That second rater Malcolm Fraser doing his best Vichy performance

April 18, 2008 |

It was said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a second rate mind but a first rate personality while Richard Nixon had a first rate mind and a second rate personality.  No argument who was the better President and who left the more enduring mark on the nation.  Malcolm Fraser has a second rate mind and a third rate personality.  His latest scribblings in today’s Australian highlight his bankrupt legacy and his penchant for weasle words.  Better that he fessed up and said he got it wrong from the get go.  If he said “Mugabe was bad, I didn’t see it.”  Then he could have said “…and I left a weak legacy as a Prime Minister and left it to the ALP to make the changes that the country desperately needed.” 

His article is a marvel in doublespeak, evasion and assertion.  It does give an insight into the shallowness of his reasoning and his one constant, rising to protect his ever diminishing modest legacy.

 FACT, mythology and vain hope are mixed together in Hal Colebatch’s article about Robert Mugabe. Certainly Mugabe should have gone, and long ago, but Colebatch has a short memory of history.

  • As is Fraser’s way he doesn’t identify what he claims is myth and vain hope. 

A veteran Australian diplomat was leading a delegation of observers during the election that Mugabe’s party won.

  • And who might that be Malcolm.  Easy to referred to an unnamed source….

He would ask people in the villages about the recent past.

  • Which village?  And the old “he would” do this and do that.  Witnesses who say “I would have” and “could have” invite a torrid cross examination.  There is plenty to cross examine Fraser over. 

How difficult had it been? Was there anyone who would help you when you needed it? Would the government people help you? No. What about Bishop Abel Muzorewa; were his people any help? Don’t be foolish. Was there anyone you could turn to for help? The local Mugabe man.

  • What homespun drivel which can not be substantiated or tested.  Unnamed diplomats passing on second hand about unnamed persons from an unidentified village.  Really, really credible.


That diplomat predicted a Mugabe victory in an election, largely organised and sponsored by the British and Ian Smith’s regime.

  • Again with the eponymous diplomat.  And so what if he predicted victory.  Should anyone have backed Mugabe from the get go.

The diplomat’s questioning gave a simple answer as to why. Any effort to install Muzorewa in power would have involved Margaret Thatcher taking her army out of Northern Ireland and placing it in what became Zimbabwe.

  • And his evidence is what?  An assertion backed up by nothing.  Here is a thought.  What about Joshua Nkomo. 

If you are not prepared to impose a solution, which she was not, you have to have a solution the warring parties are prepared to accept. It was that simple argument that led to Thatcher’s change of mind and to her acceptance that there needed to be change in Zimbabwe.

  • Again with the “only one alternative.”  What nonsense.  Mugabe came out of the bush with blood on his hands and up to his elbows.

Nothing I say should be taken as condoning any of the excesses of a most terrible regime but, for those who have asked in recent years, I have spoken my mind quite plainly.

  • He speaks plainly in two stages.  Says the first 10 years were good and then says it was awful.  The reality was that Mugabe showed his teeth from early on both with Nkomo and dissenters in the countryside.

Years ago there were significant disturbances in Harare. CARE had then, and still has, an office operating in the country. The director of the office rang me to make sure that I did not say anything publicly about the disturbances in Zimbabwe because he feared it would put at risk people working in CARE in remote parts of the country. It was advice I accepted at the time.

  • Who in Care said this?  Again with unnamed types.  Gutless writing.  Now Malcolm is suffering in silence for the sake of others.  Yeah right!

Because the past 15 years have been so increasingly bad, people forget that initially Mugabe started reasonably well.

  • That is just plain wrong.  Mugabe killed at least 10,000 in the mid 80s, 5 or so years into his tenure.  He sent a North Korean trained brigade into the bush and killed dissenters. 

While his first wife, Sally, a Ghanaian, was alive,

  • Here is the rationale Fraser trots out.  Sally was the steadying influence so while she was around the government had the “good” Mugabe (the one Fraser dealt with)

the government was much more moderate.

  • Try telling that to the victims of the 80s.

He sat down and discussed reconciliation with Smith.

Given the past relationship between Smith and Mugabe, I doubt if I would have been able to do that.

