X-Ray on Sit Tight Leaders in Africa – Dr Robert Mugabe an Example (Part 2)

In the first part of this article, a cursory look at the British foray into the land now known as Zimbabwe in the 19th Century. Recall how Mr. Cecil Rhodes, a British entrepreneur landed in that land in 1871 and systematically through his company, established the British protectorate, with the backing of the British government.

As it were of today, the only long time sitting President in the whole of Africa is Dr. Robert Mugabe. He is in his 37th-year reign. He came into office on 20th April 1980. Now, let us take a critical look at Northern Rhodesia in the course of colonial rule.


Upon the effective set up of the Protectorate, as administered by the company of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, British South Africa Company, there was the growth of commercial activities in the land. There was no increase in the numbers of settlers because of the business opportunities that it afforded. The population grew, and out of this population, 1500 were European settlers. This was barely a year the Protectorate Administration began, that is exactly 1892.

Sooner the European population grew more than this, as the means of transportation created an easy movement to and from the territory. The rail system from the Zambezi developed traversing Kimberley in 1885, through to Bulawayo in 1896, landing at Victoria Falls as the Terminus in the year 1904. The rail system greatly assisted commerce and the movement of people. In honor of the founder of the territory, it was named after him, thus it became Rhodesia in 1895.

The colonialists were without difficulties in the expansionist expedition, it was tough for the British South Africa Company to establish and maintain its presence in some of the new territories. The local people were resistant to these attempts, even though their leader, Lobengula was interested in maintaining peace with the Officials of British South Africa Company. On the contrary, the local people wanted the whites settlers expelled from their land.

The center could no longer hold when in 1893 Mr. Leander Jameson, the Administrator of the Region for Rhodes finds a document of war against Lobengula. It is believed that the document was initiated by the locals. In order to forestall this, and as well as an avenue to have a grip on the region, Mr. Leander Jameson wage a war against the native, deploying five Maxim machine guns fought his way easily to the domain of Lobengula in Kraal at Bulawayo. Lobengula fled, his flight brought to an end the Kingdom of the Ndebele which was founded by his father.

As it is the desire of every colonialist, the European settlers felt that the governance of the Northern Rhodesia should be vested in their hands. In pursuant of this agitation, an insistence that they are represented in the colony’s legislative assembly was always on the table. Note that, in all of these, the natives, that is, the Africans were not considered in the participation of their affairs. This was achieved in 1903; the composition of the legislative assembly was 14 in numbers, 7 from the British South Africa Company and 7 from the white settlers, and none for the Africans who are the owners of the land.

Within the space of 4 years thereafter, the white settlers are now having the majority in the legislative assembly. In 1914, towards the end of the expiration of the 25-year life span of the Royal Charter granted the British South Africa Company, the settlers’ ambition of self-government so blindfolded them that, they were not ready to accommodate another territory. It was the plan of the British Government, to at that time include South Africa in the protectorate. The intention was to enlarge the territory, but the settlers resisted and they had the day.

You may wonder how this was achieved. It was a successful persuasion of the British to extend the Royal Charter for additional ten years. During this decade, even at the exactly 8th year of the extension, there was a referendum that was held to determine whether there should be self-government or not. Of course, the referendum was restricted only to the European settlers, as it excluded the indigenous black owners of the territory.

The result was 60% in full support of internal self-government and the rest 40% against who were in agreement the territory be joined with the Union of South Africa as the 5th province. Thus history was made on the 12th of September 1923, when it became exactly 33 years when the first sets of European settlers came to Harare, Rhodesia became a self-governing crown colony.

Again, the prosperity and success of Rhodesia became much pronounced henceforth, particularly with the increase in the numbers of European settlers. The settlers population grew from 34,000 which was the figure at the time of the referendum to 222,000 three decades later.

In 1950, the political consciousness of the African elites was gaining momentum, and thus there was increased agitation for Political Independence of all colonies that were under the United Kingdom. This consciousness was imbibed by the European settlers in Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia. Recall that these are the first two regions administered by Mr. Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company. They were bracing upon the assumption that, the regions will be merged to be an Independent Nation.

However, in the Black Africans, who have gained political consciousness and educational qualifications was a dead end to the European settlers’ ambition and prayers. It was resisted vehemently in Northern Rhodesia, which has less European population than in Rhodesia. The apprehension of the black was that, if this becomes a reality, the European culture of Rhodesia will completely out shadow the African culture. In this wise, black majority rule will become a mirage or completely unrealizable. This was the beginning of the political agitation of the Africans. In response to all of these, the British Government imposed a Federation on Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the year 1953.


