EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With IAN SMITH Prime Minister of Rhodesia
Plain Truth Magazine
September 1971
Volume: Vol XXXVI, No.9
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With IAN SMITH Prime Minister of Rhodesia

PLAIN TRUTH magazine staff writers and Executive Editor Garner Ted Armstrong recently flew to Rhodesia. While in Salisbury he interviewed Prime Minister Smith. In the following interview are Ian Smith's answers to vital questions regarding the effectiveness of trade sanctions against Rhodesia and the current economic situation within his nation. He discusses present and future policies regarding Rhodesia's black majority and her relations with Black Africa.

   Q. Mr. Smith, having unilaterally declared independence, you subsequently found Rhodesia economically squeezed by sanctions. Are these sanctions working?
   A. I don't believe they are achieving the purpose they were intended to achieve, but we don't deny that certain aspects of our economy have been hurt by sanctions. The overall picture, however, is that Rhodesia has strengthened itself tremendously because of sanctions. Not only from a political point of view have we come together and formed a strong, young, virile nation, but industrially and economically we have developed as much, I would say, in the last five years as we would have done in double that time under normal circumstances. This is really what sanctions have done. They have stimulated the Rhodesians and we have managed to come up to the scratch and give of our best.
   Q. Do you feel that the sanctions are in any way hurting or afflicting certain segments of your economy?
   A. Yes, we don't deny that there are certain sections which have been hurt. The classical example is our tobacco industry. But in spite of sanctions it is surviving. In fact, it is beginning to pick up now. And after we return to normality I believe that our tobacco industry will be far healthier, far stronger than it was before.
   Q. Are you finding outlets for your tobacco industry and other cash crops?
   A. Yes, but not as many as we would wish to, and we do still have a tobacco stockpile. I think I can tell you that in recent years we have actually been selling as much as we have produced. In fact, a little bit more.
   Q. The Constitution which was adopted in 1969 is viewed by the Black African Bloc in the U. N. as highly suppressive of the black man in Rhodesia. What is your response to this?
   A. Well, of course, this cannot be substantiated at all. There is nothing suppressive about it. All we have done is to insist on certain qualifications. We say let merit be the criterion, and this is nothing new in this country. We have always had standards which we believe people should achieve before they participate in government. After all, government is supposed to be responsible and we believe that people should qualify and show a certain degree of responsibility, a certain degree of civilization before we allow them to take part in government. And I would go so far as to say that I think many other countries in the world would be a lot better off if they did likewise.
   Q. By what process does the black man become educated and find an opportunity for governmental representation?
   A. Well, there are certain qualifications laid down which involve a minimal educational qualification; also there is a financial and earning qualification. And it does so happen that as far as the black man is concerned the qualifications for him are far less than they are for the white man. To that extent we have bent over to try to assist him, realizing that as far as civilization is concerned he is a long way behind us.
   I think few people realize that at the September 1971 beginning of this century there was no civilization, so to speak, here amongst the black people. It was just before the turn of the century that the first Europeans came here. The history of the country is young and we have made a tremendous amount of progress in this time. But we realize that the Africans are behind the Europeans; and accordingly, their qualifications for the franchise are far lower than those that we impose on our white people.
   Q. Is your statement that they are "behind the Europeans" based on their color and ethnic origin, or on other causes?
   A. It's because of the fact that they had no contact with civilization, as I said, until about the turn of the century; so you can't expect a nation or a people to automatically become civilized in a matter of about 70 years. The civilizing process, I think, takes centuries - that's the main reason. I can assure you that we have enough sense to realize that the sooner we can raise the standard of these people, the better they are educated, the more civilized they are, the better it is for all of us. We have no wish to go on carrying people who are not up to the same standard as the rest of the people, the whites. Under these circumstances they are a liability. I don't want to be unkind, but this is a fact.
   We realize that the sooner we can turn these people into being an asset in our country the better it is for all, and this is our aim.
   Q. It's commonly charged that you spend up to ten times more for the education of each white child than is expended on the education of a black child. What is your comment on this?
