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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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influence, the Governor, Humphrey Gibbs: ‘In a sense, on the political scene, the Governor was on his own, whereas in the past, friends, colleagues and old acquaintances – the establishment – had been part of the political and social milieu in which he moved.’ 101 The outcome of the election obviously had significant constitutional and political implications, but it did not unduly alarm the British Government, for three reasons. First, the DOPC had already anticipated that in the event of a general election the Rhodesian Front would win a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Assembly, so the result did not come as an unexpected shock. 102 Second, the Rhodesian Government immediately and publicly denied that it regarded the election as a mandate for a UDI. 103 Third, shortly after the election the British High Commissioner advised the DOPC that Smith was ‘now much more relaxed’, and that he ‘genuinely wanted to negotiate and to avoid a UDI if possible.’ 104 Smith had told Johnston that ‘the extremists in the Rhodesian Front did not represent the views of the majority in the party or his own views.’ Smith had committed himself publicly to exhausting all possibilities of negotiation before he made a UDI and he had told Johnston that if talks did break down, ‘then he would have to make a clear assessment of where Rhodesia’s interests lay before taking any action’. The DOPC therefore interpreted this as a disposition to postpone the issue, and concluded: ‘Though the gap to be bridged in negotiation with Mr Smith was wide, and the scope for compromise limited, there seemed now less cause for anxiety in the immediate future.’ 105 One month later, Arthur Bottomley was still optimistic that a Megahey, Humphrey Gibbs, p. 96.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 15th Meeting, 5 March 1965, p. 4.

Smith, Bitter Harvest, p. 90; Wood, ‘So far and no further!’, p. 311; Young, Rhodesia and Independence, p. 204.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 26th Meeting, 19 May 1965, p. 4.


UDI might be avoided, and advised the DOPC that Smith seemed to be pursuing a more moderate policy. 106 Harold Wilson’s main concern in June 1965 was to make it through the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting without either precipitating the disintegration of the Commonwealth over the Rhodesian problem, or destroying the chances of a negotiated settlement by entering into untenable commitments forced upon him by African Commonwealth leaders. He was remarkably successful in both respects. 107 He then wrote immediately to Smith: ‘I am sure you will understand that throughout the meeting I have been seeking to keep the way open to pursue the negotiations with you. It remains our policy and indeed our earnest wish to bring them to a successful conclusion within the broad framework which our High Commissioner has explained to you.’ 108 The ‘broad framework’ to which Wilson referred was the set of principles that Smith accepted at the end of May. Even though the British Government had no further specific proposals to put forward, ministers recognised that they should be seen to be negotiating, and to this end it was suggested that Cledwyn Hughes, Minister of State at the CRO, should visit Rhodesia. 109 Bottomley advised Smith that he was sending Hughes on his behalf because of his own parliamentary commitments and his forthcoming visit to West Africa, which was a long-standing engagement. 110 TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 29th Meeting, 16 June 1965, p. 4 For further details see below, Ch. 5, pp. 284 ff.

Wilson to Smith, 25 June 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 61. Smith replied: ‘As I see it, the position has changed little and it is now our task to continue with negotiations to the best of our endeavours.’ Smith to Wilson, 28 June 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 62.

TNA: PRO, CAB 130/228, Minutes of Cabinet Sub-Committee, 12 July 1965.

Bottomley to Smith, 18 July 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 62.

In his account of the negotiations historian Kenneth Young suggested that at this juncture Smith was optimistic about the prospects for a settlement, because: ‘He believed – wrongly – that through his talks with the High Commissioner he had somehow converted the British Government to his point of view and that this was proved by their willingness to send out the Minister of State to talk to him.’ 111 However, Smith soon recognised that Hughes, ‘did not have the power to make decisions, and was simply putting out feelers in the hope that he could take something back with him.’ 112 The main objectives of the visit were to see how far Smith was prepared to go along the lines suggested by Bottomley in March, and to determine whether a negotiated settlement was possible on the basis of the Five Principles. To this end Hughes was instructed to discuss with Smith the idea of a senate, which might accommodate three of the principles. By giving the Africans a more effective political voice it would satisfy the second principle of immediate political improvement for Africans. By giving it a power of veto over changes to the Constitution it would satisfy the second principle of no retrogressive constitutional amendments. By taking over the role of the Constitutional Council it would meet the requirements of the fourth principle, to eliminate racial discrimination. 113 Although Smith was prepared to consider a senate that represented African opinion, he was unwilling to allow an African majority, rejected the safeguard of a veto over constitutional changes, and was reluctant to concede to the senate more than a nominal legislative role. Hughes also found that Smith would not accept a blocking third in the Legislative Assembly, but might consider the possibility of a blocking quarter on some constitutional matters. Smith suggested that an extension of the franchise on the ‘B’ Roll would be possible, but the number of ‘B’ Young, Rhodesia and Independence, p. 209.

Smith, Bitter Harvest, p. 90.

TNA: PRO, PREM 13/538, ff. 159 and 161. Cited in Wood, ‘So far and no further!’, p. 331.

Roll seats would only be increased in proportion with an increase in ‘A’ Roll seats (which would nullify the increase in African representation). Smith also agreed to look at possible changes to the Land Apportionment Act as a means to reduce racial discrimination. 114 On his return to London, Hughes advised the British Government that there was no immediate danger of a UDI, and confirmed earlier impressions that Smith was anxious to negotiate a settlement. Ministers concluded: ‘The situation as a whole was fluid.’ 115 The British Government had, once again, detected no obvious way through the impasse but had at least sustained the dialogue and held the door open for further negotiations, which may be considered an achievement in itself.

