Southern Rhodesia

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Southern Rhodesia (from 1965 Rhodesia) was the name of the self-governing British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa, known today as Zimbabwe. It consisted of two provinces: Matabeleland and Mashonland. Its principle rivers are the Zambezi in the north and the Limpopo in the south.

It had over 3000 miles of railway communications with the Union of South Africa, Botswana, Portuguese Mozambique (Beira), Northern Rhodesia, the Belgian Congo and the Benguela railway to Angola. In 1946 there were 66,333 miles of telegraph and telephone lines. The capital was Salisbury; and in 1931 the colony's population stood at 1,108,949 of whom 49,910 were Europeans.[1][2] In 1936 the population was 1,304,000 (55,408), in 1941, 1,453,000 (68,954) and in the 1946 census it had risen to 1,764,000 (82,382). The estimated European population at the end of 1947 was 96,000. In the decade between 1926 and 1946 the native population had risen by 740,000.[3]

Origin as Rhodesia

The territory was originally referred to as 'South Zambezia' but the name 'Rhodesia' came into use in 1895. The designation 'Southern' was adopted in 1901 and dropped from normal usage in 1964 and Rhodesia became the name of the country until the creation of Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979.

Named after Cecil Rhodes, the British empire-builder who was one of the most important figures in British expansion into southern Africa, he obtained mineral rights in 1888 from the most powerful local traditional leaders through treaties such as the Rudd Concession and the Moffat Treaty signed by King Lobengula of the Ndebele.

The British government agreed that Rhodes' company, the British South Africa Company (BSAC) would administer the territory stretching from the Limpopo to Lake Tanganyika under charter as a Protectorate. Queen Victoria signed the charter in 1889.

In 1899, a Legislative Council was created with a minority of elected seats, through which the BSAC had to pass government measures. The electorate was almost exclusively comprised of European settlers, and the proportion of elected seats increased steadily over time. Prior to about 1918, the opinion among the electorate supported continued BSAC rule but opinion changed because of the development of the country and increased settlement. In addition, a decision in the British courts that land not in private ownership belonged to the British crown rather than the BSAC gave great impetus to the campaign for self-government.

Southern Rhodesia

The territory north of the Zambezi, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, which was the subject of separate treaties with African chiefs, was administered separately by the BSAC as North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia from 1890 and 1897 respectively. The Europeans in the territory south of the river paid it scant regard though, and generally used the name Rhodesia in a narrow sense to mean their part. The designation 'Southern' was used from 1901, especially when the BSAC merged the administration of the two northern territories into Northern Rhodesia in 1911.

The Legislative Council election, in 1920, returned a large majority of candidates of the Responsible Government Association and it became clear that BSAC rule was no longer practical. Opinion in Britain and South Africa favoured incorporation of Southern Rhodesia in the Union of South Africa, but, by forcing the pace of negotiation, the 34,000 European Southern Rhodesians obtained unfavourable terms and their electorate backed a 'Responsible Government' in a 1922 referendum.

Self-government under the Crown began on 1 October 1923 including everything except foreign relations. Charles Patrick John Coghlan was the first Premier of Southern Rhodesia and upon his death in 1927 he was succeeded by Howard Unwin Moffat. In June 1933 the Rhodesian government purchased the Mineral Rights of the BSAC for £2,000,000. The Governor in 1936 was Sir Herbert Stanley, G.C.M.G., and the Prime Minister Dr. G. M. Huggins. In July 1937 a new Union party was formed to work for the country's amalgamation with the Union of South Africa. In October 1937 the functions of the High Commissioner were transferred to the Secretary of State, and a board of trustees appointed appointed to govern the native reserves. 1937 saw the virtual completion of the new Umgasa dam near Bulawayo plus the expenditure of £500,000 to construct a further 1000 miles of strip roads was approved. Southern Rhodesia developed an economy that was based on the production of number of primary products including gold, chrome ore, coal, asbestos, and agricultural crops including tobacco, maize, fruit, wheat, cattle, and dairying. Despite the agricultural slump of 1928-38, things began to pick up in 1936 when exports brought in £101,153,171 with imports totalling £7.026,688.[4] In 1947 British countries took 80.6% of all Rhodesian exports (Britain 55%).[5]

During World War II, Southern Rhodesian military units participated on the side of the United Kingdom with an exceptional rate of volunteers for the Mother Country. Southern Rhodesian forces were also involved in the East African Campaign.

