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Zimbabwe: Rhodesia (1968 - 1979)

Historical flag

Last modified: 2016-11-30 by bruce berry
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image by Bruce Berry, 20 Apr 2005

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Rhodesia (1968 - 1979)

After the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland on 31 December 1963, subsequent (Southern) Rhodesian governments continued to negotiate with the British Government on the subject of independence, with the Rhodesians arguing that they should receive independence on the same basis as had been granted to the other Federation territories, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.  However, neither side was willing to compromise on the subject of African majority rule and consequently the white minority government of Ian Smith declared a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965. This was not recognised by any other country and the following year Britain went to the UN and had mandatory economic sanctions imposed on the breakaway "rebel" colony. South Africa and Portugal (prior to 1975) did not comply with the UN embargo.

The Southern Rhodesia light blue ensign continued to be used for three years after UDI until it became apparent that the political deadlock would not be quickly resolved. To signify the severing of its colonial links Rhodesia adopted a new flag on 11 November 1968 - being green, white and green with the national Coat of Arms (adopted by Royal Warrant on 11 August 1924) in the centre of the white stripe.  The flag followed the traditional British proportions of 1:2.

Rhodesia declared herself a republic on 02 March 1970, an act again not recognised by the UK which maintained it "legally" had control although de facto this was not the case.

The Rhodesian flag was in use until 01 September 1979 when it was replaced by the flag of Zimbabwe Rhodesia.
Bruce Berry, 20 Nov 1995, 14 Mar 1996

1968 Flag of Rhodesia No. 40 / p. 285
Rhodesia Act
To provide for the adoption of a national flag for Rhodesia; to provide for the making of regulations to restrict or control the application to any goods of a reproduction of such flag; to amend section 16 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1957, and to provide for matters incidental to the foregoing.

BE IT ENACTED by His Excellency the Officer Administering Government as representative of the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Parliament of Rhodesia, as follows: -
1. This Act may be cited as the Flag of Rhodesia Act, 1968.
2. The Flag of Rhodesia shall be a flag consisting of three vertical stripes of equal width, green, white and green, on which there appears in the centre of the white stripe the coat of arms of Rhodesia, with -
(a) the length of the flag equal to twice the width of the flag; and
(b) the coat of arms of Rhodesia equal in height to three-fifths of the heights of the flag.
3. The Minister of Justice shall cause a copy of the Flag of Rhodesia to be prepared and deposited in the National Archives of Rhodesia established in terms of the National Archives Act, 1963 (No. 76 of 1963).
4. (1) Where, in the opinion of the Officer Administering the Government, it is necessary to regulate and control the use of the Flag of Rhodesia in order that it is not used for purposes which, in his opinion, are improper he may make such regulations restricting, regulating or controlling the application to any goods or the importation into Rhodesia of any goods to which there has been applied a reproduction of the Flag of Rhodesia or of a flag which resembles or is intended to resemble the Flag of Rhodesia as he may consider to be necessary or expedient for the purpose.
(2) Regulations made in terms of subsection (1) may provide for penalties for any contravention thereof, including provision for the forfeiture of any goods to which a reproduction of the Flag of Rhodesia or of a flag which resembles or is intended to resemble the Flag of Rhodesia has been applied or which have been imported in contravention of such regulations:
Provided that no such penalty shall exceed a fine of five hundred pounds or imprisonment for period of two years, excluding the value of any goods forfeited.
5. Any person who burns, mutilates or otherwise insults the Flag of Rhodesia or a flag which resembles or is intended to resemble the Flag of Rhodesia or any reproduction thereof in circumstances which are calculated or likely to show disrespect for the Flag of Rhodesia or to bring the Flag of Rhodesia into disrepute shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
6. Section 16 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1957 is amended, in subsection (1), by repeal of subparagraph (iii) of paragraph (b).
[[Coloured sheet]]

Published as a supplement to the Government Gazette issued on Friday, 9th August, 1968.

[[coloured image of the flag]]

Note: - This representation of the proposed national flag for adoption for Rhodesia, to which reference is made in the Flag of Rhodesia Bill, 1968 (A.B. 33, 1968) is published for public information.

  image by Željko Heimer, 25 April 2005

[[construction sheet which does not seem to be from the same source]]

The sheet gives the flag dimensions as follows:

overall = 60 x 120
width of each stripe = 40
Arms in central panel (height x length) = 36 x 34
top of the central panel to the top edge of Arms = 12
bottom of central panel to bottom of Arms = 12
Željko Heimer, 25 April 2005

The Rhodesian Government information pamphlet issued for The Raising of the Flag (Ministry of Information, Immigration and Tourism, November 1968) describes the event as follows:

"Rhodesia's new green and white flag was raised for the first time at a service held at 9am on Monday, 11 November, 1968, in Jameson Avenue, Salisbury, and attended by the Officer Administrating the Government, Mr Clifford Dupont, and the Prime Minister, the Honourable Mr Ian Smith.

The honour of raising the flag in front of the statute of Cecil John Rhodes, the country's founder, fell to Sgt. Nelson Nayi, of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.

Official flag raising ceremonies were also held in Bulawayo, Gwelo, Umtali, Fort Victoria, Wankie and in other centres in Rhodesia, to honour this historic occasion".

