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1970: Ian Smith declares Rhodesia a republic

VIDEO : Rhodesians react to republic declaration

The Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, has declared his country a republic, cutting its last link with the British Crown.

The new Rhodesian Republic, came into being at 2301BST yesterday, unrecognised by the rest of the world and barely noticed by Rhodesians themselves.

Mr Smith signed a proclamation officially dissolving the current parliament and introducing a new Republican Constitution.


"Rhodesia did not want to seize independence from Britain. It was forced upon us"

Ian Smith

The ceremony took place at Government House, until last year the official residence of Sir Humphrey Gibbs and his predecessors as governor and representative of the British Crown.

The creation of the republic breaks an 80-year-old link with the British monarchy - but has been widely anticipated since Mr Smith unilaterally declared the country independent of Britain four years ago.

Since then, Rhodesia has left the Commonwealth and been subject to tough international sanctions.

Mr Smith said: "Today is not such a tremendous day for us Rhodesians. Our Independence Day is the great day.

"Rhodesia did not want to seize independence from Britain. It was forced upon us."

The real question now is whether a Rhodesian republic will gain any international recognition.

The chairman of Mr Smith's Rhodesian Front party, Ralph Nielson, said: "We have cut our ties as to whether or not a republic is going to make all that difference, I sincerely believe it will, particularly in the eyes of the rest of the world.

"I believe various things are going to flow, improved trade and without a doubt, in time, diplomatic recognition."

The British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, has already made clear his Labour government will not recognise the new regime in Rhodesia.

The United States has also indicated it will not recognise Smith's republic "under any circumstances".

In Context
Ian Smith's illegal declaration of independence in 1965 led to international economic sanctions. Britain had hoped to guide Rhodesia to black majority rule in line with the rest of the African continent.

By 1971, Edward Heath was prime minister of Britain and behind the scenes, negotiations were held with Ian Smith's regime to organise a legal settlement that would ensure the equality of land rights between Africans and Europeans.

Ian Smith's party, the Rhodesian Front, overwhelmingly won elections in 1970 and 1974, as government clashes with black nationalist guerrilla fighters intensified.

In 1977, Smith succumbed to sanctions and the high cost of war and agreed to negotiate a transition to black majority rule.

Robert Mugabe was elected prime minister of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980 under a new constitution.

Mr Smith remained an MP until 1987. He died in a residential home in South Africa in 2007.


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