Military Wiki
The Right Honourable
Ian Douglas Smith
Smith in the 1950s
1st Prime Minister of Rhodesia

In office
11 November 1965 – 1 June 1979
Monarch Elizabeth II (1965–1970)
President Clifford Dupont (1970–1976)
John Wrathall (1976–1978)
Henry Everard (1978–1979)
Preceded by Himself
as Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
Succeeded by Abel Muzorewa
Constituency Umzingwane
8th Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia

In office
13 April 1964 – 11 November 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Clifford Dupont
Preceded by Winston Field
Succeeded by Himself
as Prime Minister of Rhodesia
Personal details
Born (1919-04-08)8 April 1919
Selukwe, Midlands, Southern Rhodesia
Died 20 November 2007(2007-11-20) (aged 88)
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Nationality Rhodesian
Political party Rhodesian Front
Republican Front
Conservative Alliance
Spouse(s) Janet Watt (1948–1994)
Children Robert Watt (stepson)
Jean Watt (stepdaughter)
Alec Smith
Alma mater Rhodes University
Religion Presbyterianism
Signature Ian Smith's signature
Military service
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1941–45
Rank UK-Air-OF2 infobox.svg Flight Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

Ian Douglas Smith, GCLM, ID (8 April 1919 – 20 November 2007) was a Rhodesian politician active in the governments of Southern Rhodesia, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and Zimbabwe from 1948 to 1987, most notably serving as Prime Minister of Rhodesia from 13 April 1964 to 1 June 1979. Born and raised in Selukwe, a small rural town in the British self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia, Smith served in the British Royal Air Force during the Second World War and, after graduating from Rhodes University in South Africa, bought a farm in his home town in 1948. At the same time, he was elected as Selukwe's representative in the legislative assembly, running for the Southern Rhodesia Liberal Party; in doing so he became Southern Rhodesia's youngest ever member of parliament.

Smith supported the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953, and won the Midlands federal constituency for the United Federal Party (UFP) in that year's inaugural federal election; following his election at federal level he resigned the territorial Selukwe seat. He served as the UFP's Chief Whip in the Federal Assembly from 1958 to 1962 before resigning to help form the pro-independence Rhodesia Reform Party, which shortly merged with the Dominion Party to form the Rhodesian Front (RF). After the RF's victory in the 1962 Southern Rhodesian general election Smith became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Treasury under Prime Minister Winston Field.

After Field failed to win the country's independence from Britain on the federation's dissolution in 1963, Smith took his place in 1964 and, running on an election promise of independence, led the RF to a clean sweep of the 50 largely white-elected "A" roll seats in the May 1965 general election. Frustrated by repeated failures to achieve this goal by negotiation with the British, who insisted on an immediate handover to the African nationalists, Smith's government unilaterally declared Rhodesia's independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965. Smith remained as premier until 1 June 1979 as the head of a white minority government; the state failed to gain international recognition and United Nations economic sanctions were instituted.

The Smith administration fought against African Marxists during the Bush War as part of its campaign to maintain its policy of a gradual transition of power, and negotiated an Internal Settlement with black moderates in 1979 – this agreement led to majority rule, the renaming of the country to Zimbabwe Rhodesia and a coalition government led by the country's first black prime minister, the United African National Council leader Abel Muzorewa, who included Smith in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

This still did not lead to international recognition for the country, however, and it was only in 1980, after the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, the British-supervised election of Robert Mugabe as prime minister in April 1980 and the adoption of the name Zimbabwe that international acceptance came. Smith remained active in the Zimbabwean parliament until 1987, when he retired to the farm he still owned in the town of his birth. He relocated in 2005 to Cape Town, South Africa, where he died in 2007.

Family, early life and military service

Smith was born in Selukwe (now known as Shurugwi), a small mining and farming town located approximately 190 miles (310 km) southwest of the capital Salisbury (now Harare). He was the family's youngest child, with two older sisters, Phyllis and Joan. His father, John Douglas Smith (also known as "Jock"), had emigrated from Hamilton, Scotland in 1898 in search of gold, but instead became a farmer, butcher, baker, garage owner, and gold mine operator. His mother, Agnes Hodson, was from Cumbria, England. His parents had married in 1911.

