Rhodesia (, ), officially from 1970 the Republic of Rhodesia, was an unrecognised state in Southern Africa from 1965 to 1979, equivalent in territory to modern Zimbabwe. Rhodesia was the ''de facto'' successor state to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which had been self-governing since achieving responsible government in 1923. A landlocked nation, Rhodesia was bordered by South Africa to the south, Bechuanaland (later Botswana) to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique (a Portuguese province until 1975) to the east. In the late 19th century, the territory north of the Transvaal was chartered to the British South Africa Company, led by Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes and his Pioneer Column marched north in 1890, acquiring a huge block of territory that the company would rule until the early 1920s. In 1923, the company's charter was revoked, and Southern Rhodesia attained self-government and established a legislature. Between 1953 and 1963, Southern Rhodesia was joined with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The rapid decolonisation of Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s alarmed a significant proportion of Southern Rhodesia's white population. In an effort to delay the transition to black majority rule, its predominantly white government issued its own Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965. The new nation, identified simply as Rhodesia, initially sought recognition as an autonomous realm within the Commonwealth of Nations, but reconstituted itself as a republic in 1970. Two African nationalist parties, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), launched an armed insurgency against the Rhodesian government upon UDI, sparking the Rhodesian Bush War. Growing war weariness, diplomatic pressure, and an extensive trade embargo imposed by the United Nations prompted Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith to concede to majority rule in 1978. However, a multiracial provisional government headed by Smith and his moderate successor, Abel Muzorewa, failed to appease international critics or halt the war. By December 1979, Muzorewa had replaced Smith as Prime Minister and secured an agreement with ZAPU and ZANU, allowing Rhodesia to briefly revert to colonial status pending elections under a universal franchise. ZANU secured an electoral victory at the polls, and the country achieved internationally recognised independence in April 1980 as Zimbabwe. Rhodesia's largest cities were Salisbury (its capital city, now known as Harare) and Bulawayo. From 1965 to 1978, Rhodesia possessed the distinction of being one of only two independent states on the African continent governed by a white minority of European descent and culture, the other being South Africa. Prior to 1970, the unicameral Rhodesian Legislative Assembly was predominantly white, with a small number of seats reserved for black representatives. Following the declaration of a republic in 1970, this was replaced by a bicameral Rhodesian Parliament, with a House of Assembly and a Senate. The bicameral system was retained in Zimbabwe after 1980. Aside from its racial franchise, Rhodesia observed a fairly conventional Westminster system inherited from the United Kingdom, with the President of Rhodesia acting as ceremonial head of state, while a Prime Minister headed the Cabinet of Rhodesia as head of government. This system was retained in Zimbabwe until the late 1980s, when the latter office was abolished as a result of then-Prime Minister Robert Mugabe adopting an executive presidency.


The official name of the country, according to the constitution adopted concurrently with the UDI in 1965, was Rhodesia. This was not the case under British law, however, which considered the territory's legal name to be Southern Rhodesia, the name given to the country in 1898 during the British South Africa Company's administration of the Rhodesias, and retained by the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia after the end of company rule in 1923. This naming dispute dated back to October 1964, when Northern Rhodesia became independent from the UK and concurrently changed its name to Zambia. The Southern Rhodesian colonial government in Salisbury felt that in the absence of a "Northern" Rhodesia, the continued use of "Southern" was superfluous. It passed legislation to become simply Rhodesia, but the British government refused to approve this on the grounds that the country's name was defined by British legislation, so could not be altered by the colonial government. Salisbury went on using the shortened name in an official manner nevertheless, * while the British government continued referring to the country as Southern Rhodesia. This situation continued throughout the UDI period. in The shortened name was used by many people including the British government in the House of Commons.



Until after World War II, the landlocked British possession of Southern Rhodesia was not developed as an indigenous African territory, but rather as a unique state that reflected its multiracial character. This situation certainly made it very different from other lands that existed under colonial rule, as many Europeans had arrived to make permanent homes, populating the towns as traders or settling to farm the most productive soils. In 1922, faced with the decision to join the Union of South Africa as a fifth province or accept nearly full internal autonomy, the electorate cast its vote against South African integration. In view of the outcome of the referendum, the territory was annexed by the United Kingdom on 12 September 1923.''Collective Responses to Illegal Acts in International Law: United Nations Action in the Question of Southern Rhodesia'' by Vera Gowlland-Debbas Shortly after annexation, on 1 October 1923, the first constitution for the new Colony of Southern Rhodesia came into force. Under this constitution, Southern Rhodesia was given the right to elect its own thirty-member legislature, premier, and cabinet—although the British Crown retained a formal veto over measures affecting natives and dominated foreign policy. Over the course of the next three decades, Southern Rhodesia experienced a degree of economic expansion and industrialisation almost unrivaled in sub-Saharan Africa. Its natural abundance of mineral wealth—including large deposits of chromium and manganese—contributed to the high rate of conventional economic growth. However, most colonies in Africa, even those rich in natural resources, experienced difficulty in achieving similar rates of development due to a shortage of technical and managerial skills. Small, rotating cadres of colonial civil servants who possessed little incentive to invest their skills in the local economy were insufficient to compensate for this disadvantage. Southern Rhodesia had negated the issue by importing a skilled workforce directly from abroad in the form of its disproportionately large European immigrant and expatriate population. For example, in 1951 over 90% of white Southern Rhodesians were engaged in what the British government classified as "skilled occupations", or professional and technical trades. This resulted in the establishment of a diversified economy with a strong manufacturing sector and iron and steel industries. As the white population increased, so too did capital imports, especially in the wake of World War II. The considerable investment made by European residents in the economy financed the development of Southern Rhodesia's export industries as well as the infrastructure necessary to integrate it further with international markets. In 1953, Southern Rhodesia merged with the two other British Central African states to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland – a loose association that placed defence and economic direction under a central government but left many domestic affairs under the control of its constituent territories. As it began to appear that decolonisation was inevitable and indigenous black populations were pressing heavily for change, the federation was dissolved in 1963.

Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965)

