2nd December 1966. From Prosperity to Anarchy.
In the 19thc scramble for Empire our oldest ally Portugal, since the Perpetual Alliance of 1376, was ‘warned-off’ areas coveted by Britain on the so-called ‘Pink-Map’. This didn’t however deter Belgium and Germany from their incursions into Africa.
By the 1960.s came the ‘Wind of Change’ with Britain discarding the remnants of Empire, but the sticking point was the last colony in Africa, Rhodesia (once Southern Rhodesia), which in 1965 had illegally Unilaterally Declared Independence (UDI), without ensuring Majority (African) Rule.
In 1964 when the threat of UDI was mooted, Prime-Minister, Harold Wilson told Ian Smith that the Rhodesians would be ‘virtually friendless’, anticipating the reality that trade embargoes would be ignored by South Africa.
In a final effort to resolve the impasse in 1966 a third meeting was held at 11.45 pm Today on the cruiser HMS Tiger at Gibraltar, with Wilson demanding ‘explosively’ a ‘yes or no’ to the proposal that Rhodesia give up UDI before any new constitution could be enacted.
Wilson had taken a five-point plan, with an agreement necessary, after which Rhodesia could return, in the interim, to the 1961 constitutional position on independence, when Smith could then have disembarked as Prime Minister Designate, of Rhodesia. It fell on deaf ears.
Another abortive meeting followed on HMS Fearless in 1968, which again called for repudiation of UDI, the surrender of control of the armed forces and appointment of at least two Africans into the cabinet.
However UN trade sanctions didn’t stop oil getting to Rhodesia through the Mozambique port of Laurenco Marque, as well as through South Africa.
Documents which came to light in 2002 showed that in February 1968 Wilson must have seen a memo which showed a connivance with five oil companies: two British (Shell and BP) two American, and Total the French company, having a ‘swap deal’.
Thus in truth it could be said that no British Company was breaking the oil embargo.(1)
The sticking point on UDI was never resolved and Rhodesia declared itself a republic in 1970.
Eventually Rhodesia became Zimbabwe on 17th April 1980 and fears were realised when a tyrant Mugabe reduced the country to bankruptcy, torture and confiscation of white settlers’ land, grim details of which were related to the Author by one so affected.
In the 1978 Bingham Report, Wilson said he denied all knowledge of the ‘swap deal’.
Richard Marsh, Minister of Power at the time, later summed it all up by saying it all ‘boils down to losing face’. So there you have it; all boiling down to not being seen as the loser!
(1) Wilson must also have known about a meeting between the Commonwealth Secretary, George Thompson and BP and Shell which according to Michael Palliser Wilson’s personal assistant, was documented.
wikipedia.org/Pic of Tiger.
iwm.org.uk/Pic of Wilson.
google.images/big blue 1840-1940 and mountainstamp.com/Pics of Stamps.
Public Records Office.