is nonsense. One Adelaide dealer said on TV "Well I've had not difficulty in getting my Rhodesian supplies." I said to Cairns, that seeing that ABC' had the tape and it was only three months ago that the confession was made, why don't you call him and ask how he gets his supplies. Cairns said "Oh no, no, we can't do that he's only an individual. He holds pro-Smith views, the probability is that he was lying."
Have the sanctions adversely affected the African people?
True, there has been some unemployment among the African people, more unemployment, due to the lack of economic expansion but we believe that this is healthy for the African in the long run. A little more unemployment, a little more suffering; I mean it's quite healthy and sound. 87% of Africans live on the Tribal Trust Lands; they live off what they grow, they live off the land. Those ones are not affected by sanctions. They don't even know there are sanctions. You grow your own maize, you grow your own vegetables and these are basics, so the whole question of sanctions doesn't arise. The 13% that live in urban areas and on farms still eat the same staple diet grown in Rhodesia. Items like bread and so on have never been particularly missed. I mean I don't miss them. I only have bread when I see it otherwise it does not occur to me. It's just not part of my diet. And sanctions, therefore really hit only the settler which is as it should be.
Rhodesia is a very easy country to deal with because every white person must have African servants, it's a status symbol recruit these into the movement and no one white is safe....
I believe you yourself did a law degree. Where did you do it?
In jail. I took a University of London law degree and a LLB degree of the University of South Africa, in jail and I got both.
And you were allowed to do that?
The first four years we were not allowed to study at all. We were not allowed any reading. We were allowed the Bible, that's all. And it became quite clear that some of the guys were cracking up and being hauled to the mental health section of the hospital. And some actually being transported to mental hospitals. We smuggled letters to the British government and the International Red Cross in Geneva stating that we were being refused newspapers or any other form of literature except the bible. I must have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations 22 times in four years, 22 times! Because there was nothing else; no news, no radio, no newspapers, nothing. Representations were made to the regime, that this was inhuman and the regime then said "Okay, they can read whatever has been submitted to the police for censorship!'The police are free to refuse anything without giving any reason. I decided the only thing they really couldn't censor was South African law reports, the all-English law reports, text-books on the law of trusts, the law of torts, criminal law.
You see they are fools; some of them have had only four years of education.
I will tell you one incident. A friend sent me Solzhemitsyn's, "The First Circle". Now, nothing could be more subversive. The regime looked at it and saw that it was a castigation of the Soviet Union and said, "Yeah, it will do Zvobgo some good, because he is a communist leader." Half of them couldn't understand Solzhenitsyn. Now it was allowed, and my god, they had given me an opportunity for comparison and I wish I was in a Soviet prison in fact. There they were working in workshops, there they were working on various things, in the book.
Jurisprudence, they would never understand the question of what is law. So my books were allowed, and fortunately they came at the same time and filled one entire section of the cell, with law reports and the lot, and I just settled down to read them day and night, decided to do political science and take a degree but I never got anywhere, because a text of over 400 pages had been handed over with only 10 pages left. The rest had been torn out.
How is the guerilla movement organised?
You recruit men, you send some for expert training, they come into the country and they train themselves. Take the present form the campaign is taking, and in this I'm relying on Ian Smith speaking in Parliament on March 28. He says that his problems stem from the fact that the peasants have been won over by the terrorists. Thai's his language. He says that during the last two years several past masters of the art of guerilla warfare, sabotage and recruitment entered the country, stripped themselves of all kinds of different dress, wore shorts with patches and went onto farms to look for employment. They were employed by white farmers on various farms throughout the country, looked as dirty as they could, just like other farm labourers. They started training people on the various farms. Now, some were doing that, others were bringing arms into the country. You see Rhodesia is a very easy country to deal with because every white person must have an African servant, it's a status symbol, no white woman knows how to cook in Rhodesia, she must have a cook, no white woman changes nappies, no white woman polishes the house, she just doesn't know what's in the house at all. It's the girl will do this, the girl will do that, they will have a gardening boy. They will have a messenger, they will have a cook, they will have a nannie. They will have a girl to look after the madames clothing and so on. Recruit these into the movement and no one white is safe in the country. Smith calls them terrorists — we call them freedom fighters.