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ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. The week-long elections in Rhodesia have received almost as much attention in this country as if they`d been in one of our fifty states, and the result will probably create more controversy in Washington. When the final count was announced yesterday, Rhodesian blacks, voting for the first time ever, had elected a black prime minister, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and a parliament of seventy-two black members. Ian Smith, the white leader who for years resisted black majority rule, will retain one of the twenty-eight seats reserved for whites. Both Muzorewa and Smith have begun trying to persuade the Western world to accept the result, recognize the new government, and lift the crippling economic sanctions imposed on Smith`s white regime. That call has already reached sympathetic ears in Washington, and there are moves in Congress to end the sanctions. But that runs bang up against Carter administration policy, which regards the elections as a fraud and a disguised perpetuation of white control. Privately some administration officials are quoted as saying that Mr. Carter may have a. hard time fighting off a challenge that could destroy his strategy in southern Africa. Tonight, with the architect of that strategy, Andrew Young, and one of its chief critics, Congressman Robert Bauman, how to read the Rhodesian election. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: Robin, even the most devoted Zimbabwe/Rhodesia watchers need an occasional refresher to understand what`s happening at any given time. The simplest and easiest way is to focus on the principal players. Ian Smith, the current prime minister. For thirteen years after declaring Rhodesia`s independence from Britain, Smith steadfastly refused to consider majority - - meaning black -- rule of his country. Last March, armed conflict inside and international pressure outside caused him to change his mind. He set up a transition government aimed at accomplishing majority rule. Two key members of his black/white coalition were Bishop Abel Muzorewa, now to become the prime minister -- Muzorewa is a Methodist bishop who was educated in the United States and is a leader of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe`s largest tribal group, the Shonas; the other, the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, badly defeated by Muzorewa in the election, now charges the voting was rigged by Muzorewa. Sithole is a Congregational clergyman, but he made his jump into politics as head of a national teachers` association.
The final two main figures did not participate in the interim government or the recent election. They are the guerrilla leaders of the Patriotic Front,who have waged war against the Smith government for more than six years: Joshua Nkomo, who has a reported 25,000 armed troops under his command, operating out of Zambia, next door; and Robert Mugabe, who has another 25,000 guerrillas, also heavily armed, which use a headquarters base in Mozambique, another Rhodesian neighbor. Both have vowed to continue their fighting and to destroy the new Muzorewa-led government.
The United States-British position has been that unless some kind of peace is made with Mugabe and Nkomo there will never be peace in the new Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, for the country`s six million blacks or its 250,000 whites. Robin?
MacNEIL: In an effort to win international support the Rhodesian government invited observers to monitor the voting. While no Western nation sent official observers, a number of politicians and others went privately. One of them just back from Rhodesia is the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Mr. Rustin, from what you saw, was the election fair?
BAYARD RUSTIN: I think the election was more fair than any I have observed in Washington -- I mean, in Africa. However, I do believe we have to be very clear, there were guerrillas working from the outside who were in fact attempting to break up the election, killing people, bombing. There was internally martial law, which of course had some restrictions; certain people were picked up. There were the indirect pressures and quite direct pressures from some farmers, from some people in the political parties. There was before the election a limitation on the press so that those who wanted to boycott the election could not advertise that was their plan. I would say, however, that given these factors it is no doubt the case that, in my view, this election was extremely useful in moving Zimbabwe from what it has been -- a state where whites dominated -- to a state where blacks will now take the majority of the control. It was a major step toward the creation of a democratic, multicultural, multiracial society in Africa.
MacNEIL: What was your reaction to the Reverend Sithole`s charge that the election was rigged by Muzorewa`s people?
RUSTIN: Well, I`ll give you the timing. At eleven o`clock in the morning he said the elections were perfectly fair. At two o`clock in the afternoon it appeared that he had lost. At four o`clock in the afternoon he called a press conference to denounce them. My own view is that Mr. Sithole is playing a game; he is maneuvering in order that he shall become foreign secretary, which I doubt he may in fact get through this maneuver.
MacNEIL: What do you say about the wider issue of fairness, the argument that with twenty-eight seats reserved for whites for ten years their control is entrenched?