Ian Smith considered his father "a man of extremely strong principles"[1] and "one of the fairest men I have ever met and that is the way he brought me up."[2] After receiving his primary education at a local school in Selukwe, Smith enrolled at the Chaplin School in nearby Gwelo for his secondary studies. In his final year at Chaplin, Smith was head prefect, recipient of the Victor Ludorum in sports, and captain of the school's rugby, cricket and tennis teams.[1] Smith later remarked, "I was an absolute lunatic about sport. I concede, looking back, that I should have devoted much more time to my school work and less to sport."[1]

Smith enrolled at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa in 1938, where he began coursework towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree.[3] Smith interrupted his studies during the Second World War and joined the Royal Air Force. After completing his flight training, he was seconded to the rank of Pilot Officer. On 4 October 1943, his Hawker Hurricane plane crashed on take-off from Alexandria, Egypt because of a throttle malfunction. His harness, which was built to withstand a stress of nearly one tonne, snapped and his face rammed against the Hurricane's instrument panel.[4] He sustained severe facial injuries and broke his jaw, a leg and a shoulder and also buckled his back. Six months after undergoing extensive plastic surgery at the 15th Scottish Hospital in Cairo, he returned to active service with the No. 237 Squadron RAF in Corsica.[3] In July 1944 German anti-aircraft fire shot down Smith's Supermarine Spitfire over the Po Valley during a strafing attack on German ground forces. He parachuted safely from his aircraft, landing behind enemy lines in the Ligurian Alps.[4] where Italian partisans and a local family (the Zuaninos) gave him refuge. After assisting in the planning of bomb raids against Germans for nearly five months, Smith and three other Allied soldiers embarked on a 23-day hike through occupied Italy and the Maritime Alps to reach Allied lines.[4] He was then posted to No. 130 Squadron RAF in western Germany during early 1945, and remained with that unit for the end of his service. Smith thereupon returned to civilian life in Africa and obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree at Rhodes, where he was also elected chairman of the students' representative council. After college, he bought a farm in Selukwe, later expanding it into a 21,500-acre (87 km2) estate.[3] Regarding his decision to start farming, Smith remarked, "[c]ommerce and economics are associated with mathematics. Maths was one of my better subjects. Economics is one of the most important aspects of farming and so I decided to farm. It was as simple as that."[4]

Smith married Janet Watt (d. 1994), a widowed South African schoolteacher,[4] in 1948[5] and had one child, Alec,[6] whom he raised with his wife's two children, Robert and Jean, from her earlier marriage to South African rugby player Piet Duvenage. He remained on close terms with his son Alec despite having major disagreements with him on a number of political issues. Alec deserted from the Rhodesian army while serving as a conscript in the 1970s and went to Europe. There he married Elisabeth Knudsen, a Norwegian national, by whom he had three children: one son and two daughters. Alec was a staunch supporter of majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa and became an outspoken critic of the white regime's discrimination against the majority black population.[7] Alec died on 19 January 2006 of a heart attack at London Heathrow Airport.[8]

Smith's stepdaughter Jean married Rhodesian folk singer Clem Tholet in 1967. Tholet was famous for songs such as 'Vagabond Gun' and 'Rhodesians Never Die'.[9] Tholet died on 6 October 2004 at age 56.[10]

Political career

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, formed in 1953, united Southern Rhodesia with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Southern Rhodesian capital of Salisbury was chosen as Federal capital.
Click here to enlarge map.

Entry into politics and the Federation

Smith became active in politics when he successfully ran as a candidate for the right-wing Southern Rhodesia Liberal Party in the 1948 general election for a seat representing the Selukwe district in the Legislative Assembly.[4] He was initially reluctant to stand due to his youth and the fact that he was concurrently establishing a farm: Indeed, he was the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in the history of the Southern Rhodesian Parliament.[3] In 1953, he supported the federation of Southern Rhodesia with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland and on its foundation joined the United Federal Party (UFP) set up by Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins.[11] In the inaugural federal general election, held in that year, he was elected as federal MP for Midlands, and therefore stood down from his seat in the Southern Rhodesian legislature. From 1958, Smith served as Chief Whip for the UFP in the Federal Assembly,[11] but grew increasingly disillusioned with the party, as well as the new Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky.

