PARTNERSHIP IN RHODESIA?
By Robert Nowell
TRONG but friendly disagreement on the nature of rare relations in Southern Rhodesia was expressed by two prominent Catholics whom I met last week.
"They are much better than They were 14 months ago: in fact they are better than anywhere else in Africa. except perhaps Tanganyika," said Major Patrick Wall. Conservative M.P. for Haltemprice and chairman of the parliamentary party's sub-committee on East and Central Africa, who had just returned from an extensive tour of English-speaking Africa.
His trip included the Union of South Africa, where he thought that, if anything, the situation was "worse than it has been painted" in reports reaching this country. "You just can't argue with an Afrikaner nationalist," he said.
Disagreeing with him was Dr. Bernard Chidzero, who came to the Sword of the Spirit Africa office fresh from seeing the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Lord Home, as one of a five-member Southern Rhodesian deputation, to protest against the possibility of the British Government agreeing to the request of Sir Edgar Whitehead, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, and relinquishing its reserve powers to veto discriminatory legislation.
"Superficially, race relations in Southern Rhodesia are good," said Dr. Chidzero, a research student at Nuffield College, Oxford. "But in Tanganyika you have the possibility of genuine friendship between European and African, which you don't in Southern Rhodesia, "The system is wrong in Southern Rhodesia." He drew an analogy with liberal developments in the Cape during the last half of the 19th century, developments which were later nullified because they occurred in spite of, rather than because of, the system in force. Because of this, unless the system of racial segregation enshrined in the Land Apportionment Act were abolished and the franchise widened, any improvement in relations could only be a transitory phenomenon.
"Relatively speaking, Southern Rhodesia isn't changing," he said. "By the end of this year, when the Belgian Congo has become independent in June and Tanganyika gains internal self-government in October, then Southern Rhodesia won't be keeping up with African nationalism unless something dramatic is done in the shortest possible time."
But, he admitted, "no Government in Southern Rhodesia dependent on the present electorate can radically amend the Land Apportionment Act without committing toil Inca! suicide."
Major Wall took a more sanguine view. "Sir Edgar Whitehead is quite the most progressive man I've met in the application of ideas." he told me. "He relies on persuasion rather than on forcing measures through and thus arousing resentment and opposition."
In general, he thought, the British Government was right in going fast in Africa. "But we dare not go any faster. Any attempt to push Southern Rhodesia faster could lead to its secession from the Federation."
Another danger to the Federation, he thought, might come if the Government did not agree to Sir Edgar's request for the withdrawal of the reserve powers. This, he thought, was regarded by Southern Rhodesian Europeans as a "test of faith" in the good will of the British Government.
Dr. Chidzero, on the other hand, while regarding Sir Edgar's request as prompted by internal politics, would be prepared to concede the removal of these powers provided this were balanced by corresponding concessions to give the Africans more effective safeguards, on the lines of a radical amendment of the Land Apportionment Act and a widening of the franchise, probably on the Tanganyikan model, with "one man one vote" as the declared ultimate olbjective.
And what effect will all this have on the Church? "I don't know how the Church will be affected when the Africans take over," admitted Dr. Chidzero.
"Some of the outstanding leaders are good (or bad) Catholics and good (or bad) Protestants," he said. Because of this the Church could not be looked upon as a foreign institution, although it was very much on a tight-rope during times of change like the present.
Statements by Church leaders on burning political issues — such as the outspoken pastoral-issued last summer on land-hunger and African nationalism by Bishop Lamont, 0.Carm., of Umtali — had encouraged African Catholics to stand firm in their faith whore 'previously there had been a very strong temptation to waver because the Church seemed to be unconcerned with their own immediately pressing problems.