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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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For the most part, the Australian public did not exhibit much interest in the Rhodesian problem, at least until the 1970s when the debate about domestic racial discrimination became louder, which tended to accentuate foreign policy issues involving race. The Australian press, which cared little about Africa in general, devoted no sustained attention to Rhodesia but generally condemned UDI. The only consistent supporters of the Smith regime were regional newspapers such as the Burnie Advocate (Tasmania), the West Coast Sentinel (South Australia), and the South Burnett Times (Queensland). The last two were in areas where there was strong support for the right-wing League of Rights.102 The League was a small but vocal organisation that had expressed its unequivocal support for Europeans in Southern Rhodesia for many years, even before the break up of the Central African Federation. In 1961 Eric D. Butler, an associate of Denis Killen and the National Director of the Australian League of Rights, described the Rhodesian settlers as ‘an inspiring example of the dedicated few’. 103 As creeping sanctions were introduced in the months after UDI, there were some indications of Australian public sympathy towards Rhodesia. Rhodesian-Australian Associations were formed in Victoria, New South NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 7, Kevin, Pretoria, to DEA, Canberra, Savingram 65/65, 17 December 1965, para. 5.

Hall, ‘Australia and Rhodesia’, in Stevens (ed.), Racism, Vol. 3, p. 183. The League advocated Christian principles, was fervently monarchist, and strongly anti-communist. Some of its members were also white supremacists and anti-Semitic.

Quoted in St. J. Barclay, ‘Friends in Salisbury’, p. 41. The Australian League of Rights was formed in 1960 from a number of regional associations.

Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, and in March 1966 the Australian League of Rights sponsored the sanctions-busting Petrol for Rhodesia Fund.

There was some degree of overlap with Liberal Party membership, especially in New South Wales, but the Rhodesian-Australian Associations were not really successful in involving prominent national political figures in their activities. The Associations consisted of three discernible groups: older Australians, who were nostalgic for the days of the British Empire; right-wing activists, who also belonged to the League of Rights;

and émigré South Africans and Rhodesians. However, the extent of Australian public support for Rhodesia should not be overstated: the largest attendance reported at a meeting was 250 in Sydney and the membership of the Associations probably numbered only in the low thousands. 104 In New Zealand there was a similar pattern of political, official, and public opinion on the

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sympathised with the European settlers in Rhodesia. In July 1964 he told the Rhodesian Minister Clifford Dupont that ‘he wished to help the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia in whatever way he could’, and in October 1965 he wrote to Ian Smith expressing his admiration for the European settlers ‘who ha[d] by their own special skills and industry established a prosperous and highly developed society.’ 105 Publicly, however, Holyoake Hall, ‘Australia and Rhodesia’, in Stevens (ed.), Racism, Vol. 3, pp. 183-84. Hall’s analysis is based upon the periodical Rhodesian Commentary, published by the Rhodesia Information Centre in Sydney. In 1972 documents leaked into the public domain that showed it was really an undercover diplomatic mission of the Rhodesian Government. The Centre remained open despite public controversy about its activities, which contravened the provisions of Resolutions passed by the UN Security Council. Ibid., pp. 184-85.

Archives New Zealand/Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, Wellington Office [hereafter ANZ]: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 9, ‘Southern Rhodesia: Record of a Discussion between Mr Holyoake, and Mr was keen to minimise New Zealand’s involvement in the issue of Rhodesian independence. In August 1964 Holyoake reported to the House of Representatives that at the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting he had reaffirmed his Government’s support for the principle of majority rule in Rhodesia, but had recognised that the independence issue was a matter between the Governments of Britain and Rhodesia.106 Indeed, this was the position that Holyoake maintained throughout the Rhodesian Crisis, up to and beyond UDI. 107 This position partly reflected Holyoake’s style of leadership, ‘the slowing down of every process which, if speedily dealt with, might have represented change and political harm.’ 108 More significantly, it also reflected the Government’s perception that little was at stake for New Zealand, as Malcolm McKinnon has commented: ‘Kinship was the only interest “aligning” New Zealand with Rhodesia. Over Rhodesia a major crisis was avoided, because while New Zealand sentiment was involved, New Zealand interests were plainly less so.’ 109 Officials in the Department of External Affairs certainly recognised that New Zealand’s economic interests in Rhodesia were extremely limited. 110 On the other hand, officials were also aware that the issue of Dupont’, 11 July 1964; ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, Message from Keith Holyoake to Ian Smith, DEA to New Zealand High Commission, London, Cable No. 3155, 5 October 1965.

See Summary of a Statement on the 1964 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference by Keith Holyoake, House of Representatives, 6 August 1964, Journal of the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, Vol. 45, No. 4 (October 1964), pp. 438-43.

See next chapter for the role of New Zealand in the search for a diplomatic settlement.

Robert Chapman, ‘From Labour to National’, in Rice (ed.), Oxford History of New Zealand, p. 381.

McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, p. 238.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 11, DEA, Wellington, to Malcolm Templeton, Counsellor, High Commission, London, Letter, 27 January 1965. This issue is discussed further in the next chapter: New Zealand’s limited economic interests in Rhodesia diminished its capacity to exert influence over the Rhodesian Government, but its reluctance to impose sanctions drew criticism from the Commonwealth.