At a UFP congress in 1961, Smith publicly denounced the party's platform on Southern Rhodesia constitutional proposals. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was on the brink of dissolution, and the new constitution was widely understood to be "the independence constitution" for Southern Rhodesia when this occurred. Smith went against the party line on the basis that although the country's electoral system had never before explicitly discriminated by colour, the proposal to grant 15 out of the 65 parliamentary seats to Rhodesian blacks was in direct contrast with the principles of the UFP; he said: "Our policy in the past has always been that we would have a government, in Rhodesia, based on merit and that people wouldn't worry whether you were black or whether you were white."[11] In early 1962, he resigned as the UFP whip and formed a break-away party called the Rhodesia Reform Party,[11][12] which merged with the Dominion Party after a few months to form the Rhodesian Front (RF).[13]

Rise to premiership and negotiations for independence

We're sailing for a head-on collision, there can be no doubt about that one; and we wish to avoid it but if it's got to come, then it's got to come, because we have no option. As far as we are concerned that would mean the absolute end here of all civilisation; everything we have stood for in the past. ... A ceremony with some poor member of the British royal family coming out here to hoist down the Union Jack? Well, we won't stand for that, even if the British government will.

Smith answers an interview question regarding the British insistence on black majority rule in Rhodesia as a condition for independence[14]

Smith was re-elected to Parliament as an RF member for Umzingwane in the 1962 general election, in which the RF won a slim majority and formed a government at the first time of asking. Under new Prime Minister Winston Field, Smith became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Treasury.[11] Field's failure to secure independence from Britain upon dissolution of the Federation in 1963 left many dissatisfied with his leadership, leading Smith to replace him as Prime Minister on 13 April 1964.[15] Shortly after taking office, Smith announced his policies in full-page advertisements in Rhodesian newspapers: "No forced integration. No lowering of standards. No abdication of responsible government. No repeal of the Land Appropriation Act. No appeasement to suit the Afro-Asian bloc."[15] He was staunchly opposed to the British government's insistence that Rhodesia introduce majority rule before independence, and believed that "Perfidious Albion" (as he called it) was going back on numerous promises of independence for Rhodesia. Three days after becoming Prime Minister, Smith announced there would be no plans to bring Rhodesia under "black majority rule" in his lifetime;[15] later, in his memoirs, Smith maintained that he was referring to black rule as it was in other African countries such as Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, which after independence and the implementation of black control had become dictatorships.

White minority rule originated in property and education qualifications for voting that were in place when the British government introduced self-government in 1923. Such qualifications were unexceptional by the standards of the 1920s, and, although slightly modified over the years, they ensured a situation up to 1979 in which whites had 95% of the votes in national elections, while they were never more than 5.5% of the population. Despite this imbalance in the Rhodesian electoral system, Smith and other white politicians argued there was nothing fundamentally racist about it: They stated that improvements in black education and wealth would, over time, ensure a gradual move to majority rule. The Rhodesian government retained the African community's traditional tribal structure, and regularly consulted the tribal chiefs – seen by the government as the legitimate voice of the country's black people – to gain an insight into the feelings of those parts of the population that were difficult to reach by other political means. This was often done by the calling of an "indaba", a large scale conference of tribal leaders to air opinions and concerns. However, critics argued that the entire political arrangement in Rhodesia was poised deliberately to entrench indefinite economic and political privilege for the country's whites, and that the maintenance of the tribal system was done to discourage blacks from participating in mainstream politics.

Zimbabwe African People's Union leader Joshua Nkomo, pictured in 1975

During the mid-1950s, a black nationalist movement emerged in Rhodesia which adopted a campaign of violence and intimidation to make black voters boycott any elections. Many of the people targeted were peaceful farmers with no interest in politics; despite this, the boycotts were later cited by the British as evidence that the Rhodesian electoral system was biased towards the European minority. The early political parties were banned before the RF was elected in 1962; they re-emerged in the form of two main parties, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), which espoused an increasingly militant nationalism. ZANU came to be led by Robert Mugabe, a man of the majority Shona tribe who drew on a largely Shona-speaking support base; meanwhile, Ndebele Joshua Nkomo led ZAPU, made up primarily by the Ndebele-speaking minority. Both parties held Communist ideologies, which resulted in Smith's strong opposition: Soon after he became prime minister in 1964, Smith imprisoned the entire leadership of the black nationalist movement,[3] resulting in the widespread rioting in Salisbury and the arrest of 250 black Rhodesians.[15] Smith justified this by stating that they were interned for criminal acts, not political ones, but the damage was still done. The banning of successive nationalist parties from August 1959 to August 1964 hastened their radicalisation and strengthened the nationalists' resolve to turn to armed struggle.

