Abel Muzorewa
Bishop Muzorewa
ChurchUnited Methodist
Term ended1980
PredecessorIan Smith
SuccessorRobert Mugabe
Personal details
Birth nameAbel Tendekayi Muzorewa
BornApril 14, 1925
DiedApril 5, 2010(2010-04-05) (aged 84)
ResidenceOld Marimba Park Suburb; Borrowdale Brooke
ChildrenPhilemon (deceased)
OccupationCleric, Politician and Academic
Alma materScarrit College

Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa was a Zimbabwean cleric and politician who was very active in colonial Zimbabwe. He was also a renowned politician who served as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia and was also a respected cleric with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe in Rhodesia. [1]

From left: Abel Muzorewa, President of African National Council and future Prime Minister of "Zimbabwe Rhodesia", leaves table after signing the historic Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Lancaster House cease fire agreement 21 December 1979 in London while the deputy of Salisbury delegation Dr. S. Mundawarara shakes hands with Zimbabwe's Patriotic Front leader Joshua Nkomo while the Patriotic Front co-founder Robert Mugabe (C) looks on. Mugabe, Zimbabwean Premier (in 1980) and President (in 1987), was born in Kutama in 1924 (formerly Southern Rhodesia). Largely self-educated, he became a teacher. After a short periods in the National Democratic Party and Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) he co-found, in 1963, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). After a 10-year detention in Rhodesia (1964-74), he spent five years in Mozambique gathering support in preparation for independence in 1980. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
  • 1971 - Chairman, ANC
  • 1974 - President, ANC
  • 1979 - Prime Minister, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia
  • 1980 - MP House of Assembly, Mashonaland East. [2]

See A History of Zimbabwean Elections.

Personal Details

Born: 14 April 1925 to a peasant family in the eastern districts near Mutare.
He was born to Christian family. His father was a farmer, Methodist pastor and schoolmaster who encouraged learning and he was educated at a village mission school and at the Old Umtali Methodist boarding school.
He was the first born in a family of nine. [3]
Marriage: He was married and had five children.
Death: 8 April 2010.

School / Education

Muzorewa received part of his education at Hartzel Theological College (Hartzell High School). He later received a scholarship to study for a bachelor's degree from the Central Methodist Church in Fayette, Missouri, America. [4] He later on earned a masters degree from Scarrit College in Nashville Tennessee before attaining a doctorate in divinity from the Central Methodist Church in Missouri.[4]

Service / Career

Religious career

Muzorewa was appointed a lay preacher in 1947 by the United Methodist Church in Mutoko and Murehwa. He was given the task to administer five small congregations while he was still studying theology at Old Umtali Biblical College. Muzorewa also worked as teacher in Murehwa up to 1949. [5] He was ordained in 1953 and was appointed a circuit preacher for five years before spending 1958 to 1963 at Methodist colleges in Missouri, United States, where he completed a master's degree.[6] By the 1950s he supported his people's rising nationalist feelings and, after his return, he took up a conference post as youth director, where he could channel his ministry into political activity. [6] He led protests against the deportation of Bishop Ralph Dodge, who opposed the increasing political repression of the Ian Smith government, which unilaterally proclaimed the independent white-ruled nation of Rhodesia in 1965. In 1968, Muzorewa was elected bishop to succeed Dodge, becoming the first African head of a major church in Rhodesia.[6]

Political career

Muzorewa entered national politics in 1971. It was after he was requested to lead a new movement, the African National Council; an alliance of followers of the banned Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu). In 1975, Muzorewa attended an international Conference in Dar es Salem in which the frontline states led by Julius Nyerere of Tanzania encouraged a united effort against the Rhodesian Front. [5]

In 1976 Muzorewa went into self-imposed exile in Mozambique, an operational base for "freedom fighters". When he returned to Salisbury more than a year later, he was welcomed by a crowd of 100 000. [5] He played a prominent part in the 1976 Geneva conference on Rhodesia. Eventually, after protracted negotiations with Ian Smith, in 1978 he was able to sign an agreement for majority rule, "the culmination of a hard fight". The accord, more favourable to the blacks than that proposed previously by Britain, signaled an end to 90 years of white domination and ushered in the country's first popular elections for all adult blacks in April 1979.

