It was arguably the lowest moment in British history.
Faced with the terrifying prospect of black majority rule, the colony of Southern Rhodesia was pushed to the extreme of revolting against the British Empire and declared its independence on November 11, 1965.
The Rhodesian Declaration of Independence came on Remembrance Day which is the day set aside in the British Empire since the First World War to remember the soldiers who had given their lives for Britain. Southern Rhodesia had the highest loss ratio of any dominion or colony in the Second World War. There were more Rhodesian aces than there were from any other group within the British Empire.
Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia had been an RAF fighter pilot who had served Britain with distinction in its hour of greatest need. “Good Old Smithy” had been shot down by German anti-aircraft fire over Italy and had spent five months as a partisan fighting the Nazis behind enemy lines.
By 1965, Britain had launched Ghana (1957), Somalia (1960), Nigeria (1960), Sierra Leone (1961), Kenya (1963), Malawi (1964), Zambia (1964) and The Gambia (1965) on the path to independence. Rhodesians falsely assumed they would be granted their independence in light of their 43 year track record of self government, their unimpeachable war record, and the thriving modern civilization they had built in Southern Africa.
Rhodesia was the model colony of Africa. No other African colony came close to matching Rhodesia (South Africa was already an independent state) in terms of its development and potential. Sub-Saharan Africa was already littered with failed states to the north like Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo which had driven out the Belgians and where 100,000 people had already died in the post-colonial Congo Crisis.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, White Southerners in the United States were shocked to learn that the Jim Crow South was Nazi Germany, and that they were Nazis for opposing Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Similarly, Southern Rhodesia found itself cast in the role of Nazi Germany for limiting black voting rights and opposing the Marxist terrorist Robert Mugabe.
The major obstacle to Rhodesian independence was the NIBMAR policy (No Independence Before Majority Rule) of Prime Minister Harold Wilson. In the eyes of Britain, it didn’t matter that by any reasonable standard Rhodesia was a successful colony and a strong ally in Southern Africa with a responsible civilized government populated by their own kith and kin. The new litmus test in the post war world – a litmus test which Zambia and Ghana passed – was their commitment to universal manhood suffrage.
And so, Rhodesia unilaterally declared independence, determined to avoid the fate of “one man, one vote, one time” black majority rule. Led by Britain, the U.N. imposed mandatory economic sanctions on Rhodesia for the first time in its 21 year history to topple Ian Smith’s government. Like the Confederacy in the 19th century, no foreign government recognized Rhodesia and welcomed the republic into the world’s family of nations.
In spite of the sanctions and its status as an international pariah state, Rhodesia continued to thrive for most of its 14 year history. The economy experienced a small boom in the 1970s, the trade sanctions stimulated agriculture and manufacturing, and Rhodesia even continued to attract European immigrants. The absence of a few imported luxury goods from Europe was considered a price well worth paying for white majority rule.
Everything changed when Mozambique won its independence from Portugal in 1975. South Africa no longer had the same incentive to support Rhodesia as a buffer state. The triumph of Marxist terrorists in Mozambique inspired ZANU and ZAPU to renew their guerrilla war against Rhodesia. The fall of Angola and Mozambique led the United States under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to put further pressure on Rhodesia and South Africa to accept black majority rule.
Abandoned by Britain and deserted by South Africa and under pressure from the United States, which persuaded Ian Smith to release Robert Mugabe from prison, the ZANU-PF insurgency spread across the border from Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique into Rhodesia. Large swathes of Rhodesia became “no-go areas” for Whites swarming with Marxist terrorists.
Ian Smith was forced to “play his last card” of reaching an “Internal Settlement” with moderate blacks. In 1979, Bishop Abel Muzorewa became Prime Minister of renamed “Zimbabwe-Rhodesia,” and he negotiated the brief resumption of British colonial rule, which was followed by the long sought “democratic elections” involving the two major nationalist parties leading the insurgency, ZANU and ZAPU.
In this way, Robert Mugabe became President of the Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980, after African-style democratic elections. Unlike Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, Mugabe’s Republic of Zimbabwe was internationally recognized by Britain and the United States and was showered with foreign aid.
OD celebrates Black History Month 2012 by remembering Ian Smith’s Rhodesia where civilization was murdered by Britain and the West in the name of “anti-racism” and “democracy” and by celebrating Robert Mugabe’s Republic of Zimbabwe which was founded on the basis of true liberal democratic principles.
Note: Ian Smith’s books The Great Betrayal and Bitter Harvest: Zimbabwe and the Aftermath of its Independence can be found on Amazon.