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and its aftermath

Most of the United Kingdom's African colonies had won independence during the early 1960s: Rhodesia sought this also, but the British government insisted on a transfer to majority rule before independence would be granted. The Rhodesian cabinet issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965 anyway, attracting widespread international condemnation and the first instance of economic sanctions in the history of the United Nations, led by Britain and the OAU. The government of South Africa was sympathetic and supportive of the Smith administration and continued trading as usual with Rhodesia; additionally as trade was lost with Britain and America, export and import contracts were simply secured with other countries, rendering the sanctions ineffective.

The UN sanctions implemented restrictions on any form of trade or financial transaction with Rhodesia. They also made it difficult for Rhodesians to travel abroad: The Norwegian government angered Smith in 1979 when it refused to allow him to travel to Norway to attend the wedding of his son Alec. In the short term, Rhodesia was able to evade sanctions with the assistance of a few sympathetic governments and some "sanction-busting" private companies. A number of white Rhodesians were uneasy about UDI; the business community was particularly concerned about the resultant economic dislocation and loss of markets.[16] The Rhodesian Council of Churches became increasingly opposed to UDI on moral grounds.[17]

In the three years after UDI, there were two rounds of negotiations between the Rhodesian and British governments. The issue was the terms on which UDI could be ended and the position of Rhodesia regularised within the international community. The central figures in both these negotiations were Smith and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

The first round of negotiations was held in Gibraltar in December 1966 on board HMS Tiger. The terms the British offered on this occasion were that Smith's government should resign, allowing the British governor to appoint a "broad-based" government with an RF majority, but with five non-RF members of whom two would be black. The existing 1961 constitution would be modified to accelerate the expansion of black representation leading to majority rule in the near term. This offer was dismissed by Smith, who viewed it as terms for surrender.

A second round of negotiations took place on board HMS Fearless in October 1968. The terms offered on HMS Tiger were moderated by dropping the need for an interim return to British rule. However, the requirement for the installation of a broad-based government and an accelerated move to majority rule remained. Smith dismissed this offer as well. Smith's perceived unconditional support from the South African government was critical to his decision not to agree to the deal.[18]

In 1969 Smith unveiled the new republican constitution for Rhodesia. The architects of UDI offered "equal partnership between black and white" as an alternative to majority rule. Whites and blacks would vote in general elections on separate rolls and the number of assembly members elected by each roll would depend on the total income tax paid by each community. Initially, whites would have 50 assembly members and blacks 16. But it was planned that the number of black members would rise over time in line with growing contribution to the "fisc" until there were 50. At that point, equal partnership would have been achieved and a final settlement would have been arrived at. This was presented to the outside world as Smith's vision for the future of the country.

However, Smith made comments indicating that his commitment to equal partnership was less than wholehearted. One journalist heard him say, "With immigration and so forth, this thing may never come."[19] White immigration in the late 1960s had pushed the white share of the population to its all time peak of 5.5% in 1970. Smith indicated that a continuation of this trend might fundamentally shift the demographics of the country.

The Conservatives won the 1970 British general election and the new British government reopened negotiations with Smith. In 1971 the British government offered the Smith administration even more generous terms to end UDI. In particular, the Rhodesian land apportionment which reserved 50% of the country's land for white ownership would be allowed to continue in perpetuity. British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home privately warned Smith that it would be unwise to do this.[20] The electoral system would be modified to allow black representation in the assembly to grow in line with voter numbers rather than contribution to the fisc and there would be no equal representation cap. However, education and wealth qualifications in the electoral roll would keep black representation very much in a minority for an extended period.[21] Smith stated that this settlement allowed that "racial discrimination may continue as long as it is justifiable and reasonable" and he accepted it.

The head of Rhodesia's Methodist Church called it a "constitutional rape of Africans by both the Rhodesian and British governments." The British withdrew the deal in 1972. A few months later Marxist insurgents attacked white-owned farms leading to the Bush War.

A photograph of Ian Smith. He is wearing a blue tie with white and red stripes.

Smith in 1975
(Photo: Colin Weyer)

In October 1974 Prime Minister of South Africa B.J. Vorster launched his policy of “détente” with black Africa and began pushing Smith to end white minority rule. As a consequence he withdrew diplomatic support for the UDI regime which had become a major obstacle for Vorster's new policy. Vorster demanded that Smith release the black nationalist leaders in detention and Smith reluctantly gave in and released them. Then suddenly without warning, Vorster then proceeded to remove the contingent of South African police guarding the northern border against guerrilla incursions. This shocked Smith. One could expect this from the British, he said, but now with the South Africans, "there was obvious deceit". Vorster also severely limited the supply from South Africa of fuel, munitions and aircraft spares that were badly needed by the government in the Bush War and this consequently severely impeded the Rhodesian war effort.[3]

