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away in time so far as internal affairs were concerned. The British Government conducted formal international relations on behalf of Southern Rhodesia: Commonwealth relations, trade relations, and relations with Colonial territories in Africa were mainly conducted by the Southern Rhodesian Government direct. As a result of a series of conferences held in 1951, 1952 and 1953 on the closer association with Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a draft Federal Scheme was prepared setting out the details of the Constitution of a Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This was the subject of a referendum in Southern Rhodesia in April 1953, when it was approved by 25,570 votes to 14,729. In the same month the proposals were approved in the Legislative Councils of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation subsequently came into existence on the 3rd September 1953 when certain powers hitherto exercised by the Southern Rhodesian Government were transferred to the Federal Government, though the actual process of transfer took some months to complete. The most important powers transferred in this way were defence, the regulation of commerce and industry, immigration, health, European education and European agriculture. The main functions which continued to be exercised by the Territorial Government were African administration, education and agriculture, local government and housing, police and internal security, industrial relations, land, roads, mining and irrigation.

In 1959 the Southern Rhodesian Government proposed to the British Government that the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia should be revised, with a view to transferring to Southern Rhodesia the exercise of the powers vested in the British Government. After consultations between the two Governments a Constitutional Conference was convened in London in December 1960, under the Chairmanship of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. The conference adjourned after procedural meetings and resumed in Salisbury from 30th January 1961 to 7th February 1961.

Proposals for a new Constitution, based on the conclusions of the Constitutional Conference, were published in June 1961 in two White Papers (Cmnd. 1399 and 1400). At a referendum of the Southern Rhodesia electorate held in July 1961, the proposals were approved by 42,004 votes in favour to 21,846 votes against. In November 1961 Parliament at Westminster passed the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Act, which authorised Her Majesty to grant a new Constitution to Southern Rhodesia by Order in Council. The new Constitution was brought into force by the Southern Rhodesia Government in November 1962. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved on the 31st December 1963. The Southern Rhodesian Government on 1st January 1964 resumed the powers which had been transferred to the Federal Government in 1953.

On 11th November 1965 Mr Smith and his ministerial colleagues purported to declare Rhodesia independent. In the face of this illegal action, the Queen, acting through her representative the Governor, dismissed them from office and the British Parliament passed the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 (see below). The approach of the British Government towards the problem of granting independence to Rhodesia has throughout been governed by certain basic requirements. These have been formulated as five principles:

(1) The principle and intention of unimpeded progress to majority rule, already enshrined in the 1961 Constitution, would have to be maintained and guaranteed.

(2) There would also have to be guarantees against retrogressive amendment of the Constitution.

(3) There would have to be immediate improvement in the political status of the African population.

(4) There would have to be progress towards ending racial discrimination. (5) The British Government would need to be satisfied that any basis proposed for independence was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. Successive British Governments have made clear their desire for a just and honourable settlement on the basis of these principles. The British Prime Minister explored the possibilities of arriving at such a settlement in meetings with Mr Smith on board HMS Tiger in December 1966 and HMS Fearless in October 1968.

On 20th June 1969, a referendum was held among those inscribed on the A and B rolls. Voters were invited to give their approval to certain constitutional proposals which had previously been published in outline and to the adoption of a republican form of government. There was an 80% poll of which 82% voted in favour of a republican form of government while 73% favoured amendment of the Constitution on the lines proposed. On 24th June 1969, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary announced to the House of Commons that the Governor, with the full agreement of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, had sought The Queen's permission to resign and that this had been granted. In addition, he announced the withdrawal of the British Residual Mission from Salisbury and the closing of Rhodesia House in London, both of which took effect on 14th July 1969. At the time of this announcement, British Ministers also stated publicly that the Government was ready to resume links with Rhodesia as soon as there were people there with effective support and who shared the British principles.

On 2nd March 1970 Parliament in Rhodesia was dissolved and the republican constitution which the illegal régime had purported to enact was brought into force. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary told the House of Commons that this further illegal act in no way affected the constitutional position: Rhodesia remained part of Her Majesty's dominions.


The Constitution of Rhodesia is contained in the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Order in Council 1961 (S.I. 1961 No. 2314), which must be read in conjunction with the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 (Chapter 76) and the Southern Rhodesia Constitution Order 1965 (S.I. 1965 No. 1952).

The 1961 Constitution eliminates most of the reserved powers of the British Government for the disallowance of laws passed by the Legislative Assembly. It contains a number of safeguards for the rights of individuals and of communities such as the Declaration of Rights and provision for a Constitutional Council. Certain basic provisions are specifically entrenched. They include provisions relating to the franchise, the Declaration of Rights, and Constitutional Council, appeal to the Privy Council and certain matters concerning Tribal Trust Land. The effect of such entrenchment is to make it impossible to amend the basic provisions without either the agreement of a majority of votes in each of the four principal racial communities voting separately in a referendum or alternatively the approval of the British Government.

The Legislative Assembly consists of sixty-five members of whom fifty are returned predominantly by 'A' Roll voters in constituencies and fifteen predominantly by 'B' Roll voters in electoral districts. As at 30th April 1969, 85,197 voters were registered on the 'A' Roll of whom 80,964 were Europeans, 1,951 were Africans, 1,073 were Asians and 1,209 were persons of mixed race. 5,507 voters were registered on the 'B' Roll of whom 4,695 were Africans.

Following the illegal declaration of independence the British Government passed the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 which declares that Southern Rhodesia continues to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and that the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom continue to have responsibility and jurisdiction for and in respect of it. The Act empowers Her Majesty by Order in Council to make such provision in relation to Rhodesia or persons or things in any way belonging to or connected with Rhodesia as appear to her to be necessary or expedient in consequence of any constitutional action undertaken therein. The Southern Rhodesia Constitution Order 1965 which was made under this Act, declares that any Constitution which the illegal régime may purport to promulgate is void and of no effect. The Order also prohibits the Legislative Assembly from making laws or transacting any other business and declares any proceedings in defiance of this prohibition void and of no effect. It also suspends the Ministerial system and empowers a Secretary of State to exercise the executive authority of Rhodesia on Her Majesty's behalf.


Sir Charles P. Coghlan, KCMG, 1st October 1923 to 1st September 1927

H. U. Moffat, CMG, 2nd September 1927 to 5th July 1933

G. Mitchell, 6th July to 11th September 1933

Sir Godfrey Huggins, PC, CH, KCMG (later 1st Viscount Malvern), 12th September 1933 to 7th September, 1953

R. S. Garfield Todd, 7th September 1953 to 17th February 1958

Sir Edgar Whitehead, KCMG, OBE, 18th February 1958 to 16th December 1962

W. J. Field, CMG, MBE, 17th December 1962 to 13th April 1964

I. D. Smith, from 13th April 1964 to 11th November 1965




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