At the beginning of 1977 the Rhodesian nation was
facing its darkest hour ever. The destruction of the country had apparently
been time-tabled by the cunning machinations of Henry Kissinger and, more
worryingly, Ian Smith was being pressurised to surrender by South African Prime
Minister John Vorster. To those in the know, however, the situation was far
more complex than this; Ian Smith had been slowly jettisoning the stronger
members of his original
To the average non-politically-aware Rhodesian it
therefore appeared as if they didn't have a friend in the outside world; even
their trusted Southern neighbour now seemed to be turning their back on them.
This was not the case however. The overwhelming majority of Whites in
Many political observers in
There were, of course, already at this time a
number of pro-Rhodesian organisations in
It was against this background that the Save
Rhodesia Campaign was founded on
Although the motivations behind the foundation of the SRC were therefore faultless, and although the organisation was expertly and professionally established, within just a few weeks of its launch the seeds were sewn which were to lead not only to its own eventual impotency, but also, as a result of this, to the complete failure of its ultimate aims. No sooner had the SRC been founded and was starting to gain publicity and to make progress than a "palace coup" was staged by Brendan Willmer, ably assisted by David Overton (something which he later came to regret greatly), and both Stanley Deane and Bernie Foyle were ousted from the organisation.
Willmer was a highly suspicious character. A
British citizen, it was subsequently discovered (shortly prior to his deportation
from South Africa in 1984) that during his previous 13 years in the country he
had never attempted to gain South African Citizenship - nor even permanent
residence! He had been involved in neo-Nazi and Hitler-cultist organisations in
Once he had ousted Deane and Foyle and seized
dictatorial control of the SRC Willmer immediately started to distance the
organisation from its natural power-base in South Africa, namely the existing
racial-nationalist and patriotic bodies in the country. The National Forum
had initially been "plugging" the SRC at its meetings and in its
journal Behind the News, but Willmer sent an arrogant and insulting letter
to Ivor Benson's wife Joan instructing them to cease this support as he did not
want to be associated with "extremist organisations". When it was
revealed that the wife of the founding Leader of the HNP, Albert Hertzog, had
joined the SRC Willmer likewise wrote to her and asked her to resign. All
officials of the SRC were similarly instructed to sever all connections with
the HNP, the National Forum and the embryo National Front of South
Africa, a body which Willmer conducted a particularly childish vendetta
campaign against, probably because of his earlier experiences with its
Willmer also started to pursue a personality cult
within the SRC. His name would appear with regular monotony on almost every
piece of literature and press release emanating from the Campaign offices.
Although he had managed to retain control of the Western Cape Region of the
SRC, the Transvaal Region had remained loyal to Deane and Foyle. Willmer's
superior organising ability managed to "rectify" this situation
within a few months however, and by using his only real supporter in the
Transvaal at the time, James Sives, Willmer was able to gain control of the
region's main asset, the SRC Office in Johannesburg. In spite of having no
support to man this office he continued to retain possession for over 12
months, paying the rental etc. for the "white elephant" regularly
from Cape Town simply in order to deny access to his opponents. In January 1978
Willmer issued a "Transvaal Interim Newsletter" from Cape Town
(complete with a nauseating picture of his own self-righteous face on the front
page) which was sent to all SRC supporters in the Province, the result of which
being that the Campaign in the Transvaal became hopelessly divided and withered
into impotency. Indeed, apart from a branch of the organisation set-up by James
Sives's brother in Pietersburg, the only place in the country outside the
Having gone out of his way to alienate support from
the organisation's natural power-base, the existing patriotic political
movements in South Africa, and having also antagonised the pro-Rhodesian
"comfort fund" organisations (bodies with whom the SRC could have and
should have co-operated closely) by treading on their toes and trying to
upstage them, Willmer then attempted (predictably unsuccessfully) to court the
favour of the National Party hierarchy and other facets of the South
African establishment. He built up a mysteriously close working relationship
with John Wiley, then the leader of the small centrist South African Party.
