An Independent Rhodesian

Ian Smith
Ian Smith

Ian Smith

An Independent Rhodesian  

Abraham Menashe served on the council in Bulawayo for twelve years.  He was mayor when Prime Minister Ian Smith made his disastrous unilateral declaration of independence (known as UDI) in November 1965.  When Abe’s two year mayoral office was ending, one of Bulawayo’s members of parliament, Jack Phillips, died.

An Independent Rhodesian

Bulawayo was the headquarters of the railways. Ian Smith wanted to move the headquarters to Salisbury.  He had to come down to Bulawayo to stop a revolt from Abe’s city council.  The plan was dropped.

Abe was the first Rhodesian-born mayor of Bulawayo.  Smith’s Rhodesian Front (RF) held all fifty white seats in Parliament.  (There were an additional fifteen black seats held by the chiefs, nominated by the RF.) Abe decided to run as an Independent for the newly vacant seat.

Clifford Dupont, now the President, and Abe were friends from their meetings at the roulette tables at the annual municipal conferences at the Victoria Falls.  On hearing he was running for Parliament, Cliff phoned him. “Abe what are you doing!”


“You are standing against the party!”

“Come on Cliff.  You’ve got all fifty seats.  All right, there is the one up for re-election: you have got forty nine.  All I’m asking is for one seat so that I can have a say for Bulawayo.  That’s all.”

“No!  Harold Wilson [the British Prime Minister] is going to say, if you win this seat, and you have a good chance of winning it, it’s the thin edge of the wedge.”

“Now, come on Cliff, one out of fifty is not bringing down the government.”

“Can’t you run as a Rhodesian Front Independent?”

“No, I’m just an independent Rhodesian.”

The RF decided to bring Ian Smith himself down to Bulawayo to hold a public meeting.  Major Ken Harvey went around the houses, in uniform, telling everyone, “You can’t vote for this man Abe Menashe.  He’ll keep us all in uniform with army call ups.”

Abe went electioneering door to door, as he had done in several municipal elections.  As he stepped into the modestly furnished living rooms of his constituents, instead of seeing a picture of Jesus, he now often saw a picture of a heroic Ian Smith.

Abe lost the election two to one but he was the only opposition candidate not to lose his deposit in the history of the Smith era.  He told the press, “Bulawayo has decided they don’t want me.  So from now onwards, I’m going to work for Abe Menashe, not Bulawayo.”

That’s when he started making big money for himself.

Many thanks to Abe Menashe for this story and the ones to follow