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1970s: Memories of Rhodesia

When Ian Smith announced Rhodesia had become a republic on 2 March 1970 he was breaking the country's last links with Britain.

Rhodesia's new status went largely unrecognised by the international community - as had Prime Minister Mr Smith's unilateral declaration of independence from the UK five years earlier.

The severing of the country's 80-year-old ties with Britain effectively blocked the UK government's wish to guide its former colony towards majority black rule.

White rule in Rhodesia finally ended when Mr Smith stepped down on 1 June 1979, handing power to an interim administration led by Bishop Muzorewa.

Your memories

I went to live in Rodesia in the early 1950s, and witnessed change over the next three decades, leaving finally in 1984.

Ian Smith during his last years in power would speak of the need for respnosible government, not black or white government.

Zimbabwe has now learned what he meant - but that lesson is now too late.

Ian Smith is a gentleman, and a courageous one too, and will be remembered as such.
Howard Sercombe, UK

I was born in Rhodesia. I knew nothing else.

I was a policeman. I was in the war for the duration of the war - 1972 to 1981.

I am dedicated and loyal still I am proud of what I did . I am humbled to have served with the black Rhodesian policeman who operated with me.
Craig Viljoen, South Africa

I was born and bred in Rhodesia, I served with commitment in the Rhodesian Army (RLI) and I have been proud to call myself a Zimbabwean ever since history corrected itself, in 1980.

Contradictory ? No, just symptomatic of those turbulent decades that were the Rhodesian Civil War.

It is a shame that pages such as these seem to attract those with polarised, even bigotted views; witness the black vs white vs black guff that characterises this otherwise excellent discourse of memories.

I hope I speak for the silent majority of Zimbabweans, irrespective of ethnicity, when I say that it is about time we grew up.

The fact is, Ian Smith did us no favours in creating the conditions in which a dictator like Mugabe could flourish.

It is not about the colour of skin; it is all about myopic misgovernment, fuelled by personal agendas and greed, underpinned by sycophancy and abuse of power.
David Ruff, UK

I was young, but I do not forget the horrors and brutality of the Smith regime - the beatings and killings of innocent people by Ian Smith's soldiers. At least we are now free.

Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.
Lovemore Ngwarati, Zimbabwe

I was six when I was introduced to Ian Smith while he was out walking in Newlands Shopping Centre 1978.

No armoured cars or security curtain around him.

He was a leader to be proud of and I still introduce myself to people as a Rhodesian and I always will.
C Dunbar, New Zealand

Even as young children we all worried about the prospect of one of the terrorists getting into power, especially the one called Mugabe.

We couldn't understand why the world saw this terrorist as such a great chap when he was clearly doing awful things to his own people, whom he was suposedly trying to liberate.

At prep school we desperately wanted the Conservatives in the UK to gain power in 1974 the year before and we knew of our fate was set once Labour got back in.

Reagan and Thatcher got power two years too late.

Ian Smith was our man and we were confident that he would have negotiated with a reasonable leader had one been available to speak in a reasonable way.

Smithy proved himself to be right in the end but even we school kids knew he was dealing with pretty dubious politicians, some in his own party, who would trip him up along the way somehow.

He was honest and as solid as a rock.
<B>Peter, Africa

I was born two years after UDI in November 1967.

The war started when I was still very young, but when it ended I was a little boy.

As a black person who is now fighting for total justice in Zimbabwe, it is disheartening to hear what most whites of Zimbabwean origin are saying.

From the look of things they are confirming my worst fears - that the opposition is failing in Zimbabwe because it is made up of people fighting for different reasons.

It would seem the whites are fighting for the return of Rhodesia.

This is unfortunate because the blacks in opposition are definitely not fighting for Rhodesia but for for a free Zimbabwe.

" As a black person who is now fighting for total justice in Zimbabwe, it is disheartening to hear what most whites of Zimbabwean origin are saying "

Rodgers Svovah, UK

It shall always be difficult for whites if they do not want to call themselves Zimbabweans. And for the record Smith was never right, and he will never be.

Also Mugabe is not right in that he is doing what Smith did - encouraging the nation to split into two camps - black and white.

This, in my opinion, is what must be fought against by both black and white Zimbabwean, taking into consideration that we are the same - no-one is superior to the other.

