The Herald, August 5, 1979
LUSAKA. — Britain has agreed to supervise a fresh election in Zimbabwe Rhodesia after the drawing up of a new constitution and holding all-party talks on the territory’s future, the Commonwealth Secretariat announced late last night.
The decision, the boldest British foreign policy move in 15 years of dispute over Zimbabwe Rhodesia means that Whitehall is preparing to resume direct responsibilities for the country.
The announcement came after Commonwealth leaders meeting for their biennial summit spent the weekend in informal and highly confidential talks at State House, the official residence of President Kenneth Kaunda.
The secretariat last night released a six-point plan hammered at the weekend retreat between representatives of Britain, Tanzania, Zambia, Australia, Nigeria, and Jamaica.
It will go today before a full session of the Commonwealth conference for endorsement. The document said:
Britain has the legal responsibility to grant Zimbabwe Rhodesia legal independence under black majority rule.
All parties to the conflict must be involved in a settlement.
A settlement must include a democratic constitution including safeguards for minorities.
The government formed under such a constitution must be “chosen through free and fair elections, properly supervised under British government authority and with Commonwealth observers”.
The Commonwealth welcomed Britain’s readiness to call all-party talks.
A major objective of the settlement must be to “bring about a cessation of hostilities and an end to sanctions as part of the process of implementation of a lasting settlement”.
The document made it clear that a new independence constitution must include safeguards for whites while establishing “genuine majority rule”.
It criticised as “defective” the constitution under which Bishop Muzorewa took power after the April election.
But the six-point plan also contained a major black African concession, making no demand for an external terrorist alliance to be recognised as the dominant force in Zimbabwe Rhodesia.
The British Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, would put the plan to her cabinet on Friday British sources said.
But, the sources cautioned, the agreement was “only the start” of the new initiative. They indicated that word of the agreement had already been passed onto Bishop Muzorewa in Salisbury by Britain’s special representative Mr Dereck Day.
Most optimistic was the Australian Prime minister Mr Fraser, who said the talks were, “very close to a framework for ultimate settlement”.
The sources indicated the United Nations could not play a role in the supervision of an election.
They said crucial issues remained to be discussed at a conference as soon as a new constitution has been drawn up.
The British aim was to bring about a settlement within a matter of months, the sources said.
The proposed new constitution would be similar to those drawn up for other former British colonies in Africa, where white minorities were guaranteed some representation for a limited period in the life of new African nations.
Mrs Thatcher has already made it clear that an external terrorist alliance would be invited to attend fresh talks.
British sources indicated that it would be up to all frontline states to ensure that the terrorists joined in the latest initiative and subsequent elections.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
•The Lusaka Accord on settlement plan turned the tide for talks as the British government had taken the initiative to see the process through.
• Whenever pursuing a course of action, it is important to clearly articulate your goals and timeframes so that the process is measurable.
•A constitution is an important document for any country, organisation or grouping because it is the supreme law that sets guidelines and boundaries.