Dominion of Rhodesia
Flag Rhodesia-flag
Coat of Arms Rhodesia-coa
Motto Sit Nomine Digna (Latin)
"May She Be Worthy of the Name"
Anthem "Rise, O Voices of Rhodesia"
Royal Anthem "God Save the Queen"
Capital Harare
Official Languages English
Government Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Judith Todd
Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara
Legislature Parliament
Upper House Senate
Lower House House of Representatives
from the United Kingdom
Self-governing colony 1 October 1923
Statute of Westminster 11 December 1931
Rhodesia Act 1965 19 July 1965
Constitution Act 2 March 1970
Rhodesia Act 1980 17 April 1980
Currency Rhodesian Pound (RHP)

Rhodesia, officially the Dominion of Rhodesia, is a country in southern Africa. It is one of the seventeen British Commonwealth Realms.

The territory of Rhodesia was originally referred to as "South Zambezia" but the name "Southern Rhodesia" came into use in 1895. The designation "Southern" was adopted in 1901 and dropped from normal usage in 1964 on the break-up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the name "Rhodesia" became official with the passing of the Rhodesia Act in 1965.

History Edit

Colonisation to FederationEdit

Rhodesia was named after Cecil Rhodes, the British empire-builder who was one of the most important figures in British expansion into southern Africa, and who obtained mineral rights in 1888 from the most powerful traditional leaders through treaties such as the Rudd Concession and the Moffat Treaty signed by King Lobengula of the Ndebele. The British government agreed that Rhodes' company, the British South Africa Company (BSAC), would be granted exclusive mineral rights stretching from the Limpopo to Lake Tanganyika. Queen Victoria signed the charter in 1889. Rhodes used this document in 1890 to justify sending the Pioneer Column, a group of white settlers protected by well-armed British South Africa Police (BSAP) and guided by the big game hunter Frederick Selous, through Matabeleland and into Shona territory to establish Fort Salisbury (now Harare). In 1893–94, with the help of their new maxim guns the BSAP would go on to defeat the Ndebele in the First Matabele War, a war which also resulted in the death of King Lobengula and the death of most of the members of the Shangani Patrol. Shortly after the disastrous Jameson Raid of the BSAP into the Transvaal Republic, the Ndebele were led by their spiritual leader Mlimo against the white colonials and thus began the Second Matabele War (1896–97). After months of bloodshed, Mlimo was found and shot by the American scout Frederick Russell Burnham and soon thereafter Rhodes walked unarmed into the Ndebele stronghold in Matobo Hills and persuaded the impi to lay down their arms, effectively ending the revolt.

In 1899, a Legislative Council was created with a minority of elected seats, through which the BSAC had to pass government measures. The electorate was almost exclusively white settlers, and the proportion of elected seats increased steadily over time. Prior to about 1918, the opinion among the electorate supported continued BSAC rule but opinion changed because of the development of the country and increased settlement. In addition, a decision in the British courts that land not in private ownership belonged to the British crown rather than the BSAC gave great impetus to the campaign for self-government.

Rhodesia retained the Cape Colony system, which gave voting rights to blacks and whites who owned property with a minimum value of £150 or had an annual income of at least £100. These voting qualifications that ensured de jure equality (in theory at least) amongst the races were maintained until 1951, when the financial qualifications were raised. The Southern Rhodesia general election of 29 April 1924, was the first election to the Legislative Assembly of Southern Rhodesia following the grant of responsible government to the colony. It saw a comprehensive victory for the Rhodesia Party, which had been formed by the supporters of responsible government.

From September 1953 to 1963, Southern Rhodesia was part of the multiracial Central African Federation, also known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The federation was set up in an effort to pool resources and markets. The economy was prosperous at the time due to a post-World War II boom. The African population opposed it because they feared that they would not be able to achieve self-government with the federal structure dominated by white Southern Rhodesians. . From 1957 to 1960, the Rhodesia African National Congress, a black-led organisation, sought to obtain political control for the black African majority.

