It’s history: Rhodesia agrees to end white rule: Archives 24 September 1976

via On This Day: Rhodesia agrees to end white rule – Yahoo News UK By Julian Gavaghan

The former British colony, which became Zimbabwe in 1980, had been at war since its Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965

Rhodesian premier Ian Smith (left) meets guerilla leader Joshua Nkomo in 1979. (Rex)

Rhodesian premier Ian Smith (left) meets guerilla leader Josiah Tongorara  in 1979. (Rex)

SEPTEMBER 24, 1976: Rhodesia agreed to end nine decades of white-minority rule on this day in 1976 – although it took three more years of civil war before the black majority governed.

The former British colony, which became Zimbabwe in 1980, had been at war since its Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965.

But UK Premier Harold Wilson declared the move illegal after earlier insisting that there could be no independence without first introducing majority rule.

The international community instantly shunned the new country, with not even neighbouring white minority-ruled South Africa recognising Rhodesia’s sovereignty.

In a bid to garner support, Smith carried out a 1969 referendum in which whites, who accounted for 4.3% of its 6.5million people, voted against introducing majority rule.

A British Pathé newsreel covered the farce as it filmed the voters – and those barred from casting a ballot – in the capital Salisbury, which has since been renamed Harare.

Meanwhile, indigenous African militias – led by Joshua Nkomo and current dictator Robert Mugabe – were also waging an increasingly bloody insurgency.

By 1976, racist Smith – who saw his minority government as sustaining “civilisation in a primitive country” – had conceded that white rule would have to end.

Under pressure to respond to a joint British and American peace plan, he agreed to introduce black majority rule to the country within two years.

In return for promising an interim bi-racial government, the insurgents were expected to end their violence and the West to lift their sanctions.

Yet Smith failed to act swiftly and the Bush War continued.

In 1979, the country’s first multi-racial elections were held, although Mugabe and Nkomo’s parties were banned from running.

However, it did not stop the violence and the black-majority government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who renamed the country Zimbabwe Rhodesia, was short lived.

In the end a peace agreement was brokered that allowed for the state to temporarily revert to the status of a British colony before fully democratic elections were held.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union won a huge majority in the March 1980 elections after intimidation voters – a tactic he continued in the decades afterwards.

Britain and the West were accused of looking the other way and the vote was ruled free and fair.

On April 18, 1980, Zimbabwe was formally granted independence and Rhodesia – named for British mining magnate Cecil Rhodes – ceased to exist.

Mugabe – fearing the chaos of “white flight” that happened in Mozambique after Portugal relinquished its colony in 1975 – initially tried to placate the former rulers.

Even Smith was encouraged to stay – and he remained on his family farm until 2005 when an illness forced him to seek treatment in South Africa, where he died in 2007.

Yet Mugabe soon cracked down on his black opponents – most notably the massacre of an estimated 20,000 Ndebele people by his predominantly Shona thugs.

Soon enough his militias, which also ousted Nkomo, began seizing white-owned farmland and redistributing it among members of the renamed ZANU-PF party.

This campaign of intimidation, which led to the white population dropping from 278,000 to less than 50,000, peaked in 2002.

It ruined the economy and triggered a hyperinflation crisis that led to 500 trillion dollar banknotes being issued in 2008 and then quickly becoming worthless.

The same year, as millions in the mineral-rich country faced starvation, the average life expectancy for women plunged to 34 – the lowest in the world.

The crisis forced Mugabe to agree to a power-sharing deal with his frequently beaten and tortured rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

But at this year’s elections, the opposition accused winner Mugabe cheating again and have boycotted the parliament in protest.


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    I feel ashamed to admit my family came from such a place if Rhodesia was so much worse than current Zimbabwe how come a third of the population have fled, its a disgrace, utterly

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      zondi 11 years ago

      If Rhodesia was better than Zimbabwe, then why did the more than 70 000 ZANLA and ZIPRA cadres took up arms against Ian Smith and his Rhodies? You never lived in Rhodesia young man, that’s why you are hallucinating.