The moment we start to talk of superiority then what it means is that we shall be fighting each other even if Mugabe and Smith are long dead.

The sooner we reach a compromise, the better.
Rodgers Svovah, UK

My parents took me to the land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo in the mid 1950s.

I left 25 years later.

That glorious land was invaded by adventurous Brits in the 1890s. Sadly, they made no effort to integrate with the local people. They remained aloof - I was taught French at school, when it should have been Shona, for heavens sake - and implemented a formal system of suppression.

This was never going to be sustainable.

Ian Smith was merely a willing tool of the last throws of Empire as it collapsed in on itself.

My experience of the Shona people is that they are gentle and fun-loving, and long-suffering.

Smith and his predecessors took advantage of this, just as Mugabe is now. But it's better to be kicked around by one of your own than a foreigner.
John, Australia

Well I guess I am just another ignorant American, but can someone please explain to me why all the white Zimbabeweans are now living in Britain, Australia and the USA?

I mean God only knows my great country has had its share of problems including segregation and racism but the idea of leaving my home and emigrating to a strange land has never occurred to me!

What racist, arrogant cowards you all are.

If you truly loved your country why not stay there and work to improve conditions? Instead you emigrate to foreign lands and say cruel things about your own country.

Yes, the country is experiencing a very dark period, but as Zimbabweans you should all be prepared to fight to make things better for everyone.

I think Mugabe is clueless but after reading the comments posted here from the white community living abroad I now realize that YOU are responsible for the current situation in your beautiful homeland.
Anthony, USA

A friend of ours taught at a private boys' school in Umtali during the early UDI period.

The school had a chapel and on the steps up to the chapel were carved the names of the old boys from the school who had died in wars.

He told us how chilled he felt when the headmaster told him there was plenty of room on the steps to carve lots more names and he hoped his boys would defend their country against the "terrs".
Susan Thomas, Australia

It surprises me that the very people who slate Ian Smith and Rhodesians and state that Mugabe and his government were the best thing to happen to the country.

These people don't live in the country anymore! Why?

I can remember being in the Kariba area during UDI and Zambians used to come shopping to Kariba. On one occasion I heard someone say, "If this is what UDI does, lets have it in Zambia."

At least people had food and were clothed - very different to what is happening in the country at the moment. The silence is defeaning.
Peter, UK

It is interesting that the majority of anti-Smith Rhodesia commentary is from people living outside Zimbabwe of Zim heritage. Why are you not back in the paradise of Mugabe??

Smith for all the wrongs and rights of the past had the guts to stand up and say what he believed.

God help Zimbabwe and her people black and white.
Paul, Uruguay

Reading through the comments posted here it is obvious there are two totally opposing viewpoints. But if we were to ask your average resident Zimbabwean today, be he black or white, if he was better off today or 30 years ago, we could pretty much guarantee what the answer would be.
Israel, UK

I was born two years after 11 November 1965, the date when Ian Smith made the unilateral declaration of independence.

My parents were against the racial segregation laws and the unfair treatment of black people, although they were not activists. They did not support Ian Smith or UDI. My father even thought that Ian Smith was not particularly bright.

Having said that, I want to add that people who hate Ian Smith should remember the following facts: Ian Smith came into power as the result of a backlash by the white population against the previous liberal government. That government had made a peace deal with Nkomo's African Nationalists who had then reneged on the deal.

My understanding is that the requirement for black people to vote was that they could write and that the deal would have resulted in the vote for all black people by around 1980.

Ian Smith was a brave man who stuck to his guns. Imagine this tiny country taking on the might of Britain. He still lives in Zimbabwe to this day.
Gerard, UK

It would have been better if the white minority ran the country equally with the black majority.

Look at the state of Zimbabwe today with Robert Mugabe - people are starving on the streets. It appears that third parties are better rulers than the locals.

I believe that equal power-sharing for at least 20 years should take place before power is handed over to the majority.

This is especially important in Africa because there seems to be more intra-ethnic conflicts after handover.
Vincent, USA

I was born and raised in Rhodesia, third generation, making my children fourth generation. We left when Mugabe came to power as he had already made it abundantly clear that he was Marxist and would seize land whenever it suited him.

