Zimbabwe Rhodesia

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Zimbabwe Rhodesia
Motto: Sit Nomine Digna (Latin)
"May she be worthy of the name"
Zimbabwe (orthographic projection).svg
Status Unrecognised state
Capital Salisbury
Common languages English (official)
Government Parliamentary republic
Prime Minister  
Historical era Cold War
1 June 1979
12 December 1979
1979 390,580 km2 (150,800 sq mi)
• 1979
Currency Rhodesian dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Southern Rhodesia
Today part of  Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Rhodesia /zɪmˈbɑːbw rˈdʒə/ was an unrecognised state that existed from 1 June 1979 to 12 December 1979. Zimbabwe Rhodesia was preceded by an unrecognised republic named Rhodesia and was briefly followed by the re-established British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which according to British constitutional theory had remained the proper government after Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965. About three months later, the re-established colony of Southern Rhodesia was granted internationally recognised independence as the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Under pressure from the international community to satisfy the civil rights movement by Blacks in Rhodesia, an "Internal Settlement" was drawn up between the Smith administration of Rhodesia and moderate African nationalist parties not involved in armed resistance. Meanwhile, the government continued to battle armed resistance from both Soviet and Chinese backed Marxist liberation movements it referred to as "terrorists"- the Rhodesian Bush War was an extension of the Cold War, being a proxy conflict between the West and East, similar to those in Vietnam and Korea.

The "Internal Settlement" agreement led to relaxation of education, property and income qualifications for voter rolls, resulting in the first ever Black majority electorate. The country's civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces continued to be administered by the same officials as before, of whom most were Whites, due to the composition of the upper-middle class of the period.[2]


As early as 1960 African nationalist political organisations in Rhodesia agreed that the country should use the name "Zimbabwe"; they used that name as part of the titles of their organisations. The name "Zimbabwe", broken down to Dzimba dzamabwe in Shona (one of the two major languages in the country), means "houses of stone". Meanwhile, the white Rhodesian community was reluctant to drop the name "Rhodesia", hence a compromise was met.[3]

The Constitution named the new State simply as "Zimbabwe Rhodesia", with no reference to its status as a republic in its name.[4] As such, it was similar in style to post-1994 South Africa renaming the Natal province as "KwaZulu-Natal". Although the official name contained no hyphen, the country's name was hyphenated in some foreign publications as "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia".[5][6][7][8] The country was also nicknamed "Rhobabwe", a portmanteau of "Rhodesia" and "Zimbabwe".[9][10]

After taking office as Prime Minister, Abel Muzorewa sought to drop "Rhodesia" from the country's name.[11] The name "Zimbabwe Rhodesia" had been criticised by some black politicians like Senator Chief Zephaniah Charumbira, who said it implied that Zimbabwe was "the son of Rhodesia".[12] ZANU PF, led by Robert Mugabe in exile, denounced what it described as "the derogatory name of 'Zimbabwe Rhodesia'".[13]

The government also adopted a new national flag featuring the same Zimbabwe soapstone bird on 4 September of that year.[14] In response, the Voice of Zimbabwe radio service operated by Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF from Maputo in Mozambique, carried a commentary entitled "The proof of independence is not flags or names", dismissing the changes as aimed at "strengthening the racist puppet alliance's position at the Zimbabwe conference in London".[15]

The national airline, Air Rhodesia, was also renamed Air Zimbabwe, but no postage stamps were issued; issues of 1978 still used "Rhodesia," and the next stamp issues were in 1980, after the change to just "Zimbabwe," and were inscribed accordingly.

Government of Zimbabwe Rhodesia[edit]

During its brief existence, Zimbabwe Rhodesia had one election which resulted in its short-lived biracial government.


Adapting the constitution of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), Zimbabwe Rhodesia was governed by a Prime Minister and Cabinet chosen from the majority party in a one-hundred member House of Assembly. A forty-member Senate acted as the upper House, and both together chose a figurehead President in whose name the government was conducted.

Legislative branch[edit]

House of Assembly[edit]

Of the one hundred members of the House of Assembly, seventy-two were "common roll" members for whom the electorate was every adult citizen. All of these members were black Africans. Those on the previous electoral roll of Rhodesia (due to education, property and income qualifications for voter rolls, mostly but not only white constituencies) elected twenty members; although this did not actually exclude non-whites, very few black Africans met the qualification requirements. A delimitation commission sat in 1978 to determine how to reduce the previous fifty constituencies to twenty. The remaining eight seats for old voter role non-constituency members were filled by members chosen by the other 92 members of the House of Assembly once their election was complete. In the only election held by Zimbabwe Rhodesia, Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANC) won a majority in the common-roll seats, while Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front (RF) won all of the old voter role seats. Ndabaningi Sithole's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) won twelve seats.


