Rhodesian Personalities

Sir Garfield Todd (1908-2002)


Sir Garfield Todd, former prime minister of Southern Rhodesia Born: 13 July, 1908, in Invercargill, New Zealand Died: 13 October, 2002, in hospital in Bulawayo, aged 94. He was born and educated in New Zealand, and arrived in what was then Southern Rhodesia in 1934 to begin a career as a Protestant missionary. He subsequently turned to politics. In 1948 he was elected as an MP and became prime minister of the self-governing British colony in 1953.

The Todd government, in power until 1958, made the first serious attempt of any Southern Rhodesian administration to improve African education. The number of government primary schools rose from 20 in 1953 to 46 in 1960. Mission schools were given grants to introduce four-year secondary school courses for Africans. A pre-university college was opened in Gwelo along with a teacher training college and a technical teacher training college. With hindsight, Todd admitted that these measures did not go far enough. But they were too revolutionary at the time for the majority of whites. He was widely condemned as a dangerous liberal and ousted from power, being replaced by Edgar Whitehead. There was subsequently a marked shift towards greater oppression of the African majority with the introduction of tough legislation that restricted African rights, including the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act of 1960 and the Emergency Powers Act. Politicians such as Winston Field and Ian Smith took the colony further to the right and formed the Rhodesian Front, which launched the Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965.

Todd, his wife, Grace, and their daughter, Judith, became prominent leaders in the battle to thwart the disastrous move to UDI. In 1965, Garfield Todd applied to leave the country to lead a teach-in at Edinburgh University designed to educate British opinion about the iniquities of white rule. He was arrested and detained first in police custody and then under house arrest.

In 1972, father and daughter were again imprisoned. Ultimately, however, Judith was released and given permission to leave the country as "a detainee" - meaning that the Rhodesian press was not allowed to mention her name, and that re-entry into the country would have precipitated her immediate arrest. She spent the next seven years in exile; her father was confined to the family ranch near Bulawayo, where, unknown to the Smith regime, he gave help to black guerrillas trying to overthrow the white government.

After Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mr. Todd was appointed a senator by the prime minister, Robert Mugabe. Serving in the Senate until his retirement from public life in early 1985, Mr. Todd was initially a supporter of Mr. Mugabe's government, but his disillusionment began when Mugabe's North Korean-trained 5th Brigade swept through Matabeleland and slaughtered some 30,000 "dissident" Ndebele-speakers.

Sir Garfield and his wife eventually retired to their ranch, Hockonui, near Zvishavane (Shabani). He donated 3,000 acres to guerrillas disabled in the war for independence and who farmed the land for many years as the Vukuzenzele co-operative.

In retirement, Sir Garfield became a major critic of Mugabe, who stripped him of his Zimbabwean citizenship in February this year, denying him the right to vote in the disputed March (2002) presidential election. "Mugabe has no intention of allowing the opposition to win," Sir Garfield lamented publicly. Like many whites, Todd, despite his missionary status, became a considerable landowner. Judith Todd said, however, that her father had offered most of his holdings to the Mugabe government as resettlement land for blacks. "It would have been ideal because it enjoyed a good water supply and bordered on some communal land which was already full to capacity," said Judith Todd. "But the government wasn't interested at the time. Then, about three years later, the local governor got on the phone to the central government and demanded that it be handed over to his control." Todd, meanwhile, had sold much of his land before the government could take it over.

Sir Garfield's relationship with Mr. Mugabe began during the 14 years he ran the Dadaya New Zealand Churches of Christ Mission school, 100 miles north of Bulawayo. During the Forties, one of Todd's young primary schoolteachers was Robert Mugabe, who once recalled: "I remember how little the Todds were paid - 2 a month - and how I borrowed a book from Grace Todd, who had at one point to sell her filing cabinet and a leopard skin to raise money for teachers' salaries because the total income from school fees only amounted to 30 shillings a year."

From 1955 to 1960, Sir Garfield was first vice president of the World Convention of Churches of Christ. He was knighted in 1989, with Mugabe's approval, for his services to New Zealand and Africa. In 1973, he received a medal acknowledging his efforts for peace and justice in Rhodesia from the Pope. His wife, whom he married in 1932, died last year. He is survived by their three daughters and two grandchildren.

Comment: Close associates of the late Sir Garfield Todd were alarmed that the government planned to declare him a national hero. Todd's daughter, Judith, said that declaring her father a hero would be inappropriate and an embarrassment because he abhorred the ruling Zanu (PF) 's "suppression of democracy, erosion of civil liberties, assassination of opposition officials and supporters, arrests and torture, and the climate of fear spread throughout the country". Hero status confers large cash benefits on heirs, including pensions and exemption from estate taxes.

Written by FRED BRIDGLAND as published in Rhodesians Worldwide magazine Vol 18 No 2 in 2002

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