I would like to congratulate the British of the late 1970s for destroying the lives of millions of Zimbabweans through their policies. The sufferers are those least able to defend themselves. Those who could, got out sooner or later!!
Peta Lilford, USA

Am I being ignorant or what? I thought Rhodesia and Zimbabwe where the same piece of land. Did something change? How can someone who is/was Rhodesian then say they have lost their home. Did it sink into the ocean or something?

My apologies for sounding ignorant but from what I understand our parents/grandparents were treated like illegal immigrants in their own country.

A white person's dog had more rights than a black person. How can one visit and then proceed to take over the home, treat the host like less than nothing and expect one to take it lying down?

I don't remember much about the declaration of UDI because as a black person it did not make much difference to me. The one thing I do remember is the fact that it did not change our situation.

We were still servants and treated as people of no consequence. Zimbabwe has gone down the drain - not because of Ian Smith's predictions but because we were too tired of fighting and we wanted to get out of the situation we were in.

Unfortunately we chose unwisely. This does not mean the blacks have failed but that our leader has failed us. It does not necessarily make Ian Smith right! I wonder if a white person had taken over and run the country to the ground the way Bob has if the sentiment would be the same from the 'Rhodies'.
Mandy, UK

Just reading these comments, particularly from white former Rhodesians or whatever they call themselves sends a chilling feeling to my spine.

The realisation that the talk of black and white people ever living together in peace is a myth.

I cannot imagine how anyone can shamelessly attempt to argue that a segregationist government that concentrated the economy and power of a country in Africa on a small minority white people was right.

The problem with all the reconciliation talks after liberation wars in Africa is that they are always one-sided, sincerity wise. White people almost always never make an effort. Usually just taking a background but holding on to their supremacist ideals and then wishing for things to go wrong so they can be vindicated.

That's what they are doing in South Africa, thankfully South Africa seems to be holding quite well. I guess in the case of Zimbabwe, they are happy now, thanks to a perfectly legitimate land redistribution plan which they have, with support from their western parent nations, successfully turned into a 'huge crime against humanity'.

Looking back at all the injustices that black people have suffered over so many centuries and continue to suffer today, I cannot believe that we always come back to trust, forgive and reconcile. How naive can we get?
Edward Dintwa, Botswana

For me, Ian Smith's government was a disaster. He and his government are to blame for the current political and economic mess in Zimbabwe.

If moderate white leaders in Rhodesia had incorporated the black majority in government earlier and allowed black people the vote, then Marxist extremists like Zanu-pf would not have developed their racist policies against the white community.

Whites could now still have their farms and have a more prominent role in the community, instead of being forcefully removed like the Chief Justice Antony Gubbay and other white judges.

What fools the white people of Rhodesia were by electing the Rhodesian Front.
Stuart Chappell, Zimbabwe

The old curse "May you live in interesting times" was certainly put on us Rhodesians.

I remember the feeling of being on the edge of a precipice [when UDI was declared].

" In the long term everyone was a loser - whites and blacks "

Dave Crossley, UK

Funnily enough though, the things that we feared the most, ie British military intervention and economic collapse, didn't happen.

Sanctions, petrol rationing and international isolation became something of a joke. So perhaps Smith was an astute gambler.

But what did UDI really achieve? Maybe a few years of prosperity for the white folk who voted for him - but in the long term everyone was a loser - whites and blacks.

Maybe the worst affect was the political polarisation that has made Zimbabwe into the same kind of maverick state that Rhodesia was.

Pity the poor "man on the bush path" who after 40 years of turmoil is still no better off and with no real hope for the future.
Dave Crossley, UK

When will the world have the guts to admit that Ian Smith was 100% in his predictions of the outcome of majority rule for Rhodesia?

A brave and honest man, he was ridiculed by the west.

Today none of those western governments will admit to the fact that they have led Zimbabwe into misery and decay.

The Wilsons, Carters, Thatchers and Vorsters all contributed to killing off the bread basket of Central Africa.
Jon, UK

I remember that day 11/11/65 [when UDI was declared].

It was around lunch time. We were very excited and enthusiastic.

I was just a young man at my first job. I worked for a white boss but had many black work mates.

We were all aware that the large majority black Rhodesians were advancing and enjoying more and more of the dividends of a modern western culture.

Although not perfect, the system of government and general lifestyle had moved all Rhodesians in a positive direction, economically and socially.

One only has to compare those times with the times of today in Zimbabwe to see that "they were doing something right" in Ian Smith's day .