The Senate of Zimbabwe Rhodesia had 40 members. Ten members each were returned by the old voter roll members of the House of Assembly and the common roll members, and five members each by the council of Chiefs of Mashonaland and Matabeleland. The remaining members were directly appointed by the President under the advice of the Prime Minister. While the House of Assembly had changed greatly to be nearly in line with modern ideals of universal suffrage, the Senate remained dominated by the former political stalwarts, effectively allowing a check on the new House. It was rather similar to the unelected, but appointed, upper houses of both Canada and the United Kingdom, but even more democratic than both, having one quarter of the members elected as opposed to every member being appointed by the head of state on advice of the head of government.

Executive branch[edit]


The President of Zimbabwe Rhodesia was elected by the members of the Parliament, sitting together. At the election on 28 May 1979, Josiah Zion Gumede of the United African National Council (UANC)[16] and Timoth Ndhlovu of the United National Federal Party (UNFP) were nominated.[17] Gumede won by 80 votes to Ndhlovu's 33.[18]

Prime Minister[edit]

Starting with 51 seats out of 100, Abel Muzorewa of the UANC was appointed as Prime Minister. He formed a joint government with Ian Smith, the former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who was a Minister without Portfolio. Muzorewa also attempted to include the other African parties who had lost the election. Rhodesian Front members served as Muzorewa's Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, and Finance.

End of Zimbabwe Rhodesia[edit]

The Lancaster House Agreement stipulated that control over the country be returned to the United Kingdom in preparation for elections to be held in the spring of 1980. Accordingly, on 11 December 1979, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia (Amendment) (No. 4) Act, declaring that "Zimbabwe Rhodesia shall cease to be an independent State and become part of Her Majesty's dominions", was passed.[19] The next day, Lord Soames arrived to take control. The name of the country formally reverted to Southern Rhodesia at this time, although the name Zimbabwe Rhodesia remained in many of the country's institutions, such as the Zimbabwe Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation.[20] From 12 December 1979 to 17 April 1980, Zimbabwe Rhodesia was again the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. On 18 April 1980, Southern Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Section 6 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979: "There shall be a President in and over Zimbabwe Rhodesia who shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe Rhodesia."
  2. ^ Will We Destroy Zimbabwe-Rhodesia?, Sarasota Journal, July 18, 1979, page 4
  3. ^ A Concise Encyclopedia of Zimbabwe, Donatus Bonde, Mambo Press, 1988 page 422
  4. ^ Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979
  5. ^ Editorials on File, Volume 10, Issue 2, Facts on File, Incorporated, 1979, pages 873-877
  6. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Volume 37, Congressional Quarterly, Incorporated, 1979, page 1585
  7. ^ African Leaders United On View Of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Toledo Blade, June 24, 1979
  8. ^ Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Plagued By Trouble, Reading Eagle, June 14, 1979
  9. ^ Under The Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia, David Caute, Northwestern University Press, 1983, page 354
  10. ^ Confusion in Rhobabwe, The Spectator 20 May 1978
  11. ^ Zimbabwe Rhodesia Bids To Shorten Name To Zimbabwe, Lakeland Ledger, August 26, 1979
  12. ^ Pioneers, Settlers, Aliens, Exiles: The Decolonisation of White Identity in Zimbabwe, J. L. Fisher, ANU E Press, 2010, page 58
  13. ^ Zimbabwe News, Volumes 11-16, Central Bureau of Information of the Zimbabwe National Union, 1979, page 2
  14. ^ NEW FLAG RAISING CEREMONY IN SALISBURY, Associated Press Archive, 4 September 1979
  15. ^ Summary of World Broadcasts: Non-Arab Africa, Issues 6208-6259, BBC Monitoring Service, 1979
  16. ^ Library of Congress Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, United States Congress. Chronologies of Major Developments in Selected Areas of Foreign Affairs.
  17. ^ Sub-Saharan Africa Report, Issues 2114-2120, page 5278, 1979
  18. ^ Africa Research Bulletin, Blackwell, 1979, page 5278
  19. ^ Collective Responses to Illegal Acts in International Law: United Nations Action in the Question of Southern Rhodesia, Vera Gowlland-Debbas Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1990, page 91
  20. ^ ZIMBABWE BILL, HL Deb 17 December 1979 vol 403 cc1470-514