“A Melancholy, Long, Withdrawing Roar”: Railways in the Economy of Southern Africa

David Williams, a former Deputy Editor of Financial Mail, and Deputy News and Sports Editor at Talk Radio 702, charts the tumultuous history of Southern African rail and asks what kind of future the regional network has.
Published 15 December 2023

On the 26th August 1975, a conference took place aboard a South African Railways (SAR) train halfway across the Victoria Falls Bridge over the Zambezi River. The river was the border between the unrecognised state of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and Zambia. The brokers of the meeting were the South African Prime Minister, BJ Vorster, and his Zambian counterpart Kenneth Kaunda – an unlikely combination, given the hostility among southern African “Frontline” states countries towards the apartheid policies of South Africa. Joining Vorster and Kaunda in the lounge car of the SAR’s presidential “White Train” was the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith.

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