The End of Federation, The Beginning of Reforms and Dominion StatusEdit

The federation fell apart in 1963 after much crisis and turmoil, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became the independent states of Zambia and Malawi in 1964. Southern Rhodesia reverted to its status as a Crown colony of Britain, but a year later, with the passing of the Rhodesia Act 1965 by the British Parliament, the name was officially changed to Rhodesia and the colony (conditionally) became an independent Commonwealth Realm known as the Dominion of Rhodesia, equal in status with the other realms. In 1970, the Rhodesian parliament passed the Constitution Act, which after ratification in London satisfied the condition set forth at the passing of the Rhodesia Act, and the Dominion of Rhodesia became a full-fledged member state of the Commonwealth as an independent realm.

In 1953, Sir Garfield Todd was elected Prime Minister. His Rhodesia Party government began a series of liberal reforms to increase the welfare of the black population by increasing educational access for the black majority as well as by providing better housing and healthcare. However, his plan to increase the number of blacks eligible to vote from 2% to 16% was met with resistance, and he was forced to resign in 1958.

Black discontent had been growing in the rural areas largely because of the disruptive impact of the 1951 Land Husbandry Act. It was designed to enforce private ownership of land and improve the rural economy in the African reserves, which experienced the pressure of a growing population within fixed areas. However, its provisions violated traditional practices. Rather than expand the size of the reserves, the act limited cattle grazing in specified areas and provided for the de-stocking of African herds; it allowed officials to dictate patterns of cultivation and crop growing and to fix dwelling sites on farm land; it prohibited cultivating or grazing without a permit and imposed compulsory labour on unemployed rural Africans. Implementation of the act meant the depletion of highly valued herds, reduction of the land under cultivation, and the forced uprooting of families and entire villages. Discontent with socioeconomic conditions was growing among urban Africans as well. A recession in 1957–1958 hit blacks hard; rising unemployment and inadequate township housing contributed to their sense of deprivation and provided ready-made issues for R-ANC organizers.

In the late 1950s, white sentiment was divided. Recent immigrants tended to support the more extreme, segregationist parties - primarily the Rhodesia Front Party led by Winston Field, but 2nd and 3rd generation whites, who had more invested in the country, tended to take a more pragmatic view and thus gave the moderate Rhodesia Party its main base, though a fair portion of the small minority of blacks eligible to vote also supported the Rhodesia Party. This division between white viewpoints was exacerbated by the climate of fear caused by disturbances in 1959 in what was then Northern Rhodesia and the violence against whites in Belgian Congo and French Congo, with the radicals holding the view that white interests could be protected only by extreme measures, whereas the moderates were of the view that integration and racial reconciliation were the only way to genuinely ensure the security of Rhodesia's white population. Chief amongst the proponents of the latter view was Dwight Armstrong, a Rhodesian who had spent six years in the 1940s in British Columbia at university, where he had seen first-hand the successful implementation of practical, integrationist policies.

Armstrong became leader of the Rhodesia Party in 1959, and won a one-seat majority in the House of Assembly in the general elections of 1961 on a platform centred on reforming race relations based on the British Columbian model. The Land Husbandry Act and the Land Apportionment act were repealed in 1962 - which satisfied two of the major grievances of the black majority - and over the next two years, the African reserves were remodelled using on the basis of the model used in British Columbia, with tribal chiefs having considerable input into the territories included in the various reservations; on the reserve lands themselves, traditional law became applicable where this did not conflict with national law. A further significant achievement of the First Armstrong Ministry was parliamentary reform: the existing 30 seats of the House of Assembly were retained, using the election principles hitherto used, with requirements for education levels and a minimum value of property holdings or minimum annual income. Further, the size of the lower house of parliament, which was simultaneously renamed House of Representatives, was increased by the addition of 25 seats representing ridings on the reservations. All blacks were eligible to vote in elections for MPs for these ridings. The fact that the 30 existing seats outnumbered the 25 seats open to all black voters meant that the 30 almost exclusively white MPs could unite to defeat proposals made by the 25 almost exclusively black MPs - not to mention the fact that bills passed in the lower house still required passing by the appointed (and thus overwhelmingly white) Senate - kept the new parliamentary structure far from resulting in majority rule, it was nevertheless considered a positive start upon which further progress could be built.

