RHODESIAN Nationalist Leader Robert Mugabe praised Bishop La
mont at theGeneva talks. The Bishop, he said, was an outstanding Christian whose determination to put Christian principles into action set an example for all the people of Rhodesia.
In a special interview for the Catholic Herald with Ignatius Chigwendere, secretary of the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice, Mr Mugabe, leader of ZANU, said that he regarded Bishop Lamont as "one of the noblest characters in our country."
"Christian principles must be espoused even if this means suffering for them," he said. "It serves no purpose to preach in church that men must love one another if this is not demonstrated in society." Mr Mugabe, who was born at a Catholic mission near Salisbury. has been general secretary of ZANU since its formation in August, 1963. His vision of the new Zimbabwe is of a democratic society based on humanitarian principles. This would involve passing legislation to abolish racism and to redistribute land for the use of the African people, but it would not mean discrimination against the whites, he said.
"The society we envisage is one that will be based on true non racial principles. Whites will have as much say in the running of the country as the blacks."
Mr Mugabe stressed, however, that this did not mean that whites would be given rights as a racial block. They would be expected to participate in the democratic process in the same way as nonEuropeans. Freedom of religious belief will also be a feature of the new Zimbabwe, he said. Missionaries would be allowed to operate as they had in the past, provided that they were prepared to adjust to the new system and to obey the laws of the country. Although Mr Mugabe has spent more than 10 years in Ian Smith's prisons, he says he feels no bitterness. It is indeed the belief that a system which "sends people to prison without trial and which turns men into mere hewers of wood and drawers of water" must be destroyed that has led him to advocate armed struggle as the only solution to Rhodesia's problems. As leader of the nationalist guerilla forces operating along Rhodesia's borders Mr Mugabe feels that armed struggle is
the only way to achieve independence. "The method of peaceful negotiation has failed and the method of armed struggle is succeeding, so we must pursue it to its logical conclusion," he said.
We tried the method of peaceful negotiation for years, but the more we showed we were peaceful people the greater the oppression became. Naturally we eventually resorted to armed struggle."
The official policy of ZANU towards the Geneva conference is that they have come to negotiate with Britain a date for the independence of Zimbabwe. Britain, said Mr Mugabe, is the colonial power in Rhodesia and as such must acknowledge the right of the people of Zimbabwe to self determination by granting independence as it has done in the past to other African states.
Mr Mugabe, who knows Britain well, having studied for his third degree of BSc in Leeds, said that this policy was not prompted by any hatred for Britain but by the belief that Zimbabwe must have independence such as Britain itself enjoys. After independence Zimbabwe intended to follow a policy of non-alignment. Mr Mugabe said that his liberation forces had received assistance from Russia and China, channelled through the Organisation of African Unity and the front line states.
He stressed, however, that there was no question of the Eastern powers interfering in Zimbabwe's affairs after independence. "We accepted this assistance because it was given to us without strings. We are .grateful for the help Russia and China have given us but we will not accept any domination by them." Mr Mugabe, strongly condemns South Africa as a racist regime. It is "unhuman, ungodly and has raised one group of people up as supernatural beings endowed with the privilege of suppressing other people," he said. It would not be for the government of Zimbabwe, however, to encourage guerilla warfare against South Africa because the right of self determination belongs to the people of South Africa.
"On the other hand if the people of South Africa would like to fight for their own rights and resort to guerilla warfare and should they at anytime conceive it necessary to approach an independent Zimbabwe for assistance we shall be only too willing to assist."