Wiley was prepared to chair several SRC meetings in the
In September 1978, with the vital Rhodesian
Constitutional Referendum having been set for the following January, Willmer
was to make an official speaking tour of
Once back in South Africa Willmer was pressurised
by the remaining hard-line members of the organisation (including this present
writer), and belatedly even by du Bois also, to adopt a far more positive
stance as far as advocating a "No" vote was concerned. Dr. Colin
Barlow, a leading official of the RAP, was at that time touring
The climax of the Campaign's existence, indeed the fulfilment of the very raison d'ątre for the SRC, came with the Rhodesian Constitutional Referendum of 30th January 1979. For weeks previously Campaign supporters both in the Western Cape and in Natal had been feverishly addressing envelopes which were to be sent to the entire Rhodesian Electorate advocating a "No" vote on behalf of the SRC, and indeed the White South African people as a whole. This had been a long-planned tactic of the SRC in the event of a Constitutional Referendum being called, and was of course to be the final make-or-break vindication of the Campaign's existence. This objective of the SRC, however, was sabotaged by three separate incidents, all of which were purely the work of Willmer, and all of which totally ruined the basic aim. Firstly Willmer insisted that names and addresses were taken from the Rhodesian Telephone Directory rather than from the Voters Roll (which could easily be obtained from RAP contacts within the country) as it would be "more up to date". The fact that was ignored, of course, was that the telephone directory would contain a sizeable percentage of names who were not electors (Non-Whites included!) and yet many citizens who were on the Voters Roll might not be on the 'phone. The second disaster which befell the mass-circulation campaign was the fact that although it was intended to keep the entire exercise an absolute secret (and indeed supporters who were involved in the operation were instructed to keep absolutely silent about the precise details by Willmer), a few days before the mass-mailing was to take place the great "National Director" of the Campaign blurted out details of the whole exercise to the South African press. The result, needless to say, was that the authorities both in South Africa and in Rhodesia were alerted in advance, and, as subsequent events were to prove, the vast majority of mailings were intercepted by the various postal authorities. The final disaster came to light when the Willmer-authored broadsheet which was to be sent to the Rhodesian electorate advocating a "No" vote was published. Just like his speaking tour of Rhodesia this leaflet did not spell out in detail that the SRC was opposing the new multi-racial Constitution Proposals, and indeed was extremely ambiguous and wishy-washy in this respect (evidently because Willmer once more did not want to be seen as offending the RF Government!). It was full of mere platitudes, with the back of the sheet containing the inevitable montage "plugs" for the SRC as an organisation. Even the date of the Referendum was incorrectly given! These foolish mistakes made by a one-man dictator turned the entire exercise into a disaster, and all the hard work put into the operation by supporters of the Campaign and the Rhodesian cause over the previous few months therefore came to nothing.
Belatedly both du Bois and this present writer tried to rectify the situation through the pages of the Rhodesian press, the former by privately-placed advertisements and the latter by letters to the editors, but it was all too late. The damage had already been done. Unsurprisingly even these late efforts were disapproved of by Willmer, and shortly afterwards the final breaks occurred between him and the two Durban stalwarts, the latter somewhat sooner than the former. In retrospect these breaks should have been made much earlier, but the vital urgency of the Rhodesian struggle made it essential to continue working through an established organisation, rather than attempting to set-up something new.
The rest is history. On 30th January 1979, no doubt
under the illusion that they stood alone and without a friend in the outside
world, the Rhodesian people, by an incredible 85.4% of the vote cast, voted for
voluntary national euthanasia. The Rhodesian nation was dead. Although Willmer
continued to capitalise upon the emotive term "Rhodesia" in the
Western Cape for some while thereafter in order to boost
As can be seen, therefore, although the original founding principles of the SRC were faultless, and in all probability could have proved successful if fully adhered to, the failure of the leadership of the Campaign, or more precisely of one man, to carry out the plans and tactics of the organisation as originally constituted proved to be its very ruination, and turned the entire exercise into something worse than useless.
Although the silver tongue and natural organising abilities of Willmer undoubtedly helped to publicise and gain support for the SRC in certain respects, his many faults and failings (made worse by his lack of a finalised formal education) put to naught any benefit which he may have given to the Campaign, and indeed such failings in a man who had usurped dictatorial control over the entire organisation meant that it was inevitably doomed to disaster. If we are to accept that Willmer was sincere in his beliefs (which is by no means certain, particularly in view of his counter-productive actions whilst organising the Referendum mass-circulation operation) then we can only arrive at the conclusion that he was seriously lacking in both political analysis and strategic judgement.
