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