RUSTIN: Obviously, this I dislike. It is not totally democratic one man, one vote; but where in the world is that the case? It certainly is not in the United States. For an example, the two Senators from Alas ka have about seventy times as much power as the two from California. I am merely pointing out that this one man, one vote always has problems. But I go back to our own history. I am not arrogant enough to feel that these people cannot improve themselves as we improved ourselves. When our Constitution came into being, women could not vote, you could not vote unless you were wealthy; it was 1920 before women could vote, 1964 before blacks could universally vote; there was no Bill of Rights. And yet those people, determined, brought these things about over a long period. This is not the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and therefore I assume that as rapidly as things are moving now they can make these improvements in fact very swiftly, and that is not a problem to me. I could tell you what the people of Rhodesia said. They said that they purposely -- I`m talking about the black leaders -- went along with this proposition because they were interested in democracy and a multiracial society. They felt if they did not give whites some time to see that they were not going to do to them what had been done to Indians in Uganda, whites in French Africa, et cetera, that they wanted to give them time so that they could feel comfortable because they needed them. But they also added that it was their very profound judgment that this must change quickly.
MacNEIL: So you regard it as a useful step.
RUSTIN: It`s a useful step because it brings new elements into the picture. Now it is not Smith who is prime minister but a black man. That is a new element. The fantastic enthusiasm of these people to vote and to come out in such enormous numbers singing and dancing in the street is unbelievable to behold.
MacNEIL: Well Mr. Rustin, thank you; we`ll come back. Jim?
LEHRER: Mr. Rustin`s assessment of the fairness of the elections was borne out by most observers, including those who represented the American Conservative Union. Congressman Robert Bauman is the Union`s chair man, and as a Republican Congressman from Maryland is a strong advocate of now lifting sanctions on Rhodesia and an equally strong critic of administration policy on the issue. Congressman, any question in your mind that the elections were fairly conducted?
Rep. ROBERT BAUMAN: No, I think Mr. Rustin has of course the advantage of having been an eyewitness to these elections, but the American Conservative Union sent four distinguished observers there, a former Congressman, two journalists, a former State Department official who spent eight straight days roaming all over the country; they literally talked with hundreds of people. I`ve read their preliminary report, which was released to the press this afternoon, and I certainly also am going to send it to President Carter and the State Department. They haven`t requested it, they didn`t want to send observers, but I think they ought to hear the words of people like Mr. Rustin, and, for that matter, the more than 200 observers and reporters, many of whom were waiting for something to go wrong so they could use it as evidence that the elections were not fair. And yet I think the consensus is, with a few exceptions -- rather radical exceptions in the State Department -- that this was one of the fairest elections and one of the best turnouts, at almost sixty-five percent, of any nation in the world, for that matter.
LEHRER: Do you believe, Congressman, that as a result of this the United States should now move to remove the economic sanctions on Rhodesia?
BAUMAN: I do indeed, and I don`t think President Carter ought to delay or drag his feet on this issue. The Congress set a test last year in the Case- Javits Amendment that was adopted in both Houses, and that test called for the holding of fair elections and the institution of one man, one vote and black rule, and within five weeks that will happen. I`m willing to grant the President some grace period, in the sense of allowing Bishop Muzorewa to take office; but I think at that point if the President doesn`t act the Congress must act, not so much to deny the President his policy but to set this country in the right direction in Africa and to preserve peace in the area.
LEHRER: Congressman, you were one of thirty members of Congress who officially dropped a resolution to that effect in the hopper today up on ,he Hill, is that correct?
BAUMAN: That`s true, and I think that this resolution, which called for the lifting of sanctions and diplomatic recognition for the new government, is significant in that it is a bipartisan effort. It has as one of its prime sponsors the Republican leader of the House, John Rhodes, who today took the floor to call for recognition and lifting of sanctions, and it includes a number of Democrats and Republicans, many of whom serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee. So I think that the trend has changed, the tide has turned in the House, as it has in the Senate, and I think if the President fails to act it will be at his own political peril.
LEHRER: You think the Congress will just override...
BAUMAN: I think they will; yes, definitely.
LEHRER: What is your assessment of official U.S. policy and what U.S. policy has been on this entire matter involving Rhodesia and the interim settlement and so on?
