2 March 1970: Ian Smith Declared Rhodesia a Republic



On 2 March 1970 Ian Smith, the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, announced the formation of the Republic of Rhodesia at a ceremony at Government House, Salisbury. With the signing of the proclamation, Smith dissolved Rhodesia’s parliament and brought into effect a new constitution.

Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes, had been a British colony since the 19th century. In the years after the Second World War Britain started a programme of decolonisation that saw many old colonies gain independence but remain within the Commonwealth.

With the independence of Northern Rhodesia in 1964, and its renaming as Zambia, Southern Rhodesia took the name of Rhodesia for itself. British intentions were to give Southern Rhodesia independence with a black majority government.

But on 11 November 1965, Smith’s government declared itself independent and continued with white minority rule. Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was followed on 22 December 1966 by its leaving the Commonwealth.

International economic sanctions followed and the new state of Rhodesia remained unrecognised by governments around the world. In a move that had been anticipated since the UDI, Smith’s announcement on 2 March 1970 cut the remaining ties with Britain.

The 1970s saw the continuation of international sanctions against Rhodesia and an internal struggle with black nationalist guerrillas. The combination of sanctions and fighting forced Smith to enter negotiations, in 1977, for a change to black majority rule.

The still unrecognised state of Rhodesia came to an end in 1979. In 1980, with a another new constitution and a new country name, Robert Mugabe was elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

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