Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization


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Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization
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White, Luise
White, Luise
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Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization His torians of Africa and historians of decolonization have tended to avoid writing about dependence (1965 80). Whether t Unilateral Declaratio n of Independence (UDI) from Britain is described as a last stand of empire or as a pale imitation o f South Rhodesia (until 1964 Southern Rhodesia, after 1980 Zimbabwe) is invariably seen as such a great exception to the orderly processes of decol onization that it is beyond explanation. While there have been two fine studies of US policy toward independent Rhodesia published in the last decade, the most recent of the two academic studies of white politics in Rhodesia was published in 1973 There has never been a study of of African history. There ar e two reasons for this. First, African historians have been reluctant to write the histories of rogue and reactionary regim es, especially when they were led by white minorities. White settlers have never been part of the canon of African history topics, however fashionable settlers might have become in imperial histories. For African historians, r acist and reactionary regim es were interchangeable; thus it has Second there are no national arch ives for independent Rhodesia For reasons more to do with staffing than politics, nothing has been accessioned in the National Archives of Zimbabwe since 1984: while there are a few manuscript collections available for the years of UDI minister ial files are only open up to 1958 For this reason the research I have do ne has been triangulated on three continents. I have used the large collection of or al interviews with Rhodesian politicians conducted in the 1970s, in the Zimbabwe National Archi ves, and Rhodesian cabinet materials from 1960 78 taken from Zimbabwe and deposited in the Cory Library of Rhodes University in South Africa, British government files in the British National Archives and recently accessioned election monitor files from the Commonwealth Secretariat Archives in London, private papers deposited in Rhodes House, Oxford, the papers of Rhodesian moderate, multi racial organizations now housed in the Borthwick Historical Institute in York, the boxes of papers from the Rhodesian Army that were briefly available in a now defunc t p rivate museum in Bristol files on


refugees from Rhodesia in the Botswana National Archives, and the collection of Rhodesian ephemera at Yale. I have also relied on the extraordinary amount of white writing mainly novels and memoirs, produced in Rhode sia at this time and formal and informal intervi ews I have conducted in Africa and Britain The refractory nature of this research has encouraged me to write a political history that shows the fractures and fissures of Rhodesian independence. I came to this project after thirty years of writing and researching African s ocial h istory. Writing about the lives of Africans under colonial rule taught me how much of what appea red in archives was never practiced on the ground and that while colonial power was anything but a fantasy it made many fantastic claims -claims at which Rhodesians were to excel that alluded to broader issues and concerns. My use of oral materials for two previous monographs has made me a careful reader of assertions and their intended audiences. I n this project, I make much of the rhetoric of promotion as evidence of its relationship to decolonization and i ts fiction of unique and uncompromising rights based on standards and history Announcing UDI to the nation, the Rhodesian independence was held to b e the equivalent of Thermopylae or Lepanto, battle s in 1965, the multi black flood and c reating a government that would forever be in congratulatory paternalism and racial domination, deployed in a vocabulary of universal civilization that had long ago vanished from the imperial heartland but could now be peppered with Cold War, or World War II, while every criticism of Rhodesia could be t raced back to to Moscow. Party hacks likened Rhodesia to Britain at its best, or Britain in the 1940s: if Winston Churchill were alive he would immigrate to Rhodesia tomorrow, they said.


Rhodesian independence was a transcendent project: the state was to reverse the course of world events, preserving Christian civilization against the trend of the late colonial world, p olitical independence through universal suffrage and majority rule. In the period I cover, Rhode sia had five different constitutions, ea ch with a di fferent idea about which groups had a right to be represented in a government and each with a different idea about how that government was to be chosen Because of the number of constitutions and the di zzying detail of voter qualificatio ns in each one the voter reg istration form required by the 1965 constitution was seven pages long this book is organized around a history of the fran chise. That history will allow me to address two key questions in th e history of decolonization, first, how one man, one vote became the natural logic of the end of empire, and second, how citizenship in African na tions was imagined and animated The citizenship question was one of how to valorize birthright in a settler society that never achieved a stable white population of more than a quarter million, and the extent to which residency might substitute for birthright questions that have trou bled for the last twenty five years I have chosen six episodes in Rhodesian history; most have debates about voting and cit izenship at their core. The three that do not the introduction, the chapter o n sanctions and recognition and the one on debates about conscription -international and domestic relations, respectively. The chapters are: 1) I ntroduction, the place of race in decolonization. Rhodesian officials com pared their independence to those of Biafra and Katanga the two secessionist states of the mid 1960s ignoring how critical race was to ideas about self determination. At the same time, Rhodesia became a racialized ut opia for its supporters around the globe in a process that eventually obscured any local notions of what constituted race and belonging in the country 2) The 1961 constitution and its afterlives. The 1961 constitution was heralded as promising majority rule soon. ( It did not: the earliest majority rule cou ld be achieve d under it was 2015) African political parties boycotted the referendum on it, setting in motion a narrative that Africans rejected moderation. The 1961 constitution became synonymous with the orderly progression toward majority rule: getting rid of it was one of the motives behind UDI, and well into the 1970s Britain insisted that for Rhodesia to be brought back into the fold of


