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Open Features: Smith And Mugabe – Two Of A Kind

While abhorring the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe, Stan Solomons points out that Zimbabwe was run as a virtual dictatorship when whites were in charge.

While we must all abhor the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, we should not lose sight of the fact that the country in its white-dominated days as Southern Rhodesia was run as a virtual dictatorship by Smith.

I recently came across the report of a lecture I attended in Bradford in 1966 given by a school teacher, Mrs Hope Hay, who had left the country and had come to England. She told her audience, “If ever I return to Rhodesia I will face a long term of imprisonment.’’

Her crime? Daring to criticise the Smith regime.

She said that imprisonment was the fate awaiting any former resident of Southern Rhodesia who spoke out against the present set-up. A police state where only the politically powerful are free, was how Mrs Hay described the country.

Mrs Hay who has taught and lectured in five African countries over a period of twenty-three years left Southern Rhodesia just before the advent of UDI and then taught immigrant children in a Huddersfield school.

She said she found life in Southern Rhodesia more oppressive than in the Union of South Africa. Any action of protest was considered subversive and was severely punished.

And while South Africa openly confessed to apartheid, Southern Rhodesia operated the colour bar – unofficially. One example she gave was that black and white women shopped in the same store but black women were not allowed to try garments on and no article would be exchanged if it did not fit.

Immigrants arriving from England were subtly indoctrinated from the moment they landed. Stories about the houseboy stealing sugar were typical examples.

“One thing I am adamant about. The black population of Southern Rhodesia is politically mature enough to have the vote and run their own country,’’ she declared.

That as we know proved to be true. But when you look at Mugabe and Smith perhaps the only real difference in them is the colour of their skin.

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