Although prepared to grant formal independence to Southern Rhodesia (now Rhodesia), the British government had adopted a policy of ''no independence before majority rule'', dictating that colonies with a population of European settlers would not receive independence except under conditions of majority rule. White Rhodesians initially balked at the suggestion; many felt they had a right to absolute political control, at least for the time being, despite their relatively small numbers. The Rhodesian authorities were also disturbed by the post-independence chaos that was plaguing other African nations at the time. However, once Rhodesia had been introduced as a topic for discussion in international bodies, extension of the status quo became a matter of concern to the world community, and what the British government perceived as a serious embarrassment to the United Kingdom. After the federal break-up in 1963, then Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home insisted that preconditions on independence talks hinge on what he termed the "five principles" – unimpeded progress to majority rule, assurance against any future legislation decidedly detrimental to black interests, "improvement in the political status" of local Africans, an end to official racial discrimination, and a political settlement that could be "acceptable to the whole population". Harold Wilson and his incoming Labour government took an even harder line on demanding that these points be legitimately addressed before a timetable for independence could be set. In 1964, growing dissatisfaction with the ongoing negotiations played a major role in the ouster of incumbent prime minister Winston Field. Field was succeeded by Ian Smith, chairman of the conservative Rhodesian Front Party and an outspoken critic of any immediate transition to majority rule. Smith, the colony's first Rhodesian-born leader, soon came to personify resistance to liberals in British government and those agitating for change at home. In September 1964, Smith visited Lisbon, where Portuguese prime minister António de Oliveira Salazar promised him "maximum support" if he should declare independence. Aside from a common interest in maintaining security ties in southern Africa, Salazar expressed a great deal of anger at Britain's refusal to support Portugal during the Indian annexation of Goa in 1961, admonishing Smith not to trust the British government.Resistance to the "Winds of Change": The Emergence of an "unholy alliance" between Southern Rhodesia, Portugal, and South Africa, 1964–65
Sue Onslow,
The Wind of Change: Harold Macmillan and British Decolonization
', edited by L. Butler and Sarah Stockwell, London: Macmillan, 2013 pages 220–221
A Rhodesian Trade Office was opened in Lisbon in order to co-ordinate breaking the anticipated sanctions in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence later that year, which encouraged Smith not to compromise. In its turn, the Rhodesian Trade Office in Lisbon functioned as a ''de facto'' embassy and caused tension with London, which objected to Rhodesia conducting its own foreign policy. As land-locked Rhodesia bordered on the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, Salazar's promise of "maximum support" from Portugal in breaking the anticipated sanctions gave Smith more grounds for self-confidence in his talks with London. Smith ruled out acceptance for all five of the British principles as they stood, implying instead that Rhodesia was already legally entitled to independence—a claim that was overwhelmingly endorsed by the predominantly white electorate in a referendum. Emboldened by the results of this referendum and the subsequent general election, the Rhodesian government threatened to declare independence without British consent. Harold Wilson countered by warning that such an irregular procedure would be considered treasonous, although he specifically rejected using armed force to quell a rebellion by English "kith and kin", or white Rhodesians of predominantly British descent and origin, many of whom still possessed sympathies and family ties to the United Kingdom. Wilson's refusal to consider a military option further encouraged Smith to proceed with his plans. Talks quickly broke down, and final efforts in October to achieve a settlement floundered; the Smith government remained unwilling to accept the five principles of independence, and the British government argued it would settle for nothing less. On 11 November 1965, following a brief but solemn consensus, the Cabinet of Rhodesia issued a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). The UDI was immediately denounced as an "act of rebellion against the Crown" in the United Kingdom, and Wilson promised that the illegal action would be short-lived. However, given its self-governing status Rhodesia had no longer been within the United Kingdom's direct sphere of influence for some time, and the facade of continued British rule was rendered a constitutional fiction by UDI. In light of these circumstances, Wilson quickly realised his ability to assert direct leverage over the incumbent Rhodesian government was limited. On 12 October 1965, the United Nations General Assembly had noted the repeated threats of the Rhodesian authorities "to declare unilaterally the independence of Southern Rhodesia, in order to perpetuate minority rule", and called upon Wilson to use all means at his disposal (including military force) to prevent the Rhodesian Front from asserting independence. After UDI was proclaimed, UN officials branded the Rhodesian government as an "illegal racist minority regime" and called on member states to voluntarily sever economic ties with Rhodesia, recommending sanctions on petroleum products and military hardware. In December 1966, the UN further iterated that these sanctions were mandatory, and member states were explicitly barred from purchasing Rhodesian export goods, namely tobacco, chromium, copper, asbestos, sugar, and beef. The British government, having already adopted extensive sanctions of its own, dispatched a Royal Navy squadron to monitor oil deliveries in the port of Beira in Mozambique, from which a strategic pipeline ran to Umtali in Rhodesia. The warships were to deter "by force, if necessary, vessels reasonably believed to be carrying oil destined for (Southern) Rhodesia". Some Western nations, such as Switzerland, and West Germany, which were not UN member states, continued to conduct business openly with Rhodesia – the latter remained the Smith government's largest trading partner in Western Europe until 1973, when it was admitted to the UN. Japan remained the chief recipient of Rhodesian exports outside the African continent, and Iran also supplied oil to Rhodesia in violation of the embargo. Portugal served as a conduit for Rhodesian goods, which it exported through Mozambique with false certificates of origin. South Africa, too, refused to observe the UN sanctions. In 1971, the Byrd Amendment was passed in the United States, permitting American firms to go on importing Rhodesian chromium and nickel products as normal. Despite the poor showing of sanctions, Rhodesia found it nearly impossible to obtain diplomatic recognition abroad. In 1970, the United States declared it would not recognise UDI "under nycircumstances". South Africa and Portugal, Rhodesia's largest trading partners, also refused to extend diplomatic recognition, and did not open embassies in the Rhodesian capital, Salisbury, preferring to conduct diplomatic activities through "accredited representatives".''Foreign Affairs for New States: Some Questions of Credentials''
Peter John Boyce, University of Queensland Press, January 1977, page 13
This allowed the South African and Portuguese governments to maintain they were continuing to respect British sovereignty while also accepting the practical authority of the Smith administration. Initially, the Rhodesian state retained its pledged loyalty to Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, recognising her as Queen of Rhodesia. When Smith and Deputy Prime Minister Clifford Dupont called on colonial Governor Sir Humphrey Gibbs to formally notify him of the UDI, Gibbs condemned the UDI as an act of treason. After Smith formally announced the UDI on the radio, Gibbs used his reserve power to dismiss Smith and his entire cabinet from office on orders from Whitehall. However, Gibbs was unable to enact any concrete actions to foster a return to legality. Government ministers simply ignored his notices, contending that UDI made his office obsolete. Even so, Gibbs continued to occupy his residence in Salisbury until 1970, when he finally left Rhodesia following the declaration of a republic.Queen's man resigns
''The Age'', 26 June 1969
He had effectively been superseded before then; the Smith government stated that if the Queen did not appoint a Governor-General, it would name Dupont as "Officer Administering the Government".Ian Smith Strips Gibbs Of All Official Privilege
Associated Press, ''The Morning Record'', 18 November 1965
Smith had intended to have Dupont named Governor-General, but Queen Elizabeth II would not even consider this advice. With few exceptions, the international community backed Whitehall's assertion that Gibbs was the Queen's only legitimate representative, and hence the only lawful authority in Rhodesia. In September 1968, the Appellate Division of the High Court of Rhodesia ruled that Ian Smith's administration had become the ''de jure'' government of the country, not merely the ''de facto'' one.''Rhodesia Herald'', Salisbury, 13 to 20 September 1968 To support his decision, Chief Justice Sir Hugh Beadle used several statements made by Hugo Grotius, who maintained that there was no way that a nation could rightly claim to be governing a particular territory – if it was waging a war against that territory. Beadle argued that due to Britain's economic war against Rhodesia, she could not (at the same point) be described as ''governing'' Rhodesia. The ruling set the precedent that despite the UDI, the incumbent Smith government "could lawfully do anything its predecessors could lawfully have done". A Salisbury commission chaired by prominent lawyer W.R. Waley was appointed to study constitutional options open to the Rhodesian authorities as of April 1968, including on the topic of majority rule, but reopening negotiations with the British on a settlement was ruled out early on. The Waley Commission found that in practical as well legal terms, "Europeans must surrender any belief in permanent European domination", pointing out that minority rule was not permanently sustainable. However, Waley also testified that majority rule was not desirable immediately. Talks aimed at easing the differences between Rhodesia and the United Kingdom were carried out aboard Royal Navy vessels once in December 1966 and again in October 1968. Both efforts failed to achieve agreement, although Harold Wilson added a sixth principle to the five he had previously enunciated: "it would be necessary to ensure that, regardless of race, there was no oppression of the majority by the minority or of nyminority by the majority." Rhodesian resolve stiffened following a failure to reach a new settlement, with more radical elements of the Rhodesian Front calling for a republican constitution. During a two-proposition referendum held in 1969, the proposal for severing all remaining ties to the British Crown passed by a majority of 61,130 votes to 14,327. Rhodesia declared itself a republic on 2 March 1970. Under the new constitution, a president served as ceremonial head of state, with the prime minister nominally reporting to him. Some in Rhodesian government had hoped in vain that the declaration of a republic would finally prompt other nations to grant recognition.

