Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence
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The Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of Rhodesia from the United Kingdom was signed on 11 November 1965, by the administration of Ian Smith, whose Rhodesian Front party opposed an immediate transfer to black majority rule in the self-governing British colony. Although it declared independence from the United Kingdom it maintained allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II. The British government, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations condemned the move as illegal. Rhodesia reverted to British control as "the British Dependency of Southern Rhodesia" for a brief period in 1979 to 1980, before regaining its independence as Zimbabwe in 1980.
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Following a referendum the previous year in which voters had overwhelmingly backed independence, in late 1965, with negotiations between the United Kingdom and Rhodesia at an impasse, Smith (according to his autobiography Bitter Harvest) had authorised a committee under Cabinet Secretary Gerald B. Clarke to look at historical independence declarations to come up with a suitable version for Rhodesia in the event of a UDI having to be declared. The committee decided to use the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence as its reference. Once the text was agreed upon, the Government Printer in Salisbury created the actual document (during the first week of November).
Clarke placed the document in storage in the Rhodesian Parliament building until the morning of 11 November, when Smith and his cabinet colleagues – after a last-minute appeal by the British Government failed to convince them not to follow this course of action – voted unanimously to declare their independence. Clarke was then directed by Smith to prepare the signing ceremony. The document was placed in an adjoining conference room to where the cabinet had convened to take their vote. With a photographer to record the historic moment, Smith, Deputy Prime Minister Clifford Dupont, and the other cabinet members signed the declaration. Later that day, Smith read it out on national radio, along with a speech giving justification for the action.
The timing of Smith's telegram to the British Prime Minister (Harold Wilson) announcing the UDI was symbolic. The message was sent at precisely 1 pm local time (11 am in London) at the exact moment that the United Kingdom started its Remembrance Day observance (two minutes of silence to mark the end of World War I and honour its war dead). The not-so-hidden message in this timing was to recall the fact that Rhodesia had helped the UK in its time of need in both World Wars and that the British should not forget that.
Text of Declaration 
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Whereas in the course of human affairs history has shown that it may become necessary for a people to resolve the political affiliations which have connected them with another people and to assume amongst other nations the separate and equal status to which they are entitled.
And Whereas in such event a respect for the opinions of mankind requires them to declare to other nations the causes which impel them to assume full responsibility for their own affairs.
Now Therefore, We, The Government of Rhodesia, Do Hereby Declare:
That it is an indisputable and accepted historic fact that since 1923 the Government of Rhodesia have exercised the powers of self-government and have been responsible for the progress, development and welfare of their people;
That the people of Rhodesia having demonstrated their loyalty to the crown and to their kith and kin in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through two world wars, and having been prepared to shed their blood and give of their substance in what they believed to be the mutual interests of freedom-loving people, now see all that they have cherished about to be shattered on the rocks of expediency.
That the people of Rhodesia have witnessed a process which is destructive of those very precepts upon which civilisation in a primitive country has been built; they have seen the principles of Western democracy, responsible government and moral standards crumble elsewhere; nevertheless they have remained steadfast;
That the people of Rhodesia fully support the requests of their Government for sovereign independence but have witnessed the consistent refusal of the Government of the United Kingdom to accede to their entreaties;
That the Government of the United Kingdom have thus demonstrated that they are not prepared to grant sovereign independence to Rhodesia on terms acceptable to the people of Rhodesia, thereby persisting in maintaining an unwarrantable jurisdiction over Rhodesia, obstructing laws and treaties with other states and the conduct of affairs with other nations and refusing assent to laws necessary for the public good; all this to the detriment to the future peace, prosperity and good government of Rhodesia;
That the Government of Rhodesia have for a long period patiently and in good faith negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom for the removal of the remaining limitations placed upon them and for the grant of sovereign independence;
That in the belief that procrastination and delay strike at and injure the very life of the nation, the Government of Rhodesia consider it essential that Rhodesia should attain, without delay, sovereign independence, the justice of which is beyond question;
Now Therefore, We The Government of Rhodesia, in humble submission to Almighty God who controls the destinies of nations, conscious that the people of Rhodesia have always shown unswerving loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty the Queen and earnestly praying that we and the people of Rhodesia will not be hindered in our determination to continue exercising our undoubted right to demonstrate the same loyalty and devotion, and seeking to promote the common good so that the dignity and freedom of all men may be assured, Do, By This Proclamation, adopt, enact and give to the people of Rhodesia the Constitution annexed hereto;
God Save The Queen
Given under Our Hand at Salisbury, this Eleventh day of November in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five.
Twelve members of the Cabinet signed the Proclamation:
- Ian Smith (Prime Minister)
- Clifford Dupont (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs)
- John Wrathall (Minister of Finance and Posts)
- Desmond Lardner-Burke (Minister of Justice and Law and Order)
- Jack Howman (Minister of Tourism and Information)
- James Graham, 7th Duke of Montrose (Minister of Agriculture)
- George Rudland (Minister of Trade, Industry and Development).