In 1976 US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger formulated what came to be known as a six-step "Kissinger Plan" (or "Kissinger Initiative") with the concurrence of the British government and the participation of South Africa's Vorster. Kissinger flew to South Africa and met with Smith and Vorster in Pretoria. UK Prime Minister James Callaghan said the plan could end fighting in Rhodesia. Smith accepted the plan with reluctance, explaining,

"The proposals which were put to us do not represent what in our view would have been the best solution for the Rhodesian problem. Regretfully, however, we were not able to make our views prevail. ... The American and British governments, together with major Western powers, have made up their minds as to the kind of solution they wish to see in Rhodesia, and they are determined to bring it about."[22]

Throughout the 15-year period leading up to the creation of Zimbabwe, Ian Smith was given support in both the UK and US by various groups, including the Conservative Monday Club who organised pro-Rhodesia demonstrations outside number 10 Downing Street several times during the late 1970s, and provided Smith with a platform at several receptions and major dinners. The Club had a Rhodesia sub-committee chaired by Tory MP, Harold Soref. In December 1967 Barry Goldwater, Senator from Arizona and Republican candidate for the 1964 presidential election, praised Smith in an interview with Harvey Ward in Salisbury, saying, "We need more men like Ian Smith, I think, in the world today. We have too few leaders and I'd like to see him multiplied a little bit, and spread around."[23]

However, groups from other positions on the Anglo-American political spectrum were opposed to the Smith regime. Peter Hain (the future Northern Ireland Secretary and Welsh Secretary in the British Government) was active, as a leading Young Liberal, in organising demonstrations and campaigns against Smith. US President Jimmy Carter and his Ambassador to the UN Andrew Young would become key figures in the ultimate demise of UDI.

Having conceded the principle of immediate majority rule in 1976, Smith initially appeared reluctant to actually take the steps necessary to implement it. Smith conducted lengthy discussions with the US, British and South African governments as well as conducting secret and open talks with almost all the black nationalist parties. At one stage, the British appointed a governor-designate of Rhodesia (Michael Carver) in anticipation of an end to UDI. Opportunities to settle with moderate black leaders and the international community came and went.

"Smith failed to take advantage of opportunities, and in so doing, he came to appear both intransigent and indecisive." – Brookings Institution study on conflict management[24]

Smith's intention was to secure the position of the white community in a post-independence Rhodesia through implementing majority rule with some qualifications. The practical result of this delay was that the military balance in the Bush War began to tip decisively in the insurgents' favour. Heavily armed guerrilla fighters entered Rhodesia in large numbers from bases in Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. 80% of Rhodesian war casualties were incurred in the period January 1977 to December 1979.[25]

End of UDI

Rhodesia's isolation intensified once Mozambique became independent of Portuguese rule in 1975, and when South Africa started to scale back its support. The measures required to evade UN sanctions meant that the Rhodesian economy as a whole had to buy at a premium and sell at a discount. There had been almost nil inward investment during UDI.

Eventually, Smith had to bow to the inevitable and concede a form of majority rule. However, he struggled to qualify the nature of majority rule. The "internal settlement" negotiated with some minor moderate black parties in 1978 left the white minority with an entrenched position. Whites were guaranteed nearly one-third of the seats in parliament, one quarter of the places in the cabinet and control of the police, army, civil service and judiciary.

In 1979 the first multi-racial parliamentary elections (but with separate black and white rolls) were held as part of this settlement. However, ZANU and ZAPU did not participate because they opposed the internal settlement. Following the 1979 election, Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Bishop Abel Muzorewa of the United African National Council party became the country's first and only black Prime Minister in June 1979. Smith became minister without portfolio in the new government after failing in a bid to be made Minister of Defence.

War between the government and the insurgents continued. Sanctions continued and diplomatic recognition was not granted. The British Government persuaded all parties to come to Lancaster House under Lord Carrington in September 1979 to work out an agreement. A critical element in arriving at that agreement was the defection of one of the members of the RF delegation, much to Smith's disgust. A peculiar feature of both the internal and Lancaster House settlements was the retention of a significant number of parliamentary seats reserved for a white electorate. This reflected a wish among Rhodesian whites to maintain a distinct and separate status from the rest of the population. It was around this time that Smith used the phrase "Perfidious Albion," 'treacherous Britain', to refer to Great Britain and the sense of betrayal he felt from the British government.[3][26]

One thing Smith did achieve in the Lancaster House Agreement was an agreement that no form of that property rights could not be affected for 10 years after independence without unanimous consent, this securing the immediate position of the white farming community. The Agreement gave unconditional immunity from prosecution to all those who had participated in UDI and the Bush War.

