The Cabinet Papers banner

Rhodesia and the Central African Federation

The Union of South Africa

The Union of South Africa, granted dominion status in 1910, was a self-governing colony with a large, but minority, white population. Through the Balfour Report of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931, South Africa acquired sovereign status within the empire.

Rhodesia

Substantial, although smaller, numbers of white people colonised Southern Rhodesia with the aim of controlling land and labour through segregationist policies. When the Charter of the British South Africa Company expired in 1923, the British government pressed for Southern Rhodesia's incorporation into South Africa. In a 1922 referendum, white voters decided against incorporation and in favour of a separate colony. In 1923 Southern Rhodesia was granted its own legislative assembly, primarily representing colonists. As the colonist population expanded, the new government continued to operate a racially discriminatory political system.

In Northern Rhodesia copper was discovered in the late 1920s, and the colony acquired considerable economic importance. White settlement nevertheless remained small as it did in Nyasaland. The British government considered the possible consolidation of the central African territories into a single political and economic entity. In a 1927 White Paper Leo Amery argued the case for closer union. Policy towards Rhodesia was reconsidered over 1930 and 1931. In 1939 the Bledisloe Commission recommended economic integration, rather than political confederation.

Central African Federation

By the mid 1930s colonists in Rhodesia and in Nyasaland were strongly in favour of closer union. This sentiment strengthened after the Second World War, but the Labour government resisted the confederation of the three colonies claiming it was detrimental to African interests. This changed with the Conservative election victory in 1951 and negotiations for federation advanced more rapidly. The Central African Federation was formed in August 1953 under the leadership of Godfrey Huggins, Sir, previously the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia.

Content