Book Launch - Speech by Pius Wakatama

The End of the Liberal Dream in Rhodesia

By Susan Woodhouse

    I am really honored to have been asked by Weaver Press to speak at this launch of Susan Woodhouse’s memorable book: The End of the Liberal Dream in Rhodesia, a biography of the late Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Mr. Garfield Todd.

    As I read it, it occurred to me that the book could well have been titled The End of Sanity and The Beginning of Madness in Rhodesia or The End of the African Dream and The Beginning of Chaos in Zimbabwe. But then again, it may have been difficult to fit all of that on the cover.  

    When Irene Staunton asked me to speak on this occasion, I had just come out of hospital and told my wife, Winnie that I couldn’t accept because I might not be able to make it to the launch. She said I had to accept the invitation because Irene Staunton is our friend. I also have the great honor of being able to name her as the compiler of a selection of my political columns which Weaver Press published as the book, Think Again. As usual, Winnie always has her way and here I am.

    I want to begin by congratulating Weaver Press for publishing this important book and, through their very existence and hard work, holding the window of enlightenment open for the last two decades, not only in Zimbabwe but to the rest of the world. As the old adage goes; the pen is mightier than the sword. Weaver Press is indeed doing its best to hold that power of the pen high in the war against ignorance, bigotry and the forces of darkness.      

    Your task is not very rewarding materially – through decades of economic strife, political repression and social unrest, our people have not prioritized a culture of reading. Among the few who do read – for enlightenment and for pleasure – poverty is a restraining factor. Most people no longer have the money to buy books, let alone food.

    Apart from this, the cost of quality paper has skyrocketed. That is if you can find it. It is now cheaper to print abroad but then the customs duty is so astronomical that it chews up whatever profit one would expect in normal circumstances. The challenges are indeed great but despite all this, Weaver Press has persevered with tenacity in this unprofitable endeavor. You will always have my admiration, gratitude and support, whatever that may be worth. In this I am sure I speak on behalf of many in this country, and the rest of the world who are profiting from reading your many books.    

    This endeavor is noble if we believe – and certainly do – that literature is vital to the progress of humanity. Good books, whether they be historical novels, biographies or even plain historical narratives help us to know what happened in the past. That knowledge leads to understanding. When we know and understand the past we are closer to understanding our present and how to deal with it. We are better able to make the right decisions for our future. If we don’t read we are liable to repeat the – just as we seem to be doing in Zimbabwe now.

    My own political awakening did not come from the classroom or from listening to African nationalists but from reading Solomon Mutsvairo’s Shona historical novel, Feso in 1958. It says a lot about the impact and power and impact of this novel that it was subsequently banned by the Rhodesian government. Reading that novel awakened me and influenced me to become a writer myself. It changed my life.

    As I read this new book by Susan Woodhouse, I felt a related sense of awakening. It was as if it was written specifically for me by someone who knew that I needed it to fill some gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the most crucial time in the history of our country. It did just that. It gave me a rare insight into the crucial and turbulent time of our transition from Rhodesia into Zimbabwe.  

         In 1992, Garfield Todd asked her to write his biography because he believed that she knew his family better than anyone else. As in many things he was right. The book we celebrate today is the fruit of over 20 years of painstaking research and writing. It is a scholarly, accessible and historically accurate narrative that should have its place, not just in our homes, but on the shelves of our libraries and secondary schools.

    It is the mark of the accomplished writer, that Susan is, that the book is also a work of art. Her use of language, humor and presentation invokes in the reader the basic human emotions of laughter, outrage and anger. Perhaps I am over emotional when it comes to these things but I confess that after reading the book I felt so angry that I could punch both Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe on their noses for not heeding Todd’s prophesy and leading us into unnecessary bloodshed and the mess that we are now in. Forgive me for speaking like Donald Trump but that is how I feel. I am sure others will be more temperate in their reactions.  

    I would like to thank Susan Woodhouse for introducing to me the man, Garfield Todd. Prior to reading this book I had vaguely known about him from reading the newspapers of the day and general discussions with friends about the political situation in the then Rhodesia.                             

    After reading Susan’s book, I can now confidently say that I know who Garfield Todd was, what he stood for in his life, his suffering and his joys, and what he achieved for our people. Thank you, Susan for introducing me to this wonderful man and his family.

    I knew his daughter Judy Todd as a kindred spirit and friend who stood for justice and the freedom of Africans like many other liberal white people that I got to know and became friends with. Through reading Susan’s book I got to know her background and how and why she became the freedom fighter that she turned out to be. It was all from her father and mother’s direct influence.     

The foreword to the book was written by the renowned author and writer, Lawrence Vambe who, I am sure, needs no introduction to most of us here. He celebrated his 100th birthday last year. I went to sing “Happy birthday” to him in London where he now lives with his daughter. We had a great time talking about the past. Akange ari makuhwa chaiwo. Asina kurehwa ana Mwari wake.