Impact of UDI

The years following Rhodesia's UDI saw an unfolding series of economic, military, and political pressures placed on the country that eventually brought about majority rule, a totality of these factors rather than any one the reason for introducing change. In 2005, a conference at the London School of Economics that discussed Rhodesia's independence concluded that UDI was sparked by an existing racial conflict complicated by Cold War intrigues. Critics of UDI sought to maintain that Ian Smith intended only to safeguard the privileges of an entrenched colonial elite at the expense of the impoverished African community. According to this logic, UDI created a vacuum of oppression that was eventually filled by Robert Mugabe's dictatorship. Smith and his supporters continued to defend their actions, however, by claiming that the Rhodesian majority was too inexperienced at the time to manage what was, by contemporary African standards, a reasonably industrialised nation. At large, the European population's emerging attitude to UDI was tense. Many white Rhodesians had seen themselves as nothing less than fully fledged members of the British Empire, carrying on the same rugged values and frontier spirit of the early Englishmen who had settled in 1890. But such confidence was rudely shaken by Whitehall's refusal to grant independence on their terms. After 1965, there were those who continued to claim that they were collectively upholders of principle and defenders of such values against the twin threats of communism, manifested through the militant black nationalists, and the decadence of Britain herself. Often repeated appeals to the Christian heritage of their pioneer ancestors in "defending the free world" reflected these beliefs. African parties displayed initial horror at Smith's declaration, with one ZANU official stating, "...for all those who cherish freedom and a meaningful life, UDI has set a collision course that cannot be altered. 11 November 1965 asmarked the turning point of the struggle for freedom in that land from a constitutional and political one to primarily a military struggle." It would, however, be several years before even the most radical nationalists chose to develop a coherent strategy revolving around armed resistance, preferring instead to create opportunities for external intervention. Because Rhodesian exports were generally competitive and had previously been entitled to preferential treatment on the British market, the former colony did not recognise the need for escalating the pace of diversification before independence. Following the UDI, however, Rhodesia began to demonstrate that it had the potential to develop a greater degree of economic self-sufficiency. After the Rhodesian Front began introducing incentives accorded to domestic production, industrial output expanded dramatically. A rigid system of countermeasures enacted to combat sanctions succeeded in blunting their impact for at least a decade. Over the next nine years Rhodesian companies, spiting the freezing of their assets and blocking of overseas accounts, also perfected cunning techniques of sanctions evasion through both local and foreign subsidiaries, which operated on a clandestine trade network. From 1968 until 1970, there was virtually no further dialogue between Rhodesia and the UK. In a referendum in 1969, white voters approved a new constitution and the establishment of a republic, thereby severing Rhodesia's last links with the British Crown, duly declared in March 1970. This changed immediately after the election of Edward Heath, who reopened negotiations. Smith remained optimistic that Heath would do his utmost to remedy Anglo-Rhodesian relations, although disappointed that he continued to adhere publicly to the original "five principles" proposed by Alec Douglas-Home, now foreign secretary. In November 1971, Douglas-Home renewed contacts with Salisbury and announced a proposed agreement that would be satisfactory to both sides – it recognised Rhodesia's 1969 constitution as the legal frame of government, while agreeing that gradual legislative representation was an acceptable formula for unhindered advance to majority rule. Nevertheless, the new settlement, if approved, would also implement an immediate improvement in black political status, offer a means to terminate racial discrimination, and provide a solid guarantee against retrogressive constitutional amendments. Implementation of the proposed settlement hinged on popular acceptance, but the Rhodesian government consistently refused to submit it to a universal referendum. A twenty four-member commission headed by an eminent jurist, Lord Pearce, was therefore tasked with ascertaining public opinion on the subject. In 1972, the commission began interviewing interest groups and sampling opinions – although concern was expressed over the widespread apathy encountered. According to the commission, whites were in favour of the settlement, and Rhodesians of Coloured or Asian ancestry generally pleased, while the black response to the settlement's terms was resoundingly negative. As many as thirty black Rhodesian chiefs and politicians voiced their opposition, prompting Britain to withdraw from the proposals on the grounds of the commission's report.

