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This article is about the former British colony of (Southern) Rhodesia, today Zimbabwe. See Rhodesia (disambiguation).
Republic of Rhodesia
Flag from 1968-1979 Rhodesian Coat of Arms
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: Sit Nomine Digna (Latin: May she be worthy of the name}
Location of Rhodesia
Official language English.
Capital Salisbury
Political system Parliamentary system
Form of government Republic
- Last President John Wrathall
- Prime Minister Ian Smith
 - Total
 - % water

390 580 km²
 - 1978 est.
 - Density

6 930 000
GDP (PPP) $3.15 billion US (1974 est.)
 - Declared
 - Republic Declared
 - Became Zimbabwe Rhodesia
From British rule
November 11, 1965
March 2, 1970
June 1, 1979
Currency Rhodesian Dollar (R)
Time zone UTC+2
National anthem Rise O Voices of Rhodesia (from 1974)
Calling code +263
Flag of Rhodesia (1964-1968).
Flag of Rhodesia (1964-1968).
Flag of Rhodesia (1968-1979).
Flag of Rhodesia (1968-1979).
The signing of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
The signing of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Rhodesia is the former name of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia in southern Africa, which was governed by a European minority until 1979. The colony was named after Cecil Rhodes, whose British South Africa Company acquired the land in the nineteenth century. The colony gained internationally-recognised independence from Britain in 1980 and became the Republic of Zimbabwe. At an earlier period, the name "Rhodesia" was used to refer to a larger region that corresponds to both Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) and Zambia (Northern Rhodesia).




In 1953, with calls for independence mounting in many of its African possessions, the United Kingdom created the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which consisted of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi respectively).

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved on January 1, 1964. When Northern Rhodesia was granted independence by Britain in 1964, it changed its name to Zambia; Southern Rhodesia remained a British colony and came to be known simply as Rhodesia.


In its central- and southern-African colonies, the British government adopted a policy known as NIBMAR (No Independence Before Majority African Rule). This policy dictated that those colonies with a substantial population of white settlers would not receive independence except under conditions of universal suffrage and majority rule. This policy was opposed by the European minority Rhodesian Front (RF) government, led by Ian Smith. On November 11, 1965, Smith's government declared the country independent from British government rule, in what became known as UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence).

UDI was internationally condemned and, at the behest of Britain, Rhodesia was placed under the first United Nations Security Council authorised sanctions, beginning in 1965 up until its independence as Zimbabwe in 1980.

Initially, the state maintained its loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II as "Queen of Rhodesia" (a title to which she never consented) but not to her representative, the Governor Sir Humphrey Gibbs, whose constitutional duties were exercised by an "Officer Administering the Government", Clifford Dupont. On March 2, 1970, Rhodesia's government formally severed links with the British Crown, and Rhodesia was declared a republic, with Dupont as President.

The Bush War, or Second Chimurenga

A lengthy armed campaign by ZANLA (the military wing of ZANU [the Zimbabwe African National Union]) and ZIPRA (the military wing of ZAPU [the Zimbabwe African People's Union]), against the Rhodesian government followed UDI. This became known as the "Bush War" by the Europeans of Rhodesia and as the "Second Chimurenga" (or rebellion in Shona) by supporters of the guerrillas. ZANU was, at that time, an African nationalist liberation movement, influenced and financed by China and North Korea, and led by Robert Mugabe. ZAPU was also an African nationalist liberation movement, influenced and financed by the USSR, which was led by Joshua Nkomo. Both parties demonstrated broadly Marxist views, but were primarily African nationalist in nature, with their main objective being the end of white minority rule.

The Rhodesian government controlled the terrorist campaign with some success until the end of colonial rule in Mozambique in 1975. At that time ZANU's alliance with FRELIMO and the porous border between Mozambique and eastern Rhodesia enabled large-scale training and infiltration of ZANU/ZANLA supporters. There was also a concurrent increase in the use of violent terror on the rural black population by ZANLA, resulting in the government instituting settlements with permanent armed guards.

The Rhodesian government faced a serious economic struggle during the 1970s as a result of sanctions, emigration, and the strain imposed on the economic system by conscription of all white men (and, in the late 1970s, Asian and Coloured [mixed race] men as well). It also faced loss of support from South Africa, its main trading partner, which, while sympathetic to the white minority government, did not accord it diplomatic recognition. In 1976 the South African and US governments combined to place pressure on Smith to agree to a form of majority rule.

As a result of an "internal settlement" (or agreement) between the Rhodesian government and moderate and peaceful African nationalist parties, which were not in exile and therefore not involved in the war, elections were held in April 1979. The UANC (United African National Council) party won a majority in this election and its leader, Abel Muzorewa (a United Methodist Church bishop), became the country's prime minister on June 1, 1979. Additionally, the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia.

While the 1979 elections were described by the Rhodesian government as non-racial and democratic, they did not include ZANU and ZAPU, which remained banned terrorist organisations in Rhodesia. Bishop Muzorewa's government did not receive international recognition, and the "international community" demanded the inclusion of ZANU and ZAPU in all matters since their exclusion meant that the armed conflict between these groups and the Rhodesian government continued unabated. The British Government (then led by the recently-elected Margaret Thatcher) issued invitations to all parties to attend a peace conference at Lancaster House in London in late 1979.

Even after UDI, Rhodesian banknotes and coins bore the Queen's portrait until 1970.
Even after UDI, Rhodesian banknotes and coins bore the Queen's portrait until 1970.


Under the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain resumed control for a brief time in 1979/1980 and then granted independence to Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1980, following the first all-party, multi-racial elections, which were won by Robert Mugabe and ZANU. On April 18, 1980, the country became independent as the Republic of Zimbabwe, and its capital, Salisbury, was renamed Harare two years later.


At the time of UDI, Rhodesia's constitution provided for a governor, appointed by the Queen, with political power residing with the unicameral Legislative Assembly, in which 50 out of 65 seats were reserved for whites. There were two separate voters' rolls, for whites and blacks, with the franchise for the latter being limited to tribal chiefs and those who met property qualifications.

The RF government drafted a new constitution, which further entrenched white minority rule and made the country a republic, following a whites-only referendum result in favour in 1968.

Under the 1969 constitution, there was a bicameral parliament consisting of an indirectly-elected senate, and a directly-elected House of Assembly, in which the majority of seats were once again reserved for whites. The office of president was a ceremonial post, with executive power remaining with the prime minister.

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