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History, White-Ruled Rhodesia

Ian Douglas Smith, Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, American mediation

In 1962 Nyasaland broke away from the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which was formally dissolved in 1963. Southern Rhodesia’s white settlers, now led by Ian Douglas Smith and his Rhodesian Front party, sought independence from Britain. However, Britain’s newly elected Labour government refused to agree to independence without significant constitutional reform that would provide for eventual black African rule. In November 1965 Smith announced the Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Rhodesia, severing ties to Britain. The United Nations (UN) quickly levied sanctions against the illegal nation. In 1969 Rhodesia formally declared itself a republic.

Britain failed to take any decisive action against Rhodesia’s white government and in 1970 and 1971 tried to negotiate a settlement with Smith. Smith refused to make significant concessions and defied the weak international sanctions that had been imposed. Covertly supported by South Africa, another white-ruled state, the white Rhodesians held power without much difficulty until the mid-1970s.

The first Zimbabwean nationalist parties had emerged in the 1950s, and the early political leader of stature was Joshua Nkomo. Nkomo led a number of political movements, most notably the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), which was formed in 1962 and supported largely by the Ndebele of the southwest. In 1963 the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was established by dissident Marxists who sought a more radical political stance. ZANU was led by Ndabaningi Sithole until he was replaced in 1976 by Robert Gabriel Mugabe. The colonial government banned both ZAPU and ZANU shortly after their creation, and the movements consequently developed as clandestine guerrilla groups seeking the overthrow of the white government.

In the mid-1970s guerrilla attacks became more formidable, with ZANU proving the more effective of the guerrilla movements. After 1976 the military wings of ZANU and ZAPU joined forces to create a more powerful liberation army, called the Patriotic Front (PF). Peace negotiations, at first brokered by South Africa, began in 1976, but no agreement was reached. In 1979 Rhodesia’s white regime attempted to compromise by introducing a new constitution that allowed limited black majority rule with political safeguards for whites. After elections the same year, a moderate black leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, formed a coalition government with the Rhodesian Front and took office as prime minister. However, ZANU and ZAPU did not accept this arrangement, viewing Muzorewa as a puppet of the white government. In 1980 the Rhodesian government accepted British and American mediation and signed the Lancaster House agreement for majority rule. In elections held that year, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), as ZANU became known, decisively defeated ZAPU. Mugabe was installed as prime minister, and the nation was renamed Zimbabwe.

Article key phrases:

Ian Douglas Smith, Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, American mediation, Federation of Rhodesia, ZAPU, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, significant concessions, Lancaster House agreement, Nyasaland, ZANU, Mugabe, Rhodesian, Ndebele, coalition government, colonial government, decisive action, Peace negotiations, new constitution, sanctions, puppet, elections, overthrow, settlement, prime minister, United Nations, ties, Britain, whites, arrangement, republic, forces, Smith, creation, party, South Africa, power, office, year, difficulty


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