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Zimbabwe Rhodesia

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Flag of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979
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Flag of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, 1979

Zimbabwe Rhodesia was the (largely unrecognised) name of Zimbabwe during 1979, adopted by Rhodesia soon after an Internal Settlement between the white minority Rhodesian Government led by Ian Smith and small, moderate African nationalist parties not involved in the war that had been raging in the country since 1977. In Britain the new name was ridiculed, with the state being dismissed as 'Rhobabwe'.

Josiah Zion Gumede was the first President, with Abel Muzorewa of the United African National Council (UANC) as Prime Minister. The country's bicameral parliament now had a black majority. However, 10 seats in the 40-member Senate and 28 in the 100-member House of Assembly were reserved for whites, who also retained control of the country's civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces.

It is not clear why Zimbabwe was given such a long name after the internal settlement. As early as 1960, the African nationalist movement had already decided that the country's name was "Zimbabwe" and had started using Zimbabwe as part of the names of their political parties. It would seem that the combined name was a compromise between the white-dominated Rhodesian government, which did not want to let go, and the small African nationalist parties that were represented at the Internal Settlement talks, who wanted to save face with the inclusion of the popular name, Zimbabwe.

The name Zimbabwe Rhodesia was rejected by most Zimbabweans (mainly black people) who did not like their country to have a foreign "surname" associated with Cecil Rhodes whom they considered more as an enemy than as a hero. During Zimbabwe's first non-racial multi-party independence elections in 1980, one of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo's campaign strategy against Abel Muzorewa and the other small parties who participated in the Internal Settlement was to turn the nation's anger against them for having negotiated to give the country a shameful surname.

However, once in office, Muzorewa had sought to drop 'Rhodesia' from the country's name, and in fact adopted a new national flag that featured the Zimbabwe soapstone bird. The national airline, Air Rhodesia, was also renamed Air Zimbabwe. The name did manage to appear on some issues of Rhodesia stamps overprinted with "ZimbabweRhodesia" postage stamps; issues of 1978 still used "Rhodesia", and the next stamp issues were in 1980, after the change to just "Zimbabwe", and were inscribed accordingly.

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