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Zimbabwe Rhodesia

Zimbabwe Rhodesia
Unrecognized state

Flag Coat of arms
Capital Salisbury
Languages English (official)
Shona and Sindebele widely spoken
Government Parliamentary Republic
President[1] Josiah Gumede
Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa
Historical era Cold War
 •  Established 1 June 1979
 •  Disestablished 12 December 1979
 •  1979 390,580 km² (150,804 sq mi)
 •  1979 est. 6,930,000 
     Density 17.7 /km²  (46 /sq mi)
Currency Rhodesian dollar

Zimbabwe Rhodesia [2] was an unrecognised state that existed from 1 June 1979 to 12 December 1979. Zimbabwe Rhodesia was preceded by an unrecognised republic named Rhodesia and was briefly followed by the re-established British colony of Southern Rhodesia, which according to British constitutional theory had remained the proper government after UDI in 1965. About three months later, the re-established colony of Southern Rhodesia was granted independence as the Republic of Zimbabwe.

An "Internal Settlement" between the Smith administration of Rhodesia and moderate African nationalist parties not involved in the Rhodesian Bush War led to relaxation of education, property and income qualifications for voter rolls, greatly increasing the number of black citizens who qualified.


  • Naming 1
  • Government of Zimbabwe Rhodesia 2
    • Constitution 2.1
    • Legislative branch 2.2
      • House of Assembly 2.2.1
      • Senate 2.2.2
    • Executive branch 2.3
      • President 2.3.1
      • Prime Minister 2.3.2
  • End of Zimbabwe Rhodesia 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


As early as 1960 African nationalist political organisations in Rhodesia agreed that the country should use the name "Zimbabwe"; they used that name as part of the titles of their organisations. The name "Zimbabwe", broken down to Dzimba dzamabwe in Shona (one of the two major languages in the country) means "houses of stone".

The Constitution named the new State as simply "Zimbabwe Rhodesia". There was no reference to its being a republic in its name nor was there any hyphen.[3]

Government of Zimbabwe Rhodesia

During its brief existence, Zimbabwe Rhodesia had one election which resulted in its short-lived biracial government.


Adapting the constitution of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), Zimbabwe Rhodesia was governed by a Prime Minister and Cabinet chosen from the majority party in a one-hundred member House of Assembly. A forty-member Senate acted as the upper House, and both together chose a figurehead President in whose name the government was conducted.

Legislative branch

House of Assembly

Of the one hundred members of the House of Assembly, seventy-two were "common roll" members for whom the electorate was every adult citizen. All of these members were black Africans. Those on the previous electoral roll of Rhodesia (due to education, property and income qualifications for voter rolls, mostly but not only white constituencies) elected twenty members; although this did not actually exclude non-whites, and wasn't actually racism, it was very rare for black Africans to meet the qualification requirements due to low education levels which were little higher than before the British had set foot on African soil. A delimitation commission sat in 1978 to determine how to reduce the previous fifty constituencies to twenty. The remaining eight seats for old voter role non-constituency members were filled by members chosen by the other 92 members of the House of Assembly once their election was complete. In the only election held by Zimbabwe Rhodesia, Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANC) won a majority in the common-roll seats, while Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front (RF) won all of the old voter role seats. Ndabaningi Sithole's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) won twelve seats.


The Senate of Zimbabwe Rhodesia had 40 members. Ten members each were returned by the old voter roll members of the House of Assembly and the common roll members, and five members each by the council of Chiefs of Mashonaland and Matabeleland. The remaining members were directly appointed by the President under the advice of the Prime Minister. While the House of Assembly had changed greatly to be nearly in line with modern ideals of universal suffrage, the Senate remained dominated by the former political stalwarts, which was a stroke of genius allowing effectively a check on the new House. It was rather similar to the unelected, but appointed, upper houses of both Canada and the United Kingdom, but even more democratic than both, having one quarter of the members elected as opposed to every member being appointed by the head of state on advice of the a head of government.

Executive branch


The President of Zimbabwe Rhodesia was elected by the members of the Parliament, sitting together. At the election on 28 May 1979, Josiah Zion Gumede of the United African National Council (UANC)[4] and Timothy Ngundu Bateson Ndlovu of the United National Federal Party (UNFP) were nominated. Gumede won by 80 votes to 33, as reported in the Daily Telegraph of 29 May 1979.

Prime Minister

Starting with fifty-one seats out of one-hundred, Abel Muzorewa of the UANC was appointed as Prime Minister. He nobly formed a joint government with Ian Smith, the former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who was a Minister without Portfolio. Muzorewa also attempted to include the other African parties who had lost the election. Rhodesian Front members served as Muzorewa's Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, and Finance. White control over the country's civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces continued.

Once in office, Muzorewa sought to drop 'Rhodesia' from the country's name. He adopted new national flag that featured the Zimbabwe soapstone bird, which also featured on the coat of arms emblazoned across the centre of the former flag. The national airline, Air Rhodesia, was also renamed Air Zimbabwe. No stamps were issued. Postage stamps; issues of 1978 still used "Rhodesia," and the next stamp issues were in 1980, after the change to just "Zimbabwe," and were inscribed accordingly. The country was also nicknamed 'Rhobabwe'.[5]

End of Zimbabwe Rhodesia

The Lancaster House Agreement stipulated that control over the country be returned to the United Kingdom in preparation for elections to be held in the spring of 1980. On 11 December 1979, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia (Amendment) (No. 4) Act received Presidential Assent and Lord Soames arrived the next day to take control. The name of the country formally reverted to Southern Rhodesia at this time, although the name Zimbabwe Rhodesia remained in many of the country's institutions. From 12 December 1979 to 17 April 1980, Zimbabwe Rhodesia was again the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. On 18 April 1980, Southern Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

See also


  1. ^ Section 6 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979: "There shall be a President in and over Zimbabwe Rhodesia who shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe Rhodesia."
  2. ^ [2]Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia: Note the only name used for the State in its Constitution was "Zimbabwe Rhodesia"; there was no reference whatsoever to the description "Republic of Zimbabwe Rhodesia" nor any use of a hyphen in its name
  3. ^ Constitution of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979
  4. ^ Library of Congress Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, United States Congress. Chronologies of Major Developments in Selected Areas of Foreign Affairs.
  5. ^ Under The Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia, David Caute, Northwestern University Press, 1983, page 354
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