Hannes Wessels,

It was with great sadness that I read a recent article reminding readers of some of the extraordinary feats of nation-building that took place in the country that used to be known as Rhodesia.

Only seven years after the Union Jack was hoisted at Fort Salisbury in 1890 the first rail link connecting the new country to the outside world reached Bulawayo. With Cecil Rhodes’ funding and ‘the Founder’ hurrying him on, big George Pauling, when not quaffing a reputed crate of beer a day, supervised the completion of the last 644 kilometres from Mafikeng to Bulawayo in four hundred days: below budget and ahead of time.

But needing quick access to the sea the redoubtable Leander Starr Jameson recced the port of Beira and so began the building of the line through then Portuguese East Africa to the border town of Umtali. With Pauling again in command, the line cut through a swampy wilderness and tropical jungle riddled with lions and malaria. In the first two years 60% of the labour had died of malaria. This did not stop them setting records. A visiting French engineer estimated that three-quarters of a kilometre could be laid in a day. Under the watchful eye of the incredulous Frenchman, Pauling’s people laid nine kilometres before the sun went down. European contractors were ordered to supply details for inscription on their tombs before starting work. In 1898, when the line reached Umtali, the survivors smashed their gravestones.

In order to link Northern and Southern Rhodesia it took the settlers just 14 months to construct the 205-metre-long bridge across the gorge, 126 metres above the Zambezi, downstream from the Victoria Falls. Rhodes insisted it be close enough to the waterfall to mist the windows of the trains that would soon pass. It stands solid to this day.

By the turn of the century work on new lines had begun. Bulawayo and Salisbury were linked in 1902 and by 1904 they were connected to the Victoria Falls.

When the 329-metre-long Birchenough Bridge across the Save River was completed in 1935 it was the 3rd largest suspension bridge in the world.

During the Great Depression, it was mainly impoverished white settlers who went to work and cut the strip roads through the wild countryside that provided the infrastructure that would later link the towns and cities.

When WWII interrupted progress the Rhodesian government faced a problem. While Britain and the other colonies introduced conscription to compel the citizenry to serve, Salisbury introduced rules to force them to stay. Such was the rush to fight, the fear was the colony would be bereft of men if action was not taken. While many went to fight abroad, the colony provided the training facilities for a third of the Allied fighter pilots that flew in the conflict.

In 1955 work commenced on damning the Zambezi at Kariba gorge. At the time it was one of the biggest construction projects of the kind ever embarked upon. Despite difficult logistics and harsh conditions the world’s largest man-made water reservoir was completed four years later in 1959. The electricity required to power economic growth in the colony was assured.

When the Portuguese abandoned Africa and Samora Machel’s Frelimo took power in 1975, one of his first actions was to close the border and block the country’s access to the sea. A solution had to be found if the country were to survive and the solution lay in connecting to South Africa through Rutenga and Beit Bridge. Consulting engineers estimated the time need for completion to be two years, but the line was completed in a world record time of just 93 days: 21 months ahead of schedule. At the time, the country was the target of comprehensive United Nations imposed sanctions and at war.

Reminded of these events, it was another reason to reflect on what might have been, if the world, most of which was deeply hostile to the people initiating and managing the incredible progress underway, had not been so destructive in their demands. It is important to note, none of this was conducted with the use of involuntary labour, and all of it was paid for and managed by adventurous, enterprising Europeans with their own hard-earned resources.

Thanks to the actions of those who followed, a country that once hovered on the cusp of being an economic powerhouse was destroyed. Today, most of this infrastructure is badly damaged and derelict. Kariba Dam generates little, or no power and the railway system seldom operates. The citizenry is impoverished. Alas, what could so easily have been the heartbeat of Africa, generating growth and opportunity that would have spread beyond its borders providing wealth and opportunity for millions, has become a disappearing dream.

 It seems none of the achievements mentioned above were considered in mitigation when leaders of the democratic West, along with the Soviets and the Chinese, demanded radical change and a political dispensation that would exclude the very people that wrought such astonishing development in so short a time.

Meanwhile, the airwaves of the modern world are filled with hysterical demands for Britain and other former colonial powers reparations for the alleged crimes of colonialism.

