Death of enlightened pragmatism by R. W. Johnson

I was a missionary. I am a missionary. I was never a politician”, was how Garfield Todd described himself, while happily agreeing that he had enjoyed being an MP and Prime Minister. In one sense this may account for the failure of Todd’s political career, but it also helps explain why his long shadow still falls across Zimbabwe in a way equalled by none of his rivals and opponents. In part this is because the missionary tradition has been so immensely influential throughout southern Africa: not only were all liberals and communists really in the missionary tradition, but so was D. F. Malan, the father of Afrikaner nationalism. Garfield and Grace Todd arrived in Southern Rhodesia from New Zealand in 1934 where they set up Dadaya Mission in Matabeleland. This was to be the centre of their lives for twenty years – they physically built the mission, its church and school, and Grace there devised an educational system which formed the foundation of the whole national system of education.

Indeed, the fact that black Zimbabweans are today so formidably better educated than, say, black South Africans is directly traceable to Grace’s efforts. When the Zimbabwe independence negotiations were held at Lancaster House in 1979 the largest single group among the black participants were the Dadaya graduates. Todd’s success at Dadaya and his increasing prominence led Sir Geoffrey Huggins, who was Prime Minister in Rhodesia for over twenty years, to invite him to stand as a parliamentary candidate in 1946, a role Todd embraced with the quite conscious aim of becoming the unofficial representative of the voteless black population, for his work had induced in him an enormous sympathy for, and pleasure in the company of, the people among whom he laboured. But Todd also worked genially and sale generic viagra strips online with transparent honesty and commitment for the general good, so that by 1953 he was elected by his United Party as leader and Prime Minister. At the same time the Todds handed Dadaya over to other hands and acquired a large cattle ranch, Hokonui. What this meant was that, almost by accident, an entirely liberal man had come to power in white-ruled Southern Rhodesia – something that never came close to happening in South Africa. Todd was no revolutionary but he persistently asked the white electorate to “co-operate with the inevitable”. “The future of the country does depend upon government remaining in the hands of enlightened and responsible people”, he argued, “and it depends also upon the maintenance of what weterm European standards. At the same time opportunity must be provided for Africans to advance to these standards.” He pushed hard for greater expenditure on African education and he also brought the great Kariba Dam project towards reality. Above all, he hoped to bring about democratic rule – with an African majority – working with legal means and entirely within the existing system. While Todd remained at the helm African opinion felt there was some real chance of a peaceful evolution towards majority rule. Once he fell it was assumed that that chance had gone. Thus began a predictable Calvary. Todd pressed an increasingly conservative white electorate, scared by the rise of African nationalism, to accept the enfranchisement of more Africans as the only possible path to a shared multiracial future.

Inevitably, he faced growing opposition and Nkomo, the father of African nationalism in Rhodesia, when ultimately defeated and humiliated by Mugabe, comforted himself by becoming immensely corrupt, so it became hard to say whether he would really have been a preferable alternative. Many whites never forgave Nkomo’s downing of two Viscount airliners during the guerrilla war. Wherever in Africa whites fought to resist majority rule the ultimate result was the victory of a radicalized and oppressive nationalist elite which combined ideological fervour with brutality and corruption – the worst of all possible worlds. This is what one finds in Algeria, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Indeed, such regimes allow of very little hope. It is in those countries that saw no such struggles – in Botswana, Mauritius and much of West Africa – that there have been somewhat gentler and more pragmatic outcomes. To be sure, those outcomes still fall a long way short of the “European standards” that Todd was seeking to preserve, but the lesser evil falls clearly on Todd’s side of the argument which, in an imperfect world, may be all that one can ask. Garfield Todd died aged ninety-four in 2002, still in the Zimbabwe whose people he loved but which he had come to view as a sad country ruled by evil men. He was a saintly man who had done enormous good for the very large number of people he had nurtured, taught and led. He was revered by large numbers of black Zimbabweans but it was difficult even for his white critics to cite anything mean, selfish or unworthy about him. Few of us indeed can aspire to such an epitaph.