Thursday, November 11, 2010

45 Years Ago…

45 Years Ago…

Following a referendum the previous year in which voters had overwhelmingly backed independence, in late 1965, with negotiations between the United Kingdom and Rhodesia at an impasse, Smith (according to his biography Bitter Harvest) had authorized a committee under Cabinet Secretary Gerald B. Clarke to look at historical independence declarations in order to come up with a suitable version for Rhodesia in the event of a UDI having to be declared. The committee decided to use the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence as its reference. Once the text was agreed upon, the Government Printer in Salisbury created the actual document (during the first week of November).

Clarke placed the document in storage in the Rhodesian Parliament building until the morning of November 11, when Smith and his cabinet colleagues — after a last-minute appeal by the British Government failed to convince them not to follow this course of action — voted unanimously to declare their independence. Clarke was then directed by Smith to prepare the signing ceremony. The document was placed in an adjoining conference room to where the cabinet had convened to take their vote. With a photographer to record the historic moment, Smith, Deputy Prime Minister Clifford Dupont, and the other cabinet members signed the declaration. Later that day, Smith read it out on national radio, along with a speech giving justification for the action, and giving warning about probable negative reactions by the international community.

The timing of Smith's telegram to the British Prime Minister (Harold Wilson) announcing the UDI was symbolic. The message was sent at precisely 1 pm local time (11 am in London) at the exact moment that the United Kingdom started its Remembrance Day tradition (two minutes of silence to mark the end of World War I and honour its war dead). The not-so-hidden message in this timing was to recall the fact that Rhodesia had helped the UK in its time of need in both World Wars and that the British should not forget that.

Actually, I remember reading somewhere that the Rhodesians lost more servicemen as a proportion of its population than any other of the commonwealth nations. I also recall that during UK imposed sanctions the Rhodesians were banned from commemorating their fallen comrades in the UK on this day.

1 comment:

biltong said...

Good informative blog I was in Rhodesia or Zimbabwe as it was then in the early ninetys just as the economy collapsed