the community of nations it would have to return to the 1961 constitution. 3) Recognition and sanctions: the Rhodesian Fro nt government had assumed that the renegade state would be recognized by South Africa and Portugal, out of self interest, and France, to establish a precedent for Quebec. No other country recognized it, however, but however much Rhodesians complained, the fact of non recognition gave Rhodesia an extra legal status that allowed it to violate the mandatory sanctions imposed first by Britain and then by t he UN Violating s anctions, illicit trade with everyone via Gabon, and intensified domestic investment gave Rhodesia an annual rate of growth of 9.4% from 1966 74. was heroic; it appeared in almost all UDI era fiction wresting the project of nation building away from the prattle about Thermopylae and replacing it with that of James Bo nd. 4) The 1969 constitution, perhaps the most remarkable document produced anywhere in the world in the late 1960s It was based on the fiction that all Africans politics took place in their tribes, nowhere else, and thus Africans had no reason to vote for the institutions of representative government. The governanc e Africans required would be conducted by chiefs elected to the senate by a council of other chiefs. The few Africans who were urban or well off enough to be considered detribalized were al lowed to vote on a separate roll for separate candidates; everyone else white, South Asian, or mixed race voted on a single, common r oll, an electoral convenience that created a split from which white Rhodesian politics never fully recovered. 5) The Pearce Commission. In 1972 the Conservative government in Britain made a final attempt to settle lion, offering recognition and the withdrawal of sanctions in exchange for a return to the 1961 constitution. Africans rejected thi s in riots and contentious public meetings ; the visit of the P earce Commission has been seen as the fi rst step in the mass demand for majority rule. This chapter looks at Rhodesian and African polit ics in the country at the time. By the early 1970s Afric an and white Rhodesian politics were entangled, as both banned and exiled African political parties and the Rhodesian government founded and funded African political parties while white modera te and multi racial groups moved to the right of the g overnment rejecting African opinion 6 ) Conscription: from the late 1960s on Rhodesia faced a guerrilla war from two armies in exile; by the early 1970s the war effort required intensive conscription and reserve duties by 1979 it is


possible to see the government in daily struggle with the military over who should be conscripted (which age groups, residents or citizens, and should Africans ever be required to serve), for how long, and at what pay. The material in this chapter is based on the Rhodesian Army papers a nd the Rhodesian cabinet papers. In the absence of local gov ernment records, chapter 6 allows me to see the conflicts between the central government and one of its bran ches Thi s chapter relies on Rhodesian writing as conscription is a major trope in memoir and fiction. 7) The 1980 election. In late 1979 a constitutional conference in Londo n negotiated an end of the war and the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. A lthough popular n ruled nation, the final constitution was a pol itically expedient one man, one vote election for Africans, based on residence in the country, and res erved seats for whites elected by a European roll that had been drafted by the Commonwealth and the British before the conference. The actual mechanics of the transition however required a cease fire and closely monitored elections. While bases were created for guerrillas, there was nothing like a cease fire. This chapter is based on files in the British National Archives and the Commonwealth Secretaria t, which monitored the election, and interviews with participants Chapters 5 an d 7 allow me to discuss political violence in Africa before and after political independence. 8) decolonization of African states. I t troubles the idea t hat n ew sovereign states majority ruled, decolonized, or post conflict -emerge seamlessly from the remnants of their predecessors and traces how the Zimbabwean state established itself through the repression of the mutinies in the newly minted Zimbabwe National Army in 1981. The research for this book is done, and the chapters that have not been drafted are blocked out. I have discovered how difficult it is to revise four year old drafts and two year old articles into a book length manuscript while teaching. If I were to be awarded an ACLS Fellowship I have no doubts that I could finish the manuscript and submit it to a publisher in a year, and produce a book that would fill a gap in the history of Africa in the late twentieth century.


Giorgio Ag amben. State of Exception Chicago, 2005. Jocelyn Alexander, JoAnn McGregor, and Terence Ranger, Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years Oxford, James Currey, 2000. _____ The Unsettled Land: State Making and the Politics of Land in Zimbabwe Oxford, 2006. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism London, 1991. W. A. Ballinger, Call It Rhodesia London, 1966. James Barber. Rhodesia. The Road to Rebellion Lon don, 1967. Lloyd Benton, The Yellow Mountain, Salisbury, 1978. Robin Brown, When the Woods Became the Trees London, 1965. Josiah Brownell. The Collapse of Rhodesia: Population Demographics and the Politics of Race. London, 2010. Larry Bowman. Politic s in Rhodesia: White Power in an African State. Cambridge, 1973. Luciano Canfora, Democracy in Europe London, 2006. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments. Colonial and Postcolonial Histories Princeton, 1993. Michael Charlton, The Last Colony in Africa: Diplomacy and the Independence of Rhodesia Oxford, 1990. Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa Cambridge, 1996. John Gordon Davis, London, 1967. Andrew DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome: The United States and Zimbabwe 1953 98 Trenton, 2001. Clifford Dupont, The Reluctant President : The Memoirs of Clifford Dupont Bulawayo, 1978. Alexadra Fuller, New York, 2001. Peter Godwin, Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa London, 1996. _____, When the Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa Johannesbug, 2006. Bennie Goldin, Q. C. The Judge, The P rince and the Usurper From UDI to Zimbabwe New York, 1990. Ian Hancock, White Liberals, Moderates and Radicals in Rhodesia 1953 1980. New York, 1984.


Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War against Zimbabwe Chapel Hill 2001. John Kelly and Martha Kaplan, Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization Chicago, 2001. Desmond Lardner Burke, Rhodesia: The Story of a Crisis. London, 1966. Colin Leys, European Politics in Southern Rhodesia Oxford, 1959. Jame s MacBruce, When the Going was Rough: a Rhodesian Story Pretoria, 1983. Peter Mackay, We Have Tomorrow: Stirrings in Africa 1959 1967. Norwich, 2008. Sarah Gertrude Millin, ed., White Africans are Also People Cape Town, 1967. Edmund Morgan, Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America. New York, 1988. Eshmael Mlambo. Rhodesia: The Struggle for a Birthright London, 1972. Abel Muzorewa, Rise Up and Walk. An Autobiography Johannesburg, 1978. Peter Niesewan d, In Camera: Secret Justice in Rhodesia London, 1973. Maurice Nyagumbo, With the People London, 1980. Claire Palley, The Constitutional History and Law of Southern Rhodesia, 1888 1965, with Special Reference to Imperial Control. Oxford, 1966. William Raynor, The Day of Chaminuka London, 1973. Rhodesia. Report of the Constitutional Commission, 1968. Salisbury, 1968. Nathan Shamuyararia, Crisis in Rhodesia. London, 1965. Kenneth Skelton, Gweru,1985. Ian Smith, The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith. London, 1997. Southern Rhodesia, Report of the Franchise Commission. Salisbury, 1957. Judith Todd, The Right to Say No: Rhodesia 1972. London, 1972. Robert Tredgold, The Rhodesia that Was My Life. London, 1 968. Luise White, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and Politics in Zimbabwe Bloomington, 2003. Dan Wylie. Dead Leaves. Two Years in the Rhodesian Army Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Monographs The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and Politics in Zimbabwe Bloomington, Indiana University Press, Cape Town, Double Storey Books, Harare, Weaver Press, 2003. Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2000. [ finalist for the Herskovits Award for the best book of the African Studies Association, 2001] The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990. Co edited collections with Douglas Howland, The State of S overeignty: Territories, Laws, Populations. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2009. with Stephan Miescher and David William Cohen, eds., African Words, African Voices: Critical Practices in the Oral History of Africa Indiana University Press, 2001. Selected articles Journal of African History in press for 52, 3 (2011). International Journal of African Historical S tudies 44, 2 (2011), 327 33. Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: Anthr opology and History of Medical Research in Africa Oxford, Berghanan, 2011, 445 61. Gyan Prakash, Michael Gordin, and Helen Tilly, eds., Utopia/Dystopia: H istorical Conditions of Possibility Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010, 137 69. Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 3 (2009), 236 59. Journal of Southern African Studies 33, 3 (2007), 619 31. Gender and History 16, 3 (2004), 603 25. International Journal of African Historical Studies 37, 1 (2004), 103 21.


Osiris 19 (2004), pp. 220 33. History and Theory 39 (December 2000), 11 22. Poltiique Africaine 79 (Octobre 2000), 83 100. Bodies, Borders, and the Articulation of Regional History," Journal of Southern African Studies 23, 2 (1997), 325 38. "'They Could Make their Victims Dull:' Genders and Genres, Fantasies and Cures in Colonial Southern American Historical Revie w 100, 5 (1995), 1379 1402. Journal of African History 36, 2 (1995), 219 45. Social Dynamics 20, 1 (19 94), pp. 75 92. Transtion 63 (1994), 22 33. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 64, 3 (1994), 359 72. Comparative Studies in Society and History 35, 4 (1993), 744 70. Representations 43 (1993), 27 50. Reprinted in Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Societies in a Bourgeoise World, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997), 436 60.. Canadian Journal of African Studies 24, 3 (1990), 418 38. Kenya, 1939 Inter national Journal of African Historical Studies 23, 1 (1990), 1 25. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 11, 2 (1986), 255 273. Criminal Justice History IV (1985), 201 227. Nairobi, 1936 Struggle for the City: Capital, Migrant Labor and the State in Urban Africa Beverly Hills and London, Sage, 1983, 167 191.