The Bush War

As early as 1960, minority rule in Southern Rhodesia was already being challenged by a rising tide of political violence led by African nationalists such as Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole. After their public campaigns were initially suppressed, many believed that negotiation was completely incapable of meeting their aspirations. Petrol bombings by radicals became increasingly common, with the ''Zimbabwe Review'' observing in 1961, "for the first time home-made petrol bombs were used by freedom fighters in Salisbury against settler establishments." It was officially noted that between January and September 1962 alone, 33 bombings were carried out, in addition to 27 acts of attempted sabotage on communications. In that same period, nationalists were implicated in arson targeting 18 schools and 10 churches. Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) subsequently disclosed that it had formed a military wing, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), and 'the decision to start bringing in arms and ammunition and to send young men away for sabotage training' had already been made. The Rhodesian authorities responded by banning ZAPU and driving its supporters underground. Frustrated by their repeated failures, nationalists also conducted a campaign of terror against black Africans, murdering those who had either identified with the colonial administration or had simply failed to demonstrate their allegiance to the cause. To protect civilians, emergency laws were imposed, broadening the legal definition of unlawful gatherings and giving the police greater powers to crack down on agitators or subversives.''Palm Beach Post'', Miami, 26 March 1959 The death sentence was also introduced for terrorism involving explosives and arson. A crisis of confidence soon resulted across ZAPU, which was already suffering from poor morale, compounded by tribal and ideological factionalism. In 1963, party dissidents rejected Joshua Nkomo's authority and formed their own organisation, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) – which worked out its own strategy for impressing international opinion, undermining white assurance, and achieving a complete breakdown of order. By August 1964, ZANU was banned by the Rhodesian government as well, which cited widespread intimidation by that party. ZANU's agenda was inward-looking, leftist, and pan-Africanist in nature. Ndabaningi Sithole and avowed Marxist Robert Mugabe, its most prominent leaders, demanded a one-party Zimbabwean state with majority rule and a public monopoly on land. After being forced from Rhodesia, they continued to operate in exile, creating occupation groups representing urban workers, miners, and peasant farmers. ZANU also attracted professionals, students, and feminists to its ranks. While ZAPU theoretically continued to command the allegiance of most Ndebele and Shona activists, Sithole and Mugabe drew their support base from the rural peasantry in the Mashonaland countryside. After the UDI, ZANU officials mapped an elaborate plan for the "liberation of Zimbabwe" which called for attacks on white farmers, destruction of cash crops, disrupting electricity in urban areas, and petrol bombings. They also formed an armed wing of their own, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). Sithole and Nkomo both insisted on the need for armed struggle, but disagreed on the means to go about it. For example, ZIPRA tended to follow Soviet thinking, placing an emphasis on sophisticated weaponry in the hopes of winning a conventional battle like the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu. ZANLA militants preferred to politicise populations in areas which they intended to seize. Neither force, however, had acquired basic knowledge of guerrilla warfare. Debate on political theory and insurgent tactics became the obsession of nationalists at this stage. In April 1966, two ZANLA units, having received prior training at Nanjing Military College, crossed into Rhodesia from Zambia. They were armed with SKS carbines, hand grenades, explosives, and communist pamphlets, having been issued vague instructions to sabotage important installations before killing white persons indiscriminately. At least five guerrillas were simply arrested before getting very far. Another seven hoped to destroy a pylon carrying electricity to Sinoia in the northwest. Their faulty demolitions were uncovered by the Rhodesian Security Forces and the men easily tracked to a nearby ranch on 28 April, where they were shot resisting capture. This event is considered to have been the first engagement of what came to be known as the "Bush War" in Rhodesia and the "Second " (or ''rebellion'' in Shona) by supporters of the guerrillas. The campaign proper is generally considered to have started in 1972 with the Attack on Altena Farm, despite the minor threat already represented by the nationalist movements in the 1960s. After unsuccessful appeals to Britain and the United States for military assistance, Robert Mugabe, who was based in Mozambique after that country's independence from Portugal in 1975, led ZANU to seek support from the People's Republic of China and countries of the Soviet Bloc. Joshua Nkomo, based in Zambia and also supported by the Soviet Union, led ZAPU. ZANU and ZAPU together formed 'the Patriotic Front'. Broadly, ZANLA recruited mainly from Mashonaland and Manicaland provinces, whilst the ZIPRA recruited from Mashonaland West, Midlands and Matabeleland provinces of Zimbabwe. As Mugabe had described himself in an interview as a "Marxist-Leninist of Maoist Thought", which enraged the Kremlin, Soviet support went exclusively to ZAPU while China supported ZANU.Andrew, Christopher & Gordievsky, Oleg ''The KGB The Inside Story'', London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990 page 465. Soviet arms went to the ZAPU via Zambia and Mozambique, and Nkomo was in regular contact with Vasili Grigoryevich Solodovnikov, the Soviet ambassador to Zambia who was also known to be associated with the KGB. Nkomo, who depended heavily on Soviet arms, had what he called an "extensive correspondence" with Yuri Andropov, the KGB chief, while officers from the Cuban DGI provided training for the ZAPU. After the collapse of Portuguese rule in Mozambique in 1974–75, it was no longer viable for the Smith regime to sustain white minority rule indefinitely. By this time, even South Africa's Vorster had come to this view. While Vorster was unwilling to make concessions to his own country's black people, he concluded that white minority rule was not sustainable in a country where black people outnumbered white people 22:1. In 1976, there were 270,000 Rhodesians of European descent and six million Africans. International business groups involved in the country (e.g. Lonrho) transferred their support from the Rhodesian government to black nationalist parties. Business leaders and politicians feted Nkomo on his visits to Europe. ZANU also attracted business supporters who saw the course that future events were likely to take. Funding and arms support provided by supporters, particularly from the Soviet Union and its allies in the latter 1970s, allowed both ZIPRA and the ZANLA to acquire more sophisticated weaponry, thereby increasing the military pressure that the guerrillas were able to place on Rhodesia. Until 1972, containing the guerrillas was little more than a police action. Even as late as August 1975 when Rhodesian government and black nationalist leaders met at Victoria Falls for negotiations brokered by South Africa and Zambia, the talks never got beyond the procedural phase. Rhodesian representatives made it clear they were prepared to fight an all out war to prevent majority rule. However, the situation changed dramatically after the end of Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique in 1975. Rhodesia now found itself almost entirely surrounded by hostile states and even South Africa, its only real ally, pressed for a settlement. At this point, ZANU's alliance with FRELIMO (the Liberation Front of Mozambique) and the porous border between Mozambique and eastern Rhodesia enabled large-scale training and infiltration of ZANU/ZANLA fighters. The governments of Zambia and Botswana were also emboldened sufficiently to allow resistance movement bases to be set up in their territories. Guerrillas began to launch operations deep inside Rhodesia, attacking roads, railways, economic targets and isolated security force positions, in 1976. The government adopted a strategic hamlets policy of the kind used in Malaya and Vietnam to restrict the influence of insurgents over the population of rural areas. Local people were forced to relocate to protected villages (PVs) which were strictly controlled and guarded by the government against rebel atrocities. The protected villages were compared by the guerrillas to concentration camps. Some contemporary accounts claim that this interference in the lives of local residents induced many of them who had previously been neutral to support the guerrillas. The war degenerated into rounds of increasing brutality from all three parties involved (ZANU and ZAPU, and the Rhodesian Army). Mike Subritzky, a former NZ Army ceasefire monitor in Rhodesia, in 1980 described the war as "both bloody and brutal and brought out the very worst in the opposing combatants on all three sides." A major problem for the Rhodesian state in fighting the Bush War was always a shortage of manpower. Of the 3,000 white men liable for conscription in 1973, only about 1,000 reported when called-up. In February 1978, the Rhodesian Army stated it needed a minimum of 1,041 men to continue combat operations, and of those called up, only 570 reported for duty while the rest chose to move to South Africa. White emigration increased as the state called up more and more men to fight in the war, creating a vicious circle, which gradually limited the capacity of the Rhodesian state to continue the war. In order to stop white emigration, the Smith government brought in a law in 1975 forbidding Rhodesian citizens from holding foreign currency, but the law was widely flouted. In order to encourage white emigration, the guerrillas of ZANU and ZAPU followed a strategy of attacking anything and everything that was of economic value across the country in order to force the state to call up more men, and of killing white civilians. Killing Rhodesian white citizens tended to have an "echo effect" as the ZANU and ZAPU had each estimated that for one white citizen killed, it caused about 20 to leave Rhodesia.

End of the Bush War

Rhodesia began to lose vital economic and military support from South Africa, which, while sympathetic to the white minority government, never accorded it diplomatic recognition. The South African government placed limits on the fuel and munitions they supplied to the Rhodesian military. They also withdrew the personnel and equipment that they had previously provided to aid the war effort, though covert military support continued. In 1976, the South African government and United States governments worked together to place pressure on Smith to agree to a form of majority rule. In response to the initiative of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in 1976 Ian Smith accepted the principle of black majority rule within two years. The Rhodesians now offered more concessions, but those concessions, focused on reaching an "internal settlement" with moderate black leaders, were insufficient to end the war. At the time, some Rhodesians said the still embittered history between the British-dominated Rhodesia and the Afrikaner-dominated South Africa partly led the South African government to withdraw its aid to Rhodesia. Ian Smith said in his memoirs that even though many white South Africans supported Rhodesia, South African Prime Minister John Vorster's policy of détente with the black African states ended up with Rhodesia being offered as the "sacrificial lamb" to buy more time for South Africa. Other observers perceived South Africa's distancing itself from Rhodesia as being an early move in the process that led to majority rule in South Africa itself. In the latter 1970s, the militants had successfully put the economy of Rhodesia under significant pressure while the numbers of guerrillas in the country were steadily increasing. The government abandoned its early strategy of trying to defend the borders in favour of trying to defend key economic areas and lines of communication with South Africa, while the rest of the countryside became a patchwork of "no-go areas".

Late 1970s

By the late 1970s, Rhodesia's front-line forces contained about 25,000 regular troops and police – backed up by relatively strong army and police reserves. Its mechanised contingent consisted of light armoured cars and improvised mine-protected armoured personnel carriers, complemented by eight tanks (Polish built T-55LD tanks), delivered in the last year of the war. The Rhodesian Air Force operated an assortment of both Canberra light bombers, Hawker Hunter fighter bombers, older de Havilland Vampire jets as well as a somewhat antiquated, but still potent, helicopter arm. These forces, including highly trained special operations units, were capable of launching devastating raids on resistance movement camps outside the country, as in Operation Dingo in 1977 and other similar operations. Nevertheless, guerrilla pressure inside the country itself was steadily increasing in the latter 1970s. By 1978–79, the war had become a contest between the guerrilla warfare placing ever increasing pressure on the Rhodesian regime and civil population, and the Rhodesian government's strategy of trying to hold off the militants until external recognition for a compromise political settlement with moderate black leaders could be secured. By this time, the need to cut a deal was apparent to most Rhodesians, but not to all. Ian Smith had dismissed his intransigent Defence Minister, P. K. van der Byl, as early as 1976. Van der Byl was a hard-line opponent of any form of compromise with domestic opposition or the international community since before UDI. Van der Byl eventually retired to his country estate outside Cape Town, but there were elements in Rhodesia, mainly embittered former security force personnel, who forcibly opposed majority rule up to and well beyond the establishment of majority rule. New white immigrants continued to arrive in Rhodesia right up to the eve of majority rule.

