14 February 2002

ZIMBABWE: Sir Garfield Todd loses right to vote

Sir Garfield Todd, the former Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and one of the few white people recognised by President Mugabe's government as a champion of the black people's fight against racism during the liberation struggle, has been denied the vote in the forthcoming presidential election. Sir Garfield, 93, yesterday vowed he would go to the polling station next month to claim his vote. He received a registered letter yesterday morning from the Ministry of Home Affairs' provincial registry in Bulawayo, advising him that he had ceased to be a citizen of Zimbabwe. He is no longer qualified or entitled to be a registered voter in the Bulawayo South constituency. The letter, dated 5 February, gave Todd seven days in which to appeal or face being struck off the voters' roll. Strangely, the letter arrived on the very day - 12 February - the deadline for an appeal expired.

Only last week, Sir Garfield and his late wife, Lady Grace, had three schools in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South renamed after them, as part of the government's drive to get rid of colonial names. They were among a handful of white heroes honoured for their distinguished service to Zimbabwe. Sir Garfield was prime minister from 1953 to 1958, when he was defeated in an election largely confined to whites, because he was seen to be too sympathetic to the black people's cause. He was detained by the Smith regime in 1965 and 1972, for his stand against the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and the settlement proposals struck between the Smith regime and Britain in 1971, respectively. Sir Garfield later became a member of Joshua Nkomo's PF Zapu delegation to the abortive 1976 Geneva Conference, which tried but failed to pave the way for majority rule.

Mugabe appointed him among the first senators in 1980 and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1986. Yesterday Sir Garfield, who arrived in this country from New Zealand as a missionary in 1934, further lamented the loss of his right to travel. "As a former Senator of Zimbabwe, I travelled on a diplomatic passport which expired last April. A request to Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede to assist in its renewal has remained unanswered," he said, in a statement to The Daily News. "I am horrified by the destruction of our economy, the starving of our people, the undermining of our Constitution, the torture and humiliation of our nation by Zanu PF. Just as we stood with courage against the racism of the past, so today we must stand with courage against the terror of the present. Come what may, I will in March be going to the polling station to claim my right as a very senior citizen of Zimbabwe, to cast my ballot for good against evil."

Sir Garfield's wife, Lady Grace, died in December last year and was buried at Dadaya Mission amid eulogies from top government officials, including the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere. Lady Grace was a renowned educationist, credited with introducing the Dadaya Education Scheme that greatly improved the quality of education for blacks during the colonial era. Their daughter, Judith Todd, was among the activists hounded by the Smith regime for their role in the liberation struggle. Yesterday, she said it was ironic that her father was the first former Prime Minister of a Commonwealth country to be detained and now he was going to be the first to be stripped of his citizenship.

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