   A. I believe this is an exaggeration, but I don't deny that there are better educational facilities for whites in Rhodesia than blacks. But there's a very good reason for this. You see, up until the time of the last war, World War II, the black people in Rhodesia were not interested in education. They would not go to school; they would not send their children to school. They were a pastoral people and had very big families. But they wanted the children to stay around looking after the cattle, herding the cattle, doing odd jobs such as that. They would not send them to school. The post-war era brought a revolution and they then all wanted to go to school.
   The same was true concerning health facilities. Prior to the war you couldn't get these people to go to hospitals even if they were ill. They were suspicious. After the war they all wanted to go to hospitals. Well, this produced a tremendous practical problem. We, as you know, are a very small country with a small white population, and the white population contributes almost the total 100 percent of the taxes which the government has to use to provide amenities for people. So the burden is borne by a small segment of the white population.
   It was impossible to immediately raise the standards for education and for health services from a position where these people didn't wish to have them, up to a position which was equivalent to the services given to the white man who has always wanted them and always has had them. So this is the gap which exists, you see, and this isn't the sort of thing that can be bridged in a short period. We've made tremendous strides; and I can tell you this with complete confidence, that our black people have better education and health facilities than do the blacks in any country to the north of us in the African continent. I think that is a measure of what we have done, but we don't deny that we've still got a lot to do. It's just a question of what is practical in the time that's available.
   Q. Would you say that there is a black middle class or a growing black middle class in Rhodesia?
   A. Very definitely so. In fact I believe we have gotten to a stage where one could almost say there is a black upper class. There are many black people in this country, I can assure you, who've got more money than I have and better homes than I had before I was in my present position. We can show these to you or any other visitor who comes to this country.
   Q. Let's turn for a moment to your international trade. I noticed many Japanese Toyotas and much Japanese equipment and machinery in the country. Obviously then, by some route, perhaps with the help of South Africa, there are certain methods by which you are circumventing the sanctions and trading with Japan. Is this a sort of a semi-official or clandestine operation of some sort?
   A. Well, we are not only trading with Japan, but with many countries in the world. I think the two main exceptions are Britain and America. They seem to be missing out in a little game that's going on, but we trade well with most countries in the world. We've got all our requirements, as you have no doubt noticed, and we are in the fortunate position that we have many rich raw materials in Rhodesia which are sought by other countries. In return for this, we obviously do trade. Just how we do it, of course, I am not going to discuss with you at the moment. You'll understand that.
   Q. Mr. Smith, how would you describe the attitude of the black population of Rhodesia toward your Government?
   A. At the moment I'm happy to say that the black population has a very friendly attitude towards us. We have some dissidents, of course. There are certain groups here who are antagonistic towards us. We are satisfied, and we have conclusive evidence, that these people are stimulated by forces outside our country, Communist forces. Their wish is simply to take over the government and to push all the white people out of Africa. This is basically their belief - that Africa should only be for black Africans, not for white Africans.
   Q. Is this a Communist belief? Or is it an ethnic and a racial, or a tribal belief?
   A. I'm satisfied that it is a Communist belief, that it's stimulated by the Communists. The broad masses of the black people here are very happy to have white people. They know that it is the white man who has brought know-how and capital to this part of the world to develop the country, and that without that they would indeed be in a sad position today.
   Q. It is obvious, as I travel about in Rhodesia, that the black population is in the main a serving class. Many of the white Rhodesians, maybe perhaps I could say nearly all, employ black servants in various areas whether in their homes or in their fields. Do these white people fear the blacks?
   A. I would say that that's just about the last thought that enters their minds. The blacks become part of the family. For example, we have people working for us today who were working for my parents before me, and they are, as I say, part of the family. They are our friends. Fear - we just don't understand what this means as far as our relations with the black man are concerned. We read about it in other parts of the world. But I would say that people who visit our country find it difficult to deny that race relations in this country are probably more harmonious than in almost any other country in the world - relations between black and the white. I notice that visitors remark on this almost with monotonous regularity.
   Q. What about the crime rate in Rhodesia?
   A. We have a very sophisticated Statistical Department here which is recognized throughout the world and is praised for its work, so I think the figures are pretty accurate. This is one of the few countries in the world where the crime rate has decreased over the last four or five years. Funny enough, with the advance of civilization there is usually an advance in crime rate. Rhodesia is one of the exceptions in the world.
