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Garfield Todd, 93; Missionary Became Top Rhodesian Official

October 14, 2002|From Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Sir Garfield Todd, a former prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was once known, died Sunday after a stroke. He was 93.

Todd died in a hospital in the western city of Bulawayo, said his daughter Judith, a leading Zimbabwean human rights activist.

Prime minister from 1953 to 1958, Todd backed his country's independence from Britain for two decades before it was finally granted in 1980. He later became a bitter critic of President Robert Mugabe, and earlier this year was stripped of his passport and vote under draconian new citizenship laws.

Born in Invercargill, New Zealand, Todd went to Southern Rhodesia in 1934 as a missionary for the Church of Christ and helped run a school about 250 miles southwest of the capital Harare.

The school produced many of the country's black political leaders, who studied and later taught there.

Todd entered parliament for the governing white supremacist United Party in 1946. His rugged good looks, fluent oratory and lucid memory smoothed his path to the premiership in 1953.

In power, Todd deployed white troops to crush striking black mineworkers and faced mounting unrest over unpopular land reforms.

But he also felt that at least some blacks deserved the right to vote and enter politics and believed that compromise would secure the whites' future.

"These were reasonable things, but the whites only saw it as losing their privilege, and they were right. But it was an artificial privilege," Todd told Associated Press in 2000.

Todd claimed that he was ousted by white reactionaries bent on blocking black advancement, but colleagues said that his autocratic unpredictability triggered his replacement by Edgar Whitehead.

Out of office, Todd joined African nationalist leaders in 1960 in a call for British troops to remove Whitehead by force.

His critics accused him of doing little to advance democracy while in power and of trying to reinvent himself as a liberal and build a black constituency to restore his waning political influence.

When Whitehead was replaced by Ian Smith, who declared unilateral independence from Britain in 1965, Todd was restricted to his ranch.

He was twice detained during the 1972-80 independence war.

Nominated a senator after Zimbabwe's 1980 independence, Todd at first strongly supported Mugabe's policies, but later accused him of allowing rampant corruption to destroy the hopes of a rising black generation.

Todd was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 1989, with Mugabe's approval, at the behest of the New Zealand government.

Early this year, Zimbabwean officials denied Todd a vote in presidential elections because he had been born in New Zealand, claiming he had forfeited his Zimbabwean citizenship.

Todd's wife, Grace, died last year. In addition to his daughter Judith, he is survived by two other daughters and two grandchildren.

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