|Birth||31 July 1920, Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe|
12 December 2000, Philadelphia, USA
(aged 80 years)
|Politics||Zimbabwe African National Union|
Ndabaningi Sithole (31 July 1920 – 12 December 2000) founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), a militant organisation that opposed the government of Rhodesia, in July 1963. A member of the Ndau ethnic group (more closely tied to the Ndebele than the Shona who supported the ZAPU), he also worked as a Methodist minister. He spent 10 years in prison after the government banned ZANU. A rift along tribal lines split ZANU in 1975, and he lost the 1980 elections to Robert Mugabe.
Sithole was born in Nyamandhlovu, Southern Rhodesia, on 31 July 1920. He studied teaching in the United States from 1955 to 1958, and was ordained a Methodist minister in 1958. The publication of his book African Nationalism and its immediate prohibition by the minority government motivated his entry into politics. During his studies in the United States he studied at the Andover Newton Theological School and attended the First Church in Newton, founded in 1665, both located in Newton, Massachusetts.
He founded and was chief architect of Zimbabwe African National Union party in August 1963 in conjunction with Herbert Chitepo, Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere in the Highfields House of Enos Nkala. In 1964 there was a party Congress at Gwelo, where Sithole was elected president and appointed Robert Mugabe to be his secretary general. ZANU was banned in 1964 by Ian Smith’s government. He spent 10 years in prison after being arrested on 22 June 1964 alongside Mugabe, Tekere, Nyagumbo and Takawira for his political activities. While in prison he specifically authorised Chitepo to continue the struggle from abroad as a representative of ZANU. Sithole was convicted on a charge of plotting to assassinate Ian Smith and released from prison in 1974.
On 18 March 1975 Chitepo was assassinated in Lusaka, Zambia, with a car bomb. Mugabe, in Mozambique at the time, unilaterally assumed control of ZANU. Later that year there was a factional split, with many Ndebele following Joshua Nkomo into the equally militant ZAPU. Sithole eventually founded the moderate ZANU-Ndonga party, which renounced violent struggle, while the Shona-dominated ZANU (now called ZANU PF) followed Mugabe with a more militant agenda.
Sithole joined Abel Muzorewa’s transitional government under the Internal Settlement on 31 July 1979. Later in September 1979 he attended the Lancaster House Agreement, chaired by Lord Carrington, which paved the way for fresh elections, but his ZANU-Ndonga Party’s supporters and their villages were targeted by Mugabe’s ZANLA troops and it failed to win any seats in the 1980 elections.
His exit from ZANU was claimed by Mugabe to have been caused by his neglecting the fighters in Zambia (where their camp was bombed resulting in many fatalities and casualties).
Exile and return
Declaring that his life was in danger from political enemies, Sithole went into self-imposed exile first in the UK in the early 1980s and then in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A, around 1984, returning to Zimbabwe in January 1992.
He was elected to parliament for his tribal stronghold of Chipinge in southeastern Zimbabwe in 1995, and was a candidate in the 1996 presidential election (though he withdrew shortly before the election after claiming that Mugabe’s ZANU-PF was undermining his campaign). In December 1997 a court tried and convicted him of conspiring with Chimwenje to assassinate Mugabe and the government disqualified him from attending parliament. Sithole’s small opposition group again won the Chipinge seat in the June 2000 elections.
He was granted the right to appeal, appeal was filed, but the case was never heard by the Supreme Court. He was allowed bail because of his deteriorating health. He died on 12 December 2000, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The author of three books on African politics, he is survived by his wife, Vesta, and five adult children.
His farm, “Porta Farm” situated 25 kilometres (16 mi) from Harare on Bulawayo Road, was legally purchased in 1992 under “willing buyer – willing seller” arrangements. It was later confiscated by Robert Mugabe’s government, on the grounds that it harboured the “undesirables” of Harare. These were people who had been left homeless after being summarily evicted from shanties in Harare before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1991. Sithole had felt compassion for them, and what he felt was the breach of their human rights; he therefore had invited some of them to stay on the farm. This incensed the government, which then carried out an eviction operation. This was co-ordinated by the Ministry of Local Government and National Housing as well as the City of Harare. Pre-dawn raids were carried out and, in the aftermath, Porta Farm was confiscated.
Sithole is the author of The Polygamist, a novel published in 1972 by The Third Press/Joseph Okpaku Publishing Co., Inc., New York (ISBN 0893880361).