- William Harper (Minister of Internal Affairs and Public Service)
- A. P. Smith (Minister of Education)
- Ian McLean (Minister of Health, Labour, and Social Welfare)
- Jack Mussett (Minister of Housing and Local Government)
- Phillip van Heerden (Minister of Mines, Lands, and Water Development).
The following junior members of the Cabinet were present, but did not sign:
- Ian Dillon (Chief Government Whip)
- Lance Smith (Minister without portfolio)
- Andrew Dunlop (Minister without portfolio)
- P. K. van der Byl (Deputy Minister of Information)
All but one of the Cabinet members present at the signing of the Declaration were awarded the Independence Decoration in 1970 in honour of the event.
There were fourteen copies of the Proclamation document made which were signed again by original signatories who each received a copy. The two additional copies were made for Mr.Leo Ross (Director of Information) and Mr. David Williams (Deputy Director of Information) who were primarily responsible for the original drafting of the document. This was acknowledged by P.K. van der Byl during the eulogy for Leo Ross in August 1975. Notably William Harper refused to sign the copies for Ross and Williams. Ross was awarded the Independence Decoration and Williams the Independence Commemorative Decoration. The copy owned by James Graham was destroyed by a fire in 1981.
The day after the UDI the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 216 condemning it as a declaration of independence "made by a racist minority." The United Kingdom moved to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on what they now regarded as a rebel colony. In addition, the British High Commissioner in Salisbury — John Baines Johnston — was withdrawn and the Rhodesian High Commissioner — Brigadier Andrew Skeen — was declared persona non-grata and ordered to leave Britain. Rhodesia House (Rhodesia's High Commission in the UK) lost its diplomatic status and simply became an information office for Smith's administration.
Under instructions from the British Government, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, formally dismissed Smith and his cabinet for what was deemed "an act of treason against the United Kingdom". This action, not the UDI, was the only internationally recognised action by an official in Rhodesia at the time. Smith's government however ignored the dismissal, stating that as Rhodesia was no longer a colony and governed under a new constitution that made Gibbs' office obsolete, the dismissal no longer had (in their view) any legality. Gibbs remained ensconced in Government House for the next four years, resigning his office only after the republic referendum passed in late 1969.
In September 1968, the Appellate Division of the Rhodesian High Court ruled that Ian Smith's administration had become the "de jure" government of the country, not just the "de facto" one. To support that decision, the Rhodesian Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Beadle, quoted the 17th Century Dutch Jurist, Hugo Grotius (who is sometimes described as the “Grandfather of International Law”). Grotius maintained that there was no way in which a State could rightly claim to be governing a particular territory – if it was waging a war against that territory. Thus, Beadle argued that because of Britain's economic war against Rhodesia, Britain could not at the same time be described as governing Rhodesia.
Even after the United Nations followed Britain's lead in imposing sanctions, the apartheid regime in South Africa continued to give economic support to Rhodesia, but did not extend official recognition to the new state, sending only an 'Accredited Diplomatic Representative' to Salisbury. Portugal, then the colonial power in neighbouring Mozambique, gave economic support, including access to Mozambique's sea ports. Following the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and toppling of the Portuguese government in Lisbon, the communist Frelimo movement seized power in Mozambique as independence was granted. This was a severe blow to the Rhodesian government and Prime Minister Smith, militarily as well as economically, as Frelimo had a staunchly anti-colonial platform and its leader, Samora Machel was an ally of Robert Mugabe and allowed ZANU a base there to mount incursions into Rhodesia.
Declaration of a Republic 
Smith had sought to make Rhodesia a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, with the title of Queen of Rhodesia, but Sir Humphrey Gibbs, still internationally recognised as the only legal authority in Rhodesia, refused to recognise Smith's authority. Smith responded by ignoring Sir Humphrey and appointing Deputy Prime Minister Dupont as the Officer Administering the Government (best described as an interim governor).
Eventually, the Smith government abandoned attempts to remain loyal to the Crown and, in 1969, a majority of whites voted in referendum to declare Rhodesia a republic, which was declared in 1970, with Dupont as president. Sir Humphrey resigned at that point and left Government House.
As a result of the change, the 'Royal' prefix was dropped from the title of the Rhodesian Air Force and the Crown was removed from the badges of army regiments and the British South Africa Police as well as rank insignia. It was replaced by the lion holding the elephant tusk that was the badge of the British South Africa Company.
The government hoped that severing constitutional links with the United Kingdom would end any ambiguity about Rhodesia's status, gain diplomatic recognition, and bring an end to economic sanctions. However, the issues of white minority control remained and hindered this effort, and like UDI before it, the republic was unrecognised internationally.
Government of Rhodesia 
Under the first post-UDI constitution, political power remained with the Legislative Assembly, of which the majority of members were white. Unlike South Africa, Rhodesia's black African majority had representation in the Assembly, but the separate franchise (the 'B' roll) was restricted to those who owned property, and also tribal chiefs, many of whom were derided as puppets of the white regime.
