by Hannes Wessels

An acquaintance, having read my book, ‘A Handful of Hard Men’ which covered the Rhodesian war, the SAS and the political context of the time, penned a letter to former British Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen, which is printed below. To his credit, Lord Owen has given us permission to publish his response. I am taking the liberty of adding my thoughts below the two letters.



I am writing to you today as a sixty-year old Ex Rhodesian who served in the British South African Police until 1980, and due to the deteriorating security and economic situation in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, had to leave.

Since then I and millions of people of all colours have left that country, because of the way that Mugabe and his ilk turned it into a dictatorship, that impoverished the majority of the population and destroyed democracy.

This could only have happened because you and the British governments turned a blind eye to the obvious intentions of the Patriotic Front.

You were given irrefutable evidence of their atrocities e.g. the Elim Mission massacre where eight missionaries men killed, women raped then killed, and four babies killed, and TWO civilian aircraft shot down, where any survivors were butchered on the ground…not a word of condemnation by you or anyone else in the supposedly civilized West!


Ongoing atrocities against the civilian populations of all colours were perpetrated but you chose to be Mugabe apologists/enablers instead.

You chose to support Samora Machel who destroyed Mozambique by nationalising private ownership and turned the country into a Marxist state!  WHY?

He chose to actively interfere in another country internal affairs with your support and denied the Rhodesian government the opportunity to negotiate a peaceful transition….WHY?

When Machel approached the UN complaining about the Rhodesian response, no one asked him to account for his destructive policies that destroyed his own country….WHY?

Mugabe killed off any traditional black leaders that were willing to discuss peace and the way forward with Ian Smith…you failed to hold Mugabe to account for this…WHY?

You chose to support Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia even after (he) held “elections” where he was the only candidate!….WHY

Why did you not take the time and effort to visit and sit down and assist to reach an agreement….WHY

Even at the height of the war there was still a lot of goodwill between the races…you allowed Russia and China to influence events…WHY?

Did you at any time take the effort to look at the whole picture?

Did you know that even after independence Ian Smith was not protected at all and used to ride his bicycle to the shops! Supposedly the most hated man in the country and a world pariah! Funny how Mugabe needed motorcades with Army trucks and helicopters overhead as protection….and to feed his megalomania.

If you had taken the time and effort to understand the dynamics of the time and backed a peaceful organized transition to reasonable black moderates, and disowned the radical black opposition, things would have been very different and I would still be home, along with millions of others.

I know you will probably not even get to read this as your gatekeepers will block it…but on the slight chance you will my question is this:

Do you have any regrets over how this was handled?

Does your conscience prick you at all or are you still in complete denial?

Zimbabwe could have been a beacon but is now a disaster…….it could have even shown South Africa the way forward as well!






(Father British Army WW2

Grandfather British Army WW1 and WW2

Both of whom moved to Southern Rhodesia after being encouraged to, after WW2, and then failed by YOU.)


Dear Ian

                Thank you for your email.  From 1977-79 I made a huge effort to sort out a negotiated settlement, visited Africa more than any other Foreign Secretary. All the time the fighting on the ground meant Ian Smith was losing control of more and more of the country and Mugabe was gaining more territory and with it a larger army and with that more voters. 

Our Anglo-American initiative should have been embraced by Ian Smith. To have the power of the US linked to a settlement would have brought peace. The loss of President Machel, the best leader Mozambique ever had, in a dubious plane accident was a tragedy. Ian Smith was the problem since he could not compromise with reality and fought a hopeless battle to uphold white rule in what was Southern Rhodesia. The world had changed, Botswana next door proved that black majority government could be made to work, and it still does in that country. Ian Smith instead, as so often, brushed aside the Anglo-American proposals which was the one solution that could have held off Mugabe. By 1980 the opportunity was lost. 

