rom 1968 until 1970, there was virtually no further dialogue between Rhodesia and the UK. In a referendum in 1969, white voters approved a new constitution and the establishment of a republic, thereby severing Rhodesia’s last links with the British Crown, duly declared in March 1970. This changed immediately after the election of Edward Heath, who reopened negotiations. Smith remained optimistic that Heath would do his utmost to remedy Anglo-Rhodesian relations, although disappointed that he continued to adhere publicly to the original “five principles” proposed by Alec Douglas-Home, now foreign secretary. In November 1971, Douglas-Home renewed contacts with Salisbury and announced a proposed agreement that would be satisfactory to both sides – it recognised Rhodesia’s 1969 constitution as the legal frame of government, while agreeing that gradual legislative representation was an acceptable formula for unhindered advance to majority rule. Nevertheless, the new settlement, if approved, would also implement an immediate improvement in black political status, offer a means to terminate racial discrimination, and provide a solid guarantee against retrogressive constitutional amendments.
Implementation of the proposed settlement hinged on popular acceptance, but the Rhodesian government consistently refused to submit it to a universal referendum. A twenty four-member commission headed by an eminent jurist, Lord Pearce, was therefore tasked with ascertaining public opinion on the subject. In 1972, the commission began interviewing interest groups and sampling opinions – although concern was expressed over the widespread apathy encountered. According to the commission, whites were in favour of the settlement, and Rhodesians of Coloured or Asian ancestry generally pleased, while the black response to the settlement’s terms was resoundingly negative. As many as thirty black Rhodesian chiefs and politicians voiced their opposition, prompting Britain to withdraw from the proposals on the grounds of the commission’s report.