UDI ended and a British governor (Lord Soames) took over the running of Rhodesia on 12 December 1979. The Rhodesian Bush War ended and sanctions were lifted a few days later.[27]

1980 election

A photograph of Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe in 1979

Elections were held again in 1980, under international supervision. Smith hoped to retain a measure of white control over the government after this election by forming a coalition between his RF MPs and those of Muzorewa's UANC and Nkomo's ZAPU, but Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won the election outright with 57 of the 80 common-roll seats. Smith initially demanded that the election be declared null and void because of widespread intimidation of voters and candidates during the election campaign; however, international observers concluded that the election was fair, given the time and place in which it was conducted.

The British Governor declared his intention to endorse the result of the election (with the final results due to be declared on 4 March 1980) and a date was set for the independence of the country as Zimbabwe. The situation was now delicately poised, with some whites planning a military coup (Operation Quartz) to prevent Robert Mugabe from taking power.[28] At this point, Smith's son Alec (newly returned from political exile) approached Smith while Joram Kucherera (a senior civil servant) approached Mugabe to arrange a meeting to discuss the future of the country.[29] On the night of 3 March 1980 Smith was driven to Mugabe's house by Kucherera. Smith and Mugabe spoke privately for two hours and immediately afterwards Smith met with other senior ZANU figures. The meetings were surprisingly cordial. Mugabe offered key Ministries in the new government to RF MPs and agreed to allow senior officials (such as Lieutenant-General Peter Walls, head of the army) to remain in post. As far as is known, no minutes of the Smith-Mugabe meeting were kept. Both parties kept quiet about what was said and agreed that night.

On 4 March 1980, Smith advised the white community to accept the verdict of the election and respond "pragmatically" to events. Specifically, he told the white community to stay in the country and to co-operate with the incoming ZANU-PF government. Operation Quartz, scheduled for 4 March, was abruptly called off. A few weeks later, the co-operation agreement resulted in the Rhodesian army (with white officers) acting to maintain government control of Bulawayo in the face of an attack by ZIPRA dissidents. Later that year, Smith was a member of a delegation making presentations in Europe to international financial institutions regarding investment opportunities in Zimbabwe. The former Rhodesian security forces acted throughout 1980 and 1981 to maintain stability in the country. Smith contributed to the orderly manner in which the country moved to independence.

Smith became official Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, as leader of the newly renamed Republican Front, but Smith insisted on keeping the RF an all-white party. His Zimbabwean passport was seized by police in December 1982 soon after the government accused him of "criticising Zimbabwe" during a visit to the United States; this, and two refusals of the passport's return, prevented Smith from travelling to South Africa for medical treatment over the following five months. In April 1983, he successfully applied for a British passport so he could go to South Africa for this treatment. "I'll still try to get my Zimbabwean passport back," he said. "I was born here and that is the passport I should travel on."[30]

During the next five years, Smith's support among whites began to erode and 11 out of the 20 sitting white MPs defected to ZANU or became independents. The party renamed itself the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ) before the 1985 election, and recaptured 15 of the 20 reserved white parliamentary seats. As allowed by the independence constitution, Mugabe abolished the reserved white seats in 1987.

Smith retired to his farm in Shurugwi, his political career of 39 years over.

Accusations of racism

Ian Smith was accused of racism during his leadership and even after he stepped out of public life. Thomas Mapfumo, a legendary Zimbabwean singer, stated after Smith’s death, "Ian Smith brought suffering to the people of Zimbabwe, there is very little good he did. We can be sad that that he died, but I cannot praise the devil. I have to stand with the masses. Oppressors should not be celebrated. The suffering we see today in Zimbabwe is a continuation of Ian Smith’s legacy of segregation and dictatorship. In our culture, we say afa anaka, so we are sorry he died." [31] Bright Matonga, the former Zimbabwean deputy minister for information, said that "Smith will not be mourned or missed here by any decent person because he was an unrepentant racist whose racist stance and opposition to our independence caused a war, and he was responsible for a lot of deaths and suffering." [31] Smith's assertion during a televised speech in 1976 that he did not "believe in majority ever in Rhodesia... not in 1,000 years" became commonly quoted as evidence that Smith was a racist who would never compromise with black nationalist leaders. However, as Peter Godwin writes, the quotation is actually taken out of context. The speech in which Smith said this was one in which he said that power-sharing with blacks was inevitable and that he was willing to enter negotiate a political solution with black nationalists. The "not in 1,000 years" comment was an attempt to assure right-wing white voters, who opposed any transition whatsoever, that black rule would not happen immediately. The full quotation is: "I don't believe in majority rule ever in Rhodesia... not in 1,000 years. I repeat that I believe in blacks and whites working together. If one day it is white and the next day it is black, I believe we have failed and it will be a disaster for Rhodesia."[32]


