The authentic face of white Rhodesia today is shown by David Wiggins, a 58-year-old native Rhodesian farmer who knows that rule over his country by the black majority is inevitable but who still wants a place for himself in the new Zimbabwe.
He is not alone. In conversations with white farmers, politicians, businessmen, soldiers, policeman, intellectuals, housewives, bureaucrats and students, we heard nobody dispute the certainty that, one way or another, Ian Smith will be succeeded by a black prime minister. Those whites who may emigrate are doing so not out of revulsion at black-majority rule as such but fear of a Marxist, repressive Zimbabwe.
This belies that stereotype of the Rhodesian settler, well to Smith's right, insisting on anachronistic white man's rule. Smith, supported by 3 or 1 of 250,000 whites in his long fight to retain their supremacy, will get similar 3-to-1 support for majority rule (though the 75 per cent backing is now distributed differently).
It probably comes too late. Western diplomats privately admit that with each passing hour black nationalists escalate their demands. Black leaders now label special protections for the white minority as racist privileges, discouraging hope that political and economic ruin can be avoided in this rich and lovely country. But, contrary to Third World and Communist propaganda, white Rhodesians are nor refusing to accept black rule.
Farmer Wiggins is a case in point. Returning to Rhodesia in 1946 after wartime service as a Royal Air Force pilot in England (where a fellow aviator was Ian Smith), Wiggins received from the then-colonial government 3,000 barren acres in the beautiful Burma Valley hard by Rhodesia's eastern border with Mozambique. He now grows cotton and a little tobacco, feeds cattle and, like many white Rhodesians, lives exceedingly well. But he spends one week of four as a police reservist, and his farm is best arrived at in a mine-protected truck.
Farmers such as Wiggins form the bulwark of Smith's hard-line Rhodesian Front. But Wiggins now accepts majority rule, adding: "I suppose we've waited a bit too long." Black nationalist demands for redistribution of income worry him. Nevertheless he and his children want to stick it out in Zimbabwe, even with a lowered standard of living.
So, Wiggins and his neighbor farmers were not at all pleased when John Wright, their young member of parliament, joined 11 other bitter-enders (since expelled from the Rhodesian Front) attacking Smith's acceptance of majority rule. The Rhodesian Front's Burma Valley branch, including David Wiggins, voted unanimously to disavow Wright's apostasy. Smith is still their man.
That suddenly narrows the gap between conservative farmers in the Burma Valley and liberal businessmen in Salisbury. The liberals deplore Smith's years of rigidity, and some suspect his sincerity today. But they will follow Smith into reasonable majority rule, and what they consider reasonable sounds very much like David Wiggins's requirements.
The first requirement is physical protection after Smith steps down, preferably with the present Rhodesian government's security forces maintaining law and order for the caretaker government. The second requirement is protection against expropriation of assets.
But such requirements are rejected summarily by black nationalists, who demand unconditional majority rule. What infuriates white Rhodesians across the ideological spectrum is that British and U.S. diplomats seeking a negotiated settlement are not pushing black nationalist leaders to offer some form of protection.
Accordingly, while still grumbling over Ian Smith's record, white liberals now most resent that London and Washington place so low a priority on preventing Rhodesia's admirable economic system from descending to the general confusion of black Africa. One prominent businessman, reputedly a liberal, is so incensed that he told us he honestly believes the Americans and British want to eliminate Rhodesia and eventually South Africa as economic competitors.
The difficulty of achieving a settlement is accelerating the emigration of business and technical experts, whose departure the Smith regime cannot afford. But it is not yet a mass exodus. We found many whites similar to one young man who splits his time between business interests in Salisbury and fighting guerrillas along the Mozambique frontier. "I shall never leave here." he told us. "I was born here, my children were born here and it's the only bloody place I know."
His decision to fight and stay betrays, besides patriotism, hope of salvaging some of the white man's privileged position. But nobody we could find harbors illusions about keeping white-minority rule. That the West chooses to ignore this exposes the hypocrisy of the age.