The political consciousness of the black Africans and the demand for self-determination of the European settlers brought conflicting requests to the British Government. To this end, the government responded by imposing a federation on the two Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the year 1953.

The operational modality of this imposition was with the aim that the Federation will run on a self-government basis. It has its own Legislative Assembly and a Prime Minister. The first of the Prime Minister was Lord Malvern and the second; Roy Welenski came to office in 1956.

Of course, one could that the establishment of the federation was for political convenience and economic gain of the British Government. The rule of the Federation allows each of the federating units its own local government. The members of contraption were at different levels of their political development, what they have in common was that there were no African representation and involvement in the political process.

Rhodesia has been in self-government as a colony for the past 3 decades, throughout this period there was no African representation in the Legislative Assembly. There was a very tiny provision for African Adult suffrage in the year 1957. This gave the opportunity to a few Africans voting rights in an election. While on its own, Northern Rhodesia has a legislative council since 1948, only 2 seats were reserved for the Africans.

Nyasaland, even though there was a legislative council, there was no African representation at all. This was at the time of the imposition of the Federation. However, in 1955, I guess, due to the agitation of the natives in the Nyasaland region, 5 representations were created in the Legislative Council.

Through to projection, the anticipation of the economic progress of the federation, there was increased growth in commerce. This was propelled by the increase in the price of copper which was a global price increase as at that time. Notwithstanding this, the agitation for independence by the Africans became more strident and fierce than ever before. The increased consciousness was traceable to the success recorded by Gold Coast, now Ghana when she got her Independence on March 6, 1957.

The pressure pile up on the British Government by the African politicians of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland grew positively in the early 1960s. Their continued pressure and agitation gave rise to the dissolution of the federation on 31st December 1963 and an attendant increase in the legislative councils’ representation.


While the federation lasted, the people of Rhodesia, both European settlers, and the Africans were forming political parties in anticipation that the independence of Rhodesia was a matter of some time.

The level of partisan political consciousness became heighten during the period of the Federation. The Africans started forming political parties, which are avenues through which they can pursue their goals of struggling for the Independence of their country. The first notable politician of that time was the Late Joshua Nkomo.

He was elected the President of the local branch of the African National Congress. The existence of ANC in Rhodesia was short-lived as it was banned. In the place of ANC, Joshua Nkomo founded National Democratic Party, NDP in 1960. This was also banned in 1961; thereafter another party was formed again in 1963 which he called Zimbabwe African Peoples’ Union – ZAPU. In ZAPU, there are two other prominent members with him, Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe. These two men later left ZAPU to form Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU in 1963.

The political pressure from the majority African politicians and elites became so much intense, coupled with other causative factors, such as United Nations on the government. To this end, in 1961, a new Constitution was introduced which allowed African representation in the parliament. The new constitution did not achieve much before the problem arose.

The backlash that came thereafter was that Mr. Ian Smith, a European settler, and politician founded a new party which he called the “The Rhodesian Front”. The sole purpose of this party was to be committed to the principle of white supremacy. This means that governance will primarily be for the European settlers and preferences will be given to them. Of a fact, the pursuit of the party was that Rhodesia will be an Independent state, controlled by the white minority.

In the following election in 1962, it was a surprise victory for the new party. It beats United Federal Party, a moderate political party in outlook and policies towards the black majority.

Mr. Winston Field became the Prime Minister and Mr. Ian Smith as his Deputy. In 1964, Mr. Ian Smith was in the seat of government as the Prime Minister, this was in the month of April and exactly four months to the end of the federation.

The first assignment that he performed was the arrest of both Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. They were kept in prison from that year (1964) till 1974. In the following year, 1965, he ordered the arrest of Ndabaningi Sithole and he joined his fellow compatriots in prison till 1974.

Now to Ian Smith, the coast is clear as it seemed that nobody will be able to checkmate his government. He made a request of the British government that, Rhodesia be granted independence on the basis of white minority rule. He met with a flat resistance, and it was not pleasant to him.

Thereafter, the Prime Minister, Mr. Ian Smith declared a Unilateral Independence from Britain, and thus he started running Rhodesia as an Independent country from November 11th, 1965. The United Kingdom engaged subtle diplomacy and the first reaction was to organize two meetings between the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson and Ian Smith at two different times and venues in 1966 and 1968. Both were fruitless as Ian Smith remained adamant. The United Kingdom had no option than to employ economic sanction with the approval of the United Nations.