   Q. What about pollution in your country, Mr. Smith? I've already seen examples of the smokestacks belching smoke into the air. Of course the climate is marvelous and the air is, so far as I have seen around the country, clear. Yet, as you continue to develop and to industrialize you will eventually find the same overcrowding, the same smog or whatever you call it in this country - smoke-laden air - the same environmental intrusions into the ecological balance as in other developed countries. Are you taking steps to prevent pollution in this area?
   A. Yes, I'm happy to be able to tell you that as yet we have no real pollution problem. We have got a few smokestacks belching smoke as you have said, but this is infinitesimal at the moment. Nevertheless, we are conscious of the tremendous pollution problem in the world and we have decided that we will deal with our problem now, and try to avoid it ever getting to a stage where it becomes a real problem. In fact, during our last sit-in of Parliament only a few months ago, we passed a new piece of legislation giving us additional powers to curb pollution; so we are conscious of this and it is our intention to try to ensure that our country goes on being a clean, fresh, open country as you have said.
   Q. You have extensive deposits of chromium in this country. Chromium is necessary for the production of stainless steel and many other metals in a space-age industry, and I understand the United States was one of your principal customers along with perhaps, the Common Market and Britain. Sanctions obviously would have cut off a great deal of the flow of chromium from Rhodesia, at least into those Western democracies. Do you want to comment on that situation?
   A. Yes, I am happy to say a few words about chrome because we have, I believe, the finest chrome deposits in the world. I should know, because they happen to be in the little town in which I was born and in which I still live today. Not only was the United States one of our main customers, a big United States company actually owns the chrome mine and still works it. However, since D.O.I. [Unilateral Declaration of Independence], none of that chrome has actually gone to the United States; I can assure you the mines are working to a greater capacity than they have ever worked before in the history of Rhodesia, so the chrome is going somewhere. But according to my information, not to the country from which the owners stem, namely the United States of America.
   Q. Would you like to tell us where the chrome is going?
   A. No, I regret to say I can't tell you that, but it is certainly going outside the African continent; it's going to the rest of the world. I have a suspicion, indeed more than a suspicion, that quite a lot of it is actually going behind the Iron Curtain to Communist countries.
   Q. And this, do you believe, with the knowledge of the American owners?
   A. I'm unaware of that.
   Q. What about trade with Communist China - is there any?
   A. There is some, but I am reluctant to allow myself to be drawn on that one. Perhaps, I could just say one other thing in answer to your previous question. You asked whether chrome was going behind the Iron Curtain with the knowledge of the American company - no. Once the chrome is produced, I would like to make it clear, it has nothing to do with the Americans, and they couldn't possibly be accused of being party to supplying a Communist country with chrome. The chrome is a strategic material; and since sanctions were imposed, chrome, like many other strategic materials, was then dealt with by a Government organization which deals with the export. This is, of course, sub judice and confidential. So, it is taken out of the hands of the chrome producers. I wouldn't like to implicate Americans in selling their chrome to a Communist country.
   Q. Mr. Smith, what is your personal attitude toward the American Government, toward Mr. Nixon's Administration and the American adoption of sanctions?
   A. We were disappointed. Of course, it wasn't the Nixon Administration that adopted the sanction, let me make that clear. We were disappointed that the Americans should have been party to this as the British. More so the British, because they were actually the sponsors of sanctions. Again, it wasn't the present British Government, it was the previous Socialist Government in Britain. And we were particularly sorry that this should come from two countries with whom we have been closely associated ever since we've been here. We, as you no doubt know, were previously a part of the British Commonwealth. We've always stood very closely to Britain and the Western powers. We've fought with them in the two last world wars. We were one of the first to rush in when war was declared to offer our services.
   We now find that apart from being attacked by our enemies in this world, and those are the Communists, we are being attacked to an even greater extent by our friends in the world as a result of sanctions. So, it's difficult for Rhodesians to understand why this should take place.
   Q. In your view do you feel the administrations of both of these countries - Britain and the United States - were somewhat stampeded by world public opinion or by the United Nations' overwhelming African Bloc?
