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with Professor Reginald H Austin, lawyer, humanist, Zimbabwean
June 16, 2010
interview with Reg Austin
yourself in five words?
I am a: Zimbabwean, Humanist, Internationalist, Generous,
the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Think before you speak.
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.
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
do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loss of health and dignity, or becoming a committed pessimist.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
and where were you happiest?
Privately: When relaxing with family and good friends.
Publicly: reflecting with colleagues on a job well done.
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.
were you like at school?
My academic work was satisfactory, my sporting performance
poor, and my contact with "the establishment" minimal.
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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