Intensification of the Bush War

The work of journalists such as Lord Richard Cecil, son of the Marquess of Salisbury, stiffened the morale of Rhodesians and their overseas supporters. Lord Richard produced news reports for ITN which typically contrasted the incompetent insurgents with the "superbly professional" government troops. A group of ZANLA fighters killed Lord Richard on 20 April 1978 when he was accompanying a Rhodesian airborne unit employed in Fire Force Operations. The shooting down on 3 September 1978 of the civilian Air Rhodesia airliner, a Vickers Viscount named the ''Hunyani'', in the Kariba area by ZIPRA fighters using a surface-to-air missile, with the subsequent massacre of its survivors, is widely considered to be the event that finally destroyed the Rhodesians' will to continue the war. Although militarily insignificant, the loss of this aircraft (and a second Viscount, named the ''Umniati'', in 1979) demonstrated the reach of resistance movements extended to Rhodesian civil society. The Rhodesians' means to continue the war were also eroding fast. In December 1978, a ZANLA unit penetrated the outskirts of Salisbury and fired a volley of rockets and incendiary device rounds into the main oil storage depot – the most heavily defended economic asset in the country. The storage tanks burned for five days, giving off a column of smoke that could be seen away. of petroleum product (comprising Rhodesia's strategic oil reserve) were lost. The government's defence spending increased from R$30 million, 8.5% of the national budget in 1971 to 1972, to R$400 m in 1978 to 1979, 47% of the national budget. In 1980, the post-independence government of Zimbabwe inherited a US$500 million national debt.

End of UDI (1979)

The Rhodesian army continued its "mobile counter-offensive" strategy of holding key positions ("vital asset ground") while carrying out raids into the no-go areas and into neighbouring countries. While often extraordinarily successful in inflicting heavy guerrilla casualties, such raids also on occasion failed to achieve their objectives. In April 1979 special forces carried out a raid on Joshua Nkomo's residence in Lusaka (Zambia) with the stated intention of assassinating him. Nkomo and his family left hastily a few hours before the raid – having clearly been warned that the raid was coming. In 1979, some special forces units were accused of using counterinsurgent operations as cover for ivory poaching and smuggling. Colonel Reid-Daly (commander of the Selous Scouts) discovered that his phone was bugged and after challenging a superior officer on this issue was court martialled for insubordination. He received the lightest sentence possible, a caution, but he continued to fight his conviction and eventually resigned his commission and left the Army. By 1978–79, up to 70% of the regular army was composed of black soldiers (though both the army and police reserves remained overwhelmingly white). By 1979 there were also 30 black commissioned officers in the regular army. While there was never any suggestion of disloyalty among the soldiers from predominantly black units (in particular within the Selous Scouts or the Rhodesian African Rifles – RAR), some argue that, by the time of the 1980 election, many of the RAR soldiers voted for Robert Mugabe. As the result of an Internal Settlement signed on 3 March 1978 between the Rhodesian government and the moderate African nationalist parties, which were not in exile and not involved in the war, elections were held in April 1979. The United African National Council (UANC) party won a majority in this election, and its leader, Abel Muzorewa (a United Methodist Church bishop), became the country's first black prime minister on 1 June 1979. The country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The internal settlement left control of the country's police, security forces, civil service and judiciary in white hands, for the moment. It assured whites of about one-third of the seats in parliament. It was essentially a power-sharing arrangement between white people and black people which, in the eyes of many, particularly the insurgents, did not amount to majority rule. However, the United States Senate voted to end economic sanctions against Zimbabwe Rhodesia on 12 June.Senate Votes Down A Move To Preserve Rhodesia Sanctions; Arms-Bill Veto Threatened White House Says 52-to-41 Margin Shows President Has Support to Prevent an Override
, 13 June 1979. The New York Times.
While the 1979 election was described by the Rhodesian government as non-racial and democratic, it did not include the main nationalist parties ZANU and ZAPU. In spite of offers from Ian Smith, the latter parties declined to participate in an election in which their political position would be insecure and under a proposed constitution which they had played no part in drafting and which was perceived as retaining strong white minority privilege. Bishop Muzorewa's government did not receive international recognition. The Bush War continued unabated and sanctions were not lifted. The international community refused to accept the validity of any agreement which did not incorporate the main nationalist parties. The British Government (then led by the recently elected Margaret Thatcher) issued invitations to all parties to attend a peace conference at Lancaster House. These negotiations took place in London in late 1979. The three-month-long conference almost failed to reach conclusion, due to disagreements on land reform, but resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement. UDI ended, and Rhodesia temporarily reverted to the status of a British colony (the 'Colony of Southern Rhodesia'). As per the agreement, Lord Soames became Governor with full legislative and executive powers. The Lancaster House Agreement further provided for a ceasefire which was followed by an internationally supervised general election, held on February 1980. ZANU led by Robert Mugabe won this election, some alleged, by terrorising its political opposition, including supporters of ZAPU, through former insurgents that had not confined themselves to the designated guerrilla assembly points, as stipulated by the Lancaster House Agreement. The observers and Soames were accused of looking the other way, and Mugabe's victory was certified. Nevertheless, few could doubt that Mugabe's support within his majority Shona tribal group was extremely strong. The Rhodesian military seriously considered mounting a coup against a perceived stolen election ("Operation Quartz") to prevent ZANU from taking over the country. The alleged coup was to include the assassination of Mugabe and coordinated assaults on guerrilla assembly points throughout the country. The plan was eventually scuttled, as it was obvious that Mugabe enjoyed widespread support from the black majority despite voter intimidation, as well as the fact that the coup would gain no external support, and a conflagration which would engulf the country was seen as inevitable.

Republic of Zimbabwe (1980)

Mugabe (and nationalists who supported his rule) were rather less concerned by Operation Quartz than by the possibility that there might be a mass exodus of the white community of the kind that had caused chaos in Mozambique five years earlier. Such an exodus had been prepared for by the South African government. With the agreement of the British Governor of Rhodesia, South African troops had entered the country to secure the road approaches to the Beit Bridge border crossing point. Refugee camps had been prepared in the Transvaal. On the day the election results became known, most white families had prepared contingency plans for flight, including the packing of cars and suitcases. However, after a meeting with Robert Mugabe and the central committee of ZANU (PF), Ian Smith was reassured that whites could and should stay in the new Zimbabwe. Mugabe promised that he would abide strictly by the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement and that changes in Zimbabwe would be made gradually and by a proper legal process. In a CBS news interview, Mugabe claimed that Rhodesian whites "...are still in control of the economy, the majority being commercial farmers." Mugabe, however, would reverse his commitment to these agreements some years later; the regime began confiscating white-owned farmlands. This is widely blamed for leading to the deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy, which plagues the country today. On 18 April 1980 the country became independent within the Commonwealth of Nations as the Republic of Zimbabwe, and its capital, Salisbury, was renamed Harare two years later.


Rhodesia is equivalent in territory to modern Zimbabwe. It was a landlocked country in southern Africa, lying between latitudes 15° and 23°S, and longitudes 25° and 34°E. It was bordered by South Africa to the south, the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later Botswana) to the west and southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and northeast. Its northwest corner was roughly from South West Africa (present-day Namibia), South Africa, nearly forming a four-nation quadripoint. Most of the country was elevated, consisting of a central plateau (high veld) stretching from the southwest northwards with altitudes between . The country's extreme east was mountainous, this area being known as the Eastern Highlands, with Mount Inyangani as the highest point at .


Rhodesia had a tropical climate with many local variations. The southern areas were known for their heat and aridity, parts of the central plateau received frost in winter, the Zambezi valley was also known for its extreme heat and the Eastern Highlands usually experienced cool temperatures and the highest rainfall in the country. The country's rainy season was from late October to March and the hot climate was moderated by increasing altitude. The country was faced with recurring droughts, and severe storms were rare.Baughan, M. (2005). ''Continent in the Balance: Zimbabwe-Juvenile literature''. Philadelphia, PA: Mason Crest Publishers; .


