Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Rhodesian Issue

Diwan Chaman Lal  


Rhodesia is one-third the size of India in territory, but has a population only of about four million, out of which the vast majority are Africans with 117,000 Europeans, sometimes estimated at 127,000, and about 7,000 people of Asian or Indian origin.

Rhodesia presents a picture today of the type Kenya presented in the fifties. In Kenya, although Indians owned some of the Hotels, yet no Indian was allowed to step inside and of course, no African was allowed to pollute the atmosphere breathed by the European. There were areas specially reserved for the European. Round about Nairobi the Chief Koinage, whose son Mbiyn Koinage, is the Education Minister in President Jono Kenyatta’s Cabinet, owned a farm which was taken over by the Europeans as it grew a valuable coffee plantation. Each acre of coffee gives a net income of £300 sterling or more. The lands in Kenya which were the most fertile, namely the highlands, were reserved only for Europeans, many of whom, like Colonel Grogan, who is still alive, and Lord Delaware, Lord Mountbatten’s brother-in-law, were given this land, hundreds of thousands of acres, at one penny an acre. This land is being bought byAfricans on a subsidy basis, the subsidy being provided as loan by the British Government. The same order now prevails in Rhodesia. The greatest evils of the system of Apartheid practised by Rhodesia’s Southern neighbour, South Africa, are to be found in neighbouring Rhodesia. The world is pledged to the system of one man one vote. As has happened in Kenya, the same evolution will, if necessary, take place in Rhodesia. The principle of one man one vote will surely be successful. But when?

British Government has agreed to apply economic and financial sanctions to Rhodesia after the unilateral declaration of Independence by that country. I said at the airport at Lusaka that if an exile Government sponsored by the Organisation for African unity is established outside Rhodesia, we the Government and people of India will accord our recognition to it. The British High Commissioner in Zambia told me at Lusaka that this was interference in the internal affairs of the country but he wisely forbore to name the country. Was it Rhodesia or was it Great Britain? In fact he proceeded to give the answer himself when he referred to the war-time recognition of the French Liberation movement headed by General de Gaulle in Great Britain. In fact, no one can be prevented from opposing the Rhodesian Government’s whiteman policy just as no one can be prevented from organising resistance to it.

Seven African nations have, since December 15, 1965 broken off diplomatic relations with the U. K. But the tragedy of Rhodesia is that, although the masses are all right, as witnessed by the three day strike of Africans in Salisbury, recently, yet there is a lack of leadership at the top. Mr. Nkomo and the Reverend Sithole are the leaders of Zapu and Zanu, the two African organisations fighting for freedom in Rhodesia; but, alas! both the leaders are not only detained but at loggerheads one with the other. This is tragic in the extreme. When two years ago we met at the house of Mr. Tom Mboya, Minister for Economic Co-ordination and Planning in Nairobi, I made an attempt to bring the two leaders together, but without result. Since then, the two leaders have drifted apart to such an extent, that one of the near relatives of the Reverend Sithole wrote a letter to the Press, saying that his group was not even willing to hold discussions with the other group. He used much stronger language. President Kaunda of Zambia, which country received its freedom very recently, said to me: “I would like the Africans of Rhodesia to burn their Kapingas (passes which each African has to carry as a mark of his slavery) but not one has done this so far.”

A few days later came the news of wholesale strikes in Salisbury. Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, has issued a unilateral declaration of independence. He is supported in this, covertly by both Portugese Mozambique, Portugese Angola and South Africa. Most of the trade of Rhodesia is South Africa orientated. Most of the trade in Zambia is either Salisbury orientated or else London orientated. The copper from the Cooper Belt of Zambia owned respectively by Mr. Oppenheimer of South Africa, and the American Selection Trust, depends for its power supply on the Kariba Dam, whose installations are in Rhodesia, while the lines go across Zambia. The copper goes via the port of Beisa in Mozambique. British aircrafts have arrived in Zambia to protect the Kariba Dam. How they can do so is the problem. President Kaunda has asked for troops to protect the Dam because the entire economy of Zambia depends upon the power supply from the Kariba Dam. The great Zambesi river, along whose banks in the eighties Frank Harris is alleged to have made his way to civilisation, divides Zambia from Rhodesia. The whole of Africa is up in arms against Rhodesia. President Nyrere said to us in Dar-es-Salaam:

“The question is of transport. While the Railway to be built from Zambia to Tanzania will take at least six years, the copper from Zambia has to be lifted. The Americans and the British have offered to airlift this copper to the port of Dar-es-Salaam if the port of Beira in Portugese Mozambique is closed to Zambia.”

I said: “It is right that alternative routes should be explored. But what guarantee is there that once the British and the Americans come they will want to get out again?” And all of us laughed.

The situation in Africa is explosive. Tanzania and Ghana have broken relations with Great Britain on the 15th of December 1965. Others may also do so. But none of the countries near Zambia have any forces with which to fight the strong army and air force of Rhodesia. Great Britain is naturally being blamed for having sent troops, to the black countries like Aden and British Guiana, but not to the country ruled by Whites, namely Rhodesia, on the principle that blood is thicker than water. The sanctions have not had the effect on Rhodesia that was anticipated, and Ian Smith boasts of this quite naturally. But the wise and tolerant President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, has suggested another round of talks at the Security Council, while the Emperor of Ethiopia has suggested another meeting of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa, soon after the last meeting held there, on the 3rd of December, 1965. The situation in the entire continent of Africa is heavily surcharged with ominous possibilities. Only time can show the result which cannot but be inevitable.

The British Prime Minister said the other day in the House of Commons: “The House will also be aware that on the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland the bulk of the Federation Air Force went to Southern Rhodesia. In consequence, “Zambia” (the new name for Nyasaland) feels herself at present without effective means of defence. Her Majesty’s Government have, therefore, expressed their willingness to meet President Kaunda’s request to fly into Zambia a squadron of Javelin aircraft, complete with radar equipment, to be stationed at Ndola, the ground equipment to be stationed at Lusaka, and a detachment of the R. A. F. Regiment to be stationed at both airports, and probably at Livingstone as well in order to ensure the protection of the aircraft and installations.”

Meanwhile H. M. S. Eagle is cruising off the Tanzanian coast. Mr. Wilson said that President Kaunda had made a further request for a battalion of ground troops but the result of the talks Mr. Bottomley had with President Kaunda are now known. The offer has been accepted. Mr. Wilson made it clear that all these forces sent to Zambia were for defensive purposes only. I do not recall that the forces sent to Aden or to British Guiana were also merely for defensive purposes. Mr. Wilson said further that although the power House at Kariba was on the Rhodesian side, yet the power is supplied both to Zambia and to Rhodesia. Be said he had given President Kaunda a guarantee that if power is cut off “We shall not stand idly by.”

The House of Commons wanted its appreciation of the great patience and statesmanship displayed by President Kaunda to be conveyed to him. President Kaunda is a great man, a great leader, and forms, with President Kenyatta and President Nyoere, a three-man team of leaders of whom we in Asia and they in Africa are justly proud.

The Speaker of Parliament at Lusaka gave us a reception. Although Plelident Kaunda does not ordinarily go to these receptions, nevertheless he turned up at this one with his wife, both of whom will be coming to India in the winter of 1966. The delegates were justly proud of this honour done to them by President Kaunda and his wife, but realised that it was an honour done to their country.

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