He won a seat to the House of Assembly in the 1980 elections.

In the Zimbabwe 1985 Parliamentary Election, Glen View returned to Parliament:

In the 2000 Elections, (see A History of Zimbabwean Elections) Makoni West returned to Parliament:



In 1973, Muzorewa was honoured with a United Nations Peace Prize for his outstanding role in human rights activism. In both capacities as a politician and cleric, Muzorewa had relentlessly clashed with the Rhodesian racist policies which segregated against the blacks. He thus created the platform to call for racial equality not only in Rhodesia but in the Southern Africa region.

The Peak of Muzorewa's Political Career

The United African National Congress (UANC) led by Muzorewa won 51 of the 72 black seats, propelling him to power as prime minister in April 1979. He thus became the first black Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia from 1 June 1979 to 12 December 1979. [7] But the complex constitution of the new nation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia fell short of complete majority rule and failed to win immediate international recognition. The constitution, the elections and the new government were rejected by the guerrillas, who stepped up the war effort and threatened to assassinate Muzorewa and his black colleagues.

During his brief spell in power he asserted that the outside world "does not appreciate the need to retain the confidence of the whites and hence their experience and expertise". He also believed in a middle path ideology towards the political problems which were bedeviling the country. He appreciated black majority rule but he did not see the absolute exclusion of the whites as a feasible political framework in independent Zimbabwe. For this reason, Muzorewa was faced with lethal criticism from other nationalists, the likes of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, for being unnecessarily sympathetic to the Rhodesian cause. [8]

In the spring/autumn of 1979 Muzorewa, Smith and the nationalist leaders took part in 14 weeks of talks for the Lancaster House Agreement in Britain, agreeing to a ceasefire and to independence terms that were internationally acceptable. After the formal restoration of a legal government in Southern Rhodesia, Muzorewa was ousted in the elections of March 1980 and his party won only 3 out of more than 100 seats.

Attempted Political Comeback

In independent Zimbabwe, Muzorewa made two failed attempts to come back into mainstream politics of the country. In 1995, he re-organised his political party and arranged rallies to amass support. He however could not garner considerable support as his rallies attracted only a few hundreds. Three years later Muzorewa made a come back to mainstream politics and this time his rallies attracted thousands of supporters in areas dominated by Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF). He claimed that his supporters from the Africans and from the Zimbabwean white community had urged him to run for presidency. His efforts were nonetheless said to have been derailed by financial constrains.


  • Success 1.

Bishop Abel Muzorewa as he was known in the religious circle was instrumental in the growth of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. He also facilitated the founding of Africa University in Mutare Zimbabwe which is still being run by the Methodist Church and the only University in Manicaland Province. He also developed a hospital and a secondary school located close to the mission.[9] He also wrote his life history in an autobiography book titled Rise up & walk: The autobiography of Bishop Abel Tendekai Muzorewa which was published in 1978.[10]


  1. ,Bishop Abel Muzorewa, The Telegraph, Published:9 April 2010, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  2. [Diana Mitchell, African Nationalist Leaders in Zimbabwe: Who’s Who 1980], "African Nationalist Leaders in Zimbabwe: Who’s Who 1980, (Cannon Press, Salisbury, 1980), Retrieved: 16 November 2020
  3. R. Carey and D. Mitchell, Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa, Published:5 February 2013 Colonial Relic, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rhodesia Herald, Published: June 1, 1979, Retrieved: June 22, 2015
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 , Bishop Muzorewa dies, NewZimbabwe, Published:9 April 2010, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 N.C Brockman Muzorewa, Abel Tendekayi b. 1925 Methodist Zimbabwe, Dictionary of Christian African Biography, Published:1994, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  7. , Former PM & Bishop Abel Muzorewa dies, NehandaRadio, Published:9 April 2010, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  8. Sandra Nyaira, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Zimbabwean Transitional Figure of 1970s, Dies in Harare, Voice of America, Published:9 April 2014, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  9. R. Farber, Farewell to Bishop Abel Muzorewa, UPF NEWS, Published:18 April 2010, Retrieved:25 June 2014
  10. , Rise up & walk: The autobiography of Bishop Abel Tendekai Muzorewa, Published: 1978, Retrieved:25 June 2014