Updated Sunday 15 May, 2011 12:18 PM

   Headlines  |  Alternate Histories  |  International Edition

Home Page


Alternate Histories

International Edition

List of Updates

Want to join?

Join Writer Development Section

Writer Development Member Section

Join Club ChangerS


Chris Comments

Book Reviews


Letters To The Editor


Links Page

Terms and Conditions



Alternate Histories

International Edition

Alison Brooks



Other Stuff


If Baseball Integrated Early


Today in Alternate History

This Day in Alternate History Blog








Rhodesia joins the Union of South Africa

What really happened.

The countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe were once administered by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) following a charter granted to Cecil John Rhodes. The territories that he claimed, both for his own glory and that of the Empire, came to bear his name. Rhodes remains the only Englishman to have had a country named after him.

Rhode’s fierce independence and drive to succeed transfered to those whom he attracted to settle in the newly “acquired” lands. It was his desire to create a nation, not just a colony, and he succeeded.

Following the first World War, in which 25% of the adult male white settlers in Rhodesia fought, there was an upsurge of independent spirit in the territory of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Southern Rhodesia was the most prosperous of Rhodes’ legacy territories, and overshadowed Northern Rhodesia (amalgamated into a single territory from North West Rhodesia and North East Rhodesia in 1911) economically and in terms of settler immigration.

After the war’s end, decisions had to be made. The white population did not want to live under the Company’s control any longer, and they were given two options. They could assume “responsible self government”, in essence becoming a dominion such as Canada at some point in the future.

The other option given them was the opportunity to join the Union of South Africa, a nation whose own relationship to the UK was ambiguous throughout the period, but which was generally held as within the British “sphere of influence”.

In 1922 there was a referendum in the territory, and the white male settlers (the only ones eligible to vote at the time) voted for responsible self government. The territory became a crown colony, and went on to be merged with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Malawi) in a short lived federation in the 1950s, which it dominated completely.

During Britain’s mad rush to divest herself of her colonies from the 1960s onwards, Malawi and Zambia both “fell” to African Nationalist interests. Seeing no evidence that they would ever be granted the independent “dominion” status that they craved, and that instead it was likely their country would be handed over to indigenous African rule, a separatist movement formed and in 1965 Southern Rhodesia declared itself independent of the British Empire, only the second nation ever to do so.

The following fifteen years saw guerrilla warfare, political machinations, betrayal, and finally an election in which the leadership of the communist backed “freedom fighters” ended up in charge. This left the Union of South Africa alone as a white minority ruled country in Africa. 

But what if the vote had gone the other way, and the industrial mineral wealth of Northern and Southern Rhodesia had been added to the Union of South Africa’s own awesome resources?

Point of Departure

In 1922, the referendum results in a narrow victory in favour of Southern Rhodesia joining the Union of South Africa.

The Repercussions

Southern Rhodesia is followed by Northern Rhodesia in 1924, bringing the number of provinces in the Union to six, three of which are predominantly “English” in culture instead of Afrikaans. The South Africa party under Jan Smuts eagerly embraced this development, using the more moderate English philosophies to temper the sometimes excessive tendancies of some Afrikaaner interests.

A greater number of pro-British and pro-Smuts parliamentary members means that Smuts does not lose the 1924 election, but it does result in Hertzog’s National Party taking up a position on the political fringe, carrying Afrikaaner resentment to the weak “Cape Dutch” mentality of Smuts and his Anglophile ways.

It is also likely that the British would look to a more powerful South Africa when it came to divesting itself of the territory of Nyasaland, now isolated geographically from other crown colonies. It is also possible that the protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana) is passed to the government in Pretoria, not kept by the UK itself.

Under Smuts, the Union lays down racial legislation that is more in tune with British colonial policy in OTL, and no where near as draconian as Apartheid. With the addition of South West Africa (Namibia) as the eight province of the union (Nyasaland was the seventh) after a decade or so of protectorate status under South Africa, you have a far larger and more powerful Union of South Africa in the 1930s.

Without Hertzog’s leadership, neutrality or Axis membership in World War II is not even considered by South Africa as a whole, although there are some pro-Nazi demonstrations in predominantly Afrikaaner areas. In fact, Smuts coordinates with German monarchists and Weimar republic outcasts and subsidises their settlement in South West Africa.