My life in Rhodesia ran from 1947 till 1971.

I make no appologies for being a white Rhodesian, despite all the slures and jeers we have received about those times.

The British Government under the leadership of Harold Wilson demanded one man one vote at a time when the country was not yet ready to recieve it.

The strong minority held onto power only because they were given no other option. We did the best we could for our beloved Rhodesia.

My God have mercy on Zimbabwe.
Chris Elley, USA - "Still a proud Rhodesian"

I was an immigrant to Rhodesia in late December 1974.

A photographer, I first worked for the Dept of Information & Tourism.

I was incredibly lucky to be in a position to travel up and down what must have been one of the most beautiful country on this planet.

Later, as a "Rhodesia Herald" (Argus Group) photographer, I was able to witness and help chronicle the ongoing Rhodesian drama (and here, I do wish to testify that the paper which employed me was never anti-Rhodesian, but tried to steer a reasonable course in a tricky situation).

As a young male, I did my bit in "camo". I volunteered; no heroics, but I hope to have been useful in what I did.

Of course, friends were lost and tears were shed. Like that of so many, it is also our innocence which was laid to rest with Rhodesia.

Whether one stands for the principles of self-determination or favours benevolent paternalistic rule, each one must make a moral choice.

But in terms of geo-politics, we truly never stood a chance, and should have realised it, instead of allowing ourselves to believe in collective wishful thinking.

Yet, however misguided they may have been in their anachronistic vision, Ian Smith and (some of) his entourage can stand tall.

As for today, and "comrade" Mugabe.

I will never forget the day (must have been end 1979) I was sent to a Mount Pleasant villa - with our political reporter - to record an interview with the then recently returned future leader of Zimbabwe.

Throughout the proceedings, I felt an almost unbearable chill.

I guess what followed to this day bears witness to that feeling of unease!
Chris Dehon, Belgium

I remember Rhodesia - UDI 11.11.65.

I was only four, but I do remember the annual celebrations my parents went to at Government House with Ian Smith in what was then Salisbury.

Those were happy days in Africa! Now, in Zimbabwe, people are starving, dying of disease and the rest of the world stands by and lets millions of innocent people suffer and die - the very people that they wanted to help when they interfered in Rhodesian politics through the years!

When is something going to be done to help all those innocent people, not to mention the wildlife, all of whom cannot help themselves in a truly beautiful piece of Africa?

What about all the people from both sides who died in the Rhodesian [Army]? Just remember them in the two minutes silence today on Remembrance Day 11.11.04.
Susan Beale, UK ex-Zimbabwe

As a school boy in neighbouring Zambia I was riding my bike home with a friend when UDI was announced.

We did not appreciate the momentous impact this would eventually have on our lives as later our parents relocated from Zambia to Rhodesia - we both ended up conscripted into the Rhodesian military for the Bush War (although not citizens!).

I survived but my friend was killed.
David, Australia

I was born and raised in Rhodesia, studied in the US, returned to Zimbabwe and now live in South Africa.

If Ian Smith is a prophet it is only because he created the self fulfilling prophecy.

The arrogance of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front is directly responsible for the disaster that is Zimbabwe today.

Rather than take a reasoned approach, recognising the inevitability of black majority rule in the 1960s, Smithy and the good old Rhodies were determined as one of the propaganda songs crooned "to fight through thick and thin".

I am deeply saddened by what has happened to Zimbabwe but I am afraid that Robert Mugabe was the inevitable conclusion to Ian Smith's intransigent and misguided rule.
Mike, South Africa

I was born in April 1979 in Mognester Masvingo in Midlands of Zimbabwe.

I am the first generation of Zimbabweans to enjoy the peace which was attained in 1980 after a very strong struggle.

I was told many stories by my grandmother and my late father about how black Zimbabweans were being treated during the Rhodesian era. They were called Kaffirs in their own country and killed just like dogs.
Tariro Madiro, UK

I was a five-year-old schoolboy in Salisbury, Rhodesia when UDI was declared.

I was conscripted into the Rhodesian Security Forces but like most of the men I served with went willingly as we knew we were defending not only our country but in fact the very fabric of our civilisation against the terrorists of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.

Yes , I lost friends in action and there were times I questioned whether what we were doing was right or wrong but when you see what Mugabe has done to that fantastic country and its people - we were right to defend it .

