In May 1972, Lord Greenhill, the permanent undersecretary at the British Foreign Office, and I handed the report of the Pearce Commission to Ian Smith in Salisbury. That commission had been set up by the British Conservative government to determine whether or not the agreement it had reached with Ian Smith was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. It reported in negative, and I am sure its judgment was correct. I thought, and think, that the Conservative government was right, as a result,not to drop sanctions and recognize the Smith government. In my view, also, the Labor government was right to take the same view.
However, as a result of my recent visit (my eighth) Rhodesia, as one of five members of the commission under Lord Boyd sent by Margaret Thatcher to report on the recent elections, I have changed my views. The commission reported that the elections were fair and as free as possible in the circumstances of war that prevailed there. It also said that the "election did in fact constitute a kind of referendum on the Constitution." It was not asked to pronounce on the issue of sanctions: On that and other points not covered by the report my remarks represent only my own views, speaking in a private capacity.
Rhodesia is a moral issue. Previously the moral argument has been against recognition and the dropping of sanctions. There was racial discrminaion enshrined in law and the whites had not taken an irrevocable decision to transfer power to the blacks. Now, all racially discriminatory laws (including the Land Tenure Act) have been repealed and the whites have actually handled over power to the blacks. There is a black prime minister and a predominantly black parliament and cabinet.
The arguments against recognition and the dropping of sanctions, although they may appear to be moral, in fact flow from expediency.
Two main reasons are given for not moving. First, the whites have not in fact relinquished power. Second, the Constitution was never approved by the blacks.
To take the first argument, the 28 white seats do not give positive power; they establish a negative blocking mechanism against amendments of the entrenched clauses. They protect the whites from arbitrary change to the Constitution against their essential interests. Some such provision was essential if the whites were to remain in Rhodesia and no one, not even Joshua Nkomo, wishes them all to leave. I will deal later with the vital matter of whether the Constitution itself was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole.
Then there is the question of the retention of whites in leading positions in the armed services, the police and the civil service. The fact is that the blacks, quite wrongly in my view, have not been trained up to take these positions immediately. Were they to leapfrog straight to the top with little or no experience, the result would certainly be chaotic. Examples where this has happened are not encouraging. Could, for instance, a lieutenant promoted to general effectively direct the war against the guerrillas? The real question is from whom these people will take their orders. Theanswer is, their black minister - Bishop Muzorewa, in the case of the armed services. This is clear in the Constitution itself (Paragraph 103 ). Power is effectively in black hands.
Then there is the Constitution. The essential point here is that this was negotiated on and agreed to by three black parties that betweenthem received votes representing over 50 percent not only of those voted but of the entire electorate as well. As far as I know, in no British colony was there a referendum on the Constitution. There were no proposals for a referendum in the Anglo-American plan. The whites irrevocably to the relinquishment of power, an essential element in the situation before the whole operation could be started.
The Patriotic Front could have taken part in the negotiations leading to the Constitution and in the election if they had been prepared to eschew violence.
They refused and intensified their guerilla campaign. In that situation, it would have impossible for any aministration to allow their political wings to take part in a election. For instance, could the United States have allowed the Nazi Party to stand in elections here while it was fighting Nazi Germany?
The election represented a struggle between the ballot box and the gun.The Ballot box and the gun. The ballot box won, to the surprise of many. Of course people realized what they were doing when they voted. If the poll had been low, everyone would have said that this demonstrated a rejection of the Constitution by the people. The poll was high, and the argument was therefore changed. But the reality remains.
The queues, sometimes a mile long, of happy excited people, which we saw, were the expression of a collective act of will of a people. The election represented the cry of a nation, tormented almost beyond hope by violence and beset by anguish and fear, asking for help. It was a rejection of the gun as the arbiter of power, a plea for dignity and progress under their own black leadership, a spurning of the dark arrogance of Communist-armed and -trained fanatics. The people of Rhodesia need support. Their opponents will not concede the field as long as there is a home of victory: With sanctions not lifted and recognition not extended, they will have this hope.The moral case for action is overwhelming. We should not give way to expediency.