1953 Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland election

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The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland general election of 15 December 1953 was the first election to the legislative assembly of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which had been formed a few months before. The election saw a landslide victory for the Federal Party under Godfrey Huggins, who had been Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia for the past 20 years.

Composition of the Federal Assembly[edit]

Voters elected 35 members of a unicameral Federal Assembly: 14 from Southern Rhodesia constituencies, 8 from Northern Rhodesia constituencies, and four from Nyasaland. In addition, there were three members from each territory representing African interests: one of these was a European and two were African. In Southern Rhodesia only, these positions were elected; in the other territories, the Governor appointed the European member, while an electoral college chose the African members.

Electoral qualifications[edit]

When the Federal constitution was agreed at the London conference of 1953, the qualification for electors in Northern and Southern Rhodesia was taken as the same as those in operation for territorial elections in those territories. Nyasaland did not have direct elections at this point and so was excluded until the Legislative Council there enacted proper provisions.

At the election day, the electorate was comprised as follows:

Territory European electors Asian electors Coloured electors African electors Total
Southern Rhodesia 48,869 594 570 441 50,474
Northern Rhodesia 14,588 856 3 15,447
Nyasaland 983 75 1,058
Total 64,440 2,095 444 66,979

Election campaign[edit]

The advent of the Federation caused a profound shift in the structure of politics in the Rhodesias. Godfrey Huggins formed the Federal Party to fight the election, merging his own United Party with the opposition Rhodesia Party and incorporating supporters in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Several members of other opposition parties in Southern Rhodesia who supported federation also decided to join the Federal Party. Among them were William Eastwood, from the Rhodesia Labour Party, whose departure was prompted by the initial decision of his Party to fight the elections: Eastwood felt that this would divide supporters of federation. Another opposition member going over to the Federal Party was Ian Smith, who had been elected as a Liberal candidate in the 1948 general election.

Opponents of federation formed the Confederate Party, which advocated a system in the Rhodesias akin to apartheid in South Africa. This issue was also raised by Huggins who campaigned vigorously against it. Huggins believed the policy was unpopular and impractical. A group called the Progressive Party was formed to offer voters a party of the centre-left, but swiftly dissolved when it found organising a difficulty and realised it would not be able to nominate more than about two candidates. There were a few independent candidates, most notably two in Northern Rhodesia. Dr Alexander Scott in Lusaka and Norman Lacey in the copperbelt constituency of Nkana-Chingola both advocated a liberal racial policy similar to that which the Progressive Party had been intending to offer.

One unusual court case arose after nominations. Gaston Thornicroft, a mixed-race man who was described as "living like a European", was refused nomination for the Southern Rhodesia constituency for Europeans to represent African interests on the grounds that he was not a European. He challenged the decision in court but was unsuccessful.


The state of the parties was:

Party Members
Northern Rhodesia Nyasaland Southern Rhodesia Total
Federal Party 7 4 13 24
Independents 4 3 3 10
Confederate Party - - 1 1
Total 11 7 17 35

Constituency results[edit]

Northern Rhodesia[edit]

Ordinary members[edit]

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
Broken Hill
1,552 (60.3%)
Roland Welensky Federal Party 817 87.3
William Kirkwood Confederate Party 119 12.7
1,015 (62.9%)
Guillaume François Marais Van Eeden Federal Party 441 69.1
John Gaunt Confederate Party 197 30.9
1,377 (66.7%)
John Cranmer Graylin Federal Party 671 73.0
Frank Derby Confederate Party 248 27.0
3,066 (60.0%)
Vincent Thomas Joyce Federal Party 1,326 72.1
Douglas Edgar Charsley Confederate Party 513 27.9
889 (61.9%)
Frank Bruce Robertson Federal Party 446 81.1
Charles Benjamin Dodkins Confederate Party 104 18.9
2,172 (67.4%)
Dr Alexander Scott Independent 758 51.8
Ernest Walter Sargeant Federal Party 626 42.8
Raymond Beresford Pakenham Confederate Party 79 5.4
1,946 (57.2%)
Frank Stephen Owen Federal Party 907 81.5
Willem Hugo Van Zyl Confederate Party 206 18.5
3,490 (66.6%)
George Wellington Rex L'Ange Federal Party 1,819 78.2
Edward Brockman Hovelmeier Confederate Party 392 16.9
Norman Henry Lacey Independent 115 4.9

Specially elected African members[edit]

Territory Member Party
Northern Rhodesia Mateyo Kakumbi Independent
Dauti Lawton Yamba Independent

Specially appointed European member[edit]

Territory Member Party
NORTHERN RHODESIA Dr. John Fearby Campbell Haslam (resigned, 20 December 1954) Independent
Sir John Smith Moffat (appointed 22 December 1954) Independent


Ordinary members[edit]

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
Four members
1,058 (85.8%)
Rupert Cecil Bucquet Federal Party 903 87.3
John Foot Federal Party 879
Paul Frederick Brereton Federal Party 822
Malcolm Palliser Barrow Federal Party 808
Pranlal Dayaram Lalsodagarwala Independent 105 9.7
Alibhai Adambhai Desai Independent 85
Charles Walsh Confederate Party 29 3.0

Specially elected African members[edit]

Territory Member Party
NYASALAND Wellington Manoah Chirwa Independent
Clement Robin Kumbikano Independent