South African sends several more divisions of troops to North Africa than in OTL, including far more “Askaris” (indigenous African troops). These troops provide more strength to British efforts in North Africa, possibly seeing an earlier victory against Axis forces and freeing up Indian Army and ANZAC units for service in the East, slowing or halting Japanese adventurism there.

Smuts continues to rule a larger, more populous, and more internationally respected South Africa until 1950. In the post-war years, Smuts continues to attract German settlers to South West Africa, recently renamed as Namibia. He also sees a large influx of British settlers stimulated to migrate due to the post war economic situation in the UK (in this ATL, a much larger percentage of the British diaspora heads for South Africa than in OTL, to the detriment of Canada and Australia).

This influx of politically and socially relative moderates sees no rise of Apartheid in the 1950s, and indeed sees a gradual granting of limited franchise and local political power to black South Africans. Radical Afrikaaner racism becomes more and more a fringe philosophy, with many Afrikaaners adopting more liberal attitudes.

The rise of African Nationalism is curbed somewhat, especially as several tribes are given semi-autonomy in political and social matters in the 1960s. Bechuanaland becomes the 9th province in 1961 as Botswana, with black Africans running all local affairs. This programme eventually results in an African advisory senate being formed in the 1970s, which gradually gains more and more legislative power. The senate is made up of elected candidates based on the populations of the various African tribes.

By the time that there are full and free elections, the population of the states are as follows, rounded to the nearest 100 000.

Transvaal – 18 500 000 (white 15.3%, black African 71.7%, mixed race 7.6%, asian/Indian 5.4%), Orange Free State – 2 200 000 (white 24.2%, black African 69.5%, mixed race 3.4%, asian/Indian 2.9%), Natal – 8 300 000 (white 13.2%, black African 57.3%, mixed race 9.9%, asian/Indian 19.6%), The Cape – 11 300 000 (white 16.4%, black African 64.1%, mixed race 14.8%, asian/Indian 4.7%), Southern Rhodesia – 8 000 000 (white 14.1%, black African 76%, mixed race 6.6%, asian/Indian 3.3%), Northern Rhodesia – 6 500 000 (white 10.5%, black African 75.8%, mixed race 5.3%, asian/Indian 8.4%), Nyasaland – 5 400 000 (white 8.9%, black African 82.8%, mixed race 2.4%, asian/Indian 5.9%), Namibia (renamed in 1967) – 1 200 000 (white 29%, black African 62.7%, mixed race 7.1%, asian/Indian 1.2%), Botswana – 900 000 (white 6.4%, black African 89.7%, mixed race 1.8%, asian/Indian 2.1%)

Demographically, this has a nation with a population of 62 300 000. Racially this breaks down to 9 008 400 whites, 43 830 600 blacks, 5 078 400 mixed race and 4 382 600 Asians/Indians. The general elections in 1978 roughly reflected this spread in parliament, with white candidates winning a slightly disproportionate number of seats due to people of mixed race or Asian origin voting for them in areas where there was no coloured/Asian candidate.

Given the tribal separations inherent in the region, this actually allowed a coaltion to be formed between the South Africa party (which included candidates of all racial backgrounds) and the Shaka party (a Zulu/Ndebele party), which controlled 57% of the seats in Parliament between them.

Global Repercussions

A stronger and more racially sedate South Africa would have several profound repercussions in the world as a whole, as well as Africa in particular.

Without the crippling effect of Apartheid related sanctions, the massive mineral wealth of South Africa stimulates significant industrialization in the region, especially as it is developed as a nation, not a colony. This has the knock on effect of making the region far richer than in OTL, which means it has a far higher standard of living, albeit still seeing significant racial differences.

As a bulwark of “democracy” in Africa, there would not be as many socialist and communist backed in roads into the continent since many ex-colonies and nations would adopt a gentler approach to African Nationalism, both from those in power and the Nationalists themselves.

South Africa would still develop nuclear weapons, and probably keep them since they would not be under as much pressure to scrap them as the pariah nation in OTL was.

Overall, without the graft and corruption endemic in the ex-colonies in the region on OTL, including in the present nation of South Africa, Southern Africa would be a far better place, more prosperous, safer, and less inclined to a history of terrible racial oppression being used as an excuse for current incompetence.

Hit Counter