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Southern Rhodesia general election, 1948

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Title: Southern Rhodesia general election, 1948  
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Subject: Ian Smith, Humphrey Gibbs, Rhodesia Labour Party, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland election, 1953
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Southern Rhodesia general election, 1948

The Southern Rhodesia general election of 15 September 1948 saw the Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins regain the overall majority he had lost at the previous election. Huggins won a landslide, reducing the opposition Liberal Party to a small minority.


The 1946 election had left the United Party in a precarious position in an overall minority in the Legislative Assembly, and reliant on the support of the Rhodesia Labour Party. Huggins was therefore seeking an opportunity to re-establish an overall majority. However, Huggins knew from his experience in 1934 that he needed to justify asking for a dissolution of the Assembly and a general election, as the Governor was not necessarily willing to grant one merely because it had been asked for.

Early in 1948, Huggins made his move by proposing that his own United Party merge with the opposition Liberal Party (which was a right-wing organisation). He then went to the Legislative Assembly and put down a motion of confidence in his government which endorsed all its policies for the full term of the Assembly. The Liberal Party, sensing a trap, agreed to the principle of fusion of the two parties but insisted that it be on the basis of Liberal Party policy. When the vote of confidence debate was concluded on 6 February, Huggins accepted an amendment moved by the Rhodesia Labour Party, and the confidence motion then passed without a division. Huggins had lost his chance for an election but gained endorsement of his government.

This situation did not last long. In July, the Coinage and Currency Bill was defeated by one vote on a clause which would have allowed the Currency Board to provide accommodation. Although this was a minor matter, Huggins argued that it was an issue of confidence because this provision had been agreed with the governments of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in the Central African Council; as negotiations to form a new majority government failed, the Governor granted a dissolution.

Supporting Huggins' position, the South African general election in May that year had seen a win by the National Party which largely represented Afrikaners. This election marked a transfer of power away from the English-speaking South Africans and shocked the mostly British descended Southern Rhodesians, who recoiled from the Liberal Party who were backed by the small Rhodesian Afrikaner community; the Liberal Party's policy on race was similar to the National Party's policy of Apartheid.

Voters tended not to blame the government for the economic difficulties and petrol shortages which had affected Rhodesia in the years since the war, and the renewed push towards federation with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland also encouraged support for the United Party. In the end, it delivered a landslide for Huggins; Liberal Party leader Jacob Smit lost his seat.

Electoral districts

A Delimitation Commission was set up to redraw the boundaries of the electoral districts. Although the previous districts had only been drawn up in 1938, owing to the major population movements in the war none of the districts were unchanged.

Franchise and electoral procedure

Two Acts passed in the run-up to the election made changes to electoral procedure. The Emergency Laws (Repeal and Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946 repealed most of the Active Service Voters Act, 1943 and therefore removed the ability of Southern Rhodesians serving in forces outside the colony to vote. The provision allowing postal votes to those living more than 10 miles from the polling station was retained.

The Electoral Amendment Act, 1946 made a further series of minor changes. It provided for a new full registration of voters once the delimitation had been completed, and facilitated the disqualification of imprisoned voters by requiring returns of those sentenced to prison. It also allowed candidates to withdraw before the poll.

Political parties

Summary result

Electorate: 47,840 Turnout: 73.2%

Party Seats in 1946 Candidates Elected Unopposed Popular vote
Votes %
United Party 13 30 24 - 19,731 56.3
Southern Rhodesia Liberal Party 12 28 5 - 10,678 30.5
Rhodesia Labour Party 3 16 1 - 4,558 13.0
Dominion Party - 2 - - 61 0.2
Totals 30 76 30 - 35,028 100%


Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes
1,962 (80.0%)
John Richard Dendy Young UP 1,021
Albert Rubidge Washington Stumbles L 548
1,658 (73.9%)
Donald Macintyre UP 762
William Hives Eastwood Lab 327
Peter Bawtree Gibbs L 147
1,411 (77.3%)
Alexander Magnus Flett Stuart UP 647
John Morrison Macdonald L 238
Allan Watson Whittington Lab 205
2,100 (81.7%)
Robert Francis Halsted UP 1,029
Ian Donald MacGillivray L 398
Leonard James Pearl Lab 288
1,567 (73.0%)
Thomas Hugh William Beadle UP 905
Mrs. Ethel Davies Lab 239
1,657 (67.5%)
Henry Alfred Holmes UP 678
James Stuart McNeillie Lab 441
1,206 (66.8%)
Jacob Letterstedt Smit L 513
Thomas John Mangwe Tilbury UP 293
1,495 (66.2%)
Tom Ian Findlay Wilson UP 631
Aubrey William Dunn L 359
1,204 (67.4%)
George Munro L 412
Graham Caldwell Elliott UP 399
1,638 (75.0%)
Desmond William Lardner-Burke UP 626
Robert Williamson L 518
Friedrich Ferdinand Ludwig Hein Lab 84
1,130 (70.1%)
Patrick Archibald Wise L 406
Ralph Drew Palmer UP 386
2,218 (77.4%)
Robert Allan Ballantyne UP 937
Charles Arden Bott L 690
William Rhodes Eades Lab 90
1,844 (82.0%)
Julius Macdonald Greenfield UP 677
Harry Herbert Davies Lab 570
Olive Hope Robertson L 266
1,430 (73.7%)
George Henry Hackwill UP 653
John Scott L 401
1,370 (71.6%)
Neville Gwynne Barrett UP 544
William Thomas Edward Fitzsimons L 437
1,267 (75.2%)
John Moore Caldicott UP 510
Thomas Patrick Murray Cochran L 443
1,382 (71.9%)
George Arthur Davenport UP 559
Thomas Nangle Lab 269
Henry William Watt L 165
1,627 (65.8%)
Lawrence John Walter Keller Lab 615
Alexander Cockburn UP 337
Cecil Edward Mark Moore L 119
1,628 (68.9%)
Leslie Manfred Noel Hodson UP 722
David Symond Richards L 264
George Arthur Henry Radford Lab 135
1,729 (75.0%)
Bevis Alexander Barker UP 765
Jacob Hendrik Smit L 519
Francis Michael Nilan DP 13
2,076 (78.4%)
Leslie Major Cullinan UP 1,082
William Graham L 545
1,587 (67.2%)
Noel St. Quinton UP 701
Frank Henry Shepley Waller L 259
Charles Olley Lab 107
1,772 (76.8%)
Godfrey Martin Huggins UP 1,024
Hugh Volant Wheeler L 337
2,683 (74.5%)
William Alexander Eustace Winterton UP 1,095
Denzil Crichton Paul L 713
George Cyril Hamilton-Browne Lab 143
Stewart Edward Aitken-Cade DP 48
1,090 (68.5%)
Ian Douglas Smith L 361
Egon Aage Klifborg Lab 258
Petrus Johannes Cilliers UP 128
1,651 (69.2%)
Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd UP 685
Johannes Hendrik Hofmeyr L 458
1,914 (79.7%)
Edgar Cuthbert Fremantle Whitehead UP 766
James Brown Lister Lab 648
George Washington Chace L 112
1,436 (71.4%)
Raymond Osborne Stockil L 633
Richard Charles Ellis UP 393
1,169 (62.4%)
Humphrey Vicary Gibbs UP 376
George Wilburn Rudland L 204
William James Swift Lab 150
939 (65.3%)
Patrick Bissett Fletcher UP 400
Michael Vernon Rorke L 213

Changes during the Assembly

Bulawayo District

Alexander Magnus Flett Stuart died on 7 August 1949, and a byelection to replace him was held on 13 October 1949.

Constituency Candidate Party Votes
BULAWAYO DISTRICT William Hives Eastwood Lab 381
John Morrison Macdonald L 351
Peter George Hewison UP 288
Sydney Henderson Millar Ind 89

Bulawayo North

Thomas Hugh William Beadle resigned from the Assembly on 20 July 1950. A byelection to replace him was held on 19 September 1950.

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes
1,925 (69.2%)
Cyril James Hatty UP 507
James Stuart McNeillie Lab 471
Eric Ashdown Smart L 354


Robert Allan Ballantyne died on 5 February 1953. A byelection to replace him was held on 22 April 1953.

Electorate and turnout
Candidate Party Votes
2,334 (77.7%)
William Addison UP 782
Frederick Daniel John Lacey Lab 531
Dickerson Colfax Byron-Moore RP 501


  • Source Book of Parliamentary Elections and Referenda in Southern Rhodesia 1898–1962 ed. by F.M.G. Willson (Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury 1963)
  • Holders of Administrative and Ministerial Office 1894–1964 by F.M.G. Willson and G.C. Passmore, assisted by Margaret T. Mitchell (Source Book No. 3, Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury 1966)
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