In the mid-1950s Garfield Todd was ahead of his times and out of step with his fellow white Rhodesians.

When he attempted to bring blacks into the political process by widening voter eligibility requirements in 1958, the whites ousted him as prime minister of what was then a British colony.

Under the rebel government of Ian Smith, Todd's continued support for black majority rule in his adopted country later earned him five weeks in solitary confinement, four and a half years under house arrest and isolation from political power.

It also earned him the scorn of Rhodesia's 270,000 whites for whom the 69-year-old former prime minister was a "traitor" and a symbol of something that might come in their children's lifetime, but certainly never in theirs --

"People stopped talking to me because I held views utterly alien to them," Todd said in a recent interview here.

But now that majority rule in Rhodesia is clearly around the corner, although the manner in which it will come is still unclear, the whites have ceased to shun Todd and are turning to him for advice.

"They all want to talk to me. They want to hear what I've got to say on the situation," said Todd, who was relased from house arrest in 1975 as a result of "international pressures" on Smith.

The New Zealand-born cattle rancher said that after Smith apparently accepted majority rule last November, "there was a great wave of relief among the whites."

When Todd returned from the Geneva conference on Rhodesia where he served as a consultant to Joshua Nkomo, one of the black nationalist leaders demanding the transfer of power from Smith, he was invited to speak to groups of whites who were "ready to get on with it [majority rule]," Todd said.

At one such meeting in the town of Gwelo a white farmer got up and said, "Mr. Todd, you go back and tell Mr. Nkomo that here is a group of whites who are ready to accept majority rule on the basis of one-man one-vote, and what should we be doing about it?" He got a round of applause from the 120 persons who were at the meeting, Todd said.

Whites are "getting restless" Todd said, because of the Smith government's stalling on the transfer of power to blacks and the deterioration in the country's economy caused by the government's war against the nationalist guerrillas.

"Farmers, miners, businessmen are all recognizing they are up against disaster.They are all making protests to Smith," Todd said. He reports that two political groups of whites are talking about joining forces "to get Smith to accept majority rule."

"All this spells trouble for Smith," Todd said. He charged that Smith has by backtracking from his acceptance of majority rule last November.

Todd guesses that only about 5 per cent of Rhodesian whites share his ideas about majority rule. He believes, however, that apart from the 15 to 20 per cent who are "confirmed racists," most would remain in an independent Zimbabwe (the African name for Rhodesia) if they had "reasonable security."

During his recent visit to the United States, Todd said he does not claim to represent anyone in Rhodesia. Rather, because of "the desperate situation we face in Rhodesia," he said he came to this country to "do what I can to hasten the transfer of

"It's certain that an independent Zimbabwe will come . . . but there's no necessity for it to rise from ashes," Todd said. He said it is "so sad to see shadow across the country; the reign of terror imposed by the Smith government and the unnecessary suffering," said the tall, gray-haired Todd, who has lived 44 years in Rhodesia.

Yet, despite this suffering, including what he estimated to be 5,000 black civilian deaths over the past two years, he relates that, "I've not heard one black man or woman say the suffering is too great, we've got to give up. They've got their eyes set clearly on a government of the people, they've been looking forward to it for a long time.

Todd said the blacks speak affectionately of the guerrillas as "the boys." Describing a visit to his home village, a black recently told Todd, "I was too late; the boys had gone but the people were happy; there was food and dancing."

In his talks with administration officials, including Vice President Walter Mondale, Todd said he expressed thanks for what he called "a new atmosphere of hope", for President Carter's stand on human rights, and for the reimposition of the Rhodesian chrome embargo.

He urged U.S. officials to impose more severe economic sanctions on Smith's regime and to give Britain all the help it needs to solve the Rhodesian constitutional crisis because "Britain doesn't lack the power, just the will," to resolve the Rhodesian question, Todd said.