The extreme hardships that we have gone through as a nation in the last years have led to an understandable comparison being made of our current circumstances to those that prevailed during the late Ian Douglas Smith/Rhodesian Front (RF) era.
Those who were grown up during this time speak of how there was an abundance of food, and blacks actually shunned taking up houses in what is now Chitungwiza, preferring instead to live in their rural homes (the latter point is spoken of with deep regret, given the pricing of such houses now). This therefore begs the question who between our current government led by president Emmerson Mnangagwa and Ian Smith is or was the better leader.
In 1980, after a civil war that cost 30,000 lives, the black majority took charge of the country, which was renamed Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe—the nationalist leader whom Smith had branded a “Marxist terrorist” and jailed for more than a decade; a man who had once urged his followers to stop wearing shoes and socks to show they were willing to reject the trappings of European civilization—became President.
Zimbabwe, one of southern Africa’s most prosperous countries, held great promise. Its Victoria Falls was one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its gushing Zambezi River boasted wildlife and pulsing rapids. Its lush soil was the envy of a continent. And, though landlocked, the country had modernized sensibly: it had a network of paved roads, four airports, and, thanks to Mugabe’s leadership, a rigorous and inclusive education system.
Mugabe knew that whites drove the economy, and he was pragmatic. “Good old Bob,” as white farmers quickly came to call him, kept his shoes and socks on, and urged reconciliation: “An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or black against white,” he said on the eve of independence. In a cordial meeting with Smith, Mugabe acknowledged that he had inherited the “jewel of Africa,” and he vowed to keep it that way.
Things went relatively well until the end of 90s , by 1997 for example our economy was the fastest growing in all of Africa; now it is the fastest shrinking. A onetime net exporter of maize, cotton, beef, tobacco, roses, and sugarcane now exports only its educated professionals, who are fleeing by the tens of thousands. Although Zimbabwe has some of the richest farmland in Africa we are importing maize from Zambia and Malawi. 400 000 tones on May 2022 to be specific as announced by the state media. How could the breadbasket of Africa have deteriorated so quickly into the continent’s basket case? The answer is Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe decided on what he called “fast-track land reform” only in February of 2000, after he got shocking results in a constitutional referendum: though he controlled the media, the schools, the police, and the army, voters rejected a constitution he put forth to increase his power even further. A new movement was afoot in Zimbabwe: the Movement for Democratic Change—a coalition of civic groups, labor unions, constitutional reformers, and heretofore marginal opposition parties. Mugabe blamed the whites and their farm workers (who, although they together made up only 15 percent of the electorate, were enough to tip the scales) for the growth of the MDC—and for his humiliating rebuff. That was the beginning of the end.
For all their differences, Mugabe and Ian Smith shared a basic misconception about power: they both fail to realize that a government cannot survive indefinitely when it advances the political and economic desires of the few at the expense of the many.
As for Smith, he was definitely a white supremacist who think that black people were capable of running a country. Now Smith did do wonders for the country with tourism, and Rhodesia Air made 2.5 million dollars profit in I think it was 1975. But the big issue with Smith was that he was stubborn as hell, and he gave in when it was too late, but people forget that he did give a majority rule election in 1979, and he lost to Bishop Muzorewa but he did do something sneaky to maintain power, he made it so the government would be run by blacks but the army, and police would be run by whites.
So who was or is better ?
Both were comparably terrible leaders, each running the same country into the ground for the benefit of small minorities. Zanu PF led government might well be somewhat better, if only because the contingent of people who benefitted from his ill-thought land reform is larger than the contingent of white Rhodesians and because voting and civil rights are not delimited by race.