Whenever there has been an attempt to raise the problem of the racist régime in Southern Rhodesia—whether in the United Nations, the House of Commons or elsewhere—the British Government has always sought to protect the régime by pleading first that it is a matter which concerns London and Salisbury exclusively, second that it does not concern London because she is bound by a convention not to interfere in the affairs of her self-governing colony, and finally that there is really almost no problem because the principle of majority rule is already established and will manifest itself as a matter of historical inevitability (thus The Times—a convert to historicist fallacies?). In fact, there is a racist régime in Southern Rhodesia which is rapidly evolving towards a South African position, Britain’s responsibility for the situation there cannot be shuffled off on to alleged conventions of no judicial standing and pressure both on the Conservative Government and on the Labour Government will be needed to ensure that Britain assumes her responsibility in a rapidly degenerating situation.

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 to resume the job they left. Even on the Reserves, however, the lives of Africans are controlled in the minutest details by Native Commissioners who act as chiefs of police, agricultural controllers and judges, and thus exercise virtually absolute power. . .’ Expenditure on the education of European children averages ten times that of African children, only 1 per cent of whom receive 10 years’ education.

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’.

The already illegitimated black opposition are very obviously cast as the external enemy in disguise. Various Acts make it virtually illegal and impossible for the Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union to organize politically for a change in the present constitution or even for a change of government. Criticism of the Government is construed as criminal subversion and a petition to Britain or to the un Decolonization Commission may well land those who propose it in one of the mushrooming detention camps with no prospect of trial but that of indefinite incarceration. Nkomo is currently in one of those camps—despite a High Court ruling that his detention is illegal—and some say the number of imprisoned and restricted Africans already reaches 3,000. The law provides that political meetings may not be held in any Native Reserve (where 42 per cent of Africans live) nor Salisbury or Bulawayo, nor in any mining centre (where 7 per cent live) nor on any European farm (where 20 per cent live) nor in any towns or areas other than those where the local authorities may decide to ban meetings. In addition, no African Nationalist leader may visit or remain in any Native Reserve.

The model of South Africa becomes increasingly relevant both to the Smith Government and to those trying to understand the logic of its uncontrolled development. White civilians are being armed and trained militarily, the setting-up of local vigilante committees is being canvassed, while the Smith regime is looking to South Africa for economic and military help ‘in case’. Even its native policy is being developed in the direction of a glossy version of apartheid. The new ‘community development’ scheme of the Minister of Internal Affairs was designed to ‘devolve executive, administrative and judicial responsibilities on self-defined communities’—always with the proviso, of course, that ‘African domestic servants and farmworkers could not be considered as members of the community they lived in but only as migrants’ (this could well apply to all Africans in a Smith-modelled Southern Rhodesia, migrants in their own country).