A Story of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe

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Hello Friends… Make yourself comfortable and be ready for a very different kind of story.

 First of all, we need to understand what a story actually is!

The definition of a story: floor, level, landing, layer, or as in report, version, account, description, tale, narrative, legend, chronicle, article, fiction or truth, or, (God forbid), a lie, fib or untruth.

The story of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe can be told in a thousand different ways, with each story teller believing theirs is the right version.

A story is told by the impression of how we see or saw things at the time. Thus several people can tell a story about the same thing but each story is different. Something like the group of people who saw an elephant for the first time. The man who stood behind the elephant said, “An elephant is a large animal with a tiny tail”. The one standing in front of the elephant said, “An elephant has a long nose that swings all the way to the ground and can pick a blade of grass or pick up a person.” The woman standing beside the elephant said, “An elephant has ears like giant cooling fans.” Each person is saying something different, yet they are all telling the truth. It is possible to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth only when one sees or knows the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In April 1964 Rhodesia adopted a light air force ensign with the shield from the coat of arms of Rhodesia.

Following the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965, the flag was retained, but three years later on the anniversary of UDI it was replaced by a green and white flag with the full coat of arms in the centre. 
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Throughout this time, Britain refused to recognise Rhodesia’s independence and maintained that the light-blue ensign was the official flag of the country.

What is U.D.I? It was the great breakaway from British rule. As a colony of Britain, Rhodesia no longer wanted to be told by a faraway country what to do, but wanted independent rule. This was denied so we unilaterally declared that we had it. We just declared it and took it.

1965: Rhodesia breaks from UK

This part of the story comes from the way a bunch of schoolgirls in a boarding school saw it when I was 14 years old.

Children grow up hearing the talk of adults, and though not really understanding it all, we mostly accept what our parents say as being the right thing. We knew there was a lot of political talk going on but did not concern ourselves much about it. Being sent to boarding school was common in those days, especially when the nearest School was over a hundred miles away.

On 11th November, 1965, as we lined up for the unappetising lunch served in Eickhoff House, we were told there would be a special announcement by the Honourable Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia. The prefect on duty said the normal grace, ‘For what we are about to receive, Lord, make us truly thankful’, Our interest in the announcement was perked only momentarily as we eyed with doubt the sloppy meal for which we should be truly thankful. Actually, it was not inedible and many children in India, China and Africa would have been grateful for it, as parents have always told their children. We were soon caught up in the schoolgirl chatter, groups of twelve seated around the dining table. As promised, after the prefect had said ‘For what we have received, Lord make us truly thankful’, we said our Amen together and the radio which had been brought into the dining room by a member of staff began to crackle and squeak till finally the clear, English accented voice of our Prime Minister came across the air waves.

Taken from Modern History SourceBook:

Speech too long to include as a whole, but here is some of it.

We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a role of world-wide significance.

We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birth right. And, even if we were to surrender, does anyone believe that Rhodesia would be the last target of the Communists in the Afro-Asian block?

We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity; and in the spirit of this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless you all.

Britain was Hopping Mad!

News Report: “The Rhodesian Government, led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, has illegally severed its links with the British Crown.” The CROWN? What now! We all knew the queen was to be bowed down to and we were separated from the crown!

Schoolgirl Response was to clap and shout and cheer, much to the horror of our teachers, some of whom had been sent from England to teach in government schools. The rebellion of Ian Smith sparked off a rebellion in us that was looking for an excuse to happen. We were truly excited and showed it. It was customary to quietly acquiesce to direction from our teachers, not whoop and shout. We were sent to rest on our beds as we always had to after lunch; English/Rhodesian boarding schools have a lot of rules (not a bad thing!). Instead of resting quietly, one of the girls said, “Let’s all celebrate. Let’s take our swimming costumes and go swimming!” We all whooped in agreement, lining up for the march to the swimming pool. British/Rhodesian schools did not permit a gaggle of girls to walk at their own pace; we lined up and marched from place to place. Now a well-disciplined bunch had become a well organised rebellion, ready to cool our bodies from the November heat. “What is this!” boomed the voice of the teacher on duty. “We’re going swimming to celebrate,” said my sister Sannie, two years my senior. I only found out a couple of weeks ago that she had been the ringleader. We were reminiscing over our schoolgirl years as sisters do and she surprised me by saying, “It was my idea. I started it all and I never did things like that, I was never a leader!” I laughed; it’s amazing what a declaration of independence can cause one to do. The teacher responded by saying, “You should not be celebrating, you should all be crying instead. This is a terrible day for Rhodesia!”

