The colonization of Africa started as far back as the 14th century when Arab traders from Asia occupied the east coast and set up communities from present day Somalia to as far south as Mozambique.
European explorers in the 15th century, primarily from Portugal and later from the Netherlands and Britain, established settlements along the west and south coasts of the continent, which were used as resupply stations for the trade routes between Europe and India.
The Dutch East India Company, under control of the Dutch government, established a settlement at the tip of Africa, known then as The Cape of Good Hope (now Cape Town) in 1652. This was essentially a farming enterprise established to provide fresh provisions to the trade ships travelling between Holland and the East. The inhabitants of the settlement were predominantly Dutch and French Huguenots.
In 1793, at the outbreak of war between Holland and France, Britain sent troops to the Cape to guard the colony against the potential of French invasion. In June of that year 5,000 British troops arrived at the Cape and in September, forcibly relieved the Dutch government representatives of their authority over the territory.
The British orchestrated migration of volunteer citizens to the Cape Colony starting in 1820, heralded the start of discontent between the Dutch and the British and in 1835 a large contingent of Dutch settlers at the Cape started out on The Great Trek into the interior of what is today South Africa, in an attempt to distance themselves from British rule.
Africa was a vast, sparsely populated continent of which little was known. The inhabitants, people of the earth, were largely nomads. They had been exposed to none of the progressive development of the world and it is generally reported that when the Europeans discovered these tribes, they relied on subsistence farming for survival.
Clashes between the indigenous population and the “Trekkers” are well documented and this entrenched the divide between the races of Southern Africa.
The unequal relationship that was gradually created as a consequence of enslavement of Africans was justified by the ideology of racism – the notion that Africans were naturally inferior to Europeans.
This ideology, which was also perpetuated by colonialism, is one of the most poisonous legacies of this period of history and the root cause of war and rebellion in Africa.
Under the influence of Cecil John Rhodes, the British South African Company was formed in 1889 to secure and exploit the mineral wealth of Southern Africa. In particular, they were interested in the Kimberley diamonds and the resources that had been unearthed north of the Limpopo River.
Rhodes was anxious to secure Matabeleland and Mashonaland before the Germans, Portuguese or Boers did. His first step had been to persuade the Matabele King Lobengula, in 1888, to sign a treaty giving him rights to prospecting, mining and administration (but not settlement) in the area of Mashonaland. However the conditions offered by Lobengula were reneged upon by Rhodes and under his direction a column of pioneers was sent to annex Mashonaland in 1890.
This, in addition to support given to one of Lobegula’s rivals resulted in the first of the Matabele wars which lasted from 1893 to 1894. The Matabele were subdued and Lobengula was forced to flee. He was never heard of again.
In 1896 the 2nd Matabele rebellion (1st Cimurenga) was launched and once again the natives were subdued and routed.
Between 1893 and 1923 under British Charter, the British South African Company administered the colony of Rhodesia which grew and prospered. Settlements grew to towns and later to cities. The favourable conditions for agriculture and mining drew hundreds of thousands of immigrants and a wilderness was transformed into a paradise for whites. The colony was granted “self governing” rights by the British Government in 1923.
Pressure brought to bear by the British Government after World War 2, demanding non-racial elections as part of their decolonization programme, resulted in the white government rebelling against the Crown in 1965, and a Unilateral Declaration of Independence was proclaimed. The then government of Rhodesia, under the leadership of Ian Douglas Smith rightly believed that the result of such an election would lead to black majority rule. They also believed it would lead to the demise of the country’s prosperity. It was generally accepted among the descendants of white settlers of the 1890s that they were “white Africans” with absolute right to govern the country that had been developed through investment and hard work. The dissention among black politicians in the wake of UDI led to violent uprisings and ultimately to the so called 2nd Chimurenga. (The Rhodesian Bush War).
Clouds in the Wind, is a story of one man who by tragedy of circumstance becomes involved in the Rhodesian war in a land ripped apart by racial injustices and political intransigence.
As the winds of change blow through Africa, Andrew Mason, an ambitious young financial executive is a symbol of Rhodesia’s slide from prosperity to war torn infamy. The tragedy of the time is embodied in his own prosperity, his confidence in the face of adversity and the progressive realization that everything around him is gradually decaying. As one tragedy follows another, Andrew’s emotional strength is sapped, and his decline into alcoholism and isolation leaves him vulnerable and reckless.
Ian Mackenzie, author of Clouds In The Wind, served with the Rhodesian Special Air Services during the bush war from 1975 to 1980.
He was born in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and was educated at Queens College in Queenstown and at Parktown Boys High in Johannesburg. After leaving school, he studied business administration and accounting and had early success in his career as a banker.
Clouds In the Wind is by no means an autobiography, nor do any of the characters represent true life individuals. However, first hand experience together with an intimate knowledge of the history of Southern Africa has provided him with the tools to create a story that describes the true tragedy of the Rhodesian war and the effect it had on those whose lives were transformed by it.