Ian Smith announced that he is ready to yield to majority rule in Rhodesia

Ian Smith Image source

Thursday, 24 November 1977

Ian Smith announced that he is ready to yield to majority rule in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). This represented an about turn from his announcement of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965. On this occasion, Smith led his extremist white government in breaking ties with Great Britain and declared Rhodesia a republic. For the next decade Rhodesia was subjected to anti colonial struggles led by Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). By 1977 ZANU’s military wing, Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) was operating inside Rhodesia from the eastern front. This forced Smith to reconsider, calling for negotiations. The Geneva Convention was an attempt to forge a settlement. The convention failed when Smith rejected ZANU’s demand for one man one vote.  ZANLA intensified armed incursions into Rhodesia. Another round of talks followed and a settlement was reached with moderate political formations. Abel Muzerewa became prime minister in an interim government.   

ZANLA declared 1978 the year of fire and brimstone, intensifying  armed attacks on Rhodesia. By the end of the year Muzerewa’a government was ready to renegotiate the terms of settlement with ZANU and ZAPU. Another round of talks was held in Lancaster. At the end of the talks a settlement was reached.  

In April 1980, following the Lancaster House Agreement, white rule ended, with Robert Mugabe, leader of (Zanu) becoming President.  Mugabe soon changed the name Rhodesia to Zimbabwe (meaning sacred house in Shona). Smith died in Cape Town, South Africa, on 20 November, 2007, at the age of 88.

References:
• Boddy-Evans A. ‘This Day in African History: 24 November’, from About African History, [online], available at www.africanhistory.about.com(Accessed: 10 October 2012)
• 
Book Rags, ‘Ian Douglas Smith Biography’, [online], available at www.bookrags.com (Accessed: 10 October 2012)
• Morden History Sourcebook, ‘Rhodesia: Unilateral Declaration of Independence Documents, 1965’, [online], available at www.fordham.edu (Accessed: 10 October 2012)
• South African History Online, ‘Rhodesia gains independence as Zimbabwe’, [online], available at www.sahistory.org.za (Accessed: 10 October 2012)

Last updated : 23-Nov-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 22-Nov-2012