Few dare consider the indisputable fact the suffering of Africans before or after the imperial era is on another scale, and of another nature altogether; genocide, economic and infrastructural collapse, disease, war, dictatorships, corruption and lawlessness. Against this backdrop, the countries being called to account have donated some Five Trillion dollars to these countries in various forms of aid. Most of it has been stolen or squandered. This begs the question as to why these ‘liberators,’ the perpetrators responsible for this human tragedy are not called to account, let alone prosecuted. While that question hangs, we do now know, that the so called ‘liberation struggles’ were actually wars of acquisition; the victors used political power to plunder vast amounts of wealth for the benefit of a tiny minority that they have played no part in generating.

22 thoughts on “Good Deeds Condemned”
  1. How very informative.

    I vividly recall the day Mugabe’s men marched past the American Embassy (3 bedroom house) so very ignorant of what the future held for Zim. It breaks my heart ❤️ heart ❤️ everytime I go back. A terrible loss for all of us who wanted only the best.

  2. The West’s attitude to Africa? Mix these factors into the political stew – a declining and weak West, a concurrent rise in WOKEDOM, imagined guilt, the bellicose US superpower with no colonial past or experience, a continent with a tribal population horribly misguided by the Left and lagging way behind the developed world, Russian destabilization.
    Now who, unless they have no alternatives, would want to bother with this mucky lot ?

    1. Dear All
      I have just read the very informative article by Hannes Wessels ‘Good Deeds Condemned’ It was most interesting to read the incredible progress through hard work and innovation of the developing infrastructure of early Rhodesia. What great men of vision and hard work!
      May I also thank all those who commented on this article with such accurate descriptions from the decline of present Western Civilisation ( started many years before ) to communist infiltration ( now re-named Post Modernism) that is intent on re-writing our history and taking over our universities and civil servants – it is the enemy within that is a far greater threat than the enemy outside our boarders.
      I have also read two great books The Battle for Rhodesia by Douglas Reed 1966 – which puts Rhodesia’s struggle in a Left Wing world context – very powerful narrative. Also ‘The Fabric of Terror’ Bernardo Teixeira 1965 about mass murder in Northern Angola ( a prelude to Rhodesia’s coming struggle ) this book was suppressed by the UN – it was one of most disturbing I have read-
      Once again a great article – many thanks Hannes – keep the good work by all those who contribute to Africa Unauthorised!
      Dr Richard Pim

      1. Thanks Richard. I’ve not heard about the book on Angola? I look forward to reading it. I’m afraid we may have lost the war for the minds of the young who have been very successfully subverted and they now dominate the political arena where they are doing an excellent job of destroying some of the most successful civilisations in history.

  3. Well spoken, Hannes, and, as George Orwell would probably have said in reply, you would doubtless be guilty of treason in the country of your birth, for the telling of the truth!

  4. Black rule, and with it misrule, was, alas, inevitable. The descent of Rhodesia into a basket-case Zimbabwe is being replayed in South Africa.

  5. Excellently stated words of truth, sanity and reality in a rampantly bewildering destructive environment where they are so rare. Well said Hannes.

  6. Another good one Hannes. Apparently the time the Rutenga/Beitbridge railway was put in after Mozambique fell was also a world record and done when when our backs were against the wall fighting for our survival.

  7. The plundered wealth goes back to where it came from, the coffers of those who gave it.
    ‘Corruption is the finest missionary in the service of the Priesthood of the Money World’.

  8. Hi Hannes
    Another excellent but heartbreaking article. I have just finished an excellent book called Great days about the life of Frank Johnson who at the age of 23 contracted with Rhodes to enlist and equip the Pioneer Corps, cut a 400 mile road from Palapye to Mount Hampden, occupy Mashonaland and hand it over for civil administration all within 9 months.

    He was also responsible for opening up a route from Beira into Rhodesia long before the railway was built. I was surprised how little recognition was afforded him for all he did in the founding of Rhodesia and how much glory went to the men who held the purse strings.

    Hannes keep up the good work- there are so many appreciative of your articles and in closing I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas

  9. Thank you Hannes for your excellent article. It is becoming clear that as time goes by and world politics and events unfold, the history and demise of our once great country is being revealed as part of a bigger WEF agenda . This agenda was already in place by the time WW 2 ended ( Churchill /Stalin /Rooseveld Accord ). All I can say at this late chapter in my life….is that I fear for my grandchildren and their welfare in the future !