The first Rhodesian newspaper was published at Salisbury in 1892 and by 1947 over thirty newspapers were registered in the colony.[6]

In 1938 State education was provided for Europeans and boarding schools played a large part. Native education was then provided by the missions; the Jeanes School for native teachers was at Dombashawa.[7] Matriculation for the University of South Africa was available until the 1940s when the founding of a University to serve central African countries was proposed. Such a university was eventually established in Salisbury, with funding provided by British, CAF and Rhodesian governments and some private sources. The University College of Rhodesia received its first intake of students in 1952. Until 1971 it awarded degrees of the Universities of London and Birmingham. In 1971 UCR became the University of Rhodesia and started awarding its own degrees.

The area of Southern Rhodesia was 150,333 square miles of which, in 1946, some 450,000 acres were under cultivation by Europeans, only about one-fifth of which is in Matabeleland. The area under cultivation by natives was estimated in 1944 at just under 2,000,000 acres.[8]

With the advent of World War II the government appointed a committee, in 1943, to look into possible schemes for the settlement after the war of ex-servicemen and this was transformed into the 1944 Land Settlement Act which allotted farms on Crown land or else assisted people purchasing a farm from private owners. By the end of 1950 496 ex-servicemen had been settled on farms. The war had led to great disillusionment with Europe and Britain, not helped by the continuing rations (until 1955). Many decided to emmigrate and some 69,844 people entered Southern Rhodesia for settlement between 1946 and 1950. However it should be noted that not all came from Europe/UK and of that number 27,842 were born in the Union of South Africa.[9]


In 1953, with native calls for independence mounting in many of its African possessions, the United Kingdom created the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (or the Central African Federation 'CAF'), which consisted of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, respectively). The idea was to try and steer a middle road between the differing aspirations of the African natives, the colonial administration and the European population. The CAF sought to emulate the much earlier experiences of Australia, Canada and South Africa – wherein groups of colonies had been federated together in order to form viable independent nations. However those countries had virtually eliminated the the natives and this was not the case in Africa. Originally designed to be "an indissoluble federation", the CAF quickly started to unravel. It suffered the fate of similar ventures undertaken in the closing days of Empire including the West Indies Federation and East African Community. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved on January 1, 1964.



When Northern Rhodesia was granted independence by Britain on October 24, 1964, it changed its name to Zambia; Southern Rhodesia remained a British colony, its government opposing attempts to allow native Africans who were not professionals or possess land the vote or participation in the government. At loggerheads with the British government who said they would enforce universal "one man one vote", in 1965 the Southern Rhodesian government declared independence under Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith and changed its name to Rhodesia[10].

Monday Club

The most important of all supporters of Rhodesia in the United Kingdom was the Conservative Monday Club, who had a special "Rhodesia Emergency Committee". The Club sent delegations to Rhodesia where they were guests of Ian Smith and other cabinet ministers, and were fully briefed on the situation there. In London the Club hosted numerous events for Clifford du Pont, Ian Smith and others, as well as arranging for them to meet with sympathetic Members of Parliament in both houses.[11][12][13][14]

See also


  1. The New Pictorial Atlas of the World & Gazetteer, Odhams Press, London, 1935, p.285.
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica Year Book 1938, London, 1938, p.553.
  3. The South and East African Year Book" 1949 edition, 49th annual edition, London, p.199.
  4. Britannica 1938
  5. 1949 Year Book, p.207.
  6. 1949 Year Book, p.201.
  7. Britannica 1938
  8. 1949 Year Book, p.199.
  9. Hodder-Williams, Richard, White Farmers in Rhodesia 1890-1965, Macmillan, London, 1983, p.187-9, citing the Southern Rhodesia Statistical Yearbook, 1952, p.170-1.
  10. * Rhodesia and Independence - A Study in British Colonial Policy, by Kenneth Young, London, 1967.
  11. Rhodesia: A Minority View? by Lord Salisbury, Julian Amery,M.P., John Biggs-Davison,M.P., Stephen Hastings,M.P., Patrick Wall, M.P., and Judge Gerald Sparrow, Monday Club, 1966.
  12. Facing the Facts on Rhodesia by John Biggs-Davison, M.P. Late 1960s. Monday Club Political Paper.
  13. One Man One Vote - Africa A to Z, by Tim Keigwin, Monday Club Political Paper, 1968 (updated 1969 & 1978).
  14. Rhodesia – Those Foolish ‘Five Principles’ by Tim Keigwin, Monday Club Political Paper, 1970.
  • The '96 Rebellions - The British South Africa Company Reports on the Native Disturbances in Rhodesia 1897-8, Facsimile reprint, Bulawayo, Rhodesia, 1975.
  • Rhodesian Genesis by Neville Jones, O.B.E.., F.R.A.I., Bulawayo, Rhodesia, 1953.
  • The Battle for Rhodesia by Douglas Reed, New Edition, Cape Town, Jan 1967 (original Aug 1966).