Zimbabwe: Political Parties Material

Scope and Content

Zimbabwe: Political Parties Material, 1928 onwards, including manifestos, addresses, speeches, letters, conference reports, constitutions, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, newsletters, journals, press cuttings, histories, membership cards and miscellaneous electoral and promotional materials issued by the African National Council, the African National Council (Sithole), the African Progressive Party, the Centre Party (Southern Rhodesia), the Dominion Party (Rhodesia), the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe, the Independent Zimbabwe Group, the National Democratic Party of Southern Rhodesia, the National Front of Zimbabwe, the National Unifying Force (Southern Rhodesia), the Patriotic Front (Zimbabwe), the Rhodesian Action Party, the Rhodesia Labour Party, the Rhodesia Party, the Rhodesia Settlement Forum, the Rhodesian Front, the Southern Rhodesia Labour Party, the Southern Rhodesian African National Congress, the United African National Council, the United Conservative Party, the United National Federal Party, the Zimbabwe African National Union, ZANU-PF, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, the Zimbabwe Democratic Party, the Zimbabwe National Party, the Zimbabwe National People's Union, the Zimbabwe People's Army, the Zimbabwe Reformed African National Congress and the Zimbabwe United People's Organization. Any material produced by a political party originating from the geographical area that later became Zimbabwe has been placed in this collection, including parties from Southern Rhodesia prior to and during Federation and from 'Rhodesia' during UDI. Federal parties can be found under Rhodesia and Nyasaland: Political Parties (PP.RH)

Administrative / Biographical History

Having been a self-governing colony since 1923 ruled by a white minority Southern Rhodesia became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953 along with Northern Rhodesia (later Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). The tensions between the white settlers of Southern Rhodesia who dominated the federal government, and the northern territories, where the cause of African nationalism was more advanced, led to the breakup of the Federation in 1963 and the independence of Zambia and Malawi. Southern Rhodesia, governed since 1962 by the right-wing Rhodesian Front (RF), remained under British rule as a consequence of the policy of NIBMAR (No Independence Before Majority African Rule). This was rejected by the RF which in 1963 had banned the two main African political parties, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) of Ndabaningi Sithole. Instead, folowing their clean sweep of the European legislative assembly seats in 1965 the RF and their new leader Ian Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), resulting in largely ineffective Commonwealth and later UN sanctions. British attempts to resolve the crisis continued, but the 1971 Anglo-Rhodesian Settlement Proposals were reported to have been rejected by 97% of the Africans polled by the Pearce Commission sent the following year to examine their acceptability, and in fact served only to mobilise and energise African resistance. The African National Council (ANC) led by Bishop Muzorewa became a permanent political party, while guerrilla activities by ZANU and ZAPU intensified. Political and military strategies for the achievement of majority rule continued to be pursued by various African nationalist leaders throughtout the 1970s. A split in ZANU led to the emergence of Robert Mugabe as its leader in place of Sithole, assisted by Mugabe's control of the ZANU's military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). Meanwhile the independence of Angola and Mozambique shifted the balance of power in southern Africa as a whole as well as that of the Zimbabwean armed struggle, with the new Mozambiquen government providing support for ZANU and ZANLA whilst Zambia provided a base for ZAPU. On the domestic front a series of shifting alliances developed, with Mugabe and Nkomo placing their organisations under the umbrella of Muzorewa's ANC, only to withdraw in 1975-1976 and announce the formation of the Patriotic Front (PF) comprising just ZANU and ZAPU. Following this split the ANC became the United African National Council, whilst Sithole, who had also briefly joined Muzorewa in the ANC left in 1977 to form the ANC (Sithole). The key distinction was that Muzorewa was prepared to make concessions in negotiations with Smith and the RF that Nkomo and Mugabe were not, and the OAU and the international community tended to see the Patriotic Front as more representative of African opinion than the UANC. Thus though the latter won the elections of 1979 and Muzorewa became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, the failure of the PF to participate forced all parties to return to the table, and following the Lancaster House talks new elections were held in 1980 under a constitution more amenable to Nkomo and Mugabe. ZANU and ZAPU contested the election seperately, and Mugabe's party's convincing win led to his becoming the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, the leadership of which country he has held ever since. The majority of the materials held here date from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and cover all of the main African and European parties, and all of the major issues alluded to here. A smaller proportion of the collection predates this period, and there are also a number of items from post-independence Zimbabawe.


Alphabetically according to party and then in rough chronological order.

Access Information

Open to all for research purposes; access is free for anyone in higher education.

Acquisition Information

Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Other Finding Aids

Records at item level on library catalogue (SASCAT).

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Daniel Millum, Political Archives Project Officer at the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies can usually be obtained - apply to library staff.

Custodial History

The Commonwealth Political Parties Materials collection was begun in 1960-61, with special emphasis being placed then, as now, on 'primary material such as party constitutions, policy statements, convention reports and election manifestos.' (ICS, Twelfth Annual Report 1960-1961). Since then, the main method of gathering material has been to appeal directly to political parties throughout the Commonwealth, though contributions from Institute members and staff following visits to relevant countries have been significant.


Further accruals are expected, some in electronic form.

Related Material

See also Zimbabwe: Trades Unions Material (TU.ZW), Zimbabwe: Pressure Groups Material (PG.ZW) and Rhodesia and Nyasaland: Political Parties Material (PP.RH) as well as Political Party, Trades Unions and Pressure Group Materials for other Commonwealth countries and related material in the library's