Zimbabwe African National Union

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ZANU Emblem

The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU / Zanu) was a revolutionary movement which was formed in 1963 to fight for Democracy. It was formed in Salisbury in 1963. A split occurred between Revd Ndabaningi Sithole and the external wing in 1976. Ndabaningi Sithole has persisted in calling his party Zanu through 1980. [1] The external wing, under Robert Mugabe, became Zanu PF and won the 1980 elections.

Prelude to ZANU

Since the 1950s, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) was under intense political struggle between the ruling Rhodesian Front and the nationalist movements. On one hand, the white minority regime was preoccupied with the idea of maintaining their dominance over the indigenous black majority. On the other hand, the black majority was clamouring for political independence and the end of colonial rule, based on one man one vote. This resulted in the formation of political movements such as the African National Congress in 1957, The National Democratic Party in 1959 and the Zimbabwe African People's Union in the early 1960s. Internal disputes in ZAPU under Joshua Nkomo and Joseph Msika in 1963 led to a break away by some of the leaders.[2]

Formation of ZANU

The break away from ZAPU was led by Robert Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, Enos Nkala and Ndabaningi Sithole. It was these nationalists who formed ZANU in 1963 in Highfield at Enos Nkala's house. Most of the break away nationalists had fallen out of Nkomo's favour resulting in a unity of purpose. At the inaugural ZANU conference in 1963, Ndabaningi Sithole was elected as the Chairman. Herbert Chitepo was elected as the Secretary General. [3]


ZANU believed in the Maoist doctrine of fish and water relationship towards the Second Chimurenga. The fish and water relationship symbolised the relationship between the guerrillas and the masses. They believed that in order to wedge an effective war, the guerrilla movements were supposed to create a cordial relationship with the local masses.[4]

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The Maoist doctrine originated from Chinese revolutionary doctrine. It included a two tier war relationship. This doctrine was put into practice through out the course of the Second Chimurenga. The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) which was the revolutionary wing of ZANU relied heavily on the support of the villagers during the war. Bases and camps were established near homesteads for easy supply of food and other basics. Furthermore, ZANU got its financial backing from China and this explains why its ideology was drawn from the Chinese. [5]

Internal Struggles

Right from its inception, ZANU was marred with internal strife in its rank and file. From the 1960s, there were factions emanating from regionalism. There was the Karanga camp which included Rugare Gumbo, Simon Muzenda and Kumbirai Kangai. [5] And there was the Manyika camp which included Ndabaningi Sithole, Herbert Chitepo and later on Edgar Tekere. It was generally believed that all internal disputes which characterised the liberation struggle emanated from these differences. [5]

The Nhari Rebellion which almost brought the revolution to a standstill was one of the major instances which exposed the in-house wars in the party. The assassination of ZANU chairman Herbert Chitepo in 1975 was believed to be a result of these internal struggles. Other evidence shows he was assassinated by the Rhodesians. The assassination of Josiah Tongogara in December was also rumoured to be part of the epic internal struggles within the ZANU party.

Lancaster House Agreement and Ceasefire

ZANU was one of the nationalist movements which actively took part in the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. This agreement resulted in independence in April 1980. ZANU was represented by Robert Mugabe, Edgar Tekere, Enos Nkala, Rugare Gumbo and Josiah Tongogara.


The Lancaster House Agreement paved way for the coming of majority elections. The elections were held in March 1980. ZANU under the leadership of Robert Mugabe won 63% of the votes marking the birth of majority rule in the country. Joshua Nkomo's Patriotic Front won twenty out of about 80 seats in parliament.

1987 Unity Accord

The Unity Accord of 1987 was signed between the ruling ZANU government and the sister nationalist party Patriotic Front led by Joshua Nkomo. This resulted in a major of the two parties. This implied that presidential power and legislative power was to be proportionately shared between the two parties. This resulted in the elevation of Joshua Nkomo and other Patriotic Front leaders such as John Nkomo and Joseph Msika. The party then changed its name to Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front as part of the agreement.[6]


  1. [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
  2. , History, Zanu PF, Retrieved:8 July 2014
  3. , Leopold Takawira, Zanu PF, Retrieved:8 July 2014
  4. , Why Zanu-PF remains a force in Zimbabwe, Indaba, Published:2011, Retrieved:8 July 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 B. Raftoupolos, Review of Re-Living the Second Chimurenga - Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle, Weaver Press, Published:2005, Retrieved:8 July 2014
  6. T.M Mashingaidze, The Unity Accord, CODESRIA, Published:2005, Retrieved:8 July 2014

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