However, there were signs that the Rhodesian Government was becoming increasingly impatient with the lack of substantive progress in negotiations. At the conclusion of Hughes’ visit the Rhodesian Government announced that the former Minister of Information and Tourism, Harry Reedman, would be appointed as Rhodesia’s ‘accredited diplomatic representative’ in Lisbon. Rhodesia already had a diplomatic representative in South Africa, so it was obvious that Rhodesia was strengthening its links with the countries from which it expected support in the event of a UDI. The British Government publicly played down the issue, suggesting that Reedman would not have the status of ‘accredited diplomatic representative’, but rather would be attached to the British Embassy in Lisbon in the same manner that Rhodesian representatives served in other British embassies. 116 Privately, however, the British Government treated the matter with TNA: PRO, CAB 130/228, Minutes of Cabinet Sub-Committee, 30 July 1965; and Wood, ‘So far and no further!’, Ch. 20, ‘A Further Attempt to Delay. The Visit of Cledwyn Hughes, July-August 1965’, passim.

TNA: PRO, CAB 130/228, Minutes of Cabinet Sub-Committee, 30 July 1965.

Windrich, Britain and the Politics of Rhodesian Independence, p. 41; Wood, ‘So far and no further!’, p.

339; and Young, Rhodesia and Independence, p. 212.

grave concern, and it generated considerable friction with the Rhodesian Government.117 It was in this context that a rapid exchange of correspondence took place between Smith and Bottomley. The Commonwealth Secretary proposed to visit Salisbury after the Labour Party Conference and before Parliament resumed on 26 October. 118 Smith was clearly frustrated by the delay and advised Bottomley: ‘the impression is gaining ground that your Government has no intention of granting independence to Rhodesia.’ Smith stressed that his Government regarded the matter of Rhodesia’s independence as ‘one of extreme urgency’ and requested a ‘definite reply’ to the proposals that had been put forward during Hughes’ visit.119 Bottomley replied that there had been no concrete proposals, expressed his concern over the ‘apparent hardening’ of Smith’s views, and emphasised the importance of further negotiations. 120 Smith pointed out that the ‘the concept of a senate was raised and quite definite views were put forward’, and rejected as unsatisfactory the British Government’s unwillingness to discuss further proposals until Bottomley arrived in Salisbury for further discussions, which, Smith warned: ‘must reach final decisions’. With regard to Bottomley’s observations Smith advised: ‘The hardening of our views here in Rhodesia is not merely apparent; it is very real and serious. So long as the delay in reaching a decision persists the gap between our respective Governments will continue to widen.’ Smith observed that the Rhodesian planting season was about to begin and commented: ‘our farmers expect and are entitled to a decision on our TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 38th Meeting, 13 September 1965, pp. 3-4; and Wood, ‘So far and no further!’, Ch. 21, ‘The Straw in the Wind. Rhodesia’s First Act of Defiance: The Lisbon Appointment, August-September 1965’, passim.

Bottomley to Smith, 7 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 63.

Smith to Bottomley, 11 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, pp. 63-64.

Bottomley to Smith, 13 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, pp. 64-65.

–  –  –

Bottomley could not accede to Smith’s request, but in an attempt to maintain the momentum of negotiations he reverted to discussion of the Five Principles, on which the British Government would have to be satisfied before it could grant independence. 122 At this point Smith’s patience was exhausted and he proposed to visit London for talks in early October. 123

The British Government anticipated that talks with Smith would fall into two phases:

first, reasoned argument; second, warning and intimidation. Sir Burke Trend noted that the success of the second phase would depend upon the Government’s ‘determination to introduce, if there is a u.d.i., the various economic measures which Ministers have considered many times but have not yet formally approved.’ 124 Trend recognised one of the fundamental weaknesses associated with the British Government’s position – that it had failed to establish exactly what it intended to do in the event of a UDI – which is discussed in greater detail below. Before the talks began, Bottomley told the DOPC that the discussions were not expected to produce any results and the most that could be hoped for was to reiterate the consequences of a UDI. Wilson noted that Smith had retreated from his earlier readiness to negotiate on the basis of the Five Principles, perhaps because of pressure in his own party. Jack Johnston explained that Smith’s earlier willingness to negotiate was based on the assumption that the British Government was seeking only minor concessions, which would not affect the dominant position of the Europeans in Smith to Bottomley, 15 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 65.

Bottomley to Smith, 21 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, pp. 66-68.

Smith to Bottomley, 27 September 1965, Cmnd. 2807, p. 68.

TNA: PRO, PREM 13/539, Trend to Wilson, 1 October 1965, in Murphy (ed.) BDEEP Series B, Vol. 9, Part II, p. 537.

Rhodesia, but it was now clear to Smith that the British Government would only grant independence on the basis of the Five Principles, which were unacceptable to him and his party. 125 According to Bottomley, when the talks began on 5 October, Smith accepted that the discussions should be based on the Five Principles but subsequently rejected all of them,

so no progress was made:

His only positive proposal had been the suggestion of a Second Chamber to consist of six Chiefs, one Asian representative, one African representative and four representatives of industry, commerce, the professions, etc., all nominated by the Southern Rhodesian Government.

A two-thirds majority of both Houses voting together would be required for the amendment of the specially entrenched clauses of the

–  –  –

Smith would not agree to repeal the Land Apportionment Act as a means to diminish racial discrimination. He argued that the 1961 Constitution had been negotiated with the intention that Rhodesia should subsequently obtain independence on this basis, and sought to press the British Government for a statement that it rejected the Constitution.

Smith also argued that the fifth principle – that a settlement must be acceptable to the

–  –  –

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 42nd Meeting, 2 October 1965, pp. 3-5.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, Minutes of OPD (65) 43rd Meeting, 7 October 1965, p. 3; also in Murphy (ed.) BDEEP Series B, Vol. 9, Part II, p. 548.

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