The 1969 republican constitution created a bicameral parliament, with a Senate and a House of Assembly, both of which had white majorities. The President replaced the Officer Administering the Government as a ceremonial head of state, with executive power remaining with the Prime Minister as head of government.
Trappings of sovereignty 
New banknotes were produced to replace British-made banknotes, which were no longer forthcoming after the UDI. Originally a German firm was commissioned to print the currency, but their newly printed batches of banknotes were destroyed after Britain successfully lobbied the German Government to halt the order. Rhodesia then decided to make their currency locally. Their locally made replacement Rhodesian pound compared well with the British-made predecessor (still retaining the Queen's portrait), then in 1970, the Rhodesian dollar came into use. The banknotes proved to be very well made, and the currency performed well on the international market, being stronger than the pound sterling and the South African rand. However, the Rhodesian dollar was never a fully convertible currency and its exchange rate was therefore no recognition of underlying economics.
Foreign relations 
Although South Africa (and until 1975, Portugal) gave economic and tacit military support to Rhodesia, no country ever extended full diplomatic recognition to it, and most countries closed their consulates in Salisbury following the UDI, one exception being the United States, which maintained a Consul-General, though redesignated as 'US Contacts Office' to show the USA's official attitude of non-recognition of the post-UDI government. South Africa and Portugal each maintained an Accredited Diplomatic Representative office in Salisbury (which were embassies in all but name), while Rhodesia did likewise in Pretoria, Lisbon, and Lourenço Marques. The argument the Rhodesian government used to exchange diplomatic missions with countries that did not recognise Rhodesia as a sovereign state was that, as a British colony, Rhodesia had been granted the right to appoint diplomatic agents as long as they kept the British government informed.
After the UDI, Rhodesia House in London (the Rhodesian High Commission) simply became a representative office with no official diplomatic status. However, the most important Rhodesian representative offices were in Pretoria and Lisbon, although the latter closed in 1975, along with the office in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. The other unofficial representative offices, in Washington DC, Bonn, and Tokyo, closed in 1979.
Air Rhodesia 
Central African Airways was a British colonial airline which served several territories in the region. Following independence of Zambia and Malawi, who began their own airlines, the remaining airline operation at the base in Salisbury (always the CAA centre of operations) was renamed Air Rhodesia. After UDI it continued operation, with its fleet of Vickers Viscount propeller aircraft, operating domestically and to South Africa. Spare parts and similar for the aircraft were obtained through various supply routes. The Viscounts continued operating from colonial times, throughout the UDI period, and for several years into Zimbabwe independence.
In April 1973, three Boeing 720 jet aircraft were idle at Basle airport, Switzerland, following the bankruptcy of the German airline Calair, and were being offered for sale by an aircraft dealer there. A front organisation based in Paraguay was created, which bought the aircraft from the dealer for cash in US dollars. Boeing-qualified freelance crews arrived, and flew them together to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands where they made a refuelling stop, paid for the fuel in cash, and filed flight plans for the three aircraft across the South Atlantic to Paraguay, departing in the evening. Fictitious position reports were sent by HF radio as if the aircraft were mid-ocean following the stated route. The three aircraft did not arrive in Paraguay, but arrived the next morning in Salisbury, where they formed the jet aircraft fleet of Air Rhodesia for the remaining years of UDI, and again through for several years as Air Zimbabwe.
End of Rhodesia 
In 1978 an Internal Settlement was signed between Smith's government and two more moderate African nationalist parties, the United African National Council (UANC), led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and ZANU (Ndonga), led by Ndabaningi Sithole. However, this did not involve the two main communist parties in exile – the remainder of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led by Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo — which respectively fielded both major armies in the Rhodesian Bush War. Consequently, it was rejected by the international community.
In April 1979 the first multiracial elections were held in Rhodesia, which saw Abel Muzorewa become the first black Prime Minister of what was now called Zimbabwe Rhodesia. However, under the Internal Settlement, whites retained control of the country's judiciary, civil service, police and armed forces, and had a quarter of the seats in parliament reserved for them.
In December 1979 following multi-party talks at Lancaster House in London, Britain resumed control of Rhodesia, and with the help of observers from other Commonwealth countries, saw the first full participatory elections. During the four-month period that the country was restored to the status of a British colony it was known officially as "the British Dependency of Southern Rhodesia". The Republic of Zimbabwe came into being on 18 April 1980.
- Peter N. Stearns and William Leonard Langer. The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged, 2001. Page 1069.
- Smith, Ian (1997). The Great Betrayal. London: Blake Publishing. pp. 104–108.
- Rhodesia Herald, Salisbury, 13 to 20 September 1968
- "Rhodesian Currency". Retrieved 2008-01-25.
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- British Reaction to UDI, 11 November 1965
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