Britain retaliated by imposing strict sanctions on Rhodesia, thinking this would cause us to shrivel up and collapse. Instead we grew stronger and developed into an enviable self-sustaining nation of overflow.

What couldn’t be imported, we learned to make and produce ourselves. Certainly there were some luxury items we just had to do without and fuel was rationed. Wherever there was a choice between imported goods or Rhodesian products we instinctively reached for the home product, encouraged by the jingle that was constantly played on the radio, “If you buy home products, your money comes back to you.” I can still hear it in my head. We learned to eat our sandwiches without marmite, a great sacrifice indeed. Marmite is a part of Britain that we were all addicted to. It’s the black stuff we offer to our American friends telling them its dark chocolate. Horror akin to terror flashes over their faces when they taste the strong, salty vegetable extract they thought to be sweet chocolate.

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I can also hear in my mind, the Honourable Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia saying concerning sanctions, “We shall have to tighten our belts,” then after a couple of months when there was less fuel and needed items, “ We shall have to pull in our belts another notch.” Then yet again and again, “Once again we shall have to tighten our belts another notch.” Always he would say that we would never give up, never give in to the terrorist war or to Great Britain, never in a thousand years, then he would say, “I reiterate,” and say it all again. Time came when there were no notches left in our belt, and still we survived and still he reiterated. We astounded the world with our development, mind to work and became the breadbasket of Africa.

Smith

I think of Ian Smith kind of like a Rhodesian Winston Churchill, to some he was a hero, to some he was a tyrant. In the end Rhodesia did not survive though we as a people live on; ‘Unconquerable, strong spirited, determined, resolute and courageous, still making a plan, and still doing the impossible. I am proud to be a Rhodesian and at the same time I happily call myself a Zimbabwean. I love my nation and her special people.

Blood began to spill all over the nation, more in some parts than others. Funerals became common place, even weekly within farming communities. In our hometown, Chipinga, the graveyard is full of friends and relatives, civilians as well as soldiers. My father Piet Snyders being one of them, a devastating and tragic loss to our family. The boys in my class had grown up and now lay buried also. “Where have all the young men gone? ……..Gone to graveyards everyone. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?” There is also the grave of six month old Natasha Glenny who had been thrown in the air and caught on the end of a bayonet. Graves where body pieces were collected from trees and nearby bushes after civilian vehicles had detonated land mines placed on farm roads by terrorists. Too much and too many to mention here. Pain and trauma became part of our lives, yet we all stood together, pulled together and risked our lives for one another.

Books were written, new songs were sung. Possibly the song most sung and most well remembered is:

RHODESIANS NEVER DIE. Lyrics by Clem Thollet

Here’s the story of Rhodesia, a land both fair and great.                                          On 11th of November an independent state.                                                                 This was much against the wishes of certain governments.                                Whose leaders tried to break us down, to make us all repent.

Chorus:                                                                                                                                          But we’re all Rhodesians and we’ll fight through thick and thin.                         We’ll keep our land a free land, stop the enemy coming in.                                We’ll keep them north of the Zambezi till that river’s running dry.                     This mighty land will prosper for Rhodesians never die.

We’ll preserve this little nation, for our children’s children too.                         For once you’re a Rhodesian, no other land will do                                                   We will stand forth in the sunshine, with the truth upon our side.                      And if we have to go alone, we’ll go alone with pride.