   A. I think to a certain extent this was the position. I think as far as America was concerned they adopted the attitude that this was a British problem and they therefore should go along with the British decision. But there's no doubt they were stampeded; I can tell you, I've seen this in public before. I'm not revealing any intimate secrets when I say that in one of the discussions that I had with Harold Wilson when he was Prime Minister, he said to me: "It would be easy for you and me to solve this problem if we were the only two concerned." He said, "That isn't the problem. The problem is for you to give me a solution which I can sell to the Afro-Asian Bloc." Now those were Harold Wilson's words.
   Well, under those circumstances it was impossible. I had to tell him that we weren't interested in the Afro-Asian Bloc; we were interested in a solution which would best suit Rhodesia, our country.
   Q. Mr. Smith, since the sanctions has tourism dropped off markedly in Rhodesia?
   A. No. I'm very happy to say that over the last few years there has been a tremendous change as far as tourism is concerned. For the first few years of our independence few people came here. I believe they were frightened away. They were given false information. We have many examples of this, but most of them have seen through this bogey man now, and tourists are coming to this country in greater numbers than they have ever come in our history - in fact I think we have broken all records. If my memory serves me right I was given some facts a few months ago which indicated that every night on an average over ten thousand tourists sleep in Rhodesia, and of those ten thousand at least two hundred come from the United States of America, so things are definitely looking up in the tourist world.
   Q. Then Americans are welcome to come here to see conditions for themselves?
   A. We love everyone. Americans or anyone else, I assure you, can come and see Rhodesia for themselves. We've nothing to hide. In fact our case goes by default. The only thing we ask is that people should tell the truth about Rhodesia, and then we're quite happy.
   Q. What about American newsmen, representatives of the Press, say major magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Life, Look, or CBS or some of the other television networks? Are they given free access to Rhodesia?
   A. As far as I'm aware these people are welcomed.
   Q. And are American tourists, regardless as to color or religion, equally welcome?
   A. Certainly. I have met American tourists here both black and white.
   Q. Is there a difficulty for an American black traveling in Rhodesia so far as restaurants and accommodations are concerned?
   A. No, not that I'm aware of.
   Q. Now, in South Africa this situation is somewhat different than in Rhodesia. The apartheid policy fostering, I speak for the moment as a layman and a tourist, distinct segregation in restaurants and hotels as well. Many people have said that your Government is drifting toward apartheid in this country - do you feel that is true?
   A. It is a fact, as you have mentioned, that our policies are not the same. Many people do associate us with South Africa, but this should not be. I'm not being critical of the one or the other. It just so happens that we have different policies. I don't want to get involved in discussing the pros and cons. We're experimenting with a very difficult problem in this part of the world. But in our country, for example in our Parliament, we have one Parliament for the whole of Rhodesia, and there are both blacks and whites in that Parliament. They have a white Parliament in South Africa and in the Bantustans they are developing black Parliaments. That is the basic difference between our two policies. Ours is one country and South Africa is really divided into different countries now.
   Q. Some time ago Sir Roy Welensky, who was a former Prime Minister during the Federation days of Rhodesia, made the statement and I quote, concerning the new Constitution, "It's a very sad day. We never closed the door to African development, but this new Constitution must lead to confrontation." What is your response to that charge?
   A. Well, of course, Roy Welensky is a party politician and he is in opposition to my party. In fact, he even stood against us in one election, so this is party politics, and we will just have to agree to differ on this. I would say that the facts in Rhodesia today would counteract the point he has made. I reiterate, and statistics prove, that Rhodesia is quieter and more peaceful today than it has ever been in its history. It's difficult to argue against facts like that.
   Q. What about your northern neighbor Zambia, formerly a part of the old Federation? There were many whites there - farmers, ranchers, even businessmen and so on. Have some of them left the country or do many still live there?
   A. Many have left. There are still some whites there certainly, but even those whites remaining have got their eye on the door. If they could leave and take their possessions with them, I think the majority would have left by now. But when you've invested in a business or a farm, for example, and you find that if you leave you have to leave your whole life's work and your investments behind, then you are reluctant to leave. This is why many whites are still staying on in Zambia, but I can assure you the majority would love to get out if they could.
