1975 – Victoria Falls Bridge Constitutional Conference
Victoria Falls Bridge Constitutional Conference
25 August 1975
The Victoria Falls Conference took place aboard a South African Railways train halfway across the Victoria Falls Bridge on the border between the unrecognised state of Rhodesia and Zambia. It was the culmination of the “détente” policy introduced and championed by B. J. Vorster, the Prime Minister of South Africa, which was then under apartheid and was attempting to improve its relations with the Frontline States to Rhodesia’s north, west and east by helping to produce a settlement in Rhodesia.
The participants in the conference were a delegation led by the Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith on behalf of his government, and a nationalist delegation attending under the banner of Abel Muzorewa’s African National Council (UANC), which for this conference also incorporated delegates from the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe(FROLIZI). Vorster and the Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda acted as mediators in the conference, which was held on the border in an attempt to provide a venue both sides would accept as neutral.
The conference failed to produce a settlement, breaking up on the same day it began with each side blaming the other for its unsuccessful outcome. Smith believed the nationalists were being unreasonable by requesting preconditions for talks—which they had previously agreed not to do—and asking for diplomatic immunity for their leaders and fighters. The nationalists contended that Smith was being deliberately intransigent and that they did not believe he was sincere in seeking an agreement if he was so adamant about not giving diplomatic immunity.
- Terence Devine