December 10, 2023

Rhodesia - Zimbabwe

Alistair’s “Random Rambles” (1)


By Kathy Martin…

When Alistair discussed with Soner Kioufi and Marion Stuart the format of his “Random Rambles” column the following was decided:

There would usually be “some” comment on the social or political scene or events and how life in Cyprus/Kibris might be affected. Also, as he had been brought up in “white” Africa, Rhodesia, usually “some” personal reminisces, as Rhodesia was not recognised by the majority of the world after unilateral independence (UDI) was declared by a white minority government in 1965. UDI was declared because the white minority controlled the economy. The whites were afraid that the economy would collapse, as it had in a number of countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and the Belgian Congo that had changed to black majority rule. History shows that this has happened under the government led by Robert Mugabe!

The following rambles were written by Alistair for initially the “The KibKom Times” then “The KibKom Forum

I worked for Air Rhodesia at Salisbury (now Harare, Zimbabwe) and as such was able to get free staff discount tickets, but on a space available (non-reservable) basis, on the Portuguese Airline, TAP. They had a flight to Lisbon from Johannesburg (South Africa) on the day after our marriage. The Portuguese powers in neighbouring Mozambique had just handed over power to black majority government. The following civil unrest meant that many Portuguese settlers had decided to flee Mozambique to return to their native Portugal.

Although both my fiancée (Kathy Gardner) and I worked at Salisbury, we had only recently been transferred there recently from Bulawayo, Rhodesia’s “second city”.

Austin Metropolitan aka Noddy (because he was red and white)

After a rather boozy wedding reception (especially for me!) we flew to Salisbury on the last flight of the day. We were met by staff in control of a baggage trolley festooned with balloons and “just married” bunting.

We were obliged to sit in two chairs (not very) securely fixed to the trolley and towed through the terminal building, with the horn honking, much to the amusement of the “normal” passengers!

We had parked our car, Austin Metropolitan, in the staff car park a few days before, but were delighted to find it parked just outside the door. As my new wife was (slightly) soberer than me, she got into the driver’s seat and tried to start the engine. Plenty of “whirr” but the engine didn’t start! Many more attempts were made interspersed with derisive “women driver” comments from the staff! Just as the battery was about to die, the duty officer held up the rotor arm that he had taken from the distributor and asked “is this what you need”? It was! So, with the noise of a few dozen empty tin cans on ropes attached to the rear bumper, we made our way home.

Although we had been living together for some time, I had promised my wife a wedding night that she would never forget, how true this was going to be! At the threshold I picked her up, stumbled and she fell, putting her elbow through the French window glass. Only a few seconds later we asked ourselves “where is all that blood coming from”?

So, back in the car, I was driving, tin cans again rattling and clanging, all the way to casualty! At casualty we were told that there would be a bit of a wait, as on Saturday nights many people suffer wounds and injuries, because they drank too much! We tut-tutted and agreed that it was disgraceful that anyone could allow themselves to get into such a condition. It was then that the nurse, on spotting confetti in our hair, asked if we had been to a wedding. “Yes”, “Whose”, Ours”! “CLEAR CUBICLE THREE” she yelled! We have often wondered if the person in cubicle three survived the night!

Our Austin Metropolitan 28-03-76
Our Austin Metropolitan 28-03-76

Anyway, ten minutes later, our car and cans were rattling back home!

The following morning, after flying from Salisbury, we presented our tickets at the TAP check-in desk in Johannesburg. We were told that we didn’t have a chance, the flight was heavily overbooked. I explained that we were travelling on honeymoon and that because my wife was injured, her arm was in a sling, any help would be appreciated. At closure time there were two boarding cards left! Then a crowd of people from a slightly delayed flight from Mozambique came running towards the desk all shouting and waving tickets. The supervisor took one despairing look at them, the two boarding cards and us. Deciding that arguing with 48 rather than 50 people wasn’t going to make much difference, she took our tickets, gave us the boarding cards and said “RUN”! We did!

As the aircraft took off from Johannesburg, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Unfortunately, at the same time the cabin air circulation system stopped breathing, so all of the passengers started to sweat! During the, approximately 4 hour flight, to Luanda (Angola) a boy of around 5 years old stood up on the seat in front of us and turned to face us. He had an unblinking stare and a seemingly endless supply of slabs of chocolate. Some of it may have been swallowed, but it seemed that most of it oozed from the corners of his mouth, dripped down the chair back and onto our legs!

On approach to Luanda, the captain announced that due to “civil unrest” in the vicinity of the airport, we would only be on the ground long enough to refuel. As such we left without a catering uplift. So, during the eight hour flight to Lisbon, we had no food, no potable water for tea or coffee, no ice or soft drinks or beer, only Cointreau! Cointreau might be a pleasant drink in certain circumstances, but in a hot and sweaty environment it doesn’t quench ones thirst!

Nevertheless, we have always been very grateful to TAP and especially the ground staff at Johannesburg airport. We sent a bouquet of flowers to them “from the honeymoon couple” after our arrival in the UK.

While there are similarities, between Northern Cyprus and Rhodesia, there are also differences. Possibly the major difference was that Rhodesia was a very wealthy country! It had vast mineral reserves and agricultural wealth. Rhodesia was self-sufficient in every way except fuel oils, which it needed to import. Exports considerably exceeded imports, and the treasury was in a very healthy condition!


On declaring Unilateral Independence (UDI) Rhodesia was embargoed by most of the countries in the world, with the exception of Portugal, South Africa, and Malawi. The country sharing Rhodesia’s eastern border was the Portuguese colony, Mozambique and to the south, South Africa. As such Rhodesia had import/export access to the seaports of both countries. Both South African Airways and the Portuguese airline TAP continued to operate between Rhodesia and Europe. Thus, people who possessed any passport, other than Rhodesian, were allowed to access the world.

Creative” customs documentation meant that goods could be imported, or exported, by air or sea, without double-handling. Creative customs documentation meant that Rhodesian freight agents and selected customs officers had South African and Portuguese documentation along with the appropriate rubber stamps! Air Rhodesia had stocks of both South African Airways and TAP air waybills. The airfreight rate between Bloemfontein and Johannesburg (both in South Africa) was the same as that between Bulawayo (Rhodesia) and Johannesburg.  I don’t know if this was a genuine or an artificially created co-incidence. I only know that many a consignment on South African Airways documentation left or arrived at Bulawayo showing place of origin or destination: Bloemfontein!

I understand that the only Cypriot goods accepted in Europe must show the words “Republic of Cyprus” on the label. So here is an idea that our exporters, here in Kıbris/Northern Cyprus, may copy! Starting in the early ’60s, anti-Apartheid groups urged shoppers, especially in Europe, not to buy South African goods. Rhodesia was a recognised country until November 1965. Many shoppers continued to buy South African goods (especially tins and bottles) blissfully unaware of the country of origin, because the label clearly showed “Printed in Rhodesia”, which the label was! Can we come to an arrangement with a printing company in mainland Turkey?

Next blog will continue with Alistair’s rambles

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