--- Independence Day
The Rhodesian army continued its "mobile counter-offensive" strategy of holding key positions ("vital asset ground") while carrying out raids into the no-go areas and into neighbouring countries. While often extraordinarily successful in inflicting heavy guerrilla casualties, such raids also on occasion failed to achieve their objectives. In April 1979 special forces carried out a raid on Joshua Nkomo's residence in Lusaka (Zambia) with the stated intention of assassinating him. Nkomo and his family left hastily a few hours before the raid – having clearly been warned that the raid was coming. Rumours of treachery circulated within Rhodesia. It was variously suggested that the army command had been penetrated by British MI6 or that people in the Rhodesian establishment were positioning themselves for life after independence. The loyalty of the country's Central Intelligence Organization became suspect.
In 1979, some special forces units were accused of using counterinsurgent operations as cover for ivory poaching and smuggling. Colonel Reid-Daly (commander of the Selous Scouts) discovered that his phone was bugged and after challenging a superior officer on this issue was court martialled for insubordination. He received the lightest sentence possible, a caution, but he continued to fight his conviction and eventually resigned his commission and left the Army. By 1978-79, up to 70% of the regular army was composed of black soldiers (though both the army and police reserves remained overwhelmingly white). By 1979 there were also 30 black commissioned officers in the regular army. While there was never any suggestion of disloyalty among the soldiers from predominantly black units (in particular within the Selous Scouts or the Rhodesian African Rifles - RAR), some argue that, by the time of the 1980 election, many of the RAR soldiers voted for Robert Mugabe. As the result of an internal settlement between the Rhodesian government and some urban-based African nationalist parties, which were not in exile and not involved in the war, elections were held in April 1979. The UANC (United African National Council) party won a majority in this election, and its leader, Abel Muzorewa (a United Methodist Church bishop), became the country's prime minister on 1 June 1979. The country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The internal settlement left control of the country's police, security forces, civil service and judiciary in white hands, for the moment. It assured whites of about one third of the seats in parliament. It was essentially a power-sharing arrangement between whites and blacks which, in the eyes of many, particularly the insurgents, did not amount to majority rule. However, the United States Senate voted to end economic sanctions against Zimbabwe Rhodesia on 12 June.
While the 1979 election was described by the Rhodesian government as non-racial and democratic, it did not include the main nationalist parties ZANU and ZAPU. In spite of offers from Ian Smith, the latter parties declined to participate in an election in which their political position would be insecure and under a proposed constitution which they had played no part in drafting and which was perceived as retaining strong white minority privilege. Bishop Muzorewa's government did not receive international recognition. The Bush War continued unabated and sanctions were not lifted. The international community refused to accept the validity of any agreement which did not incorporate the main nationalist parties. The British Government (then led by the recently elected Margaret Thatcher) issued invitations to all parties to attend a peace conference at Lancaster House. These negotiations took place in London in late 1979. The three-month-long conference almost failed to reach conclusion, due to disagreements on land reform, but resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement. UDI ended, and Rhodesia reverted to the status of a British colony ('The British Dependency of Southern Rhodesia'). The outcome was an internationally supervised general election in early 1980. ZANU (PF) led by Robert Mugabe won this election, some alleged, by terrorizing opposition to ZANU, including supporters of ZAPU. The observers and the newly installed governor Lord Soames were accused of looking the other way, and Mugabe's victory was certified. Nevertheless, few could doubt that Mugabe's support within his majority Shona tribal group was extremely strong. Be that as it may, elements in the Rhodesian armed forces toyed with the idea of mounting a coup against a perceived stolen election ("Operation Quartz") to prevent ZANU taking over government of the country, but the coup was never realised.
Mugabe and the victorious black nationalists were rather less concerned by Operation Quartz than by the possibility that there might be a mass exodus of the white community of the kind that had caused chaos in Mozambique five years earlier. Such an exodus had been prepared for by the South African government. With the agreement of the British Governor of Rhodesia, South African troops had entered the country to secure the road approaches to the Beit Bridge border crossing point. Refugee camps had been prepared in the Transvaal. On the day the election results became known, most white families had prepared contingency plans for flight, including the packing of cars and suitcases. However, after a meeting with Robert Mugabe and the central committee of ZANU (PF), Ian Smith was reassured that whites could, and should stay in the new Zimbabwe. Mugabe promised that he would abide strictly by the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement and that changes in Zimbabwe would be made gradually and by proper legal process.
On 18 April 1980 the country became independent as the Republic of Zimbabwe, and its capital, Salisbury, was renamed Harare two years later.