Abraham Nkiwane

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Abraham Nkiwane
Abraham Nkiwane
Born(1928-01-06)January 6, 1928
DiedJuly 6, 2021(2021-07-06) (aged 93)
United Bulawayo Hospitals
Cause of deathProstate Cancer
Known forBeing one of the first persons to smuggle arms into Rhodesia.

Abraham Dumezweni Nkiwane (1928-6 July 2021) was a legendary ZIPRA commander who was the first person to smuggle weapons into Southern Rhodesia in 1962. He died on 6 July 2021 aged 93.


Abraham Nkiwane was born in Ntabazinduna. Nkiwane’s father owned a plot at Lupanda, one of the Native Purchase Areas (NPAs) which were created through the Land Apportionment Act (1930).[1]


Nkiwane was born on 6 January 1928.[1]




Nkiwane and Ntombizodwa had three children, two sons and a daughter.[2]

Education & Early Career

Abraham Nkiwane attended the Presbyterian Church’s David Livingstone Primary School before proceeding to Tegwane Mission after which he taught at Tjehanga School from which he was expelled along with Malikongwa and Mkandawire for their demand for justice in the manner the Methodist Church was running schools.

In 1949 he was employed by the Bulawayo Municipality. He was engaged in the African Department under the directorship of Dr Hugh Ashton. In 1954 when Nkiwane was reading towards the Bachelor of Commerce he left for Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) at the time of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which had been inaugurated in 1953.

Initially, he lived in Livingstone where he worked as a stock controller in a company known as Rhodesia Mercantile Holdings, Northern Rhodesia. He worked for that company till 1960.[1]

Second Chimurenga Contribution

He was one of ZIPRA's pioneering leaders in charge of special affairs and training. Abraham Nkiwane fought for the liberation of both Zimbabwe and Zambia, working closely with Joshua Nkomo and Kenneth Kaunda.

Nkiwane was the Chief of Personnel and Training on the Special Affairs High Command established in Lusaka in 1965.

He was appointed to that rank as he had managed to secure training facilities in numerous countries such as the Soviet Union, South Korea, Egypt, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania and Cuba. Other members of that High Command included Ackim Ndlovu, the commander, Robson Manyika, Report Mphoko, Tshinga Dube and Ambrose Mutinhiri.[1]

Smuggling of Arms Into Rhodesia

By 1961 Abraham Nkiwane had joined the United National Independence Party (UNIP), Zambia’s nationalist party led by Dr Kenneth Kaunda. Soon he began to work full time for the party and subsequently moved to Lusaka. Not so long after that Zapu leader Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo visited Zambia specifically to solicit political support from Kaunda.

More specifically Nkomo sought a safe route to East Africa in order to facilitate the movement of arms into Southern Rhodesia. Nkomo asked for the services of Abraham Nkiwane, now that the struggle for Zambia’s independence was concluded.

Nkiwane then relocated to Mbeya in Tanzania where he was in contact with Sikhwili Moyo who too was involved in the movement of arms between Tanzania and Zambia. Nkomo sourced arms of war which he took onto a flight from Cairo to Dar-es-Salaam.

The weapons would finally find their way to Rhodesia. The person chosen for the risky mission to smuggle the arms was Nkiwane.

Nkiwane, who by that time owned a Zephyr Zodiac car, was not to undertake the risky task alone. Misheck Velaphi Ncube and Kennias Mlalazi were also drafted into the team that was going to ship the weapons across the borders — between Tanzania and Zambia and finally between Zambia and Southern Rhodesia.

Apparently, the Tanzanian government was involved in the transportation of the said weapons, comprising among others, Pepesha sub-machine guns and explosives that had seen service in World War II.

Prior plans had been made to facilitate the movement of arms from Lupanda onwards. A plan had been hatched through which Nkiwane showed a smoking pipe to his father, instructing him that whoever brought and showed him that particular pipe was authorised to collect the weapons.

The trio then proceeded to Bulawayo to meet up with Findo Mpofu who lived in Bulawayo’s Mzilikazi Township. Mpofu was in the underground sabotage network that handled the weapons within Rhodesia. Measures had been instituted to avoid exposure if one person got caught.

Nkiwane did not know where weapons had been sourced. He avoided being inquisitive. Those who received the weapons within Rhodesia did not communicate with those that moved them out of Bulawayo.

Abraham Nkiwane and his team drove straight out of the country and back to Zambia after successfully delivering the arms.[1]


ZAPU spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa confirmed Abraham Nkiwane's death on 6 July 2021. Nkiwane died aged 93.

Nkiwane died in the early hours of 6 July 2021 at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) where he was admitted.[3] He succumbed to prostate cancer.

On 8 July 2021, Nkiwane was declared a national hero. However, family spokesperson Pastor Fairchild Mhlophe said Abraham Nkiwane’s wish was to be buried at his farm or alternatively in Solusi. Nkiwane's family asked that his wish be honoured.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Reminiscing days of the armed liberation struggle: Cde Abraham Dumezweni Nkiwane (bra nki) celebrates 90-year birthday, Sunday News, Published: January 14, 2018, Retrieved: July 6, 2021
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Liberation stalwart Nkiwane declared national hero, The Herald, Published: July 9, 2021, Retrieved: July 9, 2021
  3. Mashudu Netsianda, JUST IN: Former Zipra commander Cde Abraham Dumezweni Nkiwane dead at 93, The Chronicle, Published: July 6, 2021, Retrieved: July 6, 2021