Struggle for Zimbabwe …the Internal Settlement of 1978


IN the last edition of the Struggle for Zimbabwe we looked at the resumption of the guerrilla warfare and how it intensified following the formation of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) in January 1976.
This week we will look at the Internal Settlement of 1978 that attempted to sideline the liberation forces and gave birth to a hurried transitional arrangement which led to the hyphenated state of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
As the guerrilla warfare intensified, the power and influence of the Patriotic Front inside the country was steadily growing.
They now exercised control over large sections of the country and had the support of the black majority.
Ian Smith’s power on the other hand, was growing weaker, with large numbers of whites, fearful of a Patriotic Front takeover, fleeing the country.
In addition, the Rhodesian economy was now at standstill with more than US$60 million in exports in the pipeline and without exports moving, the government could not support an agricultural crop the next season.
The Patriotic Front had shown, beyond doubt that a white settler government could not survive in Zimbabwe.
Adding to these internal pressures, the Western powers were worried that a country ruled by the Patriotic Front would undermine their economic interests.
Smith, therefore was forced to make some political concessions and changes inside the country.
Determined to concede the barest minimum and backed by the majority of Rhodesian whites and by South Africa, Smith attempted to install a black government of his own choice through an internal settlement.
The ‘Internal Settlement’ was an agreement which was signed on March 3 1978 by Ian Smith and the so-called moderate nationalist leaders comprising of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Chiefs Jeremiah Chirau and Ndiweni.
Smith chose his signatories well.
Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was leading his party the United African National Congress (UANC), was regarded as someone who had minimal political experience and constantly revealed negotiating weaknesses.
He was thus subject to manipulations. On the other hand Chief Jeremiah Chirau and Ndiweni fell into the mainstream of traditional chiefs.
They were used as an appendage by Smith who was eager to see Rhodesia gaining international recognition.
Inclusion of chiefs would give the impression that Smith’s internal settlement was supported by the traditional leaders within the country.
The third signatory was Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, a renegade from ZANU who continued to dream he was leader of ZANU and ZANLA.
He claimed to stand at the helm of the liberation movement and more aptly of the liberation army.
The internal settlement led to the creation of an interim government in which Africans were seemingly ‘included’.
However, their ‘inclusion’ was to serve as a mere pretence.
This in turn would hopefully lead to the abolition of sanction imposed on Rhodesia as a result of its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of 1965.
The Internal Settlement included provisions to form an Executive Council of four consisting of Smith, Muzorewa, Sithole and Chief Chirau.
The four would rotate the chairmanship, but Smith would retain the title of Prime Minister.
However, knowing the weak position of the three black signatories, whose power derived from Smith himself, it was clear that Smith knew he would always have the upper hand.
The council’s task would be to organise a ceasefire, release of detainees, review of sentences for political offences, to remove racial discrimination, to draft a new constitution and to hold elections later in the year before a handover to a ‘black’ government at the end of December.
Day-to-day administration would be handled by a Ministerial Council consisting of nine whites nominated by Smith and three from each of the black political parties.
Each ministry would have two ministers, one black and one white.
The Rhodesian Front was guaranteed enough seats in parliament to block any constitutional change.
Parliament was to consist of 72 seats for blacks elected through universal suffrage and a further 56 selected in three different ways, but representing whites.
A constitutional amendment would require only 51 votes, but a change of the Internal Settlement Agreement would require 78 votes.
As part of the agreement, the Smith regime began releasing political prisoners.
Of the several thousand political prisoners held, it was decided to release 700, but at the same time trials and executions of freedom fighters continued.
Apparently only the supporters of Muzorewa and Sithole were released.
A year later, in January 1979, the so-called interim government organised the referendum for whites only.
It is noteworthy that black opinion was not tested. Following the referendum, elections were held in April 1979.
Muzorewa was elected as the country’s first black prime minister after his UANC garnered the majority with 51 of the 72 seats reserved for Africans in the parliament.
After the elections, Britain and the US were ready to lift the sanctions.
However, the international opposition particularly from the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) forced them to reconsider.
Thereafter, the United Nations Security Council regarded the interim government as illegal.
The settlement’s collapse was imminent from the day the deal was concluded.
The fact that ZANU and ZAPU were deliberately excluded from the settlement was the main reason the Internal Settlement failed.
The military wings of these two parties continued fighting against Smith’s government, something which had an impact on the settlement.
Reverend Sithole, who had promised to end the liberation struggle failed dismally to deliver the expected results.
He organised meetings to sell his idea, but the attendance was poor.
The interim government continued to detain political activists and this was contrary to the dictates of the settlement inciting the continuation of the struggle.
Above all, Africans never benefited from the settlement.
Instead, the economy, the country’s prime land and the security forces remained in the hands of the minority whites.
The settlement left most of the political and economic power in white hands, while providing a few black faces in the government in pretence of relinquishing power to the black people of Zimbabwe.
Two weeks after the settlement was put into effect, Byron Hove, who was the co-Minister of Justice, was sacked after he had called upon the government to restructure the police force and include black people in positions of authority.
Even Muzorewa was unable to stop the expulsion.
His decision to remain in a government in which he was so patently powerless demonstrated beyond doubt his role as a Smith’s quisling.
This was used by ZANU PF and ZAPU as evidence to prove to the OAU that Smith had an upper hand in the interim government.
The settlement was further strained by splits in UANC when James Chikerema left to form the Zimbabwe Democratic Party.
The alliance with Ndabaningi Sithole also came under serious strain, with Sithole accusing the Smith Regime of having cheated to bring Muzorewa to power.
The Internal Settlement was short lived, as it collapsed after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called for an inclusive constitutional conference at the 1979 Commonwealth conference in Lusaka, Zambia.
The Lancaster House Agreement of December 1979 managed to broker a deal for the attainment of independence in 1980.


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