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Inside/Out with Professor Reginald H Austin, lawyer, humanist, Zimbabwean
June 16, 2010

Full interview with Reg Austin

Describe yourself in five words?
I am a: Zimbabwean, Humanist, Internationalist, Generous, Listener.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Think before you speak.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
In November 1965, together with some friends from home in London, incensed by the Rhodesia Front's treasonable "independence coup", we formed the Association of Loyal Rhodesians and demonstrated in Trafalgar Square, demanding that the British Government act to end the coup, by the use of force if necessary. And thus do what it had never done in almost 100 years of constitutional responsibility for the interests of the disenfranchised indigenous black population of Southern Rhodesia, The demand was not ridiculous, but unfortunately the assumption that Britain would act was.

What is your most treasured possession?
Nothing material, though I like my books, but the love, respect and affection of my family and friends is indispensable to me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loss of health and dignity, or becoming a committed pessimist.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
In the late 1990's when I worked in Sweden, I started walking in the Arctic in the early summers. You can walk for days there, and, if you choose your route, never see another person. Which is strange because I enjoy the company of others.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I am not unduly concerned about appearances, mine or others, so I don't have any strong feelings on that.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I have never been able to afford real extravagance, but I did wish to fly on the Concord, which is an extravagance. Luckily I did fly the Concorde once, to New York on a job, my employers paid, but it was an extravagance.

What is your greatest fear?
I need to separate my public from my private fears. My greatest public fear concerns the future of Zimbabwe and of the world at large. Personally, I fear failing to do what I know I should do with regard to my family, my friends and my country.

What is your favourite journey?
I love train travel, and as a student in the 1950's, I always enjoyed the long journey from Bulawayo, through Botswana to and from Cape Town.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I admire those who do what their job or their principles demand of them, especially in difficult circumstances. I judge heroism on a whole life, lived and died. I have been very fortunate to witness heroism personally in such people as the late Joshua Nkomo, J.Z. Moyo, Mangena, Tongogara and Mafela. There are other people, such as Judges, whose calling sometimes demands a special heroic integrity. An early such hero, for me as a young lawyer, amongst others since, was Chief Justice Tredgold who, in 1959, resigned rather than be involved in applying that antithesis of justice and the Rule of Law: The Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. My other heroes are more day-to-day people who show amazing, unprescribed courage and resolution when the need for heroism is suddenly thrust upon them. In my experience these have included, United Nations' Volunteers, and the national women electoral workers in Afghanistan who, like others elsewhere, resolutely faced, and often suffered, death to help bring the right to vote to their people.

When and where were you happiest?
Privately: When relaxing with family and good friends. Publicly: reflecting with colleagues on a job well done.

What's your biggest vice?
One's vices evolve. Mine have gone from too much youthful time spent on extra-mural interests, to becoming a workaholic with work I love to do.

What were you like at school?
My academic work was satisfactory, my sporting performance poor, and my contact with "the establishment" minimal.

What are you doing next?
Do my best on what is expected of me, and enjoy my loved ones, family and friends.

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