I suggest you read more about what actually went on during this period. Not just what I have written but others too looking back. I wrote my account in my autobiography ‘Time to Declare’. I am sure there are second-hand copies going cheap in the Penguin edition.  The most recent article I wrote I attach reviewing a good book. I hope you will conclude from this that I was no supporter of Mugabe: the true story is how I tried to give Nkomo a chance working with Muzorewa and others. It was not a sham transfer of power. Those days were long gone, and Kenneth Kaunda was not opposed to it, nor were many sensible whites in Rhodesia.

Yours sincerely

David Owen



Reading Lord Owen’s letter I am left thinking he provides an excellent case-study for anyone wishing to understand the mindset of a classical, committed, left-wing, liberal socialist; ‘fathers’ of the people who now constitute what is known as the ‘woke’ movement. Typical of these individuals, they refuse to acknowledge reality. A perfect example of this is his observation that President Machel was, “the best leader Mozambique ever had,” before going on to try and muddy the waters with reference to his death, “in a dubious plane accident” which he laments. How does a ‘liberal’ applaud the rule of a man who, on assuming power, immediately transformed the country into a brutal Marxist dictatorship, banned Christian worship, collapsed the economy by putting the Portuguese to flight, and quickly constructed tropical gulags to accommodate any dissenters. Is this, one wonders, the result he was working so hard to achieve in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe? And his reference to Machel’s death is irrelevant because it happened six years after Zimbabwean independence. Or was that too Ian Smith’s fault?

Right from the moment he entered the stage following the death of his predecessor Anthony Crosland, Owen displayed undisguised contempt for then Prime Minister Ian Smith and his lieutenants. Wielding enormous power and influence, he was a full-blooded left-wing socialist who was going to seize the political opportunity to show black Africa how much he despised the white colonials and their ‘rebel’ leadership – and this he did.

Ian Smith described him at their first meeting as “… one of those petty little men trying to fill a job which was too big for him, using an arrogant posture in the hope that this will impress his audience.” who “… drawled on with his sanctimonious utterings”. At a later stage, on arrival in Salisbury for meetings with a delegation that included US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and UN Ambassador Andrew Young, Ian Smith wrote fondly of the polite and respectful demeanour displayed by both of the Americans while describing Owen sweeping in “… with a grand expression of self-importance on his face … which his meagre and slouching physique was unable to match.” Smith goes on to describe how Owen, then brushed brusquely past him and his team and with a gleeful flourish engaged and embraced all attendees who did not happen to have white skins including an overawed messenger who Owen mistook for a politician.

Unsurprisingly, Ian Smith again found himself up against a British bigot whose mind was made up and who was hostile to any political dispensation that did not immediately favour Mugabe and the militant extremists. This became crystal clear following the butchering of British missionaries and their children by a ZANLA gang at Elim Mission in the Vumba Mountains of eastern Rhodesia. Owen worked energetically to play this atrocity down and then when press attention persisted, he suggested the Rhodesian army was responsible which we now know thanks to the confessions of some of the perpetrators, was a monstrous lie. Rhodesian negotiators were up against a British-built brick wall of bigotry, and thus an opportunity to find a way out the political quagmire was missed, and the British  drove the country down the road to ruin.

Years later, on reflection, while acknowledging his role in saving Mugabe from assassination and helping secure his path to power, Owen implies he was right. “Assassination was not the route to peace..” and then contradicts himself: “… if we could have avoided Mugabe being the top man then the history of Zimbabwe would have been a great deal better one”. This is disingenuous and dishonest; the fact is he refused to listen to those who tried to tell him this very fundamental fact at the time because he was willfully blinded by his bigotry against the Rhodesians.  They pleaded with him to be reasonable and fair but he ignored white or black moderates who were not calling for the extreme solution demanded by the Frontline States and most of Africa.

