History Monday:The Rise of Zimbabwean Nationalism Part 2 (1957-1970)

As we had started discussing last time, we will continue from the ANC in Zimbabwe.

 1957 to 1964 is known as the age of civil disobedience. Times were hard for the ordinary black African. Transportation  costs took up between 18-30% of one’s monthly income. The Youth Leagues responded to these hikes by boycotting the United Transport Company buses and unaminously succeeded on preventing further hikes. 

In 1957, member of the Youth League and the outlawed ANC formed the South Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) led by Joshua Nkomo. The SRANC was banned in 1959 by the Whitehead government and systematically arrested over 300 of its leaders on February 29 under Operation  Sunrise. Joshua Nkomo was not among those arrested as he was  out of the country. 

As a result, Robert Mugabe,Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo and Ndabaningi Sithole formed the National Democratic Party (NDP) in January 1960 with Nkomo becoming leader in October of the same year.  Nkomo led a delegation to the constitutional conference of 1961 and whilst Nkomo initially supported the constitution; he reversed his position from pressure in the party. The Government banned the party in December of 1961 and arrested the leaders excluding Nkomo again (because he was out of the country). 

In 1962, Nkomo then formed the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) which again the Whitehead government banned in December of 1962. Nkomo then moved headquarters to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. During that year’s general election  the United Federal Party that was campaigning for majority rule lost decisively to the Rhodesian Front. 

In 1963, Nkomo suspended Robert Mugabe, Ndabaningi Sithole, Washington Malianga and Leopold Takawira for their opposition to his continued leadership of ZAPU. The expelled members announced the formation of Zimbabwe African National Union  on August 8 that same year. 

Side note : disturbing to see that this expelling of opposition to party ruler was present even in what would seem to be the maturing stage of black Nationalism.  This leads this author to ask whether this is truly a Zimbabwean illness  that will continually plague our leaders? 

In July 1964, the military arm of ZANU, ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) assassinated a RF official and the War for Liberation  began. 

The Smith government detained Nkomo and Mugabe in August 1964 and in April 1966, government forces engaged guerillas in the then Sinoia (now Chinhoyi) in the first major engagement. Black nationalist militants began launching attacks from their bases in Zambia  and Mozambique.  

On November 11 1965, Ian Smith  declared the Unilateral Declaration  of Independence and war intensified. The British government imposed sanctions and the UN supported them. The Government forces were armed by the Apartheid South Africa and arms gained through elaborate smuggling, dealing, domestic production and seized weapons from captured or defeated guerillas.  

At the onset of the 1970s the two black nationalist forces united and formed a coalition under Joint Guerilla Alliance to Overthrow Government. 


1.Preston, M (2004) ‘ Ending Civil War Rhodesia and Lebanon in Perspective’

2. Lyons, T. (2004) ‘ Guns and Guerilla Girls: Women in the Zimbabwean National Liberation Struggle’

3. Laverty, A. (2007) ‘Zambian and Zimbabwean Paths to Liberation’ 

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