Clifford Dupont

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His Excellency The Right Honourable
Clifford Dupont
C Dupont.jpg
Clifford Dupont, President of the Republic of Rhodesia
1st President of Rhodesia
In office
2 March 1970 – 31 December 1975
Prime Minister Ian Smith
Preceded by Himself as Officer Administering the Government
Succeeded by John Wrathall
1st Officer Administrating the Government
In office
17 November 1965 – 2 March 1970
Prime Minister Ian Smith
Preceded by Sir Humphrey Gibbs (as Governor of Southern Rhodesia, de facto)
Succeeded by Himself as President
1st Deputy Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
In office
Prime Minister Ian Smith
Preceded by none
Succeeded by none
Personal details
Born 6 December 1905
London, England
Died 28 June 1978 (aged 72)
Salisbury, Rhodesia
Political party Rhodesian Front
Spouse(s) Barbie Dunport (1933–42)
Betty Wood (1946–57)
Armenell Mary Betty Bennet (1963–78)
Children Hilary
Alma mater Clare College, Cambridge
Profession Solicitor

Clifford Walter Dupont, GCLM, ID (6 December 1905 – 28 June 1978) was a Rhodesian politician who served in the internationally unrecognised positions of Officer Administrating the Government (from 1965 until 1970) and President (from 1970 to 1975). Born in London and qualifying as a solicitor, Dupont served during the Second World War as an officer of the British Royal Artillery in North Africa before first visiting Southern Rhodesia in 1947. He returned a year later, started a ranch and emigrated full-time during the early 1950s, by which time the country had become a territory of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

He entered politics in 1958, winning on the Dominion Party ticket in the Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) federal constituency. Four years later, he became the member for Charter in the Southern Rhodesian parliament, this time running for the Rhodesian Front (RF). At the same time, he was appointed Minister for Justice. Forming a close relationship with the rising RF politician Ian Smith, Dupont assisted in the latter's becoming Prime Minister in 1964 and was consequently promoted to become Smith's deputy. As Deputy Prime Minister, he held the portfolio of External Affairs, and added Defence in June 1965.

In October 1964, Dupont thwarted Sir Roy Welensky's attempt to re-enter politics in Rhodesia following the break-up of the Federation. Welensky had assumed the leadership of the opposition UFP (which he renamed the Rhodesia Party), and was contesting a by-election in Arundel. However, Dupont deliberately resigned his constituency in Charter to oppose Welensky, and soundly defeated him by 1079 votes to 633.[1]

When Rhodesia's government issued the Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain on 11 November 1965, Dupont, as Deputy Prime Minister, was the second to sign. Smith attempted to have Dupont named as Governor-General in place of the British-appointed governor, Humphrey Gibbs, but failing this instead made him Officer Administering the Government. He held this post until 1970, when he became President of the newly declared Republic of Rhodesia. After suffering from ill health during this last appointment, he retired at the end of 1975 and died in 1978.


Early life[edit]

Of Huguenot ancestry, Dupont was born in London on 6 December 1905, into a family which consisted of two older brothers and an elder, and subsequently a younger, sister. His father founded a commercial firm dealing largely in the "rag trade". Clifford himself was educated at Bishop's Stortford College and Clare College, Cambridge where he read law. He qualified as a solicitor in 1929 and set up his own company in 1933.

Having served in the Royal Artillery Officer Training Corps while at University, on the outbreak of World War II he was commissioned into the Artillery and served as an adjutant for a light anti-aircraft battalion. He served in North Africa and was on General Eisenhower's staff during the liberation of Europe in 1944; he ended the war as a War Office official.

Move to Rhodesia[edit]

In 1947 Dupont briefly visited Southern Rhodesia, returning in 1948. He bought land at Featherstone, south of Salisbury (now Harare), which he turned into a successful cattle ranch. He emigrated full-time in the early 1950s – by which time the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland had come into being, including Southern Rhodesia as a territory – but was not initially involved in politics. Tragedy struck him several times later in the decade: in 1957 his second wife died, and in 1958 his son and daughter were both killed in an air crash.


At the Federal election in 1958, Dupont became the Dominion Party candidate for Fort Victoria. In the 1962 general election in Rhodesia, he won the Charter constituency as a Rhodesian Front candidate and was rewarded with appointment as Minister of Justice in the RF government. However, Dupont was not pleased with the performance of the Prime Minister, Winston Field, and after Field's failure to win independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 following the dissolution of the Central African Federation, he joined with the plotters who overthrew Field and installed Ian Smith as Prime Minister.

UDI role[edit]

From August 1964 Dupont was Deputy Prime Minister of Rhodesia, and served as Smith's Minister of External Affairs (adding also the Defence portfolio from June 1965). When Smith issued the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965, Dupont was the second signatory to the UDI document. Smith's government still professed loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II, and originally had the intention of reconstituting Rhodesia as a separate Commonwealth realm, with Dupont as Governor-General of Rhodesia.

The Queen, acting on advice from the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, ignored Smith's request to name Dupont as Governor-General, maintaining that the Governor, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, was her only legitimate representative--and hence the only lawful authority in the area. In lieu of recommending Dupont as the Queen's representative, Smith crafted a new post of Officer Administering the Government in which Dupont effectively replaced Gibbs when formally appointed on 20 December. Opponents of UDI who considered it an illegal move, such as the Independent member of the Legislative Assembly Ahrn Palley, refused to recognise Dupont's office.


It therefore fell to Dupont to sign the papers to dissolve the Rhodesia Legislative Assembly in March 1970 and to issue the proclamation summoning a new House of Assembly under a constitution which severed Rhodesia's links with Britain. When Rhodesia was formally declared a republic, the legislature elected Dupont as President on 14 April 1970. During the latter period of his term he suffered long bouts of ill health, and retired on 31 December 1975.

Personal life[edit]

Dupont initially married in London in 1933 to Barbara (Barbie). They divorced in 1942. He and Barbie had two children; Hilary and Graham. Graham died in childhood in England 1942. In 1946 he married his second wife Betty 'Timmy' Wood in Kensington Registry Office. 'Timmy' was 15 years his junior. In 1947 they had a son, Stephen. Betty 'Timmy' died in 1957 in Salisbury, and was buried in Warren Hills. His two children, Hilary and Stephen, were killed in 1958, when their Central African Airways plane crashed near Benghazi.

On 23 May 1963 he married Armenell Mary Betty Bennet, originally from Cornwall, who was a branch organizer for the Rhodesian Front. They had no children and Armenell died on 10 April 2000 in Harare.


  • Dupont, Clifford (1978). The Reluctant President: The Memoirs of the Hon. Clifford Dupont, GCLM., ID. Bulawayo, Rhodesia: Books of Rhodesia Publishing Co. (Pvt) Ltd. ISBN 0-86920-183-2. 


  1. ^ Wood, JRT (2004). So far and no further!: Rhodesia's bid for independence during the retreat from empire 1959–1965. Victoria: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-4952-0.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Deputy Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Officer Administering the Government of Rhodesia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
President of Rhodesia
Succeeded by
John Wrathall