  • Relevance?

When Mugabe was in jail, Sally Mugabe was in England and their only child, a boy aged five or six, was very ill. An English bishop said he would play hostage for Mugabe in jail in what was then Salisbury if Smith would allow Mugabe to visit Sally and give support to her because of the severity of the child’s illness.

Smith’s answer was a blunt no: it was a communist trick, he would have none of it. Soon after, the bishop repeated the offer, but with a difference. He would be hostage for Mugabe in jail if Smith would allow Mugabe to go to England to be with Sally at the boy’s funeral. Smith’s response was as blunt as before: he had already said that it was a communist trick. The fact the child was dead did not alter that.

How many fathers could sit and talk reconciliation with such a man?

  • What a diversion.  From this Mugabe is raised up and Smith is demonised.  But it misses the point.  Mugabe was still an autocrat through this time.

It is easy to forget such instances.

  • If it isn’t mentioned it is because it is hardly relevant.

It is easy to forget the first eight or 10 years because of the deprivation, the stupidity, the brutality, the injustice, almost the rape of Zimbabwe that has occurred during recent times.

Through my life I recognise sometimes that however much you want to change a person, if they are not changeable then it won’t happen.

There is an inflexibility, a determination that is beyond reach. The Commonwealth tried on one or two occasions, but the architects of those trials were Tony Blair and John Howard. Howard led the mission on Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth showed a grievous error: a white face was not going to work, it was not going to be successful, it was going to open the door to Mugabe’s vitriol. From the outset the Commonwealth should have taken a different tack.

  • And Fraser did what at the time.  Very good to snipe at his bete noire Howard (as he does here) but what did he say or write about it.  I bet precious little.

When Olusegun Obasanjo was president of Nigeria, he certainly wanted to act in relation to Mugabe, but anything he did was not going to be successful unless he had the full support of South Africa and Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki was never prepared to give that support and still is not prepared to do what he ought to do.

All the countries of southern Africa suffer greatly because of Zimbabwe. There are three million Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa alone, exacerbating unemployment, housing and poverty, but also setting an extraordinarily bad example in terms of land policy and other policies that make it even harder for South Africa to maintain stability.

No country has more to gain from a well-governed Zimbabwe than South Africa, so why has Mbeki refused to act? Why was he unwilling to support Obasanjo? Together the two would have been supported by almost all the countries of southern Africa in seeking to change Mugabe or getting him to go. Together the two would have been a powerful voice and neither could have been accused of having a colonial history.

No white face has been capable of changing Mugabe for many years, if ever. Why the quality of his Government changed so dramatically after the death of Sally Mugabe is an open question.

  • I prefer Fraser when he just dissembles rather than moves in to pop psychology.  It is even worse when he doesn’t even do pop psychology properly.

The central mistake that Colebatch makes is failing to recognise that to keep Muzorewa, would have involved substantial British forces being sent to Zimbabwe, forces Britain did not have.

  • What is his evidence for this?  It is an assertion pure and simple based on what he writes.

Ireland was on the boil at the time and no British government would have been prepared to send forces to Zimbabwe anyway.

  • And he knows this how? 

Almost certainly it would have prolonged a civil war in Rhodesia that had already claimed more than 25,000 lives.

  • Again another assertion and no evidence.

Mugabe was installed as prime minister in Zimbabwe only after a protracted negotiated settlement that was applauded by the entire global community and a democratic process that was universally judged as free and fair.

  • He was known to be autocratic and had himself admitted to his communist adherence.  Hell, he calls his cabinet the Politburo. There were purges of the liberation movement in the bush war. 

It is a sad chapter in the history of the human race, but me playing a role and perhaps being instrumental in getting Thatcher to see that there had to be a negotiated solution, as opposed to an imposed solution, was merely recognising the reality of the time.

  • Again Fraser doesn’t say why he kept his bib shut.  Oh yes, this Care person who begged, on bended knee, for him not to say anything. For how long was that?  Fraser conveniently keeps that vague.

The quicker Fraser bows out of the public debate, or any debate, the better.  The Liberal Party long ago turned its back on him.  It is about time everyone else did.


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