The country was mostly savannah, although the moist and mountainous eastern highlands supported areas of tropical evergreen and hardwood forests. Trees found in these Eastern Highlands included teak, mahogany, enormous specimens of strangling fig, forest newtonia, big leaf, white stinkwood, chirinda stinkwood, knobthorn and many others. In the low-lying parts of the country fever trees, mopane, combretum and baobabs abound. Much of the country was covered by miombo woodland, dominated by brachystegia species and others. Among the numerous flowers and shrubs were hibiscus, flame lily, snake lily, spider lily, leonotus, cassia, tree wisteria and dombeya. There were around 350 species of mammals that can be found in Rhodesia. There were also many snakes and lizards, over 500 bird species, and 131 fish species.

Government and politics

Although Southern Rhodesia never gained full Dominion status within the Commonwealth of Nations, Southern Rhodesians ruled themselves from the attainment of 'Responsible Government' in 1923. Its electoral register had property and education qualifications. Over the years various electoral arrangements made at a national and municipal level upheld these standards. For example, the franchise for the first Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council election in 1899 contained the following requirement:
voters to be British subjects, male, 21 years of age and older, able to write their address and occupation, and then to fulfil the following financial requirements: (a) ownership of a registered mining claim in Southern Rhodesia, or (b) occupying immovable property worth £75, or (c) receiving wages or salary of £50 per annum in Southern Rhodesia. Six months' continuous residence was also required for qualifications (b) and (c).
Following Cecil Rhodes's dictum of "equal rights for all civilised men", there was no overt racial component to the franchise. However, the requirement excluded a majority of native black people from the electorate. Up until the 1950s, Southern Rhodesia had a vibrant political life with right and left wing parties competing for power. The Rhodesian Labour Party held seats in the Assembly and in municipal councils throughout the 1920s and 1930s. From 1953 to 1958, the prime minister was Garfield Todd, a liberal who did much to promote the development of the black community through investment in education, housing and healthcare. However, the government forced Todd from office because his proposed reforms were seen by many whites as too radical. From 1958 onwards, white settler politics consolidated and ossified around resistance to majority rule, setting the stage for UDI. The 1961 Constitution governed Southern Rhodesia and independent Rhodesia up until 1969, using the Westminster Parliamentary System modified by a system of separate voter rolls with differing property and education qualifications, without regard to race. Whites ended up with the majority of Assembly seats. The 1969 republican constitution established a bicameral Parliament consisting of an indirectly elected Senate and a directly elected House of Assembly, effectively reserving the majority of seats for whites. The office of President had only ceremonial significance with the Prime Minister holding executive power. The Constitution of the short-lived Zimbabwe Rhodesia, which saw a black-led government elected for the first time, reserved 28 of the 100 parliamentary seats for whites. The independence constitution agreed at Lancaster House watered those provisions down and reserved 20 out of 100 seats for whites in the House of Assembly and 8 out of 40 seats in the Senate. The constitution prohibited Zimbabwe authorities from altering the Constitution for seven years without unanimous consent and required a three-quarters vote in Parliament for a further three years. The government amended the Constitution in 1987 to abolish the seats reserved for whites, and replace the office of Prime Minister with an executive President. In 1990, the government abolished the Senate.

Administrative divisions

Rhodesia had a centralised government and was divided into seven provinces and two cities with provincial status, for administrative purposes. Each province had a provincial capital from where government administration was usually carried out.


Southern Rhodesia had long been distinctive among British dependencies in that it had financed and developed its own security forces and command structure. After UDI, this posed a particular dilemma for the British government, which considered and rejected various proposals aimed at ending Rhodesia's state of rebellion by force. Harold Wilson once remarked that bringing an end to Rhodesian independence "would not be a case of arresting a subversive individual. It would mean a bloody war, and probably a bloody war turning into a bloody civil war." The formidable nature of the Rhodesian security forces, as well as British fears of a direct South African intervention on behalf of the rogue colony, preempted the further consideration of military options. For much of its existence Rhodesia maintained a small professional standing army of 3,400 troops, about a third of whom were black volunteers. In the tradition of many colonial armies, it was primarily organised into light infantry battalions trained and equipped for counter-insurgency warfare or internal security actions, and possessed little artillery or armour. The Royal Rhodesian Air Force (RRAF) had 1,000 personnel and six squadrons of aircraft, including forty to fifty Hawker Hunter and de Havilland Vampire strike aircraft and English Electric Canberra light bombers. It also possessed a helicopter squadron, a transport squadron, and a light reconnaissance squadron. The Rhodesian military was backed by the British South Africa Police (BSAP), a well-equipped police force whose title was derived from the law enforcement division of the British South Africa Company. The BSAP had armoured vehicles of its own and a potent paramilitary capability. Domestic and external intelligence gathering were vested in the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). As a result of the escalating rural insurgency, the Rhodesian Security Forces began to depend more heavily on white conscripts and reservists of the Territorial Force and Territorial reserves. Regular units remained small throughout the Rhodesian Bush War but became increasingly specialised and were often able to have an effect utterly disproportionate to their size. The security forces included a disproportionate number of personnel who had seen action during the First Malayan Emergency as well as the Aden Emergency, and their experience gave Rhodesia's defence establishment a solid grounding in counter-insurgency warfare and small unit tactics in particular. Nevertheless, the vastness of the operational area and Rhodesia's limited manpower pool left the army, air force, and BSAP constantly overstretched. Budgetary and resource restraints, coupled with manpower shortages, meant the security forces could not expand quickly enough to match the guerrilla movements, and were almost always outnumbered. Rhodesian units compensated for their disadvantage in this regard by pursuing an aggressive preemptive and counterstrike strategy, raiding neighbouring states to destroy guerrilla forces in their external sanctuaries. All white, male residents aged eighteen to twenty-three were obligated to fulfill four and a half months (later extended to nine months) of full-time national service. This was followed by a three-year reservist obligation. By 1974 the national service intakes had been doubled, and white men over twenty-three were also conscripted. In 1978 the Rhodesian Army had about 14,000 white national servicemen, but continued manpower shortages forced it to recruit black volunteers in larger numbers and extend compulsory military service to all white males up to sixty years of age. By the end of the Rhodesian Bush War virtually all male white residents were either serving in the military or police in a full-time or part-time capacity. The size of the Rhodesian Army had swelled to about 20,000 personnel, and the BSAP to over 40,000, including reservists.

Biological and chemical warfare

From 1975 to 1980 the Rhodesian government made several attempts to weaponise chemical and biological agents.Glenn Cross, "Dirty War: Rhodesia and Chemical Biological Warfare, 1975–1980," Solihull, UK: Helion & Company, 2017 Members of the security forces contaminated supplies before replacing them in guerrilla caches or planted them in rural stores to be stolen by the guerrillas during raids. They also poisoned water sources along known infiltration routes along the Rhodesian border, forcing their opponents to travel through more arid regions or carry more water during their treks. The chemical agents most used in the Rhodesian chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programme were parathion (an organophosphate insecticide) and thallium (a heavy metal commonly found in rodenticide). The weapons the Rhodesians selected for use also included ''Vibrio cholerae'' (causative agent of cholera) and possibly ''Bacillus anthracis'' (causative agent of anthrax). They also looked at using ''Rickettsia prowazekii'' (causative agent of epidemic typhus), and ''Salmonella typhi'' (causative agent of typhoid fever), and toxins such as ricin and botulinum toxin. Biological agents, namely ''Vibrio cholerae'' (causative agent of cholera), had some impact on the fighting capability of ZANLA.Southern African News Feature
the plague wars
/ref> Some former officers of the Rhodesian Security Forces alleged that anthrax was used covertly during the late 1970s, but this has been disputed. Use of ''anthracis'', ricin, or botulinum toxin was favoured during assassination attempts of prominent guerrilla commanders.


