Smith, Ian Douglas

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Smith, Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas Smith, 1919–2007, Rhodesian political leader. A cattle farmer who was the son of a Scottish immigrant, he served in the Southern Rhodesia legislative assembly from 1948 until 1953, when he was elected to the federal parliament of the Central African Federation, where he served until 1961. He helped establish the white supremacist Rhodesian Front (RF), which favored independence for Southern Rhodesia from Britain. In Dec., 1962, shortly before the breakup of the federation, the RF won in Southern Rhodesia, elevating Smith to deputy prime minister and treasury minister. Becoming prime minister of Rhodesia in 1964, he brutally suppressed black nationalist activities. Refusing to agree with Britain on eventual African majority rule, Smith unilaterally declared (Nov., 1965) Rhodesian independence from Great Britain.

Despite international economic sanctions against Rhodesia, Smith consolidated white rule and declared Rhodesia a republic in 1970. His government won elections overwhelmingly in 1970 and 1974, but a fierce guerrilla war began in 1972 and intensified with neighboring Mozambique's independence. In 1977 Smith negotiated a settlement for black majority rule in which power was shared with whites, and the country was renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The settlement allowed whites to continue control of the army, economy, and legislature and also excluded the Patriotic Front (PF), which continued fighting. In 1979 the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government was forced to negotiate with the PF and, under a new constitution (1980), Robert Mugabe, a PF leader, became prime minister of an independent Zimbabwe. Smith was relegated to leader of the opposition. His party disintegrated, and he retired in 1988, later living in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

See his memoir (1996).

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