Owen’s assertion that, “Ian Smith was the problem since he could not compromise with reality.” does not stand up to history. This is the same man who settled with the British government in 1972 when Douglas Home was Foreign Secretary; agreed, with much reluctance, to John Vorster’s ill-advised, Détente initiative in 1974; buckled to Kissinger’s demands in 1976; ultimately agreed to a rapid but orderly transfer to black rule; and held the only genuinely free and fair general election in the history of the country, when he handed power to Bishop Abel Muzorewa. The problem for Smith was whatever he did, short of handing over everything to Robert Mugabe, was never enough for the likes of David Owen.

To be sure, Owen was representative of many of his countrymen who simply loathed white Rhodesians, and I think this was at least partly because their distant African cousins, along with a strong Afrikaner community and their energetic and hard-working black compatriots, had been too successful at building a fast developing multi-racial, African nation and they resented this. Just as Hilary Clinton, would refer to 70 million Trump supporters as ‘deplorables’, white Rhodesians were similarly vilified by the British Establishment..

Like all liberals, convinced of their moral superiority and rectitude and overflowing with arrogance, Lord Owen, is simply unable to admit he made a mistake …    he ‘knew’ he was totally right in his actions – never had any doubt about the value of what he achieved.

Mind you, would anyone really want to admit that he played a pivotal role in orchestrating the destruction of a vibrant young country, brimful of promise, and thereby condemned millions of innocents to lives of poverty and misery, and thousands of others to premature deaths?  Probably not!


By Managing Editor

Highly respected, Writer, Blogger, Wildlife Conservationist, Hunter and Father.......

23 thoughts on “A Letter to Lord David Owen”
  1. One item you don’t mention is the slaughter of 20,000 or more civilians in Matabeleland in 1982-84. The Brits (and David Owen) new that this was happening and did nothing, said nothing.

    1. Quite so. Obviously David Owen was no longer in office then. Mrs Thatcher was at the helm and I think Geoffrey Howe was FS?? And yes, another, deafening silence!.

  2. To Vernon Vivian.
    With respect, you are showing how ignorant you are in respect of the basic facts about why we Rhodesians, both black and white, (between 60 and 70% of the Rhodesian security forces were black VOLUNTEERS) decided to fight against Communist terrorism.
    You – “Black majority rule was inevitable.” It was not so much black majority rule that worried us, it was the TYPE of black majority rule the world wanted to ram down our throats that worried us. It was crystal clear from what had happened in countries to our north what we were in for if we simply rolled over and allowed them to have their way with us. Do you think it was unreasonable for Ian Smith to request that both blacks and whites should equally share in the running of the country? After all it was was essentially the whites who had brought such prosperity, stability and progress to the country. From what we see in Zimbabwe today, it is only the very foolish and wilfully ignorant who cannot see that Rhodesia was right in her predictions of what would come about as a result of the British brand of “Majority Rule.” Sadly, people never learn.

  3. Ultimately, David Owen is just another socialist spin doctor whose rhetoric has left a legacy of suffering for those he still purports to have served, and who will continue to downplay the damage actually done. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

  4. Thank you again Hannes. One thing in common amongst all the the Brits that were involved in the betrayal of Rhodesia is a complete lack acknowledgement or shame that they broke a thriving country and ruined the lives of millions of Rhodesians, black and white. There is not a single one of those pompous asses who has the integrity or balls to admit they were wrong . Perfidious Albia

    1. Patrick, I agree, I would feel very different about people like Lord Owen and associates if they had the guts to admit their mistakes but it is this incredible arrogance and twisting of the facts that makes me so angry. As I wrote, I find this is familiar trait among those who call themselves liberals.

      1. I agree with Lord Owens. Black majority rule was inevitable.Ian Smith could and should have negotiated a transfer of power that better served the interests of all Zimbabweans before a war that left power in the hands of the extremists and military. I am tremendously sad for all those men and women who lost their lives in a war that should never have been fought…

    2. Yes. That is why Rhodesians must hold their heads to the fire and call them out for what they really are. Hannes does a brilliant job of that right here.