To me Ian Smith is a man who grew weary of British Government double standards and had the courage and conviction to say enough is enough! I salute my former commander in chief.
Allan, South Africa

I was born in 1964 in the so-called North Eastern War Front of Rhodesia in Mazoe district, which witnessed the heaviest fighting in the war of liberation of Zimbabwe.

One day in 1972 as we were coming from school on foot, we met a convoy of soldiers who waved to us, some only to perish in a landmine blast a few metres from were we meet them.

The survivors started shooting in all directions and we ran for our dear lives. They had gotten information that there were freedom fighters in our area and were coming to sniff them out.

This marked the beginning of one of the [most] gruelling guerrilla wars of our time.

Smith's reinforcements came and bombed every mountain they could get in the vicinity and frightened us to hell, hoping to kill the freedom fighters.

They took away every male above 15 years they could get. All our fathers, brothers, uncles were beaten some to death and the rest were detained for over eight years at the notorious Hwahwa Prison.

In 1973 Smith closed our schools, shops, grinding mills etc and restricted transport in Mazoe district to try to contain the freedom fighters as we called them and terrorists as Smith wanted to call them.

In July 1974 after schools had been reopened soldiers came to our school and informed us that we were never to go back to our villages but to look for our parents in the so called Protected Village ie concentration camps they had built to contain us and the support we gave to our freedom fighters.

I lived in the concentration camp from 1974 to 1980 to be freed after independence.

A lot happened - innocent people were killed, raped and anthrax was used by Smith's regime to eliminate our livestock and people.

I do not have any good memories of Smith nor Rhodesia other than those of war, deprivation and starvation.

We suffered under the Smith regime - our only salvation came in 1980 when we gained our independence.

I completed my education after Independence, I work and I am a holder of MSc and MBA degrees, the fruits of a free Zimbabwe.
Stanley Mazvuva, UK/Zimbabwe

My family were third generation Rhodesians, and did not support Smith, holding him to be unsophisticated, recklessly irresponsible, and racist in a vulgarly obvious way.

We thought we were British, and resented having been separated from the UK by UDI.

On the other hand, we were profoundly disturbed by the evident determination of the British Government to get rid of Rhodesia as quickly as possible and regardless of the consequences.

" The bleakest predictions of the most virulent white supremacists were fulfilled. "

Murray Lamond, USA

As "liberals", we mistrusted by white and black nationalists alike.

It was an uncomfortable situation during the bush war of the 1970s - my father was always on call-up, annoyed at what he saw as the foolishness of the government, yet duty-bound to protect fellow citizens.

We hoped that Zimbabwe would allow everyone who identified with the country to live together.

It soon became evident that whites were only there on sufferance, and then the bleakest predictions of the most virulent white supremacists were fulfilled.

Before my mother left the country she visited Ian Smith and had him inscribe a copy of his autobiography. I think she was admitting that he was more right in his predictions than we liberals.

Our family, like so many others, is now scattered about the globe. My parents lost everything. We feel betrayed by Britain for hanging us out to dry without passports or pensions.

As exiles from the land of our births we will never belong anywhere. I hope our children are spared the same wrenching sense of loss.
Murray Lamond, USA

Having read all the comments, the one that strikes deep in my heart is Murray Lammond's: "As exiles from the land of our births we will never belong anywhere. I hope our children are spared the same wrenching sense of loss."

I was 13 when Rhodesia was lost - too young to understand what had happened and what had been sacrificed for us.

Now at 37, I am suddenly struggling to come to terms that my birthland does not exist and that I have no identity.

How can one reconcile that Rhodesia was hung out to dry by the British? [They were] not prepared to accept UDI, but more than willing to throw her to the dogs 15 years later anyway.

I am Rhodesian.
James, UK

I was the first black girl at an all white school in Zimbabwe in 1979.

I was seven years old and very afraid. One of my little classmates chose to spit in my face for being a kaffir.

That affected me terribly and sent my on my nationalistic journey.

" One of my little classmates chose to spit in my face for being a kaffir "

Tambu, USA/Zimbabwe

"Africa for Africans," I said to anyone who cared to listen.

When, the following year on November 11 the whole school sang the Rhodesian national anthem, which incidentally I didn't know because as a black child I had never learnt it, I realised that white people will never change and they had to leave our country.

