Whenever there has been an attempt to raise the problem of the racist régime in Southern Rhodesia—whether in the United Nations, the
What is Southern Rhodesia? And where is the current government taking it? 20,000 ‘Asians and others’ apart, the society is polarized between 220,000 Europeans and 3,830,000 Africans. Although Africans outnumber Europeans by nearly 18:1, or rather since they outnumber them in this way, the Constitution provides that the whites (6 per cent of the population) should have 50 seats in the legislature and the Africans (93 per cent) only 15. Before 1961, there was no African representation: it is now well below the ‘blocking third’ which would allow it at least to block further constitutional amendments.
This political structure was set up to perpetuate the colonial economic order. The foundation stone of this is the Land Apportionment Act (1930, since slightly modified) which allocates 41 million acres of good land to Europeans and 44 million acres of mostly bad land to Africans. European subsistence is held to demand a minimum of 750 acres, while within the African Reserves the legal maximum holding of six acres is frequently not achieved. Something like 8 million acres are entirely unused—held in reserve for future ‘must favoured race’ immigrants—and in 1957 it was estimated that only 3–4 per cent of the arable lands held by Europeans were under cultivation. A senior official of the Native Affairs Department said at the time of the passing of the 1930 Act, ‘We are in this country because we represent a higher civilization, because we are a better race of men. It is our only excuse for having taken the land’.
Natural population growth combined with the double policy of heavy taxation and land restriction lead of course—as desired—to the constitution of a pool of desperately cheap labour. Something like one million Africans no longer live off the land: they work for wages which average one-tenth of those Europeans can obtain; they are excluded from the professions and the more remunerative positions (particularly in industry) and can neither own nor rent property in central urban areas. Pointing out the existence of rationalized pass laws to control African movement, the Ghanaian document Britain’s Responsibility in Southern Rhodesia sums up the absence of ordinary civil rights in this way: ‘. . . To live outside the Reservations they must have their employers’ consent. If dismissed they are liable to prosecution as vagrants. If they quit their jobs they can be imprisoned and subsequently compelled
Needless to say, such a system can only work by constant repression of the subordinated race. A very generous concept of criminal subversion is required and has as one might expect been found. Sir Edgar White-head has complained that Ian Smith identified loyalty to the Crown with loyalty to the Government in power, and this is only too easy to understand as the Rhodesian Front Government prepares for the consequences of its own policies. As the pattern of last-ditch struggle develops, Mr Smith correctly declares to the Press that ‘one has to get back to the primitive thing “my country right or wrong”’ and prepares a Press Law to keep journalists and others in line. Paranoid statements about ‘the Communist menace’ and ‘the preconceived pattern of Communist take-over’ multiply, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Information welcomes the prospect of being ‘in the front line of the ideological war between East and West’. The prospects for the moderate Europeans look black as Ian Smith draws ‘a clear distinction’ between ‘a legitimate loyal opposition’ and ‘an opposition which is merely the external enemy in disguise’.