DAVID CAMERON has come under pressure to sack a Tory who praised the leadership of Ian Smith, the white minority leader of Rhodesia, who died last week.
Richard Willis, a councillor in Reading, Berkshire, who is on the list of Conservative candidates for the next general election, said on a website that Smith had been a “great and wise” leader whose rule had been “benign and successful”.
In comments on the politicalbetting.com website Willis defended Smith’s record and insisted there was nothing “inherently evil” about the all-white administration.
He wrote: “I refuse to submit to the prevalent ideology that a government that delivers stability and economic success is inherently evil just because the elite were of a racial minority. Rhodesia was the breadbasket for southern Africa under his wise leadership.” The statements, penned under the tag “Rik W”, drew a furious reaction from other users, who condemned him for supporting a “vile white supremacist”. Willis derided the criticism as “silly leftist responses”.
Sounds fair enough.
Yesterday he stood by the comments. Although apartheid was “indefensible”, Smith’s Rhodesian Front had been “infinitely” preferable to Mugabe’s regime.
He said: “You cannot judge governments of the past by 21st century standards. Ian Smith led a government that actually had people migrating to the country.”
Peter Hain, the cabinet minister who led the campaign against apartheid in the 1970s, said: “As someone who campaigned actively against Ian Smith’s racist, white minority tyranny I am disgusted by these comments. Yet again we see racism remains embedded in the Tory grassroots.”
What I really want to know is, what is a cabinet minister doing kicking up a fuss about the remarks of an obscure provincial councillor? Doesn't Peter Hain have anything better to do? Like jumping under a bus, for example?
As for Mr Willis's comments: well, if saying that Rhodesians/Zimbabweans, of whatever race, were better off under Ian Smith than they are under Robert Mugabe makes you some kind of evil white supremacist bigot, then Peter Hain had better apply that label to Paul Themba Nyathi of the Zimbabwean Movement for Democratic Change, who having fought against Smith's government in the 1970s, now says that life in his Rhodesia was "a paradise" when compared with life in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. And RW Johnson, the Sunday Times journalist who reported Mr Nyathi's comments, will also have to go down in the records as an unrepentant thought criminal, since he wrote that:
...everything then was better for Africans than it is now – education, healthcare, standard of living, life expectancy and employment.Was Ian Smith's administration perfect in every way? No. But it was very far from being the worst government that Africa has ever seen, and it was a damn sight better than the administration that followed. Sadly, Ian Smith has, like Enoch Powell, been declared a heretic by the liberal-left, and anyone who has anything vaguely positive to say about him will receive the same designation, regardless of such irrelevancies as the facts.
And, since Peter Hain raised the issue of "racism", I would also point out that Ian Smith did not preside over an extremely successful campaign of ethnic cleansing. Robert Mugabe has done:
The last vestiges of the people that Ian Smith pledged to protect, the white Rhodesians, are being swept away. From their peak of 300,000, there are barely 20,000 whites, mostly the elderly, in Zimbabwe today...Where, I wonder, is Peter Hain's "disgust" regarding this? Where is the condemnation of the leftists who were so quick to attack Richard Willis?
Update: In the comments, Mexicano points out that white Zimbabweans were not the first group to be ethnically cleansed in Mugabe's Zimbabawe. Mugabe also presided over the massacre of about 30,000 Matabele tribesmen in the early 1980s. Again, Ian Smith did not tend to go in for that kind of thing.