Economically, Southern Rhodesia developed an economy that was narrowly based on the production of a few primary products, notably, chromium and tobacco. It was therefore vulnerable to the economic cycle. The deep recession of the 1930s gave way to a post-war boom. This boom prompted the immigration of about 200,000 whites between 1945 and 1970, taking the white population up to 307,000. A large number of these immigrants were of British working-class origin, with others coming from the Belgian Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and later Angola and Mozambique. They established a relatively balanced economy, transforming what was once a primary producer dependent on backwoods farming into an industrial giant which spawned a strong manufacturing sector, iron and steel industries, and modern mining ventures. These economic successes owed little to foreign aid apart from the immigration of skilled labour. The economy of the state of Rhodesia sustained international sanctions for a decade following the declaration of its independence, a resistance which waned as more southern African states declared independence and majority rule as well as the destruction of the Rhodesian Bush War.



A central feature of the white community in Rhodesia was its transience, as white settlers were just as likely to leave Rhodesia after a few years as permanently settle; for example, of the 700 British settlers who were the first white settlers, arriving in 1890, only 15 were still living in Rhodesia in 1924. As the white population of Rhodesia had a low birth rate (18 per 1,000 compared to the African rate of 48 per 1,000), to maintain white population growth was largely dependent upon taking in new white immigrants with immigration accounting for 60% of the growth of the white Rhodesian population between 1955–72. However, the American historian Josiah Brownell noted that the turnover rate for white residents in Rhodesia was very high, as Rhodesia took in a total of 255,692 white immigrants between 1955–79 while the same period a total of 246,583 whites emigrated. Even during the boom years of the late 1950s, when Rhodesia took in an average of 13,666 white immigrants per year, mostly from the United Kingdom and South Africa, an average of about 7,666 whites emigrated annually. Between 1961–65, Rhodesia took in an average of 8,225 white immigrants per year while also having an average white emigration of 12,912 per year. Many prospective white immigrants in Rhodesia arrived seeking economic opportunities and departed with fluctuations in the security situation as the Bush War intensified. A substantial number were uninterested in settling there permanently and did not apply for Rhodesian citizenship, despite a much-publicised 1967 campaign urging them to do so. Brownell asserted that patriotism in the white community was "shallow" due to its essentially expatriate character. Brownell also claimed that the majority of white immigrants in the late 1960s and early 1970s were unskilled laborers who competed with the country's black African workforce and did not contribute badly needed technical or professional skills to the country. He argued that this was due to a government policy aimed at making white immigration as "unselective as possible" and guaranteeing every white immigrant a job. The population of Rhodesia boomed during the late 1960s due to immigration and an exceptional rate of natural increase among its black citizens, the highest in sub-Saharan Africa at the time.


White Rhodesians mostly spoke English, with a minority that spoke Afrikaans. Approximately 70% of black Rhodesians spoke Shona, and around 20% spoke Ndebele. A majority of Rhodesia's Indian community spoke Gujarati and a minority spoke Hindi.


Rhodesia was a predominantly Christian country.

Foreign relations

Throughout the period of its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965 to 1979), Rhodesia pursued a foreign policy of attempting to secure recognition as an independent country, and insisting that its political system would include 'gradual steps to majority rule.' Ardently anti-communist, Rhodesia tried to present itself to the West as a front-line state against communist expansion in Africa, to little avail. Rhodesia received little international recognition during its existence; recognition only occurred after elections in 1980 and a transition to majority rule. Rhodesia wished to retain its economic prosperity and also feared communist elements in the rebel forces, and thus felt their policy of a gradual progression to black majority rule was justified. However, the international community refused to accept this rationale, believing that their policies were perpetuating racism. This attitude was part of the larger decolonisation context, during which Western powers such as the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium hastened to grant independence to their colonies in Africa.

The UK and the UDI

Rhodesia was originally a British colony. Although decolonisation in Africa had begun after World War II, it began accelerating in the early 1960s, causing Britain to negotiate independence rapidly with several of its colonies. During this period, it adopted a foreign policy called NIBMAR, or No Independence Before Majority African Rule, mandating democratic reforms that placed governance in the hands of the majority black Africans. The governing white minority of Rhodesia, led by Ian Smith, opposed the policy and its implications. On 11 November 1965, Rhodesia's minority white government made a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom, as it became apparent that negotiations would not lead to independence under the white regime. The United Kingdom government immediately brought in legislation (Southern Rhodesia Act 1965) which formally abolished all Rhodesian government institutions. This move made life difficult for Rhodesian citizens who wished to travel internationally as passports issued by Rhodesia's UDI administration were not recognised as valid;The Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order 1965 provided that they were the property of the British government, allowing them to be impounded if presented by anyone arriving at a port of entry. Se
, HC 5ser vol 721 col 696.
in January 1966, the British issued a statement accepting as valid any passport issued before the declaration of independence and allowing six-month United Kingdom passports to be granted when they expired – provided that the bearer declared they did not intend to aid the UDI Rhodesian government. The statement is printed in Hansard. Until late 1969, Rhodesia still recognised Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, even though it opposed the British government itself for hindering its goals of independence. The Queen, however, refused to accept the title ''Queen of Rhodesia.'' Eventually, the Smith government abandoned attempts to remain loyal to the British Crown, and in 1969, a majority of the electorate voted in a 1969 referendum to declare Rhodesia a republic. They hoped that this move would facilitate recognition as an independent state by the international community, but the issues of white minority control remained and hindered this effort, and like the UDI before it, the proclamation of a republic lacked international recognition.


After the declaration of independence, and indeed for the entire duration of its existence, Rhodesia did not receive official recognition from any state, although it did maintain diplomatic relations with South Africa, which was then under apartheid. South Africa did not recognise Rhodesia to preserve its fragile positions with other nations, but frequently assisted the Rhodesian state. Portugal maintained informal relations until the Carnation Revolution of 1974. The day following the declaration of independence, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution (S/RES/216) calling upon all states not to accord Rhodesia recognition, and to refrain from any assistance. The Security Council also imposed selective mandatory economic sanctions, which were later made comprehensive. Malawi, Israel, South Africa, Portugal and Iran did not comply with economic sanctions against Rhodesia. The US, despite voting in favour of the sanctions at the UNSC, violated them to buy chromium ore from Rhodesia. Kenneth Kaunda, president of Zambia, also accused western oil companies of violating the sanctions and selling oil to Rhodesia.

International perspective

Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965 was promptly condemned by the international community. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 216 of 12 November 1965 called "upon all States not to recognise this illegal racist minority regime in Southern Rhodesia." Rhodesia campaigned for international acceptance and invoked the doctrine of non-intervention in internal affairs as justification for rebuking external criticism of its internal policies. However, the emerging doctrine of self-determination in colonial situations meant that most nations regarded Rhodesia's self-declared independence as illegitimate. Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia, took a pragmatic approach towards Rhodesia. Kenneth Kaunda, heavily dependent on access through Rhodesia for his nation's copper ore exports, fuel, and power imports unofficially worked with the Rhodesian government. Rhodesia still allowed Zambia to export and import its goods through its territory to Mozambique ports, despite the Zambian government's official policy of hostility and non-recognition of the post-UDI Smith Administration. The United States, like all other Western nations, refused to recognise Rhodesia, but unlike others allowed its Consulate-General to function as a communications conduit between the US government in Washington, DC and the Rhodesian government in Salisbury. When Rhodesia set up an information office in Washington, DC, OAS nations loudly protested. The US government responded by saying the Rhodesian mission and its staff had no official diplomatic status and violated no US laws. Portugal pursued a middle path with Rhodesia. While not officially recognising Rhodesia under Ian Smith, the government of António Salazar did permit Rhodesia to establish a representative mission in Lisbon, and permitted Rhodesian exports and imports through their colony of Mozambique. The Portuguese government in power at that time, authoritarian and ardently anti-communist, gave active behind-the-scenes support in Rhodesia's fight against the guerrilla groups. South Africa, itself under international pressure as a white minority government, pursued a policy of détente with the black African states at the time. These states wanted South Africa to pressure Ian Smith to accept a faster transition to majority rule in Rhodesia, in return for pledges of non-interference in South Africa's internal affairs. Prime Minister John Vorster, believing majority rule in Rhodesia would lead to international acceptance for South Africa, used a number of tactics to pressure Smith. The South African government held up shipments of fuel and ammunition and pulled out friendly South African forces from Rhodesia. The combined loss of Mozambique and the loss of support from South Africa dealt critical blows to the Rhodesian government.