Smith (standing) at a dinner organised in his honour by Denis Walker (far left) at Lympne Castle, Kent, in 1990. Smith is flanked by Conservative MPs Nicholas and Ann Winterton and Rhodesian flags.

After his retirement from active politics, Smith became an outspoken critic of Mugabe's government. Smith's 1997 autobiography, The Great Betrayal (later reissued as Bitter Harvest), is as much a criticism of Mugabe's governance as it is a memoir. The book received mixed reviews. Longtime admirers of Smith found that it confirmed their view of Smith as a man of integrity. His critics saw in the book a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the need for any form of change. He accused many, such as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, of purposely trying to cause harm to Rhodesia. Smith's bitterness at his government's international isolation is a central theme in the book.

Unlike most of his contemporaries from the UDI era, such as P. K. van der Byl, Smith remained in Zimbabwe when he retired. His son Alec returned from Europe and became his business partner, taking over the running of the family farm. Smith said in a 2002 interview that black people he met in Harare streets always reacted to him with friendliness: "They say to me, 'Please keep going Mr Smith. We lived better when you were around.' Policemen salute me, people shake my hand. I've got more black friends than Mugabe."[33] When militants attempted to take over the farm in September 2001, Smith called the regional governor, who promptly sent police to intervene on his behalf and to force the invaders off. According to Smith, the trespassers were shocked to learn the police were coming to his aid and, in his own words, "beat it" before law enforcement even arrived.[34]

Smith contributed regularly to both local and foreign media-reports on current affairs. Those contributions became increasingly critical of his successor Robert Mugabe, whom he described as "mentally deranged" while overseas in 2000. Mugabe reacted with a threat to have Smith arrested and tried for genocide should he ever return to Zimbabwe, at which the former prime minister mocked: "I will give him the date and time of arrival of my plane so he can meet me at the airport."[35] When Smith did return a few days later, a mass of reporters met him, waiting to witness his arrest; however, the immigration officials at Harare airport greeted the former prime minister warmly and he went home unhindered. He was neither arrested nor prosecuted.

In 2001, the Zimbabwean government passed a law making multiple citizenship illegal. Smith refused to disavow his right to British citizenship—he said Mugabe's government, which he called oppressive, had no right to take his Zimbabwean citizenship away. In March 2002, Zimbabwean authorities refused to renew his passport. Smith claimed his Zimbabwean citizenship had been revoked and that he was now stateless. The Zimbabwean government denied that he had been stripped of his citizenship, but said that he would not be issued a new passport until he renounced his right to seek British nationality.[33][36]

Shortly before his death, Smith was interviewed by the journalist Heidi Holland, who was working on Dinner With Mugabe, a book based on psychology and politics, focusing on Mugabe. Chapter 7 of her book, "I told you so", is based on Holland's encounter with Smith.[37] In the book, Mugabe claimed to be a forgiving person, and said it was a good thing that he was; "Otherwise, I would have slaughtered lots of people, including Ian Smith. I always used to joke with Smith that he had borrowed hair [meaning Smith's scalp] which rightly belonged to us, but he could continue to wear it ...”[38]


