authors index

books index




click to enlarge
Judith Todd
The Right To Say No
Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1972
(price: 40p; 208 pages)
click to enlarge
Alec Smith
Now I Call Him Brother
Marshalls, Basingstoke, 1984
(price: 1.75; 128 pages)

We start with the story of a white farmer, Guy Clutton-Brock, being thrown off his land by order of the government; without benefit of a judicial hearing and denied any chance of appeal, he has his land confiscated and sold (the money raised being taken by the government) and he himself is forcibly removed and deported from the country.

This was 1971, the government was that of the white supremacist Ian Smith, and Mr Clutton-Brock's offence was to act as treasurer of a non-racial co-operative farming organization.

Our guide to this and other acts of repression by the obnoxious Smith regime is Judith Todd, daughter of Garfield Todd, who - in case his name isn't as instantly familiar as it should be - was one of the few great figures in the troubled history of Zimbabwe. Born in New Zealand, Mr Todd served as Prime Minister of what was then Southern Rhodesia between 1955 and 1958, but found the political going pretty tough once people realized that he wanted to break down the racist state and build a post-colonial society. In retrospect, it is abundantly clear that he was offering the only pragmatic and moral option for the future development of the country, but the white electorate of the time couldn't see the point and he soon became a marginalized figure. Things could, however, get worse, and after the Smith government unilaterally declared Rhodesia independent of Britain, they promptly did: Garfield Todd was put under house arrest in 1965, and in 1972 he was again detained. He and his daughter, Judith Todd, were held in solitary confinement without charge, and only released after going on hunger strike.

The Right To Say No was written immediately after Ms Todd's release, when she had gone into exile, and is a devastating denunciation of the white government and of the craven British attitude to that regime. For anyone interested in Zimbabwean history or in colonial Africa, it's essential reading.

Just to take the story a little further: when Robert Mugabe won the first free elections in the country, one of his first actions was to appoint Garfield Todd as a member of the Senate, recognizing the man's legendary status as a beacon of freedom. But in an uncanny and unpleasant echo of earlier days, Mr Todd found his position being eroded from beneath him, as the government became more despotic. By the time of the 2001 election, he had been stripped of his right to vote, on the grounds that his parents were born in a foreign country, and this venerable man - then in his 90s - was turned away from the polling booth. Judith Todd was also winning no new friends as the editor of an opposition newspaper, particularly with a very pointed reprint of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Ms Todd
Judith Todd

By comparison, Now I Call Him Brother (ghost-written by Rebecca de Saintonge) is a disappointment. The son of Ian Smith himself, Alec Smith had the kind of 'wild youth' (© Billy Idol) available to those born into privilege and wealth, and then became a born again Christian. So, in place of Judith Todd's fierce political analysis, we get wishy-washy brotherhood-of-man platitudes. The white Southern African fear of communism remains with him to the end, though his fervent enthusiasm for the First Comrade is worth recording:

Mr Mugabe's Independence speech should have roused every Christian heart in the land. The whole tone of his talk was so Christian in content that every believer's heart should have been warmed by the thought that he was talking our language. (p.124)

Happy days.

non fiction