    1. Don’t fear Ian, the WEF are dead in the water. We are living in the most exciting time in history … all good on the other side for our grand kids. Zim will exceed all expectation and tyrants will never ever destroy her again. A win win for ALL. Not too far off now. Blessings to you and yours and Hanes for an excellent article. How we loved our Rhodesia … the world has benefited from Rhodesia’s dispersement. Perhaps a home coming is still on the cards.

  10. Great article Hannes. However the demise of Rhodesia was in the wind long before it happened. I’m not sure if you’ve read “The Battle for Rhodesia” by Douglas Reed, once and renowned historian, but brought down by his controversial views on exposing plans to bring about a one world government. He wrote that book in 1966 and in it he declared Rhodesia was the only country holding up the plan of the globalists. Of course we were brought down by international finance.

    Here we are today with the conspiracy theory out in the open with WEF’s The Great Reset with no-one to stop them. They want to depopulate the world starting with 30% reduction in use of fertiliser (ask the Dutch). With African leaders fleecing their own pockets at the expense of their own people, who will begin to starve, followed by the rest of the third world! Then who?

  11. Yes the positive side of the ‘colonial story should be told and not forgotten. Add to this the impacts of ‘settlement’ on the overall population’s benefits to health and mortality, nutrition and education between 1900 and 2000, and compare those rising trends with the rapid declines in average living standards that have taken place since 2000. Let’s hope these can be somehow reversed by better future leadership.
    Southern Rhodesia was not a ‘colony’ in the same way as other British settled counties (e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi), in that SR had self-government after1926 – where local residents ran the country, in some areas with communal leaders – not a system of colonial civil servants mainly from the UK on short term contracts running government. Yes there was discrimination and separate development, but half the country was available only to tribal people under communal management. Whites could not purchase that land. The multiracial University of Zimbabwe provided graduate and postgraduate degrees to all races, un-equalled over most of Africa.
    One could go on and on, but I shall stop there. My black African friends and ex-work colleagues from Rhodesia are now virtually destitute, having lost pensions and all other benefits from years of employment. They live mainly in poverty and look back at the days of Rhodesia with longing and remorse. While some celebrated the Mugabe independence of 1980 for a while, all I know are now very disappointed by the outcomes. Vast numbers died of malaria, AIDS and COVID19. Meanwhile, millions of black and white Rhodesian-born diaspora live around the globe sending money to their long-suffering relatives who remained ‘at home’. Thousands of diaspora yearn to go back to Africa, but Zimbabwe’s desperate economic circumstances and corrupt government have prevented that so far.

  12. Excellent article Hannes. And a great timely reminder of just what was achieved in Rhodesia. Before it was trashed.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Wow, I did not know a lot of that Hannes, thanks, some amazing stuff there.

    The world’s (and specifically the MSM’s) limitless propensity for ignoring inconvenient truths of Africa’s colonial past is without parallel. And shameful. People unfamiliar with the industry of the Southern Rhodesians will probably dismiss this fascinating history as utter BS.

    And not long from now records of this telling history will likely disappear, like those road names bearing testimony and giving just acknowledgement to Rhodesia’s erstwhile industrious heroes already have, only to be replaced by the names of some very mediocre wannabes of doubtful pedigree involved in the “struggle” (to free countries from their incredibly effective builder / managers).

    This is the elephant in the room called Africa, where across the board the solid infrastructure and commercial excellence of countries handed intact and functioning to the “liberators” has been trashed and squandered, and we now live in intermittent darkness, our roads and railways in disintegrated disarray, and everything that can be broken or stolen, has been broken or stolen.

    Accountability for theft and destruction? Some gratitude maybe??? Don’t be silly. Nothing whatsoever on offer there.

    Just a deliberate and psychotic disparaging of the facts, while incredibly blaming Africa’s current state of abject ruin and demise on the hapless people like Lodzi, who against all odds actually built and paid for modern Africa (although it is fast being returned to its precolonial state!), and brought her kicking and struggling into the realms of modern civilisation.

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