  5. In my book, “Kwacha”, about my less than illustrious career as a Northern Rhodesia Police Officer, I say that the British were so inept at handling the new black powers, They say exactly what you say (and it is not that you are so clever Hannes, its obvious for all to see). And yet, no protests around the world at racism in RSA and useless and cruel governing in Zim.

    I doubt it will get better, But when the Chinese rule all of southern Africa, shortly, the African peoples will blame whites and gag at accepting the new anthem, “Yes, we have no Bwanas” and their inability to progress will be forever gone. Hong Kong is also a British negotiated settlement. Pathetic.

  6. When that great big universal supreme court, with the 12 Apostles sitting on 12th thrones judging the 12 tribes, be sure that the likes of Mugabe, Nkomo, Michel, Kaunda et el will be told to “Sit over there while they deal with the likes of Owen, Kissenger, Harold Wilson, John Voster and Margaret Thatcher first.

  7. No words to describe this evil Lilly livered prick – he hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about and never has – obviously psychologically impaired and doesn’t realise it….

  8. Just the sort of response you would expect from a gutless, liberal, hand-wringing, appeasing representative of Perfidious Albion, the most treacherous bunch to ever walk the earth. I am shocked the idiot even replied.

  9. Thanks – Always interesting to reflect
    Owen was right in saying Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo would have done a better job if he had not been out-maneuvered.
    He cared about the people – Mugabe did not
    I had to deal with both while at Triangle Sugar in the 80’s.
    We need only reflect the facts of what Rhodesians achieved in 90 years.
    Those of us that were witness will pass too soon.
    The facts are there – even the Black population now acknowledges this!
    It certainly is worth documenting for posterity especially the agriculture and the manufacturing – maybe Hannes Wessels should apply his mind and journalistic talents, in a positive manner ? ‘Though he might need a leavening hand from a ‘left-leaning liberal’ !
    Best aye, Chris J Lightfoot

  10. 1. “All the time the fighting on the ground meant Ian Smith was losing control of more and more of the country and Mugabe was gaining more territory and with it a larger army and with that more voters. ” Totally wrong, Rhodesians were winning the war, it was your politics that was the problem.
    2. “The world had changed, Botswana next door proved that black majority government could be made to work, and it still does in that country.” Totally wrong, your world had changed where appeasement was the norm, not ours where merit was the criterior. Both Khama and Smith rejected appeasement, BUT Botswana is a very different country to Rhodesia. Totally not even comparable for many reason which you as a diplomat should know fully well. The Khamas were committed Christians and had been for generation whereas mugabe and nkomo were atheist communist socialists egged on by liberals such as yourself. Easy to obfuscate as you no doubt did for your own personal and selfish gain.
    3.I suggest you read more about what actually went on during this period. Not just what I have written but others too looking back. I wrote my account in my autobiography ” The arrogance of that statement tells us all about your agenda which was one of capitulation for the nefaious one world order which is failing as we speak, Your ignorance of the situation is abhorrent to say the least and deserves to be recorded as such. Just because you wrote about it means little and tells us more about you than the truth. Not long before you are shaking hands with mugabe machel, and nkomo in hell I shall noit mourn your expiration.

  11. They’re all the same. They all lie with a straight face. We still have them fiddling and worming like maggots here. Also a Lord- Lord Robin Renwick. George Soros also involved.

    1. John, I agree with your sentiment that they are all the same.
      I fear in forty years’ time a comparable discussion will raise its hideous head. They may use the same rhetoric used in this forum to describe us. And ask why we did not have the ‘balls’ to stop the current socialist Marxist wave that is sweeping through our institutions, fragmenting family units and splintering our society.
      There is a devious allegiance to the hierarchy of ideologies. Their strategy of influence is to gain a consistent individual and public commitment to compliance. Their method of persuasion is to lay claim to a reputable source, re-define the ideological message, and target a particular audience.
      Now add Asch’s study of ‘conformity of one against an undivided majority’, and we realize how subtle the conditioning and compliance has been
      It is important to document the past, but we cannot change it. We can influence the future..