BAUMAN: I have never understood the basis that had the United States Government align itself with terrorists who systematically have slaughtered thousands of blacks and whites, shooting down airliners at will, who literally have refused to join in international conferences. Why we are on their side against a peaceful transition...
LEHRER: You mean Mugabe and Nkomo.
BAUMAN: Mugabe-Nkomo factions that even to this day have made plain that they will continue to do this. Why we`re on their side as opposed to, in this instance now, a peaceful transition to black majority rule - something that few other African nations have been willing to accomplish. It`s absolute insanity, and the policy has been that way for two years. And I think now we are seeing the success, internally, of this settlement in Rhodesia; and I think that Ambassador Young and the President ought to admit the fallacy of their position.
LEHRER: Speaking of Ambassador Young, we`re going to hear from him now. Robin?
MacNEIL: Yes. The man who leads Carter administration policy in southern Africa is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young. Mr. Ambassador, how do you respond to the Congressman?
ANDREW YOUNG: Well, first I respond negatively to the fact that I lead Africa policy for this administration. The Secretary of State and the President determine U.S. foreign policy.I`ve been quite involved with Africa, and I think that what we`ve tried to do is develop an Africa policy that relates to fifty-one independent African states, almost all of whom we have some direct economic and political relationship with. And I think it`s in that context that we`ve approached the question of Rhodesia. We approach the question in an attempt to minimize Soviet influence to bring about a transition to majority rule through violence, and we sought to invite the persons in Rhodesia, all of the parties, to come together with the British government and submit to elections held by the British government under United Nations supervision with a U.N. peacekeeping force guaranteeing that there would be law and order during the six-month electioneering period. That was frankly, as of March 1978, accepted by both parties in the Patriotic Front.
MacNEIL: Until Mr. Smith formed this interim government and...
YOUNG: It was accepted by Muzorewa and Sithole before the interim government; they then, after the interim government, did not accept the international elections. And I think what my response is is that the elections didn`t have a chance from the beginning, simply because even the white minority, forty percent of the white people in Rhodesia, did not want to go the Smith route of an internal settlement. They wanted to go along with something on the order of the Anglo-American plan. They scored forty percent in those March elections in 1978, with no access to the press -- they were denied an opportunity to speak on television. There was really a near-fascist state controlled by Ian Smith.
MacNEIL: Coming to the situation right now, how do you respond to the Congressman`s feeling that sanctions should be lifted as soon as the President can do it?
YOUNG: I think that`s a determination that has to be made by the President, but it has to be made in the context of a total Africa policy. Personally, I would think that the lifting of sanctions would be a passport to the Soviet Union into southern Africa.
MacNEIL: You would recommend against it.
YOUNG: I would, because I think as long as we have been diplomatically and actively involved, we`ve had the support of all of Africa with the United States, not just on this issue but on many other issues. The key issue for the United States and Africa is development. We have about ten billion dollars` worth of trade with Africa, with another eight to ten billion potential. That`s important for jobs, for people in this country, that`s important for the development needs and aspirations of the people of Africa. By and large, our economic relationships depend on some political understanding and also on some stability in the region. I`m afraid that this election, especially if the United States gets involved in recognizing this election, will make much of southern Africa feel as though they have no alternative but to resort totally to the military struggle, and I don`t think it`s relevant or necessary for American young men and women to be militarily involved in Africa to defend our political and economic interests.
MacNEIL: What positive purpose would maintaining sanctions have? If lifting them would open the door to the Soviets and the Cubans, as you suggest, what positive purpose would it serve to maintain them?
YOUNG: I think the positive purpose would be that it would still be a leverage by which we could get the government of Bishop Muzorewa to sit down with the British government and with the parties that were very much friends of Bishop Muzorewa. In 1973 when I was in Congress, and `74, Bishop Muzorewa was then supposed to be the outside agitator supported by the Communists; Joshua Nkomo was the Uncle Tom negotiating with Ian Smith on the bridge. All of these parties are very flexible. The ideological hard lines of terrorists versus non-terrorists, I think, is really very misleading. It`s nice to say that Bishop Muzorewa is a Methodist bishop; he is. Robert Mugabe was a Roman Catholic schoolteacher; Joshua Nkomo was a Presbyterian lay preacher. It`s not an ideological battle, it`s internal African politics. What we`ve said in the administration is that the U.S. Government has to be very careful as we bet involved crowning or picking leaders. Rather we would preserve a process that would try to involve everybody in the selection of leaders in such a way that peace and stability might come. Peace and stability can`t come through this election.
