Kaunda: 'it's not right to demonise Mugabe'; "Now my prayer is that the Zimbabwe issue will be treated differently by Blair's successor, Gordon Brown", writes Zambia's former president, Kenneth Kaunda.

Author:Kaunda, Kenneth
Position:Comment - Robert Mugabe - Viewpoint essay

President Robert Mugabe's government has been widely condemned in the West. Its leaders say Mugabe is a demon, that he has destroyed Zimbabwe and he must be gotten rid of--but this demonising is made by people who may not understand what Mugabe and his fellow freedom-fighters went through.

In 1960, Harold Macmillan, then British prime minister, made a statement in Cape Town referring to what was taking place in Southern Africa as "the wind of change". He had correctly read the feelings of the black masses. Eventually, the British government abolished the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

In 1964, Northern Rhodesia became Zambia and Nyasaland became Malawi. But white people in Rhodesia rejected that wind of change and, in November 1965, Ian Smith, by force, took over in a "Unilateral Declaration of Independence". It was treason against the colonial ruler, the British monarchy.

Soon Smith had arrested a number of African leaders, including Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. By now Harold Wilson was the British premier, but he showed signs of hopelessness. He called meetings aboard the Tiger and Fearless navy ships, but neither meeting showed tiger claws, and both were fearful of the rebels in Rhodesia.

I spoke with Wilson myself, but there was no progress. And, sadly, Smith's rebel regime went on. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe freedom struggle was continuing, but handicapped because its key leaders were locked up. Even talks with another British prime minister, Edward Heath, did not help. I could see clearly that no matter who became prime minister of Britain, they would do nothing about the Rhodesia situation.

It was South Africa that was in charge. I concluded that the settlers were interested in keeping Southern Rhodesia under white rule so that they could have a buffer against advancing African independent states.

In 1974, I decided to meet John Vorster, South Africa's then-prime minister. We met at the bridge between Zambia and then Southern Rhodesia, in Vorster's white train, for three nights. He had to leave on the third night because he was not feeling well. But as a follow-up to our discussions, he freed our colleagues in Zimbabwe's liberation movements.

There was, of course, not a single dull moment in the struggle for independence in our region. In August 1979, Commonwealth countries from all over the world met in Lusaka to consider many issues--but the most serious one was the Zimbabwe situation. In the end, it was Britain's new prime...

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