White Wakanda — a Rhodesian story

Words by Harrison Johnstone
Art by Hayley Sinnatt

There’s a culture war lapping at our shores; threatening our very sacred Australian way of life, with sinister multicultural aspirations…

Jokes, didn’t mean to hurt your snowflakey feelings, are you alwhite though?

If you’ve ever wondered whether we’ll lose our grip on those shallow colonial roots, steer your thoughts towards the land of the upright man—Africa.

Rich, white and ‘refugees’

Queerly reminiscent of how Peter Dutton’s endless forehead disappears into any landscape he occupies, we venture to the boundless savannas of Africa and to those ‘endangered’ white farmers who tend them.

Our treacherous former frontbencher was easily swayed of atrocities, suggesting white African farmers were victims of racially motivated violence. But it’s true, true in the context that 52 South Africans were killed each day last year on average.

The latest event to trigger entitled white people in decolonisation’s 73-year campaign, is the redistribution of white-owned South African farmland, promising disenfranchised Black Africans the opportunity to reclaim land stolen since Apartheid in 1910.

To avoid their land being selected, these farmers are begging white-ally, I mean “civilised countries”, like ours to grant them asylum. Africa Check concedes limited data makes farm-murder claims impossible, but considering over 70 per cent of farmland is white-owned, the figures suggest farms are targeted more than flesh tones.

Our nation’s bumbling response this year; diverts sharply from reactions to a culture war of the past, one that wasn’t fought with fraudulent statistics, but FAL rifles—Rhodesia.

Ian Smith, ego and the ethnostate

Ian Smith isn’t a name one would associate with African leadership; however he governed the “illegal racist minority regime” of Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. A nation culturally isolated from its neighbours, but attracted soldiers of fortune fresh from Vietnam with promises of fighting communism.

Australian, British, South African and American patriots sought passage to the nationwide warzone; fuelled by colonial brotherhood and swelling excitement granted by Cold War tensions.

At that time Australia refused to recognise Rhodesia, let alone the slaughter of their white farmers.

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PM Ian Smith at a Salisbury shooting range (Credit – Paul Harris)

Dutton’s open arms provide a stark contrast when it was the Liberal lead Fraser Government that spearheaded the international demise of an independent Rhodesia, cajoling British PM Margaret Thatcher out of formal recognition.

Although Smith lead a country divided by race, his politics were genius, uniting Rhodesians through nationalist fervour in the face of terrorism and thriving exports.

Despite worldwide disdain and the decimation of economic ties, Rhodesia still traded openly with non-UN member nations and Apartheid South Africa. This prosperity galvanised the people; a majority of Rhodesians fought for both pride and payment.

“I’m not fighting for whites, I’m fighting for my country,” said Regimental Sergeant Major Julius Manunure who was the Rhodesian Army’s senior black NCO.

Supporters of Rhodesia lauded Smith’s bluntness, his ability to understand “the uncomfortable truths of Africa”, and the truths are certainly uncomfortable. Smith’s influence saw Rhodesia recognised as Africa’s “Breadbasket” and “Jewel”, in agricultural, manufacturing and mining wealth.

But, Africa had grown tired of oppression, then the wars began.

The Rhodesian Bush War

The African continent has seen nearly as many civil wars as it has countries; none typify the malice of decolonisation quite like the Rhodesian Bush War.

Rhodesia was born of racism, its existence flouts decolonisation. Their 1965 Universal Declaration of Independence (UDI), ironically not universally accepted, was designed purely to retain the white minority’s segregation powers. The world was displeased with 200,000 white people dominating 4,000,000 black people—controlling media, political discourse and monopolising land-ownership.

Militant political resistance groups ZANU and ZAPU, backed by communist China and the Soviet Union respectively, flooded in from bordering nations conducting scattered terrorist attacks across Rhodesia.

Deranged revolutionary turned fascist Robert Mugabe, after release from Rhodesian prison, lead ZANU to a bloody victory in 1979, but not before their military arm shot down two passenger aircraft, exploded a supermarket and conducted over 30 bombings.

Taking aside the atrocities of war; it’s just to side with the freedom fighters of Africa.

However, the stability of a Rhodesian state and its rapid decline post-war, awarded Ian Smith a smug moral victory.

Smith remained in Zimbabwe and eventually South Africa until passing of a stroke in 2007, becoming the embodiment of a shit-eating grin on the face of a starving nation.

How to fuck a country

As Smith’s leadership crumbled, so did the borders of Rhodesia, absorbing the alienated Africans whose values didn’t bend to segregationist leadership on their continent.

The nation transitioned from Southern Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, growing in cultural wealth as the economy was decimated by corrupt land redistribution practices and inept industrial management.

Mugabe passing off land to cronies cost the Zimbabwean economy $20 billion USD, the violent expropriation of white-owned farms is the trend that has stoked South African fears.

Heading into the 21st century, Zimbabwe had the fastest growing economy in Africa, now it’s the fastest shrinking.

The former breadbasket of Africa is now a pile of crumbs.

Mugabe steered Zimbabwe into net food imports; the EU and the US provide billions in humanitarian aid and food relief regularly, but poverty still strikes 70 per cent of the population.

If Ian Smith was known for confronting the uncomfortable truths of Africa; then the truth of Zimbabwe is the nation traded prosperity for freedom.

Rhodesia is a firm reminder of how colonial culture can develop in its own race-based isolation; but is it appropriate to recall this oddball ‘70s complex fondly, or should we chuck it in the bin?

Rhodie nostalgia; is it just racism?

Rhodesia is one of the most complex and contradictory nations to ever grace the African continent.

Ian Smith lead an unrecognised state through a bloody 15-year war; emerging as both a hated tyrannical racist and a beloved veteran with a nationwide saviour complex.

The debate between freedom and stability is uncomfortable; striking nostalgic fervour in online communities who remember a time where “a few good men in short shorts were making the world a better place”.

Facebook’s Rhodesia Bushposting™ group and countless forums, reminisce the dream of a white African ethnostate. Something so far removed from the reality of most, that it can only be a cocktail of racism and a torrid affair with Smith’s hubris.

The iconography of stringy beard-clad men, slinging Belgian FAL rifles across protruding shoulders is glorified. A unique uniform of jungle camo, short shorts and tennis shoes became synonymous with battlefield victory.

Phrases like “slotting floppies”, a derogatory term for shooting black insurgents, “be a man among men” and “#MakeZimbabweRhodesiaAgain” spread throughout social media and nostalgia-profiteering merchandisers for the racial-warfare starved masses.

That’s just symptomatic of our online lives though, right? It’s not like Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old Charleston black church shooter was flaunting a Rhodesian flag on his Facebook profile. Surely dreams of a white world never eclipse reality.

We live in a different time; it used to be morally untenable to defend Rhodesia, now generations of edgelords are flocking to admire the injustices of Smith’s white-minority regime.

Your opinions of Rhodesia will be shaped by what you value; if justice appeals to you, then Zimbabwe is the logical progression of a modern world.

But, if the charm of Rhodesia strokes at your vintage sensibilities… then fuck off to your time machine.

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