1963 – Last Day of Federation

Last Day of Federation

31 December 1963

During 1960, many French African colonies had become independent. Belgium more hastily vacated its colony and thousands of European refugees fled the Belgian Congo from the brutalities of the civil war and into Southern Rhodesia.

During the Congolese crisis, Africans increasingly viewed the Rhodesia & Nyasaland Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky, as an arch-reactionary.

The new Commonwealth Secretary, Duncan Sandys, negotiated the ‘1961 Constitution’, a new constitution for the Federation which greatly reduced Britain’s powers over it. But by 1962, the British and the Federation cabinet had agreed that Nyasaland should be allowed to secede, though Southern Rhodesian Premier Sir Edgar Whitehead committed the British to keep this secret until after the 1962 election in the territory. A year later, the same status was given to Northern Rhodesia, decisively ending the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the immediate future.

In 1963, the Victoria Falls Conference was held, partly as a last effort to save the Federation, and partly as a forum to dissolve it. After nearly collapsing several times, it ended by 5 July 1963, and the state was virtually dissolved. Only the appropriation of its assets remained as a formality.

By 31 December, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formally dissolved and its assets distributed among the territorial governments. Southern Rhodesia obtained the vast majority of these including the assets of the Federal army, to which it had overwhelmingly contributed.

Commemorative Covers

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1979 – Last Day of Rhodesia

Last Day of Rhodesia

31 May 1979

On 31 May 1979, Ian Smith left the stage as Prime Minister on the last day of white rule in Rhodesia. His legacy was a state unrecognised by the international community, subjected to trade boycotts, and a country ravaged by civil war.

On his last day in office, he addressed himself to the country’s white minority during a televised press conference, in which he said that the territory’s new government would collapse unless whites remained to fight on in the army.

His successor, Bishop Muzorewa, ushered in the state of Zimbabwe Rhodesia with a pre-taped midnight television address to the country.

Commemorative Covers

The two sized covers (below) were presented in a specially printed linen folder, bound (above).

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1976 – Opening of Geneva Conference on Rhodesia

Opening of Geneva Conference on Rhodesia

28 October – 14 December 1976

The Geneva Conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland during the Rhodesian Bush War. Held under British mediation, its participants were the unrecognised government of Rhodesia, led by Ian Smith, and a number of rival Rhodesian black nationalist parties: the African National Council, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa; the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe, led by James Chikerema; and a joint “Patriotic Front” made up of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Unionand the Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo.

The purpose of the conference was to attempt to agree on a new constitution for Rhodesia and in doing so find a way to end the Bush War raging between the government and the guerrillas commanded by Mugabe and Nkomo respectively.

The proceedings began on 28 October 1976, eight days behind schedule, and were chaired by a British mediator, Ivor Richard, who offended both delegations before the conference even started. Little progress was made during the two sides’ discussions, causing the conference to be indefinitely adjourned on 14 December 1976. It was never reconvened.

Commemorative Covers

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1979 – Zimbabwe Rhodesia Election

Zimbabwe Rhodesia Election

17-21 April 1979

The Zimbabwe-Rhodesia general election was held in April 1979 under the internal settlement negotiated by the Rhodesian Front government of Ian Smith intended to provide a peaceful transition to majority rule on terms not harmful to Rhodesians of European descent.

The internal settlement was not approved internationally but the incoming government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa did decide to participate in the Lancaster House talks which led to the end of the dispute and the creation of Zimbabwe.

Commemorative Cover

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1976 – Smith Accepts Peace Proposal

Smith Accepts Peace Proposal

24 September 1976

The United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, announced a formal interest in the Rhodesian situation in February 1976, and spent the rest of the year holding discussions with the British, South African and Frontline governments to produce a mutually satisfactory proposal.

The plan that Kissinger eventually presented would give a transition period of two years before majority rule began, during which time an interim government would take control while a specially convened “council of state”, made up of three whites, three blacks and a white chairman, drew up a new constitution. This constitution would have to result in majority rule at the end of the two-year interim period. This plan was supported by Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere, the presidents of Zambia and Tanzania respectively, which South African Prime Minister B. J. Vorster said guaranteed its acceptance by the black nationalists. Vorster had no reply when Smith ventured that he had said the same thing before the Victoria Falls talks in 1975, when Kaunda and Nyerere had agreed on no preconditions for talks, then allowed the nationalists to seek them.

Smith met Kissinger in Pretoria on 18 September 1976 to discuss the terms. He encouraged Smith strongly to accept the deal he placed on the table, though he knew it was unpalatable, as any future offer could only be worse.

A session including Kissinger, Smith and Vorster then began, and here Smith relayed his concern that his acceptance could be perceived by the Rhodesian electorate as “selling out” and could cause a mass exodus of skilled workers and investment, which would in turn severely damage the country’s economy.

Vorster requested a break in the session and took Smith’s team into a private side-room, accompanied by South African Foreign Minister Hilgard Muller. There he privately informed Smith that it was no longer viable for South Africa to support Rhodesia financially and militarily, and that Smith should make up his mind quickly and announce his acceptance that evening. 

It was agreed that the Rhodesians should return to Salisbury and consult their cabinet, then announce their answer. Despite expressing “incredulity” at what had happened in Pretoria, and showing deep reluctance, the politicians in Salisbury resolved that despite what they perceived as “South African treachery” the responsible course of action could only be to go on with the peace process.

Smith announced his government’s answer on the evening of 24 September 1976: “Yes.” South Africa’s wavering financial and military assistance suddenly became available again but the Frontline States then abruptly changed tact and turned the Kissinger terms down, saying that any interim period before majority rule was unacceptable.

A new constitutional conference in Geneva, Switzerland was hastily organised by Britain to try to salvage something from the wreckage, with 20 October 1976 set as the start date.

Commemorative Covers

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1971 – Settlement

Settlement

24 November 1971

In November 1971, UK Foreign Secretary, Alec Douglas-Home, renewed contacts with Salisbury and announced a proposed agreement recognising 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.

The new settlement, if approved, would have also implemented an immediate improvement in black political status, offer a means to terminate racial discrimination, and provide a solid guarantee against retrogressive constitutional amendments.

Commemorative Cover

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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.

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Contributors
  • Terence Devine

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1978 – Internal Settlement

Internal Settlement

3 March 1978

The Internal Settlement was an agreement which was signed on 3 March 1978 between Prime Minister of Rhodesia Ian Smith and the moderate African nationalist leaders comprising Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and Senator Chief Jeremiah Chirau.

After almost 15 years of the Rhodesian Bush War, and under pressure from the sanctions placed on Rhodesia by the international community, and political pressure from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Rhodesian government met with some of the internally based moderate African nationalist leaders in order to reach an agreement on the political future for the country.

The agreement led to the creation of an interim government in which Africans were included in leading positions for the first time. This in turn was to lead to the achievement of the settlement’s main goal which was for the country to gain international recognition, which in turn implied that sanctions imposed on Rhodesia which came about as a result of the announcement of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of 1965, would be abolished.

Following the agreement, the election of March 1979 was held which brought Muzorewa and his UANC party to power.

Commemorative Covers

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1980 – Independence Election

Independence Election

27-29 February 1980

General elections were held in Rhodesia in February 1980 to elect a government which would govern the country after it was granted independence as Zimbabwe, in accordance with the conclusions of the Lancaster House Agreement. The election was won by the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and its leader Robert Mugabe therefore became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

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Reference

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