MacNEIL: Well, let`s go back to Washington. Jim?
LEHRER: Congressman, can peace and stability come through this election?
BAUMAN: I think the Ambassador stands alone, he and Mr. Carter, on this issue. He`s living in the past; much of his argument has not been directed to the lifting of sanctions but going over the failures of this administration. My feeling is that if. we do not lift sanctions and this government fails, it is indeed then the blame of Mr. Carter and Mr. Young and our policy in this country that will bring about the downfall of one of the few peacefully elected governments. It`s not a matter of our crowning anyone, it is our recognizing the reality of sixty-three percent in a one man, one vote situation, blacks and whites going out and choosing their own government. The nations which Mr. Young has so much concern about, the Front Line countries, to a man -- to each one of these leaders -- have not come to power by democratic means, they do not conduct their governments in a democratic way, and for their sensibilities he would throw away this one chance for a peaceful transition. I don`t understand that; our policies can only aid the side of death and slaughter and terrorism if we continue them.
LEHRER: Ambassador, what about that? To not recognize this new government and lift the sanctions denies reality that sixty-three percent of the people have cast the votes and this is their decision.
YOUNG: You know, for many years I was in the southern part of these United States, where people lined up people and told them who to go to the polls and vote for. And they did. It made all the difference in the world when we had a Voting Rights Act in 1965 that gave people the protection of the federal government. They voted quite differently under a situation in which they were protected. I think that the kind of election that we had there -- I mean, I think almost anybody can go around with an army and round up people, and in the first place you have people in protected villages, you have their lifeline controlled, you have no opportunity for the press. The people who were the opposition were rounded up and put in prison before the election, and you have in fact the reality of some, you say, 50,000 armed people who basically tried to negotiate peacefully with Ian Smith for almost fifteen years, and...
LEHRER: Excuse me. You mean Mugabe and Nkomo of the Patriotic Front.
YOUNG: I mean Mugabe and Nkomo were put in jail by Ian Smith for ten years each.
LEHRER: You reject, then, Mr. Rustin`s point that while this may not be a perfect thing at least it`s a first step and that everything takes time and at least it could eventually lead to full rights for blacks, et cetera.
YOUNG: No, I think that that would have been fine ten years ago -even five years ago. In fact, if Ian Smith had offered that to Joshua Nkomo on the bridge it would have worked. The problem now is, how do you disarm 50,000 men? And I don`t think the election addresses that problem,
I don`t think lifting sanctions addresses that problem, and I don`t think anything short of massive military aid from the West would address that problem, and even then I`m not sure it would address it successfully.
LEHRER: Congressman, a point that the Ambassador made a moment ago, which was to lift sanctions and recognize this government would first of all be a passport to the Soviet Union to increase its influence in south ern Africa and, as he just repeated, the whole thing then makes it a military struggle because there are 50,000 people who are armed, meaning the Patriotic Front group.
BAUMAN: Well, I`m pleased that Ambassador Young shows a new concern about the Soviet presence in Africa. He has in the past made public statements, and never retracted them as far as I know, about the client state Cuba and its activities there on behalf of the Soviet Union, calling it a stabilizing influence. I applaud him for at least that change in his policies. But I do not believe for one minute that to deny this government is going to bring about peace; it does in fact align us with the 50,000 armed troops about which he is concerned. It aligns the United States by pressing down with these economic sanctions on a free, black ruled government, and I always thought Andrew Young stood for other things than the denial of the rights of blacks and whites together to work out their problems. To me this policy is continued insanity.
YOUNG: I must say that in our plan, the Anglo-American plan, we did have set-aside seats for twenty whites in a parliament of a hundred persons. The difference is that twenty whites would have been able to be quite influential, they would have had a guaranteed bill of rights, but the majority would rule; that is, the constitution could be changed by two- thirds vote, simple legislation could be passed by majority vote. In the Ian Smith constitution it requires seventy-eight votes to make a change in these entrenched clauses.
BAUMAN: But that`s only for a period of five years, as I understand
YOUNG: Ten. And I think that there is so much that smacks of fraud..
