The National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed on 1 January in 1960 and it became the second African nationalist political party to spearhead the liberation struggle in the then Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) which brought independence in 1980. It was formed at the height of enormous grievances by Africans. As a result of this, the party capitalised on these grievances to draw and widen its support base. It was banned in December 1961 three days after the implementation of the 1961 Constitution which replaced the 1923 Constitution. It mainly drew its support from the urban areas and it is along these lines in which it has been inter twinned with trade unionism and the plight of workers.

Birth of Nationalist Movements

Prior to the inception of the NDP in 1960, numerous organisations, movements or trade unions which have been referred to as proto-nationalist had sprouted in the country.[1] It has been generally argued that these movements which included the Southern Rhodesia Bantu Voters Association formed in 1923, the Federation of Bulawayo African Workers Union led by Jasper Savanhu, the African Workers Voice Association led by Benjamin Burombo and the City Youth League led by George Nyandoro, James Chikerema, Edson Sithole and others were not so much concerned with overthrowing the white minority government.[1] Rather, they wanted the implementation of accommodative and more tolerant policies towards the Africans.[1] The state was accused of intervening more on behalf of the settlers at the expense of the interests of the Africans.[1] This was made possible by the introduction of Acts which discriminated against the Africans which included the Land Apportionment Act of 1930, the Land Husbandry Act of 1951, the Maize Control Act. These Acts designed to curtail African peasant production as well as reducing the availability of land to Africans forcing them to engage into wage labour getting meagre salaries.

In 1957, the City Youth League amalgamated with the Bulawayo based African National Congree (ANC) which was led by Joshua Nkomo to form the country's first national political party,the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) which was later simply referred to as the ANC.[1]

In 1959, a state of emergency was declared and new security Acts were passed which broadened the state's control over all political activities initiated by Africans.[2] The Acts implemented were, the Native Affairs Amendment Act, the Unlawful Organisation Act and the Preventive Detention Act. The introduction of these Acts saw the liquidation of the ANC as it was banned in 1959. Some of the officials were detained.[2]

Formation of the NPD

Following the ban of the ANC, on 1 January 1960, the NDP was formed as its successor. An interim executive was appointed with Michael Mawena being the president of the party, deputised by Morton Malianga.[3] This was mainly because after a state of emergency was declared which saw the detention of some of the prominent members of the ANC such as Nkomo and others, it was agreed that, since it was impossible to make contacts with those detained leaders, an interim executive was to be put in place to ensure that the party at least functions.[3] When these leaders were later released, Nkomo was elected to be the president of the party.

Within four months of its formation, the NDP was a able to attract 7 130 people who later became its supporters.[3] It held meetings every week day and unlike the ANC, the NDP drew its support mainly from the urban areas and this has been attributed to the rapid increase in urbanisation.[3] Between 1958-1959, unemployment was becoming a major problem and those who used to reside in the rural areas began to migrate into the urban areas with the hope of getting jobs but alas most of the peoples' hopes were dashed. As a result of this, the NDP began to capitalise on the grievances of the masses pinning their suffering to the Acts introduced by the white led government.

The party had no access to the press which was state owned and censored.[4] It was also funded by subscriptions paid by its members of which this was not adequate enough to meet the requirements of the day to day activities of the party.[4]

Aims and Objectives

The NDP aimed to see the introduction of the policy of the one man one vote issue in the country.[4] It also wanted the establishment of universal suffrage, salary increments, improved working, housing and educational facilities for the Africans as well as the abolition of segregatory laws.[4]

The arrest of party officials

On 19 July 1960, 3 members of the NDP were arrested and these were Mawema, Leopold Takawira and Samkange.[3] These were arrested on the basis of contravening the Unlawful Organisation Act and they were sent to 5 years imprisonment or paying a fine of 1000 pounds.[3]

The regime argued that these arrests were not targeted towards crippling the party but it was more inclined towards the activities of those arrested who were said to have been instrumental in inciting strikes and demonstrations.[3] The government also argued that the arrest was part of the police operations.[3] In the eyes of the NDP officials and the supporter's of the party, the arrests were directly linked to the continued existence of the party.

Prior to the arrest of the party's officials, it was reported that on 8 July, the security forces of the government had searched homes of Asian supporters and sympathisers of the party.[3] The Criminal Investigation Department was also said to have been on a relentless campaign of trailing party officials.[3] In the early hours of 19 July, it was also reported that in Salisbury (present day Harare), Bulawayo, Umtali (present day Mutare) and Gwanda searches were conducted in the homes of the supporters of the party.[3] This has been used as evidence to show that the government had long awaited to liquidate the party.

The end of the party

The arrest of the 3 mentioned party officials provoked wide spread militant reactions towards the government. On 20 July, 20 000 supporters of the party assembled at Stodart Hall in Mbare and they began to protest.[3] The state's security forces tried to quell the demonstrations but their actions led to wide spread street battles which caused many fatalities.[3] Following this tragic event, the government responded by banning meetings of any sort to be held under the banner of the NDP.[3]

At the same time in Bulawayo, Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, addressed the people who had assembled at the Stanley Square and the topical issue was the arrest of the party officials in Harare.[3] On this meeting, it was agreed that on 24 July there was to be a mass rally at the same venue where these people were supposed to march to the central business district of the city. [3] The government was well aware of this and it successful blocked the march.

After liaising with labour unions in Bulawayo, on 25 July it was agreed that, there was going to be a strike and it was successful and it ended on 27 July.[3]

In September, they were strikes in Bulawayo again and the NDP was pinned as having been influential in organising these strikes. In October strikes had spilled over into Que Que (present day Kwekwe), Gatooma (present day Kadoma) and Gwelo (present day Gweru).[3] Workers began to destroy property, burn shops, beerhalls, cars and some even began to loot property.[3] The NDP was accused of inciting workers to undertake such activities as it was closely linked with labour and or trade unions and workers in general.

In the backdrop of all this, the government finally banned the NDP in December 1961, 3 days after the 1961 Constitution was put into effect.[4] The rejection of the constitution by the Africans has also been used as a reason which also caused the government to ban the NDP after at least tolerating what it was accused of doing in the since its formation. Among its dictates, the constitution accepted the inclusion of a Declaration of Rights and new franchise based on educational, property and income qualifications which was to result in a Legislative Assembly composed of 50 Europeans and 15 African members.[4] This was translated literally to imply that it would lead to the eventual transition to majority rule, something Africans were clamouring for.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 , Colonialism, "Zimbabwe Government", ,retrived:24 June 2014"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Larry W. Bowman, Politics in Rhodesia: White Power in an African State, "Harvard University Press", published:1973,retrived:24 June 2014"
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 T.H. Mothibe Zimbawe: African Working Class Nationalism,1957-1963, "Zambezia", published:1996,retrived:24 June 2014"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Decolonisation, "United Nations Department of Political Affairs, Trusteeship and Decolonisation", published:1975,retrived:24 June 2014"