A LETTER FROM A RHODESIAN LAWYER, A.J.A. PECK,
PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF LONDON ON THE 19TH NOVEMBER, 1965.
For most of its history Rhodesia and Rhodesians had exhibited the highest degree of loyalty to Britain, the mother country. Rhodesia well demonstrated this loyalty during the South African “Boer War” of 1899-1902, the First “Great War” of 1914-1918 and the Second World War of 1939-1945. Rhodesians volunteered to help the mother country in her hours of need in greater proportion than any other part of the British Empire. Even as late as the 1950s Rhodesia was still sending her men to assist Britain against the scourge of Communism in Malaya. In return British governments, both Conservative and Labour, then behaved in the most underhand manner towards Rhodesia that it is possible to imagine. Indeed British leaders behaved more like the devious dictators whom they themselves so despised, Hitler, Stalin and their ilk, than as the decent people they sought to portray.
On 11th November 1965 Rhodesia’s democratically elected government declared Rhodesia independent having felt that it could no longer afford to deal with perfidious Albion.
The letter set out below was written the next day by a Rhodesian lawyer and opposition candidate and was published by the Times of London. It gives just one example of how Britain conducted its affairs and is well worth a read; especially by those who look to Britain as a standard bearer of honour and decency.
In the December 1962, General Election in Southern Rhodesia I stood as a United Federal Party candidate against the Rhodesian Front; and in the May 1965, General Election I was one of the three European candidates who stood as Independents, again opposing the Rhodesian Front.
I am Rhodesian-born but my name derives from the Peak District of Derbyshire, I have a large number of relatives in Britain, my grandfather’s business is still in existence in Wigan and in Manchester, my mother was born within the sound of Bow Bells, I joined the Royal Air Force on leaving school during the last war – soon to be boarded out, however, on medical grounds – and I obtained a degree at Oxford University.
I say these things to indicate my own close ties with Britain and to establish that I am myself no slavish follower of Mr. Smith’s Government.
But of one thing I am positive: the ordinary white Rhodesian’s belief in the dishonesty, the lack of integrity, of successive British governments, together with his total distrust of these governments, have been as much a contributing factor to the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence as any policies of Mr. Smith himself.
The people of Rhodesia have been compelled to watch successive “permanent” constitutions imposed at short intervals upon Zambia. The Monckton Commission, agreed to by the Federal Government as an instrument for the framing of a new Constitution for the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, was used, instead, as an implement for its destruction.
I myself closed my own offices for a few days in order to act as Sir Edgar Whitehead’s chauffeur and personal assistant when he toured Rhodesia in 1961 seeking to persuade the Rhodesian Electorate to accept that 1961 Constitution. I was then assured, and believed with good reason, that – apart from the Federal ties – this new Constitution would confer upon Rhodesia the equivalent of Dominion Status.
What was the outcome?
This Constitution that I personally strove as hard as I could to help introduce was said to be contained in two White Papers (Nos. 1399 and 1400) entitled “Southern Rhodesia Constitution: Summary of Proposed Changes” and “Southern Rhodesia Constitution: Detailed Provisions”, respectively. However, I was to find to my dismay, when the new Constitution was finally promulgated, that an additional provision – Section 111 – had been introduced into that Constitution, which purportedly gave to her Majesty the Queen almost unlimited powers to intervene, by means of Orders in Council, in the affairs of Rhodesia.
This particular section had appeared in the previous Constitution, the 1923 Constitution, as Section 61. It did not appear in the two White Papers, by means of which the new Constitution was supposedly presented to the Electorate of Rhodesia, in any shape or form whatsoever; when it voted for the new Constitution, the Rhodesian Electorate had no means at all of knowing that this section would be inserted in the new Constitution; and the Rhodesian Electorate would, in fact, have almost certainly rejected the 1961 Constitution had these provisions appeared in the two White Papers.
It is today my firm and bitter conviction – and I speak as a practising lawyer – that the British Government was hence, in regard to this 1961 Constitution, a party to a confidence trick which, if practised by one member of the public upon another member of the public in everyday life, might well have resulted in criminal proceedings.
Today this 1961 Constitution is, after only four short years, regarded as obsolete! Great Heavens! – Why? – are British-designed constitutions, even though constitutions commonly purport to be reasonably permanent structures, in fact designed, like American automobiles, to have a planned obsolescence? Do four short years make such a vast difference in the circumstances of a peaceful nation?
And, if our Constitution has not worked entirely satisfactorily, the factor preponderantly to blame is, surely, African nationalism? – African nationalism that at first accepted the constitutional proposals, but thereafter rejected them and waged a terrorist campaign to compel all Africans to refrain from voting; and, by now condemning that 1961 Constitution, is not the British Government setting the stamp of its approval upon such terrorism?
Mr. Wilson’s grandiloquent phrase “majority rule” is a terminological inexactitude masquerading in the purple robes of a Pontius Pilate. Mr. Wilson well knows that in Ghana there is no “majority rule”: one man rules – Dr. Nkrumah; he well knows the position to be the same in numerous other African states; and he well knows that “majority rule” in Rhodesia would today, inevitably, bring dictatorship by one particular man.
For, doing Mr. Wilson the honour of believing that he is not prepared to sacrifice the people of Rhodesia merely in order to curry favour with the Afro-Asian bloc and preserve his markets, can his and the American governments be anything other than ethically dishonest with themselves or ethically unbalanced?
Is it ethical to apply so-called “good” principles in circumstances in which they have no application? – such as giving the vote to ignorant illiterates who have not the slightest idea of how to use it?
Is it ethical to love your neighbour more than yourself rather than as yourself? – so indulging in the lunacy of handing to the Communists on a plate (if I may mix my metaphors) sundry perfect springboards for expansion in Africa, while spending millions in money and thousands of lives in opposing Communist expansion in Vietnam by force?
Is it ethical to have a double standard – one for whites and one for blacks – so that Mr. Bottomley can in a radio broadcast this very evening wax righteously eloquent over the mote of the misdeeds of Mr. Smith, yet overlook with unctuous rectitude the beam of the 47 deaths in the Nigerian elections, reported in the very same broadcast?
Many of we Rhodesians have striven hard and conscientiously towards the goal of a united Rhodesia; but I can assure you, Sir, that we are not helped by the antics that your successive governments have on occasion indulged in, in the name of morality, and certainly not by Mr. Wilson’s present policy of seeking to reduce our beloved country, in which our parents lie buried, to a Congo – even on the pretext that Britain should strangle her child lest others resort to the club.
12th November, 1965.
Note for younger readers, who may not be familiar with some of the personalities mentioned in Mr Peck’s letter:
Sir Edgar Whitehead was Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and Mr Ian Smith was later Prime Minister of Rhodesia.
Mr Harold Wilson was British Prime Minister and Mr Arthur Bottomley was British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.