GARFIELD TODD: The End of the Liberal Dream in Rhodesia.

AuthorChan, Stephen
PositionBook review

GARFIELD TODD: The End of the Liberal Dream in Rhodesia

Author: Susan Woodhouse

Published by: Weaver Press, Harare, 2018, 564pp, 30 [pounds sterling].

I first met Judith Todd, the daughter of Garfield, at a Parnell cocktail party in 1969, when she was touring New Zealand to raise awareness of the racial politics in Rhodesia, under illegal white minority rule since 1965. My behaviour at that party was sufficiently outrageous that it was the first thing she remarked upon fifteen years later when she called on my hotel room in Bulawayo in February 1980, as Rhodesia was entering its end-days and an independent Zimbabwe was problematically looming. Problematically because the ceasefire between guerrilla armies and the Rhodesian Army was under great strain and the constantly spoken fear was that it would fall apart and the country would be plunged again into war. I was heading up the operations of the Commonwealth Observer Group in the western part of the country, seeking to ensure both a peaceful transition and a fair election in which the guerrilla parties could play a pan. Judith offered me the refuge of her fathers Bulawayo house where, behind locked gates, my colleagues and I could decompress from days of tension. I did not see her again until at the memorial service for Garfield Todd at St Martins, London, shortly after his death in 2002. It was a moving service and it made me sad that I had never met Garfield himself--for he was rare man of principle.

He was born in New Zealand of Scottish descent, but moved to Southern Rhodesia where he rose to become prime minister. As such, he sought to champion the black majority against the South African-inflected racism of the dominating white minority. The white settlers accordingly viewed him as a traitor and approached him with venom. He fell from power but was viewed as a hero by the black community. The tribute to him in this biography by historian Lawrence Vambe is moving in the extreme.

The book, by Todd's secretary, Susan Woodhouse, is one of those biographies where every pin that drops is recorded. It reminds me of the dense detail in Keith Sinclair's biography of Walter Nash--except that there is none of the trained historian's discernment and judgment. It is an effort to establish the record, pure and simple--if detailed--of every aspea of Todd's life. It probably could have done with substantial editing by a...

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