Ian Smith

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Ian Douglas Smith (April 8, 1919November 20, 2007) was a farmer and politician who served as Prime Minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1964 to 1979. Smith took the decision to issue a 'Unilateral Declaration of Independence' from the United Kingdom in 1965 and led the rebel unrecognized government for the next fourteen years. He strongly believed that Rhodesia should continue to be ruled by its European-descended minority, but was forced to concede a power-sharing government when support from South Africa and Portugal ended.


  • Today is not such a tremendous day for us Rhodesians. We made our decision to become a Republic quite a long while ago, and this is simply the process of formalizing it. Our Independence Day is the great day. Rhodesia did not want to seize independence from Britain. It was forced upon us.
    • BBC News 'On this day', March 2. "Smith recalls era of savages in skins", The Times, March 3, 1970, p. 8.
    • At a press conference on March 2, 1970, when Rhodesia declared itself a Republic.
  • Let me say it again. I don't believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia, not in a thousand years. I repeat that I believe in blacks and whites working together. If one day it is white and the next day it is black, I believe we have failed and it will be a disaster for Rhodesia.
    • Nigel Rees, "Sayings of the Century", Unwin paperbacks, 1984, p. 247
    • Radio broadcast, March 20, 1976.
    • Peter Godwin, Comment in the Guardian(UK) Newspaper [[1]]
  • All the soul of man is resolution, which in valiant men falters never, until their last breath.
    • Ian Smith, "Bitter Harvest".
  • I would be dishonest if I did not state quite clearly that the proposals which were put to us in Pretoria do not represent what in our view would be the best solution to Rhodesia's problems.
    • Michael Knipe, "Mr Smith agrees to majority rule coming within two years", The Times, September 25, 1976, p. 1.
    • Statement (September 24, 1976) on negotiations in South Africa which proposed a phased transition to majority rule.
  • Pushing people forward simply because of their colour, irrespective of merit, would be most unfortunate and would of course lead to disaster. It would mean that Rhodesia would then develop into a kind of banana republic where the country would in no time be bankrupt.
  • To those who say derogatory things about colonialism, I would say colonialism is a wonderful thing. It spread civilization to Africa. Before it they had no written language, no wheel as we know it, no schools, no hospitals, not even normal clothing.
    • The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith, Africa's Most Controversial Leader
    • First published in June 1997
  • We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people than any other country on the African continent. That was what Rhodesians did. I wonder if we shouldn't be given credit for doing that.
  • [Robert Mugabe] was a very clever bloke and he worked with me for as long as he thought it was going to help him. Once again, it was just to keep himself in power. I give that answer to all questions about Mugabe because that is all there is to it. Everything he has ever done is about keeping himself in power: Dictators and fascists all over the world think like that.
    • Ian Smith, as quoted in Heidi Holland, Dinner with Mugabe, Penguin Books; Reprint edition (5 Feb 2009), ISBN 0143026186

Ian Smith - A Bit Of A Rebel[edit]

2005 interview, Fine Claret Media, UK (youtube(10 mins))
  • Ian Smith
  • What we believed in was responsible majority rule as opposed to irresponsible majority rule, and I stand by that. I think it's important that before you give a person a [right to] vote you ensure that his roots go down [and] that he's part of the whole structure of the country. So I stand by what I've said, and I think we can substantiate the fact that the things we did were to the benefit of the black people of our country more so than anybody else. And I challenge anybody to disagree with that.
  • To begin with, things [after Independence in 1980] went well because [Robert] Mugabe was no fool. He realised [that] it was important to maintain the economy and keep the country expanding. And in any case he was committed to do that by the Lancaster House Agreement which said that there could be no change in [the existing status] for at least seven years unless [he] could get 100% support [from] all the people. In no ways would he have been able to get the support of the white members of Parliament, and also the Matabeles. So we were satisfied that what we were doing was in keeping with the traditions and culture and what was expected of us, and Mugabe used to thank me for coming to see him, [giving] him the benefit of my advice and [telling] him what the white people were thinking. But he only did this for a while because he inherited the best economy in Africa. It was viable. And after two years he quickly changed his mind because he had a lot of money available. He had his [own] commanders in control because he had removed the white commanders who would have taken action against him if he had defied the Lancaster House Agreement before the seven-year [period]. He removed our commanders and put his commanders in so that he knew that he could defy this. And so he breached the Lancaster House Agreement.
  • So [things have] gradually and gradually [gotten] worse and worse until the country is absolutely on the rocks now, and the people are suffering. And this is our hope, because so many people are suffering, have been persecuted and have been told "Get into line, or else", and they know what 'or else' means.
  • Africa is a continent which is subject to a great deal of friction and argument and change; that's [true] of the world generally but more so Africa than anywhere else. So because of that we live in hope, we think that the people in the end will say "We've had enough".
  • In the interests of our people, and of other people in this part of the world, let's work together. Why do we have to exclude people because of their colour, whether they are white, brown, yellow or black? Let's accept that we are all a part of Africa, all part of the world. Let's all work together. And the more we can get people to accept that philosophy, the greater the hope for the whole world.
  • Smith was misunderstood in a lot of ways. He is an African [and] understands the African mentality. It wasn't his problem what happened in Rhodesia. He came in [to power] in 1965 after Winston Field, so he was along the system that had been created. If you look at the development of Rhodesia, Smith contributed enormously [to] that. It didn't only benefit the whites, it benefited the blacks.
  • Smith was being realistic-if you give people something before they are ready [for it] they are going to mess it up. And that has happened. If he had had the opportunity to work with the people [and] help bring them up, Zimbabwe would be a better place now. Smith did make it better during his government. There is no reason why he could not do that if he had been allowed to go on.


  • If I absolutely had to choose, I would take Mugabe in preference to Smith, though. I couldn't stand Smith. I thought he was a man who saw every tree in the wood but couldn't see the wood... He was a really stupid man, Smith; a bigoted, stupid man.
    • Lord Carrington, as quoted in Heidi Holland, Dinner with Mugabe, Penguin Books; Reprint edition (5 Feb 2009), ISBN 0143026186
  • Ian Smith was a formidable opponent, but he lacked any vision. We offered him much better terms at the Fearless and Tiger talks than anything he is going to get now. He held out too long, for too much, and is going to end up with nothing.
    • Harold Wilson, former British Prime Minister, interviewed by the BBC in 1979. While passing through Heathrow airport, Wilson had a chance encounter with Smith en-route to Lancaster House. The two had coffee together, and Wilson's comments were made after their meeting.[specific citation needed]
  • Life's greatest lessons have come to me so late ... that a country can have political independence while its people are not free.
  • Smith had many fine qualities as a political leader. However, he was very much a creature of his background. His life revolved around the cricket team, the whites only school, the RAF, the country club and the company of other gentleman farmers. He never escaped from this or saw beyond it.
  • Ian Smith lived an exemplary family life and in private was a down-to-earth, modest man. Ian Smith was not corrupt nor was he a megalomaniac. However whilst Ian Smith acted in what he thought were the best interests of then Rhodesia he made some disastrous political decisions as Prime Minister which directly contributed to the trauma that Zimbabwe is suffering from today... The policies of his Rhodesia Front party radicalized black nationalists and directly spawned the violent and fascist rule of Zanu PF.
  • The roads that we are using today were all built by Smith. All the infrastructure is Smith’s. We never suffered the way we are suffering now because Smith took care of the economy that supported all people and they had enough to eat. When he left power the [British] pound was on a par with the Zimbabwean dollar, but President Mugabe has killed all that.

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