Ian Smith was the devil who should have had more foresight and compromised with the black population in 1965.

Today, Zimbabwe's history would be different. However, I am deeply touched by the stories of being countryless and all that.

It is simple, my white brethren. Change your birth certificates to Zimbabwean ones and get Zimbabwean passports, that is if you don't have them already.

Don't give up on home. Fight for it.

Hold on to it because nothing lasts forever. It is our turn to be monsters in your eyes. That will change. You are family, a part of us and we will grow together. You will see.
Tambu, USA/Zimbabwean

I can still vividly remember, as a child, visiting my dad's cousins.

They lived in Bulawayo and this was at the height of the war.

We travelled from Johannesburg to Salisbury (now Harare) in an SAA 737.

As we neared the capital the pilot put the aircraft into a steepish diving turn and we descended in a sort of corkscrew.

I still remember my dad telling me it was so that we wouldn't be shot down by the "ters" with SAMS.

I was genuinely scared at the time. It was at this time that terrorists shot down two Rhodesian airliners. I guess that if there had been oil we could have invaded them.
Steve, UK

I can remember sitting in the country club at Kariba when the announcements were made [that white rule would end] and it was the start of a party.

We all decided that as the British Government had sold us down the river we would all get motherless.

Since then the white man is Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe has been the victim of the British government's perfidious actions.
Peter Smith, UK

I was at school in Rhodesia from 1967 to 1980. As a child I didn't understand the politics but I remember the civil war during the 1970s - hearing in school assembly of old boys who had been killed in action, seeing the helicopter gunships (Allouette 3s)and the old Hawker Hunter and Canberra jets flying over our house.

" We even had armoured cars outside our school from time to time "

John Linwood, UK

Every family was affected in some way by the war. In the early days it was a remote thing that affected farmers in the border areas, but by the late seventies it was not safe to travel without armed escort in rural areas of the country.

The dirt roads were dangerous because of landmines and we even had armoured cars outside our school from time to time - which was great fun. As a teenager you don't consider the danger.

The one thing that was overriding in that period was the view that it was a war against communist expansion rather than a war between black and white, and people in Rhodesia at the time were puzzled why the rest of the world didn't see it that way.

Anyway, it is very sad that so many people died in such a beautiful country.
John Linwood, UK

I feel such a deep shame for Africa - when UDI was declared in 1965 African leaders stated their "support" for their "brothers" in Rhodesia.

Why are the African leaders now so silent and cautious with their comments against Mugabe when by all reasoned independent accounts his regime is causing famine and terror to millions of black Africans? Very sad.
Craig Maclean, UK

" Ian Smith was indeed a very brave man who stood up for what he believed in "

Jon, UK

It is when reading things like this that I realise that Ian Smith was indeed a very brave man who stood up for what he believed in. Although ridiculed and reviled by the world Ian Smith's prophesy of life under majority rule in Zimbabwe has turned out very accurate.

It is at times like these that I am once more proud to say that I was born under the green and white Rhodesian flag.
Jon, UK

As a teenager I lived in South Africa during the late sixties and early seventies and my family and I would holiday in Rhodesia.

I remember driving from the border to Vic Falls and seeing fields full of crops and tobacco plants. As you got nearer the Falls this gave way to open countryside and wild game was abundant. Little roadside stalls sold all types of local grown fruit and veg and curios made from Rhodesian copper were cheap and everywhere.

As a white person it seemed that most of the native people were reasonably content but it must be remembered that this is the view of a 16-year-old white from S.A. and the subsequent events proved that I was wrong.

It was safe to walk the streets of Salisbury at night and there was no sign of violence in any of the other towns we would visit. I don't remember seeing starving children and whole communities living in poverty that is an all to common sight on today's television.
David Reynard, USA

I was eight years old and at a rural boarding school in Rhodesia when Ian Smith declared UDI in 1965. He symbolically timed the declaration for 11:11 on 11 November.

Half-way through the school morning, it was suddenly announced that we were to go and watch TV; this caused great excitement and we were anticipating some stunning event.

All we saw was some boring adult (Ian Smith) speaking in words of far too many syllables for us to understand. After his speech, a teacher asked us who he was and what he said. A lot of us didn't know, and were caned for our ignorance! I never really trusted Ian Smith after that day.
Neil, Ireland

My wife and I listened to Prime Minister Ian Smith announce UDI over the radio on 11 November 1965. We were living in the small town of Que Que (Kwe Kwe) at the time. We were proud of being Rhodesians and believed in the Rhodesian Government policy of 'Evolution not revolution.'