Diplomatic relations

After the UDI, Rhodesia maintained several overseas missions, including Pretoria, and until 1975, Lisbon in Portugal and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. Since 1961, Rhodesia had an "Accredited Diplomatic Representative" with South Africa, heading a "Rhodesian Diplomatic Mission" or ''de facto'' embassy. Before South Africa left the Commonwealth that year, the then Southern Rhodesia had exchanged High Commissioners with the then Union of South Africa, but following the change in status, the Republic now had a "South African Diplomatic Mission" in Salisbury. During 1965, the government of Rhodesia made moves to establish a mission in Lisbon separate from the British Embassy, with its own accredited representative, having previously been able to establish its own consulate in Lourenço Marques, capital of Portuguese Mozambique. This prompted protests from the British government, which was determined that the representative, Harry Reedman, should be a nominal member of the British Ambassador's staff. For their part, the Portuguese authorities sought a compromise whereby they would accept Reedman as an independent representative but deny him diplomatic status. The Rhodesian Information Office in Washington remained open following UDI, but its director, Ken Towsey, and his staff were deprived of their diplomatic status. Previously, there had been a "Minister for Rhodesian Affairs" operating under the aegis of the British Embassy in Washington, as well representatives in Tokyo and Bonn. Following the country's independence as Zimbabwe, Towsey became chargé d'affaires at the new embassy. The High Commission in London, known as Rhodesia House, continued to function until it was closed in 1969 following the decision by white Rhodesians in a referendum to make the country a republic, along with the "British Residual Mission" in Salisbury. Prior to its closure, the mission flew the newly adopted Flag of Rhodesia, considered illegal by the Foreign Office, prompting calls by Labour MP Willie Hamilton for its removal. In Australia, the federal government in Canberra sought to close the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney, but it remained open, operating under the jurisdiction of the state of New South Wales. In 1973, the Labor government of Gough Whitlam cut post and telephone links to the centre, but this was ruled illegal by the High Court. An office was also established in Paris, but this was closed down by the French government in 1977. Similarly, the United States recalled its consul-general from Salisbury, and reduced consular staff, but did not move to close its consulate until the declaration of a republic in 1970. South Africa, however, retained its "Accredited Diplomatic Representative" after UDI, which allowed it to continue to recognise British sovereignty as well as to deal with the ''de facto'' authority of the government of Ian Smith. The South African Diplomatic Mission in Salisbury became the only such mission remaining in the country after 1975, when Portugal downgraded its mission to consul level, having recalled its consul-general in Salisbury in May 1970. After Zimbabwe's independence, the new government closed its missions in Pretoria and Cape Town, only maintaining a trade mission in Johannesburg, while the South African Diplomatic Mission in Salisbury was also closed.


Continuing civil war and a lack of international support eventually led the Rhodesian government to submit to an agreement with the UK in 1979. This led to internationally supervised elections, won by Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front and Robert Mugabe, establishing the internationally recognised Zimbabwe.


In the ten years after independence, around 60% of the white population of Zimbabwe emigrated, most to South Africa and to other mainly white, English speaking countries where they formed expatriate communities. Politically within Zimbabwe, the consolidation of power by Robert Mugabe continued through the 1980s. Following amendments to the country's constitution in 1987, parliamentary seats reserved for whites were abolished, and an executive presidency was created, held by Mugabe. Many expatriates and some of the whites who stayed in Zimbabwe became deeply nostalgic for Rhodesia. These individuals are known as "Rhodies." Native whites who are more accepting of the new order are known as "Zimbos." The nation has suffered profound economic and social decline in the past twenty years. Recently, the agriculture sector has started to do well since the availability of expertise and machines has improved, supported mainly by China. Zimbabwe also suffered from a crippling inflation rate, as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had a policy of printing money to satisfy government debt. This policy caused the inflation rate to increase from 32% in 1998 to 11,200,000% in 2007. Monetary aid by the International Monetary Fund was suspended due to the Zimbabwe government's defaulting on past loans, its inability to stabilise its own economy, its inability to stem corruption and its failure to advance human rights. In 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned its currency, relying instead on foreign currencies. In the 2008 elections, Mugabe garnered 41%, Simba Makoni 10% and Morgan Tsvangirai 48% of the votes cast for president, forcing a runoff election called by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). In the months leading to the run-off, instances of extreme violence between the two major parties (ZANU PF and MDC) led Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election. In February 2009, a power-sharing accord was reached which resulted in the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity of 2009. The accord was, essentially, to create the position of "Prime Minister" for Tsvangirai, who served in that role from 2009 to 2013. Mugabe retained the title of President.



The main newspapers were the ''Rhodesia Herald'' in Salisbury and ''The Chronicle'' in Bulawayo. Following UDI, in 1976, the state-run Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) took over the privately owned Rhodesian Television (RTV) service, in which it had previously acquired a 51 per cent stake. Among the news magazines published in Rhodesia under UDI were the ''Illustrated Life Rhodesia'', while ''The Valiant Years'' by Beryl Salt told the history of Rhodesia from 1890 to 1978 entirely through the medium of facsimile reproduction of articles and headlines from Rhodesian newspapers.


Since Rhodesia was a former colony of the United Kingdom, all of the sports that were born in the United Kingdom enjoyed considerable popularity in Rhodesia; especially cricket, rugby, football, netball, golf, tennis, lawn bowls, field hockey, etc. Just like neighbouring South Africa, Rhodesia was barred from both competing against and participating with Commonwealth member countries.


Further reading

* * Michel, Eddie. ''The White House and White Africa: Presidential Policy toward Rhodesia during the UDI Era, 1965-1979''. New York: Routledge, 2018. * * * * * * Watts, Carl Peter. ''Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence: An International History'' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

External links

Rhodesian Bush War historical research / discussion forum
(The Guardian)
1975 BBC report on the failure of negotiations between the Rhodesian government and the black nationalists
*[https://web.archive.org/web/20120813050154/http://www.zwnews.com/3-Main%20Body.pdf Selby, Angus (2006) "Commercial Farmers and the State: Interest Group Politics and Land Reform in Zimbabwe, 1890–2005", PhD Thesis, Oxford University]
Rhodesia Roll of Honour
– Those who died in defence of UDI
Rhodesian aviation and commentWindow on Rhodesia - history archive

Audio and video

Audio of Ian Smith's radio address announcing UDI
* * * {{coord missing|Zimbabwe Category:British colonisation in Africa Category:British Empire Category:Former British colonies and protectorates in Africa Category:Former countries in Africa Category:Former polities of the Cold War Category:Former republics Category:Former administrative territorial entities in Africa Category:Former unrecognized countries Category:History of Zimbabwe Category:States and territories established in 1965 Category:States and territories disestablished in 1979 Category:1965 establishments in Africa Category:1979 disestablishments in Africa * Category:1970s disestablishments in Rhodesia Category:1965 establishments in the British Empire Category:1979 disestablishments in the United Kingdom Category:White supremacy in Africa Category:English-speaking countries and territories Category:Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth of Nations