Joshua Nkomo

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Joshua Nkomo
Joshua Nkomo, ZAPU, ZANU-PF, Zimbabwe
Joshua Nkomo
Born Mqabuko Nyongolo
(1918-06-07)June 7, 1918
Died July 1, 1999(1999-07-01) (aged 81)
South Africa
Resting place
National Heroes Acre, Harare.
Years active 1950-1999
Known for Nationalism
Successor Joseph Msika
Spouse(s) Johanna MaFuyana
Relatives Motsomi Mqabuko Grandfather

Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo is a celebrated Zimbabwean Second Chimurenga nationalist leader. He founded a number of political movements against the settler regime with the most notable being the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) which he founded in 1962. Affectionately known as "Father Zimbabwe", Nkomo was also the president of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress.


Nkomo was born on the 17th of June 1917, in Bukalanga/Bulilima, later called the Semokwe Reserve, Matabeleland. He was the third child in his family having an elder brother and elder sister. He came from a well-up family, both his parents worked for the London Missionary Society where his father was a driver (and later a teacher) and his mother as a cook.[1] Nkomo was married to Johanna Mafuyana and the two had four children namely Thandiwe, Enerst Thutani, Michael Sibangilizwe and Louise Sehlule.


Nkomo received his primary education at Tsholotsho School. He then went to South Africa where he did his secondary education at a Durban based college, Adams College. After finishing his secondary education he enrolled at the University of South Africa where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology.

Political career

Nkomo started his political career while studying at a South African college in the 1940s. It was there that he met some of the influential leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) such as Nelson Mandela whose ideas and doctrine influenced him and sharpened his future political career.[2] Upon his return to Zimbabwe in 1948, Nkomo then started working for the Rhodesian Railways. It was at the Rhodesia Railways that he started active politics as a trade unionist when he became Secretary of the Railway Workers' Association (later the RAWU) in 1951. He had earlier in 1949 attended the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress meeting in 1949 [3] where his love for politics only increased. His popularity grew as a trade unionist resulting in him being elected elected President of the African National Congress (Rhodesia)in 1952. As was the norm with the settler regime, Nkomo's party was banned. He tried to negotiate with the Rhodesian authorities from banning of liberation movements but did not record much success in that regard. He then decided to form a government in-exile as a way of stepping up international pressure on the colonial regime and effect political change in Southern Rhodesia. This led to the formation of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) in 1962. Within two years, ZAPU split allegedly along ethnic grounds. The party's Secretary General Robert Mugabe breaking away and formed the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). In the 1980 elections, both Nkomo and Mugabe contested the election in which Mugabe emerged victorious. He was the Vice-President of Zimbabwe until his death on the 4th of July 1999.

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Like most nationalists, Nkomo fell prey to the brutality of the setler regime. On April 6, 1964, Nkomo was arrested, detained and spent the ten and half years in prison at Gonakudzingwa. On his release in 1974, He did not quit politics, rather he went straight aheadly moved back to the centre stage of the Zimbabwe liberation struggle, chanting his ‘song’, one-man one-vote. Nkomo upon release, fled to Zambia to fight for Zimbabwean independence

Gukurahundi Era

The Gukurahundi disturbances took place between 1982 and 1985 in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions. The disturbances were as a result of an alleged security threat posed by the so-called dissidents who were said to be under the leadership of Nkomo. The dissidents were alleged to be members of Joshua Nkomo's led military wing of ZIPRA who had resisted disamourment and disbundling after the 1980 elections. The conflict started with an alleged discovery of an arms cache at Nkomo's farm near Bulawayo. This resulted in Mugabe's government deploying a special force called the 5th Brigade to Matabeleland and the army is believed to have killed thousands of civilians who were suspected of harbouring the said dissidents. Nkomo was also a target and he survived an assassination attempt when his driver was shot and killed at his Bulawayo home. Nkomo went to exile in the United Kingdom.

Unity Accord

In 1982, security agents allegedly discovered of arms caches at farms owned by Nkomo’s party, ZAPU. This led to a massacre which was later termed Gukurahundi where 20 000 lives were killed in Nkomo's home area Matebeleland. To end this the two parties ZAPU and ZANU signed an agreement in 1987 which became known as the Unity Accord.

Positions Held

  • Social Worker, Rhodesia Railways (now National Railways of Zimbabwe) (1947)
  • Secretary-General, Railway African Workers Union (1951)
  • President, African National Congress, (1952 and 1957)
  • President of National Democratic Party (1960)
  • President of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) (1961–87)
  • Formed Patriotic Front with Robert Mugabe (1976)
  • Commander of both military and political wings of ZAPU, (1977)
  • Member of Parliament for the Midlands (1980-1985)
  • Minister of Home Affairs (1980)
  • Minister without Portfolio (1981)
  • Member of Parliament for Magwegwe (1985-1990)
  • Senior Minister for development ministries (1988)
  • Vice-President of Zimbabwe (1987-1999).[4]


Nkomo is remembered by Zimbabweans in particular and Africa in general for his outstanding and unique leadership. Due to his role in both colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe, Nkomo was accorded the title of "Father Zimbabwe", putting him far ahead of his contemporaries. A statue in honour of Nkomo was erected in the central business district of Bulawayo. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has also named its subsidiary, Joshua Nkomo Trust after the late nationalist.

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  1. Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo Dr Joshua Nkomo (1917-1999): Who exactly was He, Bulawayo 24, Published: 29 June 2012, Retrieved: 28 April 2014
  2. Byo 24, Joshua Nkomo, Bulawayo 1872, Published: ,Retrieved: 28 Apr 2014
  3. Peter Baxter Joshua Nkomo, African History, Published:, Retrieved: 28 Apr 2014
  4. Mr Joshua Mgabuko Nyongolo Nkomo, 'Africa Confidential', Published: ND, Retrieved: 28 Apr 2014