Garfield Todd

Sir Reginald Stephen Garfield Todd (13 July 1908 – 13 October 2002) was a liberal Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1953 to 1958 and later became an opponent of white minority rule in Rhodesia.

Sir Garfield Todd
5th Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia
In office
7 September 1953  17 February 1958
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorSir John Kennedy
Sir Robert Tredgold
Sir Peveril William-Powlett
Preceded bySir Godfrey Huggins
Succeeded byEdgar Whitehead
Personal details
Born13 July 1908
Invercargill, New Zealand
Died13 October 2002(2002-10-13) (aged 94)
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Political partyUnited Rhodesia Party
United Federal Party
ChildrenJudith Todd
Alycen Watson
Cynthia Gay Todd
Alma materUniversity of Otago
Witwatersrand University
Butler University


Todd was born in Invercargill, New Zealand, in 1908. He was educated at Otago University, Glen Leith Theological College, and the University of the Witwatersrand.[1] In 1932 he married Jean Grace Wilson, with whom he had three daughters.[1]

Todd emigrated to Southern Rhodesia from New Zealand in 1934 as a Protestant missionary and ran the Dadaya New Zealand Churches of Christ Mission school. One of the primary-school teachers in his charge was Robert Mugabe. Though he had no formal medical training, Todd and his wife, Grace, set up a clinic where he delivered hundreds of babies and treated minor injuries. His ranch, Hokonui, was named after the hills in his home province of Southland.[2]

Political involvement

In 1948 Todd won election to parliament. He succeeded Sir Godfrey Martin Huggins as leader of the United Rhodesia Party and Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia in 1953 when Huggins became the inaugural Prime Minister of the newly established Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. At the same time the United Rhodesia Party became the United Federal Party.

From 1955 to 1960 Todd served as first vice-president of the World Convention of Churches of Christ.


Todd introduced modest reforms aimed at improving the education of the black majority by taking tax-money paid by Rhodesian property owners and appropriations from the British colonial authorities, and directing it toward black schools. His government introduced a plan to give elementary education to every African of school age. He doubled the number of primary schools and gave grants to missionary-run schools to introduce secondary school and pre-university courses for blacks.

He also introduced the appellation "Mr" for blacks instead of "AM" ("African Male") and ended the prohibition on the sale of alcohol to black residents of the reserves, who were allowed to drink European beer and wine, though not spirits.[1]

Todd pushed a bill through the Legislative Assembly, allowing for multiracial trade unions, thereby undercutting the growing white nationalist influence in the unions. Lastly, in a bid to increase the number of blacks eligible to vote from 2% to 16% of the electorate, he moved to lower property and education qualifications, but this was rejected.[3]

In response, Todd's ministers resigned en bloc, and following the appointment of a new cabinet, his party forced him out of power; three months later he was replaced as party leader and Prime Minister by Edgar Whitehead.[3]

In a farewell statement, he said "We must make it possible for every individual to lead the good life, to win a place in the sun. We are in danger of becoming a race of fear-ridden neurotics – we who live in the finest country on Earth."[4]

In addition to prime ministership, Todd was Minister of Finance and several other portfolios.[5] He was granted retention of the title The Honourable in October 1958, for having served more than three years on the executive council.[6]

Subsequent political career

Todd formed the new Central Africa Party which failed to win any seats in the election.

Out of power, Todd became increasingly critical of white minority rule and was an outspoken opponent of Ian Smith's 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom. Todd applied for an exit visa to lead a teach-in at the University of Edinburgh to educate British public opinion on the inequities of white rule. The Rhodesian government banned his emigration, placing him under house arrest.

In 1972 Todd and his daughter, Judith, were imprisoned for a second time.[7] After publicly backing Roman Catholic Robert Mugabe, in 1973 he received a medal for his efforts in peace and justice from the Pope.

Judith Todd was ultimately forced into exile and became an "unperson" in Rhodesia when the media was banned from even mentioning her name.[8] Todd himself was confined to his ranch near Bulawayo.

Later life

After helping to co-ordinate the isolation and embargo of Rhodesia, and especially after his support for legitimising guerrilla activity by black nationalists, Todd was widely condemned as a traitor by white Rhodesians. When the Smith Government was ultimately forced to give up power and the nation became the independent state of Zimbabwe in 1980, Todd was immediately considered for appointment to the new black government for his "collaborating" role. Lord Soames, following the recommendation of Prime Minister-elect Robert Mugabe, appointed Todd to the Senate on 8 April 1980, where Todd served until his retirement in 1985. After years of supporting Mugabe, Todd became disillusioned with the new regime due to its blatant violence against political opponents. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor, for services to Africa and New Zealand, by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1986 New Year Honours, at the instigation of the New Zealand government.[9]

During retirement, Todd donated 3,000 acres (12 km2) of his ranch to former guerillas who had been maimed in the Rhodesian Bush War. Nonetheless, Todd's criticism of Mugabe intensified and in 2002 he was stripped of Zimbabwean nationality. He died, aged 94, on 13 October 2002, in Bulawayo.[3]


  1. Sir Garfield Todd, Daily Telegraph, 14 October 2002
  2. A daughter of Southlanders, The Southland Times, January 31, 2009
  3. Sir Garfield Todd – Liberal Rhodesian premier brought down over black reforms, The Guardian, 14 October 2002
  4. The Politics of Partnership, Patrick Keatley, Penguin Books, 1963, page 250
  5. F. M. G. Willson and G. C. Passmore. "Holders of Administrative and Ministerial Office 1894-1964" (PDF). University of Zimbabwe Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2020.
  6. "No. 41531". The London Gazette. 24 October 1958. p. 6500.
  7. Mugabe was rotten from the start Interview with Judith Todd discussing her political activities in Zimbabwe and her father, The Sunday Times, 23 September 2007
  8. A detailed account of the Todds' time in prison may be found in Todd, Judith (1972). The Right To Say No. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-97917-8.
  9. "No. 50362". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 31 December 1985. p. 29.