History Monday: ZAPU

The Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) is the oldest liberation war party formed in 1961 to oust the Ian Smith regime. Led by son of the soil, Joshua Nkomo, the movement announced guerilla war in 1966 after the party had sent some militants abroad for military training in Algeria, Ghana, Czechoslovakia, and China. In 1987, the party merged with the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) after the two parties signed the Unity Accord. The latter signaled the end of Gukurahundi. The party is currently led by Dumiso Dabengwa.

Formation and History

The party was formed on the 17th of December 1961 after the banning of the National Democratic Party. The party subsequently led mass rallies that earned them nothing but provocative acts of violence from the police. In turn, the ZAPU militants wedged in return. Within two years of its formation, the party was to send some militants abroad for military training to such countries as Algeria, Ghana, Czechoslovakia, and China. As was the norm with the settler regime, it was not surprising that the party was banned on 20 September 1962. This was followed a wave of violence that saw the British South African Company forests being burned and attacks made on government buildings. The party had earlier split on alleged ethnic grounds with Robert Mugabe forming ZANU PF while Nkomo remained with ZAPU. The banned party did not stop carrying its activities and in August of the same year held a conference at Cold Comfort farm. It was here that the party was renamed The People’s Caretaker Council (PCC) under the leadership of Nkomo. During the 1980 lost majority of seats to ZANU PF. In 2009 the party withdrew from the Unity accord because of alleged human rights violation by ZANU PF.

Unity Accord

In the early 1980s just after Zimbabwe attained independence, the infamous Fifth Brigade unleashed terror in Matebeland and Manicaland provinces. The reason for this was believed to have been the discovery of weapons that were allegedly hid by Nkomo. As a result the Fifth Brigade was sent to deal with the alleged dissidents. The army went on to kill an estimated 20 000 lives. To end the havoc, ZAPU went on to sign what was termed the Unity Accord with ZANU PF in 1987. This signaled the merging of the two parts into one under the leadership of Mugabe.

  • Under Duress

In 2013 however, ZAPU alleged that they were forced to sign the agreement or face extinction. Most of the Ndebele people still claim that there was no unity to talk about as they are treated as second class citizens. They are enraged by the fact that Zanu PF had the honours to retain their party name, their party symbol and also that their leader automatically became leader of the merged party. To them, since all the ZAPU positions are second ranks to Zanu PF, there is no unity accord to talk about.[4]

Coalition with MDC

During the 2013 elections, the party agreed on a coalition with the Welshman Ncube led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The parties agreed the following:

  1. That in any constituency and or ward where one party has not fielded a candidate, the other party will mobilize its members and supporters to vote for the other party’s candidate.
  2. That the parties would not discuss or enter into any pact or coalition with any other party other than with each other, namely, MDC and ZAPU (save in circumstances where an agreement would have been reached between the two parties).This was in recognition of previous discussions that had established that the two parties shared common values and principles.
  3. With respect to the issue of the two parties’ Presidential candidature, the parties expressed the desirability of consolidating their share of votes by not splitting the vote. They however acknowledged the complexity of the issue and undertook to consult their respective executive committees to get guidance.
  4. It was further agreed that the political parties would work towards the expansion of the level of cooperation after the forth coming elections


  1. Pindula (2016) ‘ZAPU’

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