BULAWAYO, Monday, August 15, 1966 — In the protracted dispute between the British and Rhodesian governments about how independence can be legally attained, the almost forgotten factor is how this country’s four million Africans will be represented in the negotiation of any settlement.
Now the leader of the United People’s Party, Mr Chad Chipunza, draws attention to this. In a letter to Mr Harold Wilson he writes that before any agreement is reached Britain should ‘’at least’’ consult the elected representatives of the African people of Rhodesia.
It is a reasonable request. But if that is the least that should be expected of Britain so far as African interest in the matter is concerned, what is the most?
The Rhodesian Government would presumably be happy with consulting the African Council of Chiefs. Britain is in favour of wider testing of African opinion and Pan Africa has always demanded it. Widening the scope of African consultation would render more remote the prospect of a settlement. Secondly a good case can be made for regarding African nationalists as persona non grata.
Before the most recent ban on the nationalist parties, they had an opportunity to seek direct representation in Parliament. By choosing instead to boycott elections and to seek power by illegal means, they forfeited the right to participate in the drafting of any constitutional changes.
On election statistics alone, Mr Chipunza and his party claim to be widely representative of African opinion. It is the fault of the African enfranchised for making limited use of their voting powers.
The UPP is the only democratically elected voice of the African people. Apart from insisting that their chiefs should also be heard, it is rather late in the day for the Africans to demand any other spokesmen.