Sanctions united Rhodesians. The country became self-sufficient very quickly so that sanctions became nothing more than a slight inconvenience. We did not give a damn about what Britain or the Commonwealth thought of us. Considering the dreadful state of Zimbabwe today only goes to prove that Ian Smith was 100% right.
Robert Brown, England

While talks were going on I was fortunate enough to be part of the Rhodesian security services ans proud to be a volunteer.

It is interesting to remeber that every time the security forces started to get an upper hand the terrorists would cry "talks" to give themselves time to regroup.

Our hard won successes were then thrown away by the politicians - along with many white lives.

At the end of the day it was the british government that was responsible for president Mugabe being enthroned as president of Zimbabwe and so - by default - largely responsible for the sad and sorry state that that magical country has been reduced to.

Ian Smith is still in the country which is a tribute to his integrity and courage.

I wonder how many of our present government could hold their collectiove or individual heads so high.
Peter Smith, UK

I grew up in that great and prosperous country called Rhodesia in the 1960s and 70s.

Rhodesia was the bread basket of Africa and the Rhodesian dollar was stronger than the South African .

Mr Smith was our prime minister whose weakness was his integrity. He was a loyal and honest man. He knew and warned what would happen to Rhodesia if it was run by the likes of Mugabe.

Rhodesia, a mere pawn on the world stage was betrayed then sacrificed by the likes of Kissinger, Vorster, Wilson and others.

The naïve majority put their man into power in 1980, they got what they wanted and now after many have starved, perhaps realise that Ian Smith was the man who lead that nation in its greatest day¿

Ian Douglas Smith, a truly awesome leader.
Brian Holder, Canada

I was nineteen years old straight from the UK, living and working in Lusaka, Zambia when UDI was declared. Politically I was very unaware, and there purely for the adventure of being in AFRICA.

No-one can possibly argue that the average person living in the former Southern Rhodesia, regardless of ethnic background, is better off under Mugabe's rule now than they were then.

The vast majority of the population now lives under conditions of incredible suffering. Mugabe and his cronies live in opulence with Swiss bank accounts that are grotesque.

Smith was not set against majority rule. He had doubts about its efficacy, but was pragmatically prepared to implement it.

Shame on the zealots and power mongers in the all-knowing capitals of the Western countries for allowing the present situation to develop.

Ian Smith was a man worth supporting, and remains there doing his best. I salute him.
Roger Ward, Canada

My parents emigrated from Rhodesia/Zimbabwe when I was very young, so I've received the whole history from a certain distance and had the opportunity to develop my own views.

As such, I believe that whites were too slow in conceding that blacks clearly had to have an equal rule in the country. As Booker T. Washington said, 'You can't hold a man down without staying down with him'.

However, the immediate reversal of power that foreign powers seem to have demanded was always going to be, and has turned out to be, disasterous. Both white supremacy and too-rapid change are responsible for the current murderous dictator.

I wish I could have grown up in a country where everyone was able to vote for the best leaders; regardless of the colour of the voter, regardless of the colour of the politician. Zimbabwe would have been the light of Africa and one of the richest and most beautiful nations on earth.

I don't know enough about Ian Smith, but I have tremendous respect for the fact he has never left the land he so clearly loved. This love for the country is the thing both black and white should use to build a better future.
Brendan, Australia

I worked for the health service in Bulawayo between 1975 and 1977.

I have fond memories of all the people I met there. I went back for a visit in 1995 and I could not believe the change. I left a modern organised country (even after sanctions),and returned to a run down third world corrupt country.

The majority of people looked poorer and down, with the infrastructure in tatters.

I believe if Ian Smith had encouraged power-sharing, then perhaps it would have been slightly different. It was never like South Africa,and people did co-exist. I have fond memories of Bulawayo.
Bill Grove, New Zealand

More memories

For my own part I am a Zimbabwean.

I'm also white which doesn't make a damn bit of difference!

The whole black/white argument is redundant, being bandied about by old school cronies who can't let go of the past.

I went to school in Bulawayo and my parents are still there. I intend to return and make a life there.