BAUMAN: I`d like the Ambassador to give us some evidence. He wasn`t there, he opposed sending observers. Mr. Rustin was there, he`s given his assessment, and 200 reporters and observers have come back and said these were fair elections. What is the proof...
YOUNG: Because the election was stolen before they ever got there.
BAUMAN: It was not stolen.
YOUNG: The election was stolen when the constitution was drawn up.
BAUMAN: All of the reports that I have seen and you have seen in the press, short of a lie detector test for every person who voted, indicated that they were dancing in the streets wanting to vote. No one rounded them up with guns as you just alleged.
MacNEIL: Your definition of the fraud is that the fraud was perpetrated when the constitution was drawn up, because of the conditions it laid down.
YOUNG: I think so.
RUSTIN: I`d like to address myself to that.
MacNEIL: You`ve been listening to this argument back and forth.
RUSTIN: Yes, I have.
MacNEIL: What is your observation on the basic point?
RUSTIN: I think there is a superb arrogance in assuming that men who are in the internal government, many of whom have spent up to ten and twelve years in prison, are not the people to make the judgment for their people. They said despite these difficulties we feel it is a step forward. These are the people; they came out dancing and singing in the streets. Now, just because this does not lead to what Mr. Young feels he wants, which is support of the Patriotic Front, does not necessarily damn these people to not making good judgment. It is ironic that many people who say that this election was unscientific or undemocratic or uncalled for are also the very people who support groups that would abolish elections entirely and depend on violence.
MacNEIL: Let`s give Mr. Young a chance to respond to that.
YOUNG: In the first place, I`ve never advocated the support of anybody; I`ve only advocated a free and fair election where everybody can vote and where everybody`s vote counts, and where people can freely electioneer. I don`t think Congressman Bauman would run in a district where he was not allowed to go to the press and make his claims, where his campaign manager and precinct workers were arrested six weeks before his election, and then to have Mr. Rustin come into his district in Maryland, not knowing all this that has been going on for the last few years, and say, "But I saw everything working very well, and Congressman Bauman lost, and his opponents were dancing in the street." I don`t think Congressman Bauman would think that was fair.
MacNEIL: Can I take up another point that Congressman Bauman raised? He said that if Mr. Carter didn`t act to lift sanctions the Congress would, that the tide was turning in both Houses. What happens to your -- the ad ministration`s policy -- in southern Africa if it is overridden in the Congress?
YOUNG: Well, I think fortunately people`in Africa are far more sensitive to our politics than we are to theirs. I think the thing that has impressed them most about this administration is that there has been some integrity on the question of majority rule. They have identified that integrity not with the Congress but with the President. The Congress, I think, is ... well, subject to all kinds of fluctuations all the time, and I think that our job is to try to protect an overall American foreign policy interest, not only in Africa, because this is not an African issue only; I would say that it would be very difficult in many parts of -well, in the Middle East -- it`ll be very difficult for this government to be recognized by Egypt, for instance. And to try to look at one country and say American foreign policy ought to be adjusted because Ian Smith did something which seemed to be democratic I think is rather naive. The President has to make far more sophisticated judgments than that.
MacNEIL: Will the President fight on this one?
YOUNG: I think the President will determine what American foreign policy should be. I think the Congress, if it objects to that, has its right, I think, to restrain an overly aggressive President. But what I see the Congress attempting to do is force the United States Government to be more involved in a situation than the President and the administration wants to be. We`ve tried to restrict our involvements to diplomatic interest. Economically, militarily I`m very cautious about involvements in Africa.
MacNEIL: Mr. Ambassador, our time is up. Thank you very much for joining us, Congressman Bauman; and good night, Jim.
LEHRER: Good night, Robin.
MacNEIL: Mr. Rustin, Ambassador Young, thank you. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow night. I`m Robert MacNeil. Good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer Report
Rhodesian Election
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The main topic of this episode is Rhodesian Election. The guests are Andrew Young, Robert Bauman, Bayard Rustin. Byline: Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer
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War and Conflict
Politics and Government
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Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report; Rhodesian Election,” 1979-04-25, National Records and Archives Administration, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2024,
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APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer Report; Rhodesian Election. Boston, MA: National Records and Archives Administration, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from