  12. What arrogance, ignorance and contempt is all I can read from this spineless, lying idiot!! He has the audacity to mention the tragic death of Machel and not a single mention of the atrocities committed during and after the war on innocent civilians! May he rot in hell!

  13. Useless bloody twinkle toed chinless prick. Please send me his address and I’ll send him a letter, with more facts

  14. As a young Rhodesian who grew up in the days of the civil conflict, and an Eagle School boy, evacuated shortly before the Elim mission murder event at that same venue, I have been reading with interest the posts around the betrayal/s of the time that has lead to that beautiful country’s demise. I am not one who has the privilege of behind the scenes knowledge of what actually was said and what was agreed in those last days, but certainly, there is enough smoke to gather a nasty fire took place. What has struck me for so long is the same handover events taking place from various colonies to govts of local governance broadly in Africa. I know with certainty that those Colonial rulers of the time, knew exactly the very nature of the people they were handing their countries over to, since they have governed those nations already for some time, and there was never any doubt as to the style of African rule. Democracy was always the marketed agenda, knowing full well that Africa has no respect for such rule. Knowing that Africa has a distinct lack, written plainly across the pages of history, very little compassion for its people, or any responsibility for their people’s well being, or any respect for technology, or a work ethic to want to keep such technology employed and improved, since maintenance is a complete myth in the culture. Africa, in it broken state, as it stands, is evidence enough of where it is today. So while these politicians might attempt to defend their actions, there is no way their intelligence services, their own previously involved civil service structures and their own governance records did not reflect all of this. I say these people knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it with skill and deviance to achieve what I believe to be a broader strategy to see Africa undermined. 1) Africa has the greatest potential of any continent on earth; minerals, agriculture, tourism. These threaten the very way of life for the larger players, since a Rhodesia of its potential of its time in the 50’s,60’s and 70’s, expanded into the continent of Africa would surely have threatened the future of any of other more powerful economies, and very likley have unseated them. 2) To disable Africa, allows these foreign (often previous Colonial masters) to exploit Africa at leisure knowing Africas’ weak underbelly of bribery and unwillingness to produce, but rather give away their natural resources instead of exploiting them for their own gain and then benefit their own people. Communists quickly learned that they could using similar tactics also acquire easy ‘friends’ by providing the armaments to further add division among the existing rivalry of the locals, whose only interests in brokering anything valuable, is for themselves.
    Africa, now a defeated and great begging bowl of the world, furthermore in the peoples hearts, they believe that Africa is poor. That is the great lie – Africa possess such wealth in every arena, but as long as the lie is stitched into the hearts of the African, they can never believe otherwise, since their own governments have done everything to impress that mindset upon the people.
    There are a few in Zimbabwe that I know of that are working on changing that view. Slowly these agricultural projects are leading the way to show the locals, mainly two things a) that hope is not encumbent on the actions of your government, but hope is found in the Creator God of our world, and that His resources are endless, if we choose to acknowledge Him and obey His rules for life and governance b) that the climate of Africa, with training and a willing spirit to learn, and work with responsibility, to care for your family, neighbour and community, is proving that life in Africa changes from hopeless to hopeful. The change needs to happen at the level of the heart, to follow God’s Biblical guiding principles of life, with respect for humankind – Africa still has tremendous possibilities, because this world, while it may appear differently, does not belong to any government, but to the God who made it, and He hasn’t changed or gone into hiding. Matthew 6:25 says “. Do Not Worry

    25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?
    28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
    None of the Mr Owens’es of this world can interfere with His plans for Africa..

  15. Hannes, Owen is in the same court as Tony Blair – living on their own importance. TB has still to answer to sending the Brits into an unjust war and to which the Brits are still recovering from. Again, these type of politicians are not undertaking the employment for the benefit of their country and folk, but rather for their own importance. At the end of the day, we Rhodesians can still hold our heads up high with no guilt.

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