3. Intelligence Note From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rogers 1

No. 100


  • Southern Rhodesia: Smith’s Great Leap Rightward

A New Constitution. Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith’s new draft constitutional proposals come close to eliminating any remaining possibilities of settlement with the UK. They break abruptly with the suggestions for a UK-Rhodesian agreement that emerged from the meeting in October 1968 between Smith and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson on board H.M.S. Fearless. At the outset, the new constitution would halve the present number of directly elected African representatives in the Rhodesian parliament. It would establish avowedly racial voting rolls and drop even the pretense of a non-racial electoral system maintained under the present constitution. Finally, the proposals explicitly discard the idea that Africans could ever work their passage to majority rule. The far-distant goal of the new document is at most political parity of Africans and Europeans. Al[Page 5]though Smith has moved to the right he has not gone far enough for some extremist elements in his own Rhodesian Front party, who have already attacked the proposals as inadequate.

The Mechanics. Regional congresses of the Rhodesian Front have approved the proposals. The next step is a referendum, which could be held as early as May. The timetable may slip, however.

The Proposals in Outline. Since the full text is not yet published (or even drafted, according to some reports) a number of important details are lacking. But in general they will probably provide for:

a national assembly consisting initially of 66 members. Of these, 50 would be elected by a voters’ roll consisting of Europeans, Asians, and Coloreds. The remaining 16 would be Africans—8 directly elected by an African voters’ roll, 8 indirectly chosen by an electoral college composed of chiefs, headmen, and councilors.
an African membership that could be expanded to ultimate parity with the Europeans (i.e., 50 seats) as the African population’s income tax payments increase. (According to one recent estimate, Africans currently pay one half of one per cent of the total personal income tax collected in Rhodesia.) The increase in African seats is to be four at a time, to maintain parity between the two largest tribal groups, the Matabele and Mashona.
a senate (10 Europeans chosen by the assembly, 10 chiefs, and 3 appointed members) that would exercise delaying powers with respect to legislation considered unfair to any racial group.
three provincial assemblies—two African, one European—to which Parliament could delegate powers.

Smith’s Motives. As he did in mid-1968, when the debate over a new constitution erupted within the Rhodesian Front, Smith has moved to check his right wing critics by prompting [preempting] most of their positions. But in the process he seems to be burning his last bridges to the UK. He may be signalling to London that if there is to be another round of negotiations, it must come quickly. But in that case he will have to be prepared to discard the present proposals or modify them drastically, because there is little if anything in them that Wilson could square with his “Six Principles” for a Rhodesian settlement.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–5 RHOD. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem.
  2. The “five principles” served as the basis for confidential talks between the British and Rhodesian Governments from November 1970 onwards. First enunciated in October 1965, a sixth principle was added in January 1966 after Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence. The sixth principle, which ensured there would be “no oppression of the majority by the minority or of the minority by the majority” was not included in the November 1970 negotiations. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1965–1966, pp. 21025 and 21756, and 1971–1972, p. 24981)