The official description of the the flag is given as:

"The flag of Rhodesia consists of three vertical panels, green, white and green.  Superimposed centrally on the white panel is the Coat of Arms of Rhodesia.  Green is the predominant colour of the Coat of Arms.  It is a bold colour and has the advantage of comparative lightfastness in Rhodesia's sunny climate.

The Arms were granted by Royal Warrant of King George V in August, 1924. The gold pick symbolises the importance of the gold mining industry and, in particular (at the time of its adoption), the mining of gold.  The pick is set on a green field, representing the agricultural background of the country.  The bird which surmounts the Arms is a representation of the soapstone bird at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, and serves as a reminder of the country's past, including its prehistory.  The lion and thistles are from the Arms of Cecil John Rhodes, the Founder, to whom allusion is also made in the motto: Sit Nomine Digna  - "May she (Rhodesia) be worthy of the name".

scan by Bruce Berry, 12 Oct 2006

The flag was raised for the first time at ceremonies throughout the country on Independence Day, Monday, 11 November, 1968." 
The flag remained unchanged following the declaration of a republic in Rhodesia on 02 March 1970.
Bruce Berry, 26 April 2005

When the green-white-green (southern) Rhodesian flag was adopted, Nigeria had had its green-white-green national flag for eight years. Was this considered when adopting the new Rhodesian flag?
António MARTINS-Tuválkin, 16 July 2009

As far as I know, Rhodesia originally wanted a plain green-white-green vertical tricolour, but when it was discovered that this was the national flag of Nigeria, the Coat of Arms were added to the
white stripe.
Martin Grieve, 16 July 2009

The similarity to the Nigerian flag was considered when the design of the Rhodesian flag was being discussed.  The choice of green and white as the national colours was based on the fact that these colours featured prominently in the Rhodesian coat of arms which dated back to 1924.  Furthermore, the Rhodesian national rugby side played in green and white.  Nevertheless, there was criticism in the Rhodesian parliament on the proposed flag design based on the following three points (as recorded in Hansard, 1968, 934-5):

  1. The design resembled too closely the flag of Nigeria, which consisted of three equal vertical stripes of green, white and green;

  2. A new flag was considered unnecessary at that particular juncture; and

  3. The colours of green and white tended to be associated with Islamic countries and should not therefore feature so prominently in the flag of a country "founded by Christian  men and women" who "founded a Christian civilisation" which had brought peace and prosperity to millions of people in Rhodesia.

In the second reading of the Flag of Rhodesia Bill, the Minister of Justice said further that "The Committee on Honours and Awards was fully aware of the resemblance in design to the flag of Nigeria, for it had at its disposal a work of reference showing the national flags of all the countries in the world.  An examination of these flags reveals many instances where there is great similarity in basic design and where the identical colours have been used.  In every case, however, adequate distinction is made, often, as in this case, by having a crest badge or other motif superimposed. ..."  (Hansard, 1968, 935-6).

The Minister also explained  why the proposed design was considered the most appropriate for the new flag of Rhodesia.  The colours had been chosen because they were linked with Rhodesia.  Green and white had long been the popular sporting colours and had been prominent since 1924 as the dominant colours in the coat of arms (Hansard, 1968, 933-4).
Bruce Berry, 03 Aug 2009


Overview of the Flags of Southern Rhodesia / Rhodesia / Zimbabwe-Rhodesia / Zimbabwe

1890 - 1923                British South African Company (BSAC) flag
1923 - 1968                British Union flag (alongside various colonial flags)
1923 - 1953                Southern Rhodesia dark blue ensign (two variants - with and without white disc in fly)
1953 - 1963                Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland ensign (alongside British Union Flag)
1964 - 1968                Southern Rhodesian light blue ensign (alongside British Union Flag)
1968 - 1979                Rhodesian flag
Jun - Dec1979             Zimbabwe-Rhodesia flag (de facto until Dec 1979; de jure until Apr 1980)
Dec 1979 - Apr 1980  British Union flag (de facto although Zimbabwe Rhodesia flag in common use)
18 Apr 1980 to date    Zimbabwe flag
Stuart Notholt, 16 Mar 1996

Flag Song

I have finally found the words to a folk song about the Rhodesian flag ("The Green and White") which was written and sung by John Edmonds in the late 1970s and appeared as a track on a long-playing record from those days called "Troopie Songs":

"Daddy's Gone to Fight for the Green and White"

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
She won't forget that day ...
They were all at the Old Drill Hall
As the convoy pulled away.

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
It was hard to say good-bye
Tall and lean in his jungle green
She heard her mother cry

Green and White you're flying in the blue Rhodesian sky
Green and White you know that we all love you 'till we die.

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
And his first letter went
"Thanks for the chocs and the glory box
And the kisses that you sent".

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
He said I miss you all each day
Tall and lean in his jungle green
Heard her mother say

Green and White you're flying in the blue Rhodesian sky
Green and White you know that we all love you 'till we die.

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
But now they're not alone
They were all at the Old Drill Hall
As the Company came home.

Her Daddy went to fight for the Green and White
'Cos their country means everything
Tall and lean in his jungle green
She heard her mother sing

Green and White you're flying in the blue Rhodesian sky
Green and White you know that we all love you 'till we die.

Green and White you're flying in the blue Rhodesian sky
Green and White you know that we all love you 'till we die.
Bruce Berry, 27 Apr 2007