Many died to keep the song alive. Still we live on and today can be found all over the world; the diaspora that fled the nation, some by choice and some by force, still making a plan, still making things happen and always recognized for the indomitable spirit that resolutely refuses to be staunched, no matter what the circumstances.

Zimbabwe-flagFinally in 1980, everything changed and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe under the leadership of former fighter Robert Mugabe. A long story lies between then and now, and the nation has gone ………

FROM BREADBASKET TO BASKET CASE The great producer and exporter of former years, today has to import almost all food and in fact, almost everything else! Factories and shops are closed down. Beautiful farmlands are overgrown with thorn trees and bush. Still people are dying, still blood is flowing. Herds and flocks are depleted. Zimbabwe is today one of the poorest countries in the world, yet one of the richest in resources of arable land, diamonds, emeralds, uranium, chrome and much gold. A beautiful country with more to offer in tourism than almost any African nation through the magnificent ‘Smoke that Thunders’ (Victoria Falls) on the great Zambezi River, amazing landscapes, wildlife and colourful people.

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The quantity of blood spilled during those fourteen years of the Rhodesian Bush War cannot measure to what was spilled in the first few years of the new Zimbabwe under the rule of President Robert Mugabe. This through the near genocide of the Matabele people, known as Gukurahundi , “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.”

Excerpts from AllAfrica.com-Zimbabwe

Gukurahundi refers to the attempted genocide of the Ndebele by Robert Mugabe’s 5th Brigade soon after Zimbabwe gained independence. The notorious North Korean-trained 5th Brigade carried out the massacres of thousands of people between 1982 and 1987 – dumping their bodies in mass graves or in abandoned mines.

AnalysisThere are many things that Zimbabweans are still too scared to speak about in public and that the government is very keen to keep buried. But the most sensitive issue by far is Gukurahundi – the codename for a brutal military operation in Matabeleland in the 1980s that left over 20,000 civilians dead.

The Rhodesia story is told all over the world by those who lived in Rhodesia at the time. Some will say it was good, others will say it was bad. In Zimbabwe today, the story is told by those who still live there, within all ethnic groups. It is hard to find someone who says things are good.

As I have tried to express my heart over things that are very dear to so many of us, I have felt more and more unqualified with every line, more unable to do justice to the sacrifice, love and patriotism of so many, both black and white people who gave so much. This is a very limited story, just a tiny dot on the whole picture, not even measuring even to a hairs-breadth on the small tale of a huge elephant. It is but a drop in the ocean of life that recalls memories of a happy childhood in paradise, a beautiful young marriage full of hope while fraught with the dangers of war and death, army call ups for our men, wives learning to shoot with automatic weapons in order to protects home and children while our men were out fighting communist trained terrorists who saw themselves as freedom fighters. How limited in understanding we all were, and how ‘right’ we all believed ourselves to be. If we could have seen the big picture then, if we could have seen the entire elephant and discerned it correctly, how different things would have turned out.

To Rhodesians all over the world we say ‘God Bless you, God make a way for you where there seems to be no way. Never give up, make a plan!’

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I found the following on the internet that says it very well,

Rhodesians Never Die, they just Inhabit the World! From Memories of Rhodesia, Newsletter (Dave Cushworth)

No matter where in the world we are, we do share one very common trait – that of our country. The memories that we have and the time and place that forged them, are a bond that transcends international boundaries, ethnic or religious lines. Whether you count yourself as Rhodesian or Zimbabwean, we came from the same land and have something unique in common.”

As for us Rodney and I personally, we run our race, not looking back, but pressing forward to gain the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus!

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. (New Living Translation)

Ellie

4 thoughts on “A Story of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe

  1. My sister Ellie and Rod we are so proud of you both as you continue to do Gods will in teaching His people about HIM! We love you both God Bless you, Richard says AMANDHLA which means SERENGTH in Sindebele. Love Richard and Sannie.xxxx

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautifully honest story of my motherland that continues to reside in my soul forever. ❤

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