Black or white Zimbabweans are distinct in terms of cultural differences but we are countrymen - the past is history. Once that generation, that seems to cherish antagonism over cooperation, (white and black) passes on, then Zimbabweans collectively can start restructuring their country.
Mark, UK

In 1965 I was five years old. I remember the discussions over [UDI] in our household that continued for decades aftwards.

Thirteen years later, I was fighting in the Rhodesian conflict. Afterwards I continued in the South African armed forces.

With the benefit of historical perspective I often think that Ian Smith has been vindicated to a large extent. Fact is that 90% of the white population of Rhodesia has since fled for other shores. There are millions of black Zimbabwean economic refugees in South Africa, literally escaping starvation.

I think that the current historical view of UDI is still very much clouded by whether people are in the pro-Smith camp or in the anti-Colonialism camp.

Over a long term historians will judge Mugabe extremely harshly and will possibly even vindicate Ian Smith's regime given the "better" outcome of South Africa and Namibia.

I often wonder what would the outcome have been if South Africa had stuck to Rhodesia's side until the fall of communism in the late 1980s. Certainly Ian Smith was first sold out by the South Africans, then by everybody else.
Casper Labuschagne, South Africa

Maybe the way chosen by Ian Smith was wrong but I believe he was an honest guy doing what he thought was right. He certainly didn't profit from it. The same cannot be said about Mugabe and his aides.
Domingos Nogueira, Portugal

'Smith and his predecessors took advantage of this, just as Mugabe is now. But it's better to be kicked around by one of your own than a foreigner. John, Australia '

I enjoyed reading your comments John. But no John, its not any better to be kicked around by your own. Mugabe and Smith are now one and the same. Only one is black and the other white.

They are both responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of peace loving Shona, Ndebele and Occidental Zimbabweans.

I think Ian Smith and his army generals should have been brought before a tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity for what the Rhodesian army did to civilians it accused of supporting the Liberation Struggle (terrorist).

On the other hand, I am also of the opinion that Mugabe should be tried as well for what he has done in the past 25 years especially to the Ndebele during Gukurahundi, if any of you know anything about that.

It seems to me that the majority of the white folks who write on the column identify themselves as Rhodesians and want nothing to do with Zimbabwe.

To me Rhodesia and UDI represent a state in which I was inferior by virtue of being black.

Today, Mugabe does not represent the will of the majority of Zimbabwe and you Rhodies know that. Most Zimbabweans want a much better Zimbabwe in which everyone is respected and treated equally.
Tineyi, USA

As a black Zimbabwean, it sickens me to read how many of these people who still call themselves Rhodesians feel they were "robbed of their country" and identity and that Ian Smith was a much better leader. How ignorant and selfish you are!

Have you ever thought how only 7000 black people were allowed to vote out of a total of six million black people in the 70's in the Rhodesian elections, while 85,000 white voters elected 50 white MPs?

Did you ever think of the fact that whilst you lived "comfortably" in your houses, the majority blacks, who know of no other country but Zimbabwe, were spat at, called derogatory names, were beaten up for the color of their skin, got poor education, lived in poor houses, could not get white collared jobs, were seen as inferior to white people....and Ian Smith stood for this.

If you think he was such a great leader, then we can assume you believed and followed his principles, and were content with the segregation and discrimination that occurred.

And finally, is it not ironic that many of you feel Smith was a great leader because he stood up for and what he believed...hello, is that not what Mugabe is doing right now...both leaders seem to be from the same school of thought - don't care about sanctions, hard heads, strong beliefs, racists, ignorant....they both have the same practices.

I am not taking any sides here, but I think your attitudes should change..Yes, life may have been better for many of you, but was what was going on right - was it benefitting the majority? We are all Zimbabweans (Rhodesia ceased to exist in 1980, therefore you are Zimbabwean now) and we all should be praying for our beloved country.
Justin, USA

He should be the man of the last few decades of the 20th century. The man who would have averted the chaos that is Zimbabwe today.

Instead he has been swept under the carpet by the policticians of yesteryear. Another member of the then commonwealth who was quickly disposed of because he would not do what he was told.

Thank you BBC for at least remembering Ian Smith, and maybe before its far too late, before his bones crumble and turn into the dust. Offer him a knighthood and an apology. That indeed would be a noble thing for England to do.
Shirley Briggs, New Zealand

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