Anticipating the possibility that a general election could result in the 30 "white" seats being filled by radicals which would likely make the parliamentary reforms fail, Armstrong announced that the 25 new seats would be filled through by-elections to be held in 1964. The repeal of the two hugely unpopular laws in 1962, the beginning of reforms of the reservation system and the parliamentary reform gave the black majority hope, which translated into broad support for the Rhodesia Party; 17 of the 25 seats went to black Rhodesia Party candidates. The remaining eight seats were split between three parties, with the National Democratic Party (NDP) winning four seats, the Liberal Party (which also had MPs amongst the original 30 seats) three, and the People's Caretaker Party one.

The National Democratic Party was led by a Methodist minister named Abel Muzorewa, a former teacher turned minister who had studied in the United States in the 1950s. Committed to non-violence and to social democracy, the NDP urged blacks to support the reform process undertaken by Armstrong's government on the principle that co-operation with moderate whites was the only way to ensure peace and continued socioeconomic improvement for the population.

The People's Caretaker Party was founded in 1960 by Joseph Msika, Masotsha Ndlovu and Benjamin Burombo, and was the most anti-communist of all the parties standing for election to the 25 black seats. Ndlovu, who had joined the British Merchant Navy in 1934, had during his service spent some time in British Columbia, and so was supportive of the Rhodesia Party's desire to integrate Rhodesian society along British Columbian lines.

Meanwhile, Armstrong's government had begun negotiations with London in 1962 on the matter of independence. Through his relationship with BC's representative in Salisbury he gained the support of the BC government, and the BC High Commissioner in London took part in a number of the discussions that took place over the next two years. After the retirement of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963, his successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, made the agreement with the Rhodesians that led to the passing of the Rhodesia Act by the British Parliament in 1965 - although by then Harold Wilson had replaced Douglas-Home as PM.

The Rhodesia Act of 1965 established the Dominion of Rhodesia as an independent Commonwealth Realm, on condition that a new constitution would be in place within five years - a new constitution that would have to be approved in both Salisbury and London.

Progress and Rebellion in the DominionEdit

One of the first acts of the newly-expanded House of Representatives was to expand on Sir Garfield Todd's reforms of the educational and healthcare systems. The first of what would become a nationwide network of polyclinics, supplemented by "rolling clinics" inside busses and railway carriages, was opened in November 1965, and a national student pass valid on busses and trains for rural children to attend schools was implemented before the start of the 1966/67 school year. Access to education and medical care was based on the same financial element as voting was - only the other way around: if one's income or property holding were under the minimum required to vote, one's family would be entitled to education and healthcare free of charge. This was followed by the 1967 modification of the election requirements, which removed the financial requirement, leaving only the educational minimum: to be eligible to vote, one must complete the mandatory minimum 11 years of primary and secondary education; upon one's graduation from secondary school, one was added to national register of voters and was issued a Voter's Card.

The stated goal of these reforms was to bring about a gradual transition to majority rule - as more blacks graduated from secondary school thanks to free education, more would become eligible to vote; the guiding principle behind this measure was that an educated voter is more capable of making an informed election decision than an uneducated one, and that an educated voter will be less susceptible to being misled or manipulated. However, the measure was not without some opposition from those who did meet the financial requirements to vote, who argued that it was unfair. In response, the government removed the financial condition for free education, opening all public schools to all students free of charge, regardless of economic background; private schools, however, continued to charge tuition fees as their directors saw fit. To address the disparity in costs for medical treatment, the government adopted the British National Health Service model in 1967, under which every legal resident of Rhodesia was entitled to free healthcare, but could opt for care at private hospitals and clinics if they so chose.

Two political parties that opted not to take part in the 1964 by-elections were the two communist, African nationalist "parties", the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which had split off from ZAPU just months before the election.

The Zimbabwe African People's Union was formed in 1961 by Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira and Robert Mugabe, due to their perception of the R-ANC being too moderate and too willing to compromise; the R-ANC thus split into the ZAPU and the NDP. An explicitly socialist party, ZAPU's primary aim was unconditional black rule and the establishment of a communist state. The Zimbabwe African National Union shared these goals, but split off from ZAPU in late 1963 over disagreements on interpretations of communism - ZAPU, supported by the Soviet Union, had an ideology calling for the mobilisation of urban workers, whereas ZANU sought the mobilisation of the rural peasantry; ZAPU quickly gained the support of the People's Republic of China. However, popular support for the two parties was minimal, however, due to the optimism generated by the reforms started by the Armstrong government.