Specially appointed European member[edit]

Territory Member Party
NYASALAND Andrew Beveridge Doig (resigned, 24 June 1958) Independent

Southern Rhodesia[edit]

Ordinary members[edit]

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
3,618 (83.2%)
Benjamin Disraeli Goldberg Federal Party 1,886 62.7
Andrew Skeen Confederate Party 1,123 37.3
3,401 (75.9%)
Donald Macintyre Federal Party 1,789 69.3
Arthur Lear Smith Confederate Party 793 30.7
3,575 (77.3%)
William Hives Eastwood Federal Party 1,961 71.0
William Shaw Confederate Party 801 29.0
3,547 (79.4%)
John Moore Caldicott Federal Party 1,946 69.1
Richard Hunter Christie Confederate Party 872 30.9
3,584 (71.5%)
Ian Douglas Smith Federal Party 1,148 44.8
Robert Williamson Independent 785 30.6
William Henry Weedon Confederate Party 629 24.6
3,664 (80.3%)
Neville Gwynne Barrett Federal Party 1,816 61.7
George Richard Musgrave Confederate Party 1,126 38.3
3,995 (72.8%)
Leslie Manfred Noel Hodson Federal Party 2,023 69.5
John Liston Dalrymple Confederate Party 886 30.5
3,665 (75.2%)
William Alexander Eustace Winterton Federal Party 1,496 54.3
Hendrik Andries Alberts Confederate Party 1,261 45.7
3,649 (77.2%)
Godfrey Martin Huggins Federal Party 2,055 73.0
Estcourt Vernon Herbert Cresswell-George Confederate Party 761 27.0
3,848 (78.3%)
James Watson Swan Federal Party 2,069 68.7
Percy Arthur Newton Confederate Party 943 31.3
3,331 (78.0%)
John Richard Dendy Young Confederate Party 1,415 54.5
Jacob Letterstedt Smit Federal Party 1,182 45.5
3,675 (78.0%)
Julius Macdonald Greenfield Federal Party 2,072 72.3
William Henry Rattham Confederate Party 795 27.7
3,484 (75.5%)
Leslie Major Cullinan Federal Party 1,491 56.7
James Angus Graham, Marquess Graham Confederate Party 1,138 43.3
3,375 (73.4%)
Robert Francis Halsted Federal Party 1,593 64.3
Andries Bernardus Mentz Confederate Party 883 35.7

Specially elected African members[edit]

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
26,049 (55.9%)
Jasper Zengeza Savanhu Independent 9,447 64.9
Stanlake John William Thompson Samkange Independent 5,120 35.1
24,425 (53.1%)
Masotsha Mike Hove Independent 10,558 81.5
Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Independent 2,400 18.5

Specially elected European member[edit]

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
50,474 (72.4%)
Percy Ibbotson Independent 13,402 36.7
Ian Finlay McLean Confederate Party 10,183 27.9
James Henderson Farquhar Independent 8,353 22.8
Henry Alfred Holmes Independent 4,621 12.6

Changes during the Assembly[edit]

Southern Rhodesia by-election[edit]

Rev. Percy Ibbotson, the specially elected European member representing African interests from Southern Rhodesia, died on 3 April 1955. When nominations closed on 27 May 1955, Harry Ellinder Davies was the only candidate to replace him, and was therefore declared elected unopposed.

Kafue by-election[edit]

Guy Van Eeden, who became increasingly opposed to Federal Party policies, was expelled from the party in July 1955 and responded by resigning on 8 July 1955 to seek re-election in his constituency of Kafue (Northern Rhodesia). The by-election was held on 6 October 1955.

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
1,290 (64.7%)
Guillaume François Marais Van Eeden Independent 500 59.9
Geoffrey Bernard Beckett Federal Party 305 36.5
Frank Sheridan Derby Independent CP 30 3.6

Sebakwe by-election[edit]

J.R. Dendy Young, the Confederate Party member for Sebakwe (Southern Rhodesia), was appointed as a Judge. He resigned on 26 January 1956, and the by-election to succeed him was held on 5 April 1956. By this time, the Confederate Party had been dissolved and replaced by the Dominion Party.

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
SEBAKWE Robert Williamson DP 805 36.7
Dr Morris Isaac Hirsch Federal Party 786 35.8
Johannes Mathys de Kock Com P 603 27.5

Mrewa by-election[edit]

Neville Barrett, the Federal Party member for Mrewa (Southern Rhodesia) died on 15 April 1957. The by-election to replace him was held on 6 June 1957.

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes %
3,853 (67.4%)
Winston Joseph Field DP 1,375 52.9
Evan Roy Campbell Federal Party 1,223 47.1

Mashonaland by-election[edit]

Jasper Savanhu, the specially elected African member for Mashonaland (Southern Rhodesia), had problems with the proposed new constitution in terms of its provisions for voters' qualifications. Although his responsibility was to represent the views of Africans, his electorate were predominantly Europeans. He therefore decided to vote for the proposals, but immediately to resign (1 August 1957) and seek re-election. When nominations closed on 27 September 1957, he was the only candidate nominated, and was therefore declared elected unopposed.

Seat vacant at dissolution[edit]

Paul Brereton (Federal Party), one of the ordinary members for Nyasaland, died on 21 July 1958. The seat was left vacant due to the imminent federal election.