   Q. In Kenya, a similar thing occurred and many whites immediately left for other places including Australia, possibly some came here. I know many went back to Britain. What would occur, in your view, in Rhodesia if eventual black African majority rule should come to pass?
   A. Well, I regret to say that I think you would probably find the same sort of circumstances taking place here, unless, of course, this was something which came on merit; and this is our policy. If in the future the African deserves his position and deserves to govern, then we will have no objection to that. But what we are opposed to is lowering standards specifically in order to accommodate people because they happen to have a certain color of skin. We say let merit be the criterion. This is our policy, and a black man has the same rights to rise to the top in Rhodesia as a white man. There is nothing to prevent a black man from occupying the seat which I occupy at the moment, for example. And under those circumstances I believe we have nothing to fear in Rhodesia.
   Q. You once made a statement, apparently, that there would never be a black majority rule in Rhodesia during your lifetime. Do you still feel this way?
   A. My statement was that I did not believe there would be.
   Q. Not that you personally would try to prevent it?
   A. Yes, that is correct. I'm not on record as having said there will never be. I do not believe there will be a black government in my lifetime because on merit I don't believe they can achieve this.
   Q. Why?
   A. I go back to what I said earlier: At the beginning of this century these people hadn't even contacted civilization. They didn't know what a wheel was. They were walking around dressed in skins. I'm not trying to be provocative now, but this is history, these are facts. You can't expect a people in a few years historically to arrive at a position where they are educated and civilized and capable of taking over and running a country. In fact, we have classical examples to the north of us, of black Africans which were in touch with civilization for 100-200 years before the black man in this country was, and yet they have made an incredible mess of taking over their countries and trying to run them. So there's much less chance of people who've been in contact with civilization for a third or a quarter of the time of being successful. This is just common sense I believe.
   Q. Mr. Smith, what is your term of office?
   A. Five years between elections.
   Q. When is the next election expected?
   A. Our last election was only just over a year ago, I think, so we've got about three years to run - three to four years.
   Q. Do you have any apprehensions whatsoever about the perpetuation of your own Government?
   A. No, at the moment I'm not unduly concerned.
   Q. Apparently, many people outside Rhodesia hoped that through trade sanctions and a strangulation of the economy, a dissatisfaction would immediately erupt in the country among the whites as well as the blacks. And, if your Government could be toppled, then a different Constitution more acceptable to the Afro-Asian Bloc in the U.N. would be adopted. So far as you're concerned, Mr. Smith, does the Rhodesian policy as you have outlined it depend almost entirely upon you and your Government remaining in power? Do you hold the view that if you should disappear through elections or some other means, that a new Constitution would be adopted?
   A. I believe this is indulging in wishful thinking. Our Constitution now is the Constitution of Rhodesia recognized by our high courts, and the only way this can be changed would be by process through our Parliament, firstly. And the second point I make to you is that I believe the majority of black Africans support my Government and the present Constitution. In fact, I know that this is so. The tribal - the whole tribal structure, and this is the basis of the African social structure in Rhodesia, supports what we have done.
   You see, we have brought peace and quiet to these people. Before we came to power the so-called African politicians stimulated by the Communists were running around intimidating Africans, beating them up, burning their houses, assaulting their women. Yet the mass of the Africans are decent, quiet people who want to be left to get on with their work and lead their lives.
   And they came to the conclusion that if this was the sort of thing that black government was going to bring them, then long may the whites go on being the Government. They [Communist-led blacks] played right into our hands. I'm absolutely satisfied that we govern with the consent of the majority of whites and blacks in Rhodesia.
   Q. Mr. Smith, viewing your country as if it were a microcosm of the problems of the entirety of the globe, what do you personally feel the future holds ten, 20, 50 years from now? What do you see for Rhodesia in the future?
   A. I believe that if the rest of the world would give us a fair chance we would successfully prove that the black man and the white man can live together in harmony in Africa. The basis of the whole problem is that man must insist on a maintenance of standards, that we let merit be the criterion. I believe that problems have accrued, not only in Africa but in the world, where people have resorted to appeasement.

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Plain Truth MagazineSeptember 1971Vol XXXVI, No.9