Zimbabwe Independence

The seeds of present day Zimbabwe can probably be traced back to 1930 when the self governing colony of Southern Rhodesia passed a land act effectively excluding blacks from owning farm land (at least any decent farm land) and a further labour law four years later preventing black Africans from entering skilled trades and professions.

As a result of these two acts, the native black population were at the beck and mercy of the whites being virtually forced to work on whatever wages and conditions were applied in white factories and mines and on white farms.

This treatment of native blacks in their own homeland led to a rapid radicalisation of the work force against a background of increasing numbers of African countries succeeding in throwing off their colonial 'masters' and establishing themselves as independent republics. Rhodesia was to follow suite, but unlike its neighbours, not to deliver black home rule but to consolidate the position of the white prime minister Ian Smith.

As noted above the Land Apportionment Act in 1930, effectively precluding blacks from land possession, triggered a rising intolerance of colonial rule which was reflected in the emergence of nationalist groups including the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu). In 1953 the British government created the Central African Federation (below), made up of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) which was to last for ten years until Malawi and Zambia were granted independence in 1963 with African-majority governments.

However Southern Rhodesia was not granted independence in the same manner as no consensus could be agreed on the nature of the post-independence government, with the British wanting a multi-racial democracy against the express wishes of the ruling white minority government. Ian Smith, leader of this government, broke this impasse on 11th November 1965 by making a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) which effectively expelled Rhodesia from the international community and triggered sanctions against his regime.


Zimbabwe Independence

Zimbabwe Independence

Zimbabwe Independence

Zimbabwe Independence



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Zimbabwe Independence

Central African FederationDespite this, Smith's position remained relatively secure until South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster unexpectedly turned against the Smith regime, removing border police and limiting supplies into Rhodesia including fuel and ammunitions, severely hampering Smith's ability to contain the ongoing insurgency. This action by South Africa gave Zanu and Zapu fresh impetus and they stepped up their nationalist independence campaigns operating mainly out of Mozambique and Zambia which eventually led to peace talks at Lancaster House in London in 1979 paving the way for a new constitution for the country which guaranteed black rights.

Elections the following year saw one Robert Mugabe and his Zanu party elected to power and the country formally gained its full internationally accepted independence on 18th April 1980. Following this election Ian Smith remained in parliament as the official opposition leader with his renamed party, the Republican Front, remaining a whites only party, however it was attracted dwindling support and at the subsequent election of 1985 Smith found himself out of parliament and in retirement.

He remained in Zimbabwe as an outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe until relocating to an ex-pat Rhodesian community in 2006 in South Africa to live with his bereaved daughter-in-law. He died the following year aged 88. Some look back on his rule and conclude that "the policies of his Rhodesia Front party radicalized black nationalists and directly spawned the violent and fascist rule of Zanu PF." This video takes up the story of Zimbabwe independence and how Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.


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