In early 2005 Smith travelled to South Africa for medical treatment.[39] In January 2006 his only son, Alec, died of a heart attack. Ian Smith was reported to have been devastated by the news and not to have recovered from it either mentally or physically. He stayed on to live with his widowed stepdaughter Jean in Cape Town, South Africa, where there is a significant Rhodesian migrant population, until he died on 20 November 2007 at the age of 88.[40][41] The cause of death was not publicly reported but he had been reported to be in ill health in a residential home.[41] On 6 December 2012, Ian Smith's farm, Gwenoro, was seized from his heirs by the Zimbabwe Government as part of the country's land redistribution scheme.[42]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Van Rensburg 1975, p. 314.
  2. "The Man who cried Uncle". 11 October 1976.,9171,946655-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-24. .
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Ian Smith: Prime Minister who led the first colony since the US into rebellion with his Unilateral Declaration of Independence". London. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-10. .
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Van Rensburg 1975, p. 315.
  5. H. W. Wilson Company (1991). "Current Biography". New York City: H. W. Wilson Company. p. 383. OCLC 2446272. .
  6. de Saintonge, Rebecca (2 February 2006). "Obituaries: Alec Smith". Retrieved 2008-08-01. .
  7. "Alec Smith: Son of the Rhodesian leader Ian Smith, who worked to build bridges with the country's black community". London. 12 April 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-01. .
  8. "Smith's son dies at Heathrow". 22 January 2002.,6119,2-11-1662_1867280,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-01. .
  9. Bernstein, Adam (20 November 2007). "Ian Smith, 88; Defiant Leader of White-Separatist Rhodesia". Retrieved 2008-08-01. .
  10. "Welcome to Clem Tholet's web site". Clem Tholet. 8 October 2004. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04. .[dead link]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Van Rensburg 1975, p. 316.
  12. Wood 2005, p. 97.
  13. Wood 2005, p. 100.
  14. Footage on YouTube, source presently uncertain.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Van Rensburg 1975, p. 317.
  16. Rhodesians rally: pro-Rhodesian account of the impact of UDI.
  17. World Council of Churches report: 'Houses of Stone'.
  18. p153 Brookings Institute report.
  19. Michael Hartnack, 40 years after UDI The Herald.
  20. 1971 compromise offer to end UDI BBC News.
  21. 1971 Rhodesia settlement, see p2 American Jewish Year Book 1972.
  22. On Target: Smith accepts majority rule (pro-Rhodesian account).
  23. Lake, Anthony. The "Tar Baby" Option: American Policy Toward Southern Rhodesia, 1976. Page 118.
  24. p157 Brookings Institution report.
  25. Echoes of an African War: Rhodesian Bush War casualty lists.
  26. Zimbabwe: Smith Saw Rhodesia as a Sovereign State (Page 1 of 4).
  27. BBC report: Rhodesia reverts to British rule.
  28. Operation Quartz: possible military coup Rhodesia 1980.
  29. MRA role: Alec Smith helps prevent military coup.
  30. "Ian Smith granted a British passport to seek treatment". The Glasgow Herald. 7 April 1983. p. 4.,1085772. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 [1]
  32. Godwin, Peter (25 November 2007). "If only Ian Smith had shown some imagination, then more of his people might live at peace". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Blair, David (28 March 2002). "Ian Smith is stripped of Zimbabwe citizenship". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  34. Zimbabwe farm militants try to evict Ian Smith, The Guardian, 6 September 2001.
  35. "Arrest me, Smith tells Mugabe". 26 October 2000. Retrieved 2008-09-04. .
  37. "Interview and Video with Heidi Holland". Penguin. 8 March 2008. .
  39. "Zimbabwe's ex-PM hospitalised". 10 March 2005.,,2-11-1447_1674316,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-04. .
  40. "Ex-Rhodesia leader Ian Smith dies". 21 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-04. .
  41. 41.0 41.1 "Obituary: Ian Smith". 20 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-04. .
  42. Thornycroft, Peta (6 December 2012). "Robert Mugabe seizes former Rhodesian PM's family farm". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 


  • Mungazi, Dickson A. (1998). "The Last Defenders of the Laager: Ian D. Smith and F. W. de Klerk". Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-275-96030-7. OCLC 37546908. .
  • Smith, Ian Douglas (2001). "Bitter Harvest: The Great Betrayal and the Dreadful Aftermath". London: Blake Publishing. ISBN 1-903402-05-0. OCLC 1676807. .
  • Van Rensburg, A. P. J. (1975). "Contemporary Leaders of Africa". Cape Town: HAUM. ISBN 0-7986-0156-6. OCLC 1676807. .
  • Wood, J. R. T. (2005). "So Far and No Further!: Rhodesia's Bid for Independence During the Retreat from Empire 1959–1965". Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-4120-4952-0. OCLC 61258300. .

External links

Audio and video

Political offices
Preceded by
Deputy Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
1962 – 1964
Succeeded by
Clifford Dupont
Preceded by
Minister of the Treasury of Southern Rhodesia
1962 – 1964
Succeeded by
John Wrathall
Preceded by
Winston Field
Prime Minister of Rhodesia
1964 – 1979
Succeeded by
Abel Muzorewa
(of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia)

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