Rhodesian independence had ‘profound implications for race relations throughout the world and especially within the Commonwealth’, and they were ‘conscious of the need to avoid damaging the reputation which New Zealand has earned for having promoted harmonious race relations in its own community and for having brought Western Samoa to independence in a way which evoked international approbation.’ It was nevertheless observed that these concerns should not lead the New Zealand Government into a position where support for Afro-Asian proposals went beyond what was ‘prudent and expedient’, and it was suggested that the Rhodesian question should be considered ‘in an impartial way’, which meant that the New Zealand Government should avoid giving the impression that it was ‘merely acting in support of the British Government.’ 111 This evidence indicates that New Zealand officials had very similar concerns to their Australian counterparts.

The New Zealand Government adopted, as far as possible, a ‘hands off’ policy on Rhodesia, but this did not necessarily accord with the attitudes of some among the wider political establishment and the public. When the Rhodesian Government held its indaba in October 1964, a British newspaper reported: ‘Among the small audience, the only people who appeared to have been impressed with the proceedings were a small group of visiting New Zealand MPs, who said afterwards that this was the way they consulted the Maori chiefs in their own country.’ 112 The press in Rhodesia and New Zealand widely ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 9, ‘Southern Rhodesia: International Developments and New Zealand Policy’, Brief for Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, London, 8-15 July 1964, Annex 1, p. 1.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 10, Malcolm Templeton, Counsellor, High Commission, London, to DEA, Letter, 3 November 1964, enclosing a copy of an article by Ronald Legge, ‘The smoke signals were meaningless at the indaba’, Sunday Times, 1 November 1964.

reported the favourable comments of the New Zealand MPs, which prompted Arnold Nordemeyer, the Leader of the Opposition, to question whether their views were representative of the New Zealand Government’s position.113 Press comment in New Zealand certainly revealed a strong current of support for the Europeans in Rhodesia.

The Daily News defended them as ‘loyal Britons who believe that Britain has stabbed them in the back. Eighty years of effort will be dust and ashes if the African takes over.’ 114 The Dominion showed a similar concern, arguing that it was easy to lose sight of the ‘legitimate claims of the white Rhodesians and to ignore their plight’, and the Auckland Star, which was critical of Ian Smith, received letters expressing support for the Rhodesian Front leader. 115 Pro-Rhodesian views were particularly strong in rural New Zealand, especially in areas where the Social Credit League was campaigning hard in the run up to the 1966 election, of which the New Zealand Government had to take account. 116 Shortly before UDI the Mayor of Dargaville – who in early 1966 became Chairman of the New Zealand-Rhodesian Society – wrote to Holyoake that it would be a ‘terrible thing for New Zealand to be a party to such inhuman treatment of white settlers by handing the country over to Communist inspired trouble makers. Contrary to reports ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 10, Malcolm Templeton, Counsellor, High Commission, London, to DEA, Letter, 4 November 1964; and various documents passim.

Daily News, Taranaki, 12 October 1965. Quoted in McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, p.


The Dominion, 28 October 1965; Auckland Star, 13 October 1965. Quoted in McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, p. 236.

Ibid. The Social Credit League was created in 1953 out of the Social Credit Association, a pressure group, but did not win its first parliamentary seat until 1966. Chapman, ‘From Labour to National’, in Rice (ed.), Oxford History of New Zealand, pp. 376-77.

the 4 million Africans are supporting Premier Smith and his Government.’ 117 As the Rhodesian crisis became more acute in the weeks after UDI, the Department of External Affairs advised its overseas posts that in New Zealand there was a ‘substantial body of

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evidence tends to suggest that in New Zealand public interest in the Rhodesian problem and sympathy for the European settlers was probably greater than in Australia.

Conclusion The fact that Canada demonstrated a much more positive attitude towards the Commonwealth than either Australia or New Zealand can be explained partly by their different conceptions of the Commonwealth, partly by their different diplomatic styles and objectives in international politics, and most significantly by their different attitude to race relations. Canada felt less vulnerable than Australia or New Zealand to charges of racialism, which dominated Commonwealth relations in the 1960s, and therefore found it easier to engage with Afro-Asian members of the Commonwealth. In Australia and New Zealand there was considerable sympathy for Rhodesian ‘kith and kin’, which permeated the government, the civil service, and the public, but such sympathy was not evident in Canada. This explains why Australia and New Zealand were less willing than Canada to be drawn into the search for a solution to the problem of Rhodesian independence, which is explored in the next chapter.

S. Green to K. Holyoake, 12 October 1965. Quoted in McKinnon, Independence and Foreign Policy, p.


Quoted in ibid., p. 237.

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Introduction The Old Commonwealth, like the United States, was concerned with two major dimensions of the Rhodesian problem: first, what assistance could be given to Britain to prevent a UDI; and second, what measures would have to be implemented in the event of a UDI. This chapter will examine the attempts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to prevent a UDI from both a positive perspective (through offers of aid and technical assistance, and proposals for constitutional development), and a negative perspective (warning Rhodesia of the consequences of unilateral action). It will be argued that their attempts to influence Rhodesia were hindered by several factors. First, both Winston Field and Ian Smith were unwilling to countenance any Commonwealth advice that could be construed as interference in Rhodesian constitutional affairs. Second, the deterrent efforts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand were not coordinated and lacked credibility. Third, Old Commonwealth influence was restricted by the fact that Canadian and Australian diplomatic representation in Salisbury was limited, and in the case of New Zealand it was non-existent. In addition to their ‘carrot and stick’ diplomacy, the Old Commonwealth also recognised the need to formulate contingency plans to be implemented in the event of a UDI, which seemed increasingly likely with the failure of each round of negotiations between Britain and Rhodesia. The Old Commonwealth intended to follow Britain’s lead after a UDI, but the slow pace of British contingency planning inhibited preparations in the Old Commonwealth. The Old Commonwealth, like the United States, therefore became irritated with the British during the Rhodesian Crisis.

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