1962 – Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council Election

Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council Election

30 October 1962

The Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council election was on 30 October 1962, with by-elections for several seats held on 10 December. Although the United Federal Party won the most seats in the Legislative Council, and Northern Rhodesian African National Congress leader Harry Nkumbula had made a secret electoral pact with the UFP, Nkumbula decided to form a government with the United National Independence Party.

The elections were carried out under the 15-15-15 system, with 15 seats elected by an upper roll, 15 seats by a lower roll and 15 seats by the national roll; the national roll seats consisted of four ‘reserved’ two-seat constituencies returning an African and a European member; three two-member ‘open’ constituencies that would return two members of any race, and one nationwide constituency for Asians.

The initial plan for the reserved and open national roll seats was that candidates would have to receive at least 15% of the vote from both the upper and lower rolls to be elected. However, this was fiercely opposed by Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Roy Welensky, as the lower roll was likely to be entirely black, giving his UFP little chance of winning seats. The system was later changed to require candidates to receive at least 10% of the vote from each race, and at least 20% of the vote from either the upper or lower roll.

To qualify for the upper roll, voters had to have an income of at least £720 or own at least £1,500 of immovable property. This was reduced to £480/£1,000 for those with a full primary education and £300/£1,000 for those with at least four years of secondary education. Several people were automatically allowed to register as upper roll voters, including chiefs, hereditary councillors, members of native authorities and courts, municipal councils, township housing boards and area housing boards, ministers of religion, members of certain religions with at least two years of secondary education, pensioners, university graduates, holders of an award from the Queen, those with a letter of exemption under the African Exemption Ordinance dated prior to 1 July 1961, or be the wife of a qualified upper roll voter (in polygamous marriages, only the senior wife qualified).

Lower roll voters had to have an income of at least £120 or own immovable property worth at least £250. Certain other people were automatically entitled to be a lower roll voter, including tribal councillors, members of native authorities and courts, municipal councils, township housing boards and area housing boards, headmen, pensioners, members of certain religious bodies, holders of an award from the Queen, or people registered as Individual, Peasant or Improved Farmers for two years prior to their application. The wife (or senior wife) of anyone qualifying to be a lower roll voter also qualified. The upper roll had a total of 37,142 voters, of which 27,893 were European, 7,321 were African and 1,928 were Asian. The lower roll had 91,941 voters, of which 91,913 were African and 28 Asian.

In order to vote, voters had to dip their thumbs in red ink, which would remain for two days. In Lusaka two European voters refused to dip their thumbs, and were barred from voting. One, Colin Cunningham, a former leader of the Rhodesian Republican Party, claimed it would be “trespass against his person.”

On election day, 14 of the upper roll seats and all 15 lower roll seats were decided, but only five of the 15 national seats; the UFP won 15 seats, UNIP 14 and the NRANC five. By-elections were subsequently held on 10 December for the Livingstone upper roll seats, and for the ten remaining national seats, with the UFP winning in Livingstone, and the NRANC winning the only two national roll seats to have a winner, leaving the UFP with a final total of 16 seats and the NRANC with seven.


  • Keith Harrop
  • Walter Herdzik