    When I asked him to now come home and be buried here, he shook his head and said, “Muzukuru, I just can’t stand to see what is happening to my beautiful country now. I’d rather be buried here.”         

   In his foreword Vambe says: “Rarely has there been such a need to have a structured narrative of the past in order to cope with the present and to plan for the future. Hence, the importance of this book. It could not have come at a more appropriate moment as our great country stumbles from crisis to crisis without apparent purpose or aim. About writing the foreword Vambe said, “It was the least I could do in memory of the only Prime Minister of my country whose heart I believed to be in the right place.”

Garfield Todd came to the then Southern Rhodesia from New Zealand in 1934 as a missionary of the Church of Christ. He was sent to Dadaya mission where he and his wife did a remarkable job of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and educating Africans to become leaders among their people. Through their hard work Dadaya became the center of education and enlightenment that it is today.           

    I had once thought of Todd as just another run of the mill missionary who had lost his way and became a politician. How wrong I was. Todd did not lose his way at all. He knew who he was and what God had called him to do on this earth. He was called to be a missionary and he was that in every way.      

    Many missionaries, even in this present day believe that “the Lord called them to bring the light of the Gospel to savage and primitive Africans living in the darkness of ignorance.” This patronizing and biblically erroneous understanding of their task was, in some cases, reflected in their view of Africans and subsequently their attitude to them. They saw Africans as inferior beings to be saved spiritually but kept in their place temporarily.   

    I will not bore you with stories of racial discrimination among missionaries because they are many. Suffice to say that their theology of missionary work was so heavenly minded that it was of no earthly good. They did not see oppressive colonialism and racism as sins to be denounced. Instead they looked upon Africans who demanded their freedom as communists who were against Christianity.

    This was very different from Garfield Todd’s theology of missions. He saw himself as a missionary called to bring the light of the Gospel, not only to the ignorant Africans of Zimbabwe, but to all the ignorant people of Zimbabwe, both black and white.

    Unfortunately, like all true prophets, he failed in this noble task. He did not fail because of inability to present his case but because arrogance, racism and greed were so deeply imbedded in the white Rhodesian psyche that it could not be removed by mere words alone.   

   Many Christians today believe that the Church and politics should not mix. This is a false Gospel which, like Todd, I don’t believe in. When he saw that by denying Africans their God-given rights the whites were leading the country into a bloody war, he saw it as his Christian duty to jump into politics and, as a true prophet, warn them of the disaster ahead.  

    They refused to listen to the so-called ‘kaffir-lover’, dumped him from his role as prime-minister and replaced him with good old Smithy. However, his prophesy proved to be true and the country was plunged into an unnecessary bloody war just as he had predicted.   

    After the bloody war was fought and won by the majority Africans, we all rejoiced and hoped for a bright, peaceful and prosperous future. But, alas, this was not going to be. It was soon clear that nothing had changed in the new Zimbabwe but the flag, the national anthem and street names. African tribalism, greed and racism took over and replaced that which was abhorrent among the white rulers. We had Gukurahundi which took thousands of innocent lives. Because of the unplanned and chaotic so called land reform program things got worse and the economy collapsed. Not wanting to face the truth we blamed all our failures on sanctions imposed by western countries and so-called black sell-outs.

    True to his calling, Garfield Todd did not keep quiet. He and his daughter, Judith, openly criticized the black regime and pointed out its waywardness. As with the white regime, the black regime rejected his advice, took away his citizenship and harassed and incarcerated him and his daughter Judith like common criminals.

    Susan Woodhouse’s book shows us how great opportunities were lost and what the future might have been if people had been courageous, willing to sacrifice for justice and humble enough to reach out to each other. It is now too late to put the clock back but we can still learn from the past.

    Now, with the departure of the despotic Mugabe, the good Lord has given us another chance to redeem the situation. I hope that as a society we can learn from the past and its mistakes, so well chronicled in this book, and stand up for justice and that which is right for our children and grandchildren’s sake.  

    If we can’t do this and continue to repeat the mistakes of the past, fueled by ignorance, pride, greed and avarice then the future of Zimbabwe will be too ghastly to contemplate. We will surely go the bloody way of much of the non-democratic African countries.              

     What is alarming is that already we are beginning to see signs of the same destructive tendencies of our undemocratic past being repeated by the present regime. May God give us the willingness, the courage and the stamina to follow in the footsteps of Garfield Todd and fearlessly sound the alarm bells that all may hear. As for me, the book encouraged me to persevere in my own feeble attempts to follow my conscience in speaking out against that which is wrong in our society, without fear or favor.        

    With these sincere words, I now declare the book, The End of the Liberal Dream in Rhodesia by Susan Woodhouse duly launched.   END