'Reconciliation in Zimbabwe' was the headline the Bern daily 'Der Bund' gave its report on the launching of the German version of Alec Smith's book 'Now I call him brother'.
The Swiss paper credits Alec, son of former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, with having successfully left his father's shadow: 'which could not be said for many sons of famous fathers'. 'Now I call him brother', in which Alec Smith tells the story of his life from Prime Minister's drop-out son, through conversion and on to contributing to racial reconciliation in the new Zimbabwe, has now appeared in eight languages. It is published in German by Blaukreuz Verlag of Bern and Wuppertal.
Smith told a press conference in Bern that Zimbabwe does not fit into the common western picture of Africa - that of countries plagued by dictatorships, famine and race conflict. Race relations in Zimbabwe, he told the press, were better than in some western cities. His daughter, for example, attended a racially-mixed school and both its atmosphere and standard of education were 'very satisfactory'.
He held up the Zimbabwean army, in which he has served as chaplain since independence, as an example of successful integration. Life there, he said, is 'equally and normally' shared by members of the two former armies which fought for independence and the old regular Rhodesian army. The debate on creating a one party system, he asserted, should be seen as part of the search to create a national identity and could not simply be judged in European terms. At a recent by-election Robert Mugabe had supported the election of whites as well as candidates outside his own party.
Asked about Shona-Ndebele relations, Smith admitted that any conflict was potentially dangerous, but said there was a will on both sides to resolve the matter. He claimed that the situation was better than in 1984. Unity talks had been continuing for two years.
He thought that Zimbabwe could show the way for South Africa. 'What needs to change is the heart and attitude so that a multi-racial society can work,' he said. 'Western Europe can help change in South Africa by making Zimbabwe a success - the positive example it is meant to be.'
By Christoph Spreng