Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Now I call him brother - by the son of Ian Smith

Reviewed by: Ben Mensah

TITLE: "Now I Call Him Brother"
Author: Alec Smith. Publishers: Marshalls.

Six years ago the white racists in the unilaterally declared independent state of Southern Rhodesia, led by Prime Minister Ian Smith finally acknowledged the invincibility of the opposition to their minority rule.

At that time the neighbouring states of Rhodesia, namely Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique had increased their involvement in the guerrilla (nationalists) activities. Nkomo's forces in Zambia were being armed and financed by the Russians and later Cuba, and Mugabe's forces in Mozambique were getting help from the Chinese.

Above all Mugabe and Nkomo had finally merged into the Patriotic Front to give more punch to their efforts.

Against this background Ian Smith was forced into agreement with Bishop Abel Muzorewa for a transitional government which was to lead to independence under Black rule on December 31, 1978.

But the euphoria over this arrangement of March 3 under which Bishop Muzorewa was to take over from Ian Smith as Rhodesia's first Black Prime Minister proved short lived.

For, outside the country the agreement was regarded as a cop out by Mugabe and Nkomo who had not been consulted. The rest of the world also saw it as a cop out. The British and the Americans rejected it.

The UN Security Council rejected it. The Organisation of African Unity rejected it. The neighbouring states rejected it and the international sanctions remained in place.

The fighting continued with renewed ferocity with Nkomo's forces using Russian made Sam 7 heat seeking missiles to shoot down a Rhodesian Viscount on a domestic flight from Kariba to Salisbury in which thirty passengers and crew died.

While the country's economy, which had to finance the war with £500,000 daily, suffered, conscription of men into the armed forces was stepped up to include everyone under 50. Within a matter of weeks the Rhodesian whites and the Black allies were compelled to face reality.

Any book that catalogues these events as the factors that led to the signing of the Lancaster agreement under which elections were held to usher Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe back into Black rule would not have failed to place the Zimbabwean nationalist struggle in its proper perspective.

'Now I call him Brother', a book by the son of Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian Prime Minister in which the above catalogue of events have been documented therefore appears in part to be a realistic appraisal of the process leading to Zimbabwe's independence.

The book, however, pays undue attention to the activities of the author and a group referred to "Cabinet of Conscience", made up of religious Black and White Rhodesians which the author believes also helped to end the war.

But as he himself wrote, "the truth is that Black freedom didn't really mean anything to me personally.

The view was re-echoed by the author, Alec Smith in a Network Africa interview on BBC in which he asserted that changing attitudes among Blacks and Whites promoted by men like him helped to bring about a changing situation in the society and that is why there is a non-racial society in Zimbabwe.

Alec Smith dwells extensively not only on his own conversion as a son of a White racist Prime Minister and a drug peddler into a christian who abhorred the injustice of racism. His interactions with Blacks in the church and particularly on the Christian "Cabinet of Conscience" is given excessive prominence in the book to prove that Blacks and Whites could live together peacefully.

But as he himself wrote, "the truth is that Black freedom didn't really mean anything to me personally. What did mean something to me personally was standing up and being identified as a spokesman for a radical, anti authority, anti establishment group. It was a boost to my image".

Hence even though this was the philosophy of Alec Smith, the rebel, alcoholic son of Ian Smith, his conversion later to the man of God, his changed attitudes towards the Blackman whom he called brother and his entire activities on the 'Cabinet of Conscience' do not merit a conspicuous place in the process towards present day Zimbabwe as he would like his readers to believe. In fact the failure of his effort or non recognition of it is reflected in his own statement that white christian ministers, instead of staying after independence chose to desert Zimbabwe for places like South Africa and Papua New Guinea. Persistent reports of the White population as the leaving Zimbabwe for South Africa and Europe further reinforces the point that Alec Smith made no impact on the process towards Zimbabwe's independence.

His book therefore can only be described as a boost to himself and will be read merely as the life history of an alcoholic rebel son of a racist and rebel Prime Minister of Zimbabwe who later converted to christianity.

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