Of all British colonies in 20th century, Southern Rhodesia (later known to be Rhodesia, and lastly, after 1980, Zimbabwe) was considered one to be politically ‘very defiant’, in that other than adopting a system of majority rule, it unilaterally violated the agreement, reinstated a new government dominated by white settlers, and fought a costly, and uneasy, guerrilla war with black African combatants for nearly two decades, which would later significantly hamper its economic and social progress.
This was Rhodesia. When it proclaimed its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, abbreviated as UDI, in 1965, its population hardly exceeded 4 million. White settlers were even a smaller minority, with a number barely surpassing 220,000 (in a climax, it once reached slightly above 300,000, as many Britons migrated there in hope of more promising incomes, but now, under Mugabe’s terms, the figure is hardly above 50,000). An apartheid-like system was afterwards implemented in nearly all aspects of the country, with exclusive preferences for white people. Economy was nearly completely controlled by white-owned enterprises and commercial farms scattered across the country. Despite the sanctions imposed by United Kingdom, United States, and numerous other UN member-states, Rhodesia remained an economically thriving nation, but one with extremely fragile social stability, thanks to its close relationship with apartheid-era South Africa at that time.
Nevertheless, Rhodesia suffered its first blow when Mozambique, its neighboring country, and also its strategic export-import location, announced secession from Portuguese rule, which later suffered from decades-long civil war. South Africa, its long-time trading partner, already worsened by its own internal problems after waves of sanctions, refused to assist the country any longer. Guerrilla war became increasingly deadly, with many white settlers’ commercial farms being their primary targets for ambushes. Many whites were killed in the middle of the battlefields fought between Rhodesian army and the rebels. It changed after 1980 election, by which Robert Mugabe, who, as they had long feared of his possible retaliation, became the president of the country later renamed as Zimbabwe. And it turns out Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is even, in countless times, much worse than Rhodesia had ever been.
This Time article, released in November 1965, provided us an in-depth understanding about Rhodesia, and the underlying problems resulting since its establishment. You can read the article in British Empire, a history blog specially dedicated to the history of the world’s largest colonial empire.
The Rhodesians are determined that the blacks will never rule. Deep in their hearts, they believe that the first African government would murder them in their beds and drive them off the land. As Africa’s former colonies have been granted their freedom, the settlers have shaken their heads in dismay. They talk of the violence of the Congo, of the autocracy of Ghana, of Communist penetration everywhere, and of the fate of their cousins in Kenya. If the blacks get more freedom in Rhodesia, says one leading supporter of Smith, “there will be a Mau Mau here.”
The white man’s fate in the new black African nations has not been all that bad. Kenya’s Mau Mau terrorism stopped at the first signs that independence would be granted, and the brutal slaughters of the Congo are so far the exception in Africa rather than the rule. The initial period of white panic and black exultation is past –a period that saw wholesale departures of colonial civil servants who took their “lumpers” (severance pay) when their jobs were “Africanized,” or the thousands of European farmers who pulled up stakes and fled, out of some misbegotten sense of guilt and impending bloodshed.
The fact is that the whites who have remained are still working and raising their families in every one of Africa’s 29 new black states–if for no other reason than that they are needed. For all his anticolonialist bluster, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah depends heavily on the 5,000 Britons (and scores of Americans) who live in his country, engineering dams and power projects, running factories and keeping trade channels open. Despite the horrors of the past, there are now 60,000 Belgians spread throughout the Congo (which once had 90,000), and the nation’s industries, commerce and transport systems could not work without them. Last week the Congo’s President Joseph Ka-savubu went out of his way to assure “all foreigners living in the Congo” that “this is their country; they have their investments here.”
Throughout Africa, many departed whites have returned, or else have been replaced by newcomers from Europe. British railway workers, fired by the Kenya government at the demand of its labor unions, were back on their jobs a year later at much higher pay; too many trains had been going off the tracks. In the Congo’s fertile Kivu region, deserted Belgian farmlands have been snapped up by eager Italians who are now making money hand over fist. Attracted by high salaries and a booming, open economy, the French population of the Ivory Coast has doubled in the past five years.
Bonus: I’ll include an additional profile of Ian Smith, founder, and prime minister of Rhodesia (1965-1979). Read it in Wikipedia.