Rhodesia and Nyasaland, trying a more liberal path to maintaining minority rule

Trying to maintain a prosperous colonial life when the home country wants out and your race is less than 10% of the population is difficult. The apartheid system in South Africa was one but a more liberal method was also tried for about 10 years to the north. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is attractive and very representative of the last years of British colony status. It also displays the seeds of the failure of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Between the Queen and the grave of Cecil Rhodes, it was just all about what the whites wanted. Under the distant but benign auspices of Britain with Cecil Rhodes as the father of the country. That aspiration was not what the 96% of the population that was black was interested in, namely majority rule.

Todays stamp is issue A20, a three penny stamp issued by the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1959. It was part of a 15 stamp issue in various denominations over a four year period. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. The stamp to look out for in this issue is the 1 pound stamp showing the coat of arms of the territory. It is worth $47 mint.

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland comprises the territory of modern day Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi. These were territories that were claimed for Britain by adventurer, diamond miner, and proponent of empire Cecil Rhodes in the 19th century. It was his intention that British colonists build a self ruled country that was still a subject of the British empire. However, the European settlers never were more than 10 percent of the population and lived at a level 10 times their African neighbors.

In 1953, in preparation for the end of colonial status a federation of the colony of Southern Rhodesia and the British Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland was established. A federation was chosen as to limit the power of economically and militarily dominant Southern Rhodesia. It was thought that this unit would work economically and it did so with rapidly rising incomes for Europeans and indeed Africans. Institutions were opened up to allow more African participation. However Britain saw the federation as a vehicle to transition to majority rule and independence. The leader locally Roy Welensky saw things differently. He did not feel that blacks were ready for rule and that the Europeans could not stay post black rule.

Britain began separate contacts with independence proponents in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Welensky considered unilaterally declaring independence from Britain but could not bring himself to do it. The Congo to the north had gone independent and within a month had descended into chaos. Thousands of whites fled south but Welensky was not allowed to help them escape by Britain. They favored a UN solution and Daj Hammerjold, the UN Secretary General flew to Northern Rhodesia to start negotiations. When his plane crashed, The Communist and African world blamed Welensky although there is no evidence that he had any responsibility.

Meanwhile in Southern Rhodesia, many whites thought Welensky too accommodating to England and a new party formed with a more radical racialist agenda. Welensky was mocked for being a Jew and a Socialist and the new party came to power. In 1963 the Federation was disbanded. In 1964, now black ruled Northern Rhodesia became independent Zambia and Nyasaland became black ruled independent Malawi. Rhodesia unilaterally declared independence that was not recognized by Britain or the UN and fell into civil war. The war dragged on for 15 years until Rhodesia recognized Britain’s right to install a majority black government and grant independence as Zimbabwe. All of the countries economically underperformed post independence and succumbed to one party, president for life corruption. Upon independence in 1980, Welensky relocated to Britain for his final years.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open up the conversation in the below comment section. I wonder if the federation had been granted more time to integrate blacks in the institutions if the outcome would have been better. The three countries together would have been a much bigger power, but I really can’t see a modern country in Africa named for Cecil Rhodes. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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