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    mambo 11 years ago

    Great picture of Joshua Nkomo wearing a Josiah Tongogara mask!

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    Until he died Smith walked the streets of Zimbabwe without any form of protection and was applauded everywhere he went. Mugabe??

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      zondi 11 years ago

      He basking in the comfort of the Reconciliation Policy of Mugabe’s Govt and we all accepted that. Don’t praise a murderer who massacred tens of thousands of Zimbabweans children in Chimoio, Nyadzonya,(Mozambique), Zambia and many other places.

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        zondi 11 years ago

        He was in fact basking in the comfort of the Reconciliation Policy of Mugabe’s Govt and we all accepted that. Don’t praise a murderer who massacred tens of thousands of Zimbabweans children in Chimoio, Nyadzonya,(Mozambique), Zambia and many other places.

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    Zimbali 11 years ago

    Funny how the media address Ian Smith as “racist Smith”. I’ve never seen the media refer to Robert Mugabe as “racist Mugabe”.
    Looking at the record, who looked after the ordinary people the better of the two?

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    MikeH 11 years ago

    And look at the absolute mess the country is in today after 33 years of mugabe&co.

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    essexfarmer 11 years ago

    I wonder how long it will take before the rest of the world, as opposed to those few that already know, is able to widely accept that Rhodesia was a far better place than Zimbabwe is today?

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    imvi dzechembere 11 years ago

    Isu taiva vana, chikafu aiwa aiva mavhu nemarara

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    OSCAR 11 years ago

    I quite understand why black Zimbabweans took up arms to get their “freedom”. Pity they chose a murdering meglomaniac dictator to lead them! Their “freedom” has become a nightmare with a third of the population leaving the country. In many ways Rhodesia was far, far better for the grass roots than Zimbabwe.

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    Morris 11 years ago

    Rhodesia was run by a minority rule, the minority white was in power. Zimbabwe is run by minority rule, a minority cabal of blacks is in power. No difference there. The economy in Rhodesia was very good but that of Zimbabwe is non-existent. In that Rhodesia was far better than Zimbabwe.

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    bingo wajakata 11 years ago

    Rhodesia was way better than Zimbabwe, there is no room for comparison, absolutely none. We are starving, medical care is no more, our hospitals have been turned into concentration camps, our sons and daughters have no access to books at school, there are no jobs, we are not free to speak, our police has become a brigade for oppressing the citizens, the roads are so bad you technically can not call them roads any more, urban transport is a nightmare. Flush back to the Ian Smith time if you were old enough and do a compare and contrast! I would prefer Ian Smith anytime, my fellow black rulers are just that rulers! They know nothing about nation building and national pride. Stealing and oppression is there only objective.

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    Observing 11 years ago

    back when R.M forced the “foreign” boere of their income generating, life supporting farms and gave it to the locals, I was told this story by a friend whose family lost their farm there and fled to SA. They had a very successful multi-production farm with a rather nice house and enough outbuildings that once accommodated 45 people comfortably for a family wedding. When they fled, the locals burned down all the buildings on the farm, and very soon after that erected their own tin-“homes” right next to the ruins of what could have been to them a very opulent mansion. they managed to break down and “sell” the spill-point sprinkler systems in the fields to an apparent close-by neighbour (also local) – which led the fields to turn to dust, even that neighbour never installed it. the just over 200 head of cattle disappeared, and the funniest part of this disappearance is that friends of these former successful farmers noticed that within the first week when the new occupants took over the farm they had a get together to celebrate their gain, and guess which piece of prime beef they devoured first?? The damn prize winning Bull!!! To me it seems that the general problem in dark Africa is the lack of Logic… If one considers ones actions for just a brief moment and take a step back to “think” about the now, the in 10 minutes, the tomorrow and the next 5 years” it changes ones initial approach (usually) quite drastically…. yet most seem to act on impulse, fear, rage and boy oh boy emotions…. decades ago we learned how Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of the world…. one would want to say that again sometime…. but then again…. sometime might really take some time.