- The Rhetoric of Sir Garfield Todd: Christian Imagination and the Dream of an African Democracy
Michael Casey's book approaches the life of Sir Garfield Todd (1908–2002, prime minister of Southern Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], 1953–58) through the lens of Christian rhetoric—not "rhetoric" in the popular sense of hollow verbiage, but in the older sense of effective communication and argumentation. Casey contends that Todd, a New Zealander who was the product of a Protestant divinity school and the first missionary to head a government, cannot be understood apart from his faith and his efforts at oral and written persuasion—he "remained a preacher at heart" (13).
In 1934 Todd and his wife Grace, ages 25 and 23, were sent to Dadaya Mission in Southern Rhodesia, which they revitalized and greatly expanded—by 1949 Dadaya employed 116 persons and its schools had an enrollment of three thousand students. In 1946 he entered politics, winning a seat in the all-white Southern Rhodesian parliament as part of the ruling United Rhodesia Party. When the longtime head of the party and government, Godfrey Huggins, moved up to become prime minister of the new Central African Federation, Todd—partly because of his widely admired eloquence—was chosen as Huggins's replacement. As prime minister, Todd cautiously advocated a variety of advances for the African majority, which earned him the ire of conservatives in his party; they ousted him in 1958. Relegated to the political wilderness, Todd had cast his lot with African nationalists by 1960—an astonishingly rapid turnaround. As the Federation collapsed and Ian Smith severed ties with Britain, the nationalists turned to an armed liberation struggle. Todd remained outspoken and paid the price: Smith imprisoned him on one occasion and essentially kept him under house arrest for a total of six years. After independence the victorious nationalist government led by Robert Mugabe showed its gratitude by appointing Todd a senator. Positive at first—"I would a thousand times rather be a Senator in a free Zimbabwe than be Prime Minister of. . . Southern Rhodesia" (336)—Todd in his last years became a sharp critic of Mugabe's increasingly repressive regime.
It is a remarkable trajectory, and Casey provides us much material to reflect on. The book is divided into two sections. In the first, Casey offers his [End Page 181] own analysis, based largely on Todd's own words, in which Todd progresses through three distinct phases. From 1934 to 1946 Todd emerges as compassionate but essentially paternalistic toward Africans, whom he clearly saw as primitive, but changeable. From roughly 1946 to 1957, he is the gradualist, "limited democratic" politician. Then from about 1957, just at the end of his tenure as prime minister, Todd finds his "prophetic" voice, emerging as a radical. Casey argues that Todd provides an example of "the critical role that rhetoric can play in developing deep democracy" (120)—referring to a radical vision borrowed from Cornel West. And certainly throughout the volume Casey gives us many examples of Todd's plain and fearless speaking (parrhesia); in 1959, for instance, Todd stated bluntly that the Federation's vaunted "partnership" policy "cannot flourish in a country where there is a rigid colour bar. These two concepts are irreconcilable" (246).
The second section of the book, some 220 pages, consists entirely of sermons and speeches given by Todd, organized in three subsections. The second and third parallel Casey's second and third phases of Todd's life; they include speeches from the gradualist politician followed by those from the prophetic radical. The first subsection, however, consists solely of actual sermons, from 1950 to 1970. Thus, unfortunately, we have nothing from the early paternalist period; Casey, whose diligence in the search is obvious, notes that none are extant. Nonetheless, a hint of that Todd comes through in a 1950 sermon, in which he describes local Africans as "dull, drinksodden folk" living in "dark huts, windowless, like...