On February 3, 1960 British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivered a portentous speech to the Parliament of South Africa. Referring to the "wind of change" that was blowing over the continent, he announced the United Kingdom's intention to divest itself of its African colonies. In fact, this process was already underway, the Gold Coast colony having achieved independence as Ghana in 1957. Britain's other West African colonies were granted independence between 1960 and 1965. The colonies of British East Africa gained independence between 1961 and 1964. In British South Africa, however, the process was much more drawn out, lasting until 1980.
The term British South Africa can be confusing. Originally it referred to the territories that came under the authority of the British South Africa Company in 1890, as distinct from those territories that came to constitute the Union of South Africa. In 1923, the Company ceded its governing authority to the British government, which established protectorates over Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and made Southetrn Rhodesia, which has a relatively large white population, a self-governing colony.
In 1953, the three territories were united as the autonomous Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Economically the federation proved successful, but pressure from black nationalist groups for full independence resulted in its demise after ten years. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland gained independence as Zambia and Malawi in 1964, but the white minority government of Southern Rhodesia balked at black majority rule, declaring independence unilaterally and maintaining it for sixteen years in the face of an insurgency by black nationalists. The Republic of Rhodesia, as it became, received no international recognition save from South Africa and Portugal. By the mid-1970s Rhodesian whites were coming to accept the inevitability of black majority rule. and this became a reality in 1980, with Rhodesia transformed into the Republic of Zimbabwe.


The first flags of Rhodesia were of the standard British colonial pattern. During the period of the British South Africa Company's rule, the Union Jack was the proper flag of nationality. It was often flown together with the Company's flag, a Union Jack defaced with the BSAC badge. This also served as the flag of the Company's regional administrators. When the British government assumed direct control, Southern Rhodesia, as it then was called, received a British Blue Ensign with the shield of the colony's arms in the fly. Originally this was on a white circular background, which was later deleted. The original flag of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia was unusual in that there was no garland surrounding the shield of the arms. In 1952 it was replaced by a blue flag displaying a royal crown, first the Tudor Crown and then, as shown, St. Edward's Crown, the style preferred by Queen Elizabeth II. This flag was not used after Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965.

Shortly after the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved in 1963, Southern Rhodesia adopted a new flag with the field changed from dark blue to light blue, and it remained in use until 1968.

British South Africa Company    Regional Administrator's Flag 1890-1923



Southern Rhodesia    Government Flag 1924-64



Southern Rhodesia    Government Flag 1964-68



Southern Rhodesia    Governor's Flag 1924-52



Southern Rhodesia    Governor's Flag 1952-65


The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, also called the Central African Federation, had a complex governmental structure. Its three component parts maintained their existing governments, with the Federation government, headed by a Governor-General representing the Crown, responsible for certain specified matters, e.g. defense. The Federation's coat of arms, the shield of which was placed in the fly of the government flag, combined elements of the arms of the three territories. The flag of the Governor-General was of the standard pattern introduced for that office in 1931. Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland retained their existing flags.


Government Flag 1953-63


Governor-General's Flag 1953-63



With the dissolution of the Federation in 1963, all three of its members were slated for full independence. This caused no particular problems in the protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, whose white European populations were small. They became independent as Zambia and Malawi in 1964. But the situation in the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia was quite different. In 1963 a tenth of the colony's population was white, mostly of British origin. These people rejected the British government's policy of "no independence before majority rule," arguing that the black population was unprepared to assume responsibility for Southern Rhodesia, which by African standards boasted an advanced economy. Both the British government and the majority of black Rhodesians rejected the white minority's preferred policy: a gradual, step-by-step transition to majority rule. Negotiations in pursuit of a compromise soon broke down, and the result was a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Rhodesia's white minority government on November 11, 1965. The Rhodesian government proclaimed its continuing loyalty to the Crown, hoping to achieve dominion status on a par with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but this was unacceptable to both Britain and the black majority. Further negotiations went nowhere and in 1970, Rhodesia declared itself to be a republic, severing its formal connection to the British Crown. Two years previously, it had adopted a new flag: vertical stripes of green, white and green with the full national arms on the white stripe. The republican constitution provided for a president in the role of head of state, whose flag displayed the full arms on a light blue field. 

UDI signaled the beginning of an insurgency by black nationalist groups, with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in the lead. The Bush War, is it came to be called, was a minor annoyance at first, but as the years passed it grew and spread. In 1979 the Rhodesian government, bowing to the inevitable, signed an agreement with several moderate black parties not involved in the insurgency. This Internal Settlement, as it was called, enfranchised Rhodesia's black majority for the first time. The country was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia after Great Zimbabwe, an Iron Age city thought to have been the seat of a local monarch. A new national flag was adopted, with horizontal stripes of red, white and green plus a vertical black stripe at the hoist. In the upper hoist was placed a representation of the Zimbabwe Bird, modeled after a soapstone statuette found in the ruins of the ancient city. This flag was dropped after the Lancaster Agreement returned the country to British rule pending internationally recognized independence as the Republic of Zimbabwe, but it remained in unofficial use during the transition.

National Flag 1968-79

Presidential Flag 1968-79



National Flag 1979



With the transformation of Zimbabwe Rhodesia into the Republic of Zimbabwe, a new nationl flag was introduced, striped horizontzlly with the colors of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the principal black nationalist independence party On a white, black-edged triangle at the hoist was placed a represemntation of the Zimbabwe Bird over a red star. The red star represents the independence struggle and socialism. The first presidential flag was simply the national flag with the full arms of Zimbabwe on a white panel in the fly; it was replaced by a new model in 1986. ZANU-PF became Ziimbabwe's ruling political party and its flag acquired official status.

National Flag Since 1980


Presidential Flag 1981-86


Presidential Flag Since 1986



Flag of ZANU-PF