But everything could have been so very much different. If the support of the natural power-base of the SRC, the existing patriotic political groupings in South Africa, had not been snubbed, if the pro-Rhodesia comfort fund organisations had not been alienated, if there had been no self-defeating attempts to court the favour of polite establishment circles, such as from Wiley and the Campbell-Corders etc., if a totally unambiguous "Vote No" campaign had been conducted, then the Rhodesian people would undoubtedly have realised that they did not stand alone and that a significant body of White society in South Africa (and indeed around the Western world) wished them to carry on the struggle. They then might well have rejected the sell-out RF Government and not have voted for national suicide. If this had been the case then the Vorsterite Government in South Africa would probably have renewed their support for the Rhodesian struggle - if only for the self-interest of the South African nation as far as the security angle was concerned - for it appears that the apparent lack of resolve on the part of the Rhodesian people was one of the prime reasons why they washed their hands of them in the first place. It must be remembered in this context that spirited White resistance in South-West Africa prevented the final sell-out of that territory by the South African Government for another decade, and it must also be borne in mind that subsequent electoral gains by the right-wing parties in South Africa itself caused hasty back-peddling on the part of the NP Government. If a vibrant and high profile pro-Rhodesian lobby had been in existence in South Africa in the late 1970's then for electoral reasons, if for none other, the South African Government could not have afforded to let Rhodesia fall, particularly if this support was coupled to a proven resolve amongst the Rhodesian people themselves. If such a state of affairs had come about, and if the "No" vote had won the Constitutional Referendum, then the RF administration would have been driven from power, a genuine and strong-willed Rhodesian government centred on the RAP would have taken over the reins of power, and, in all likelihood, the Rhodesian nation would therefore still have been in existence today. If such a situation had come about then the entire geo-political position of Southern Africa would now be vastly different, and South Africa's northern borders would thus have been infinitely more secure.
This scenario may at first appear to be incredible, but a few important points must be borne in mind. Firstly the Rhodesian Armed Forces never lost a battle in the terrorist war - a war, moreover, which could have been WON if it was not for the RF's apparent no-win-war policy. Secondly international sanctions had totally failed to destroy the Rhodesian economy, and indeed the nation had successfully built up its own self-sufficient economic infrastructure which was the envy, and indeed a potential signpost, for many vastly larger Western nations. Finally the only battle which Rhodesia did lose was the psycho-political will of her people to resist - which of course brings us back to the original raison d'ątre behind the foundation of the SRC, which somehow somewhere along the road became betrayed.
A decade later, with Rhodesia destroyed, the jackals of multi-racialism and international socialism again hovered over Southern Africa, this time with the prize of South Africa itself in their mind's eye. Once again, alas, we saw the self-appointed "saviours" of the White Man emerging from nowhere, with full publicity once more ominously given to them by the establishment press. This time, however, they were noted more for their loud mouths and neo-Nazi uniforms, rather than for the silver tongue and suave suits which typified Willmer, but their lack of any academic qualifications or of any popularly elected position remained the same - as also was their refusal to co-operate with anyone else. The Whites of South Africa unbelievably made exactly the same mistake. They chose to worship insects.
Following the publication of the first edition of this article Mr. Brendan Willmer threatened to sue Patriotic Press. Although he significantly did not dispute any of the accounts concerning the Save Rhodesia Campaign itself, he made eight objections in relation to his own personal history. In the third edition of this publication we were therefore prepared to make two minor amendments (altering the term "well-founded" to "unsubstantiated, though widely believed", and the phrase "immediately fled" to "subsequently emigrated") and have also clarified the facts concerning his initial failure to apply for South African citizenship. We have, however, refused to make any alterations concerning the other five points which were objected to. We offered to issue an apology if Mr. Willmer could produce any documentary evidence of any academic qualifications, but significantly he was unable or unwilling to do so. He also declined an invitation to provide a written denial of our suggestion that he was a homosexual. The most unbelievable objection of all, however, concerned his astonishing claim that he had not been deported from South Africa - this in spite of the fact that we were able to produce 10 separate press reports detailing his deportation! Needless to say Willmer did not proceed with his threat to take legal action against us. Brendan Willmer died of AIDS in December 1999.