1968: Three blacks in Rhodesia, notwithstanding Queen Elizabeth II

On this date in 1968, Rhodesia earned global opprobrium with a triple hanging in Salisbury (today known as Harare).

Labour M.P. Anne Kerr lays a wreath at the Rhodesian embassy to protest this date’s hangings. A few months later, Kerr would be the one in the world’s headlines … when she was roughed up by Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

This was the first “Rhodesian” execution, three years on into the white-supremacist (pdf) breakaway state — which had bucked orderly majority-rule decolonization by declaring independence under its settler government.

So it was hardly a matter of whether James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo and Duly Shadrack were or were not “guilty”: springing the trap on the gallows was an act fraught with racial hostility within Rhodesia (today, Zimbabwe) and throughout a decolonizing world.

Queen Elizabeth II issued a royal reprieve and the British government warned of the “gravest personal responsibility” attaching to anyone who involved himself in the proposed hanging. Rhodesia royally ignored it.

I have been hanging people for years, but I have never had all this fuss before.

(white) executioner Ted “Lofty” Milton (n.b. seemingly pictured here)

“This fuss” would encompass cross-partisan fury in the British House of Commons as well as a moment of silence in the Indian parliament, denunciations by both America and the Soviet Union … basically everybody. Tanzanian-born British M.P. Andrew Faulds called for criminal sanctions “not excluding the death penalty”. (London Times, , Mar. 7 1968)

There were even demands for humanitarian intervention — amounting to a British military occupation — to protect the other hundred-plus blacks then awaiting the gallows. Needless to say, that wasn’t about to happen, so in the face of Salisbury’s intransigence, was it all just sound and fury?

Does the Secretary of State recall that it was Winston Churchill who said: “Grass grows quickly over the battlefield; over the scaffold, never.”?

-Still-sitting Conservative M.P. Peter Tapsell — then a pup of 38, now the Father of the House — during Parliament’s emotional March 6 debate

Rhodesia insisted on the point by hanging two more Africans five days afterwards … but it also announced 35 reprieves.

In its fifteen years, Rhodesia never did get itself clear of the fuss over white rule; it remained a global pariah and eventually succumbed to its long-running Bush War.

On this day..

3 thoughts on “1968: Three blacks in Rhodesia, notwithstanding Queen Elizabeth II

  1. Rhodesia House was not an Embassy. Commonwealth countries do not exchange Ambassadors (to avoid sending an Ambassador from Queen Elizabeth to Queen Elizabeth), so instead they exchange High Commissioners.
    As a self-governing colony Rhodesia had an Agent-General in London (also representing the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland 1953-63).
    My understanding is that it was closed sometime after the UDI of 1965. I also recall a story that when it was to be reopened 15 years later as the High Commission of Zimbabwe no one could find the keys.

  2. The broach was probably made from the coin of the same description. The three assegais (spears) were the badge of the Rhodesian African Rifles army corps. Nothing to do with these particular hangings.

  3. have just come across a broach with the second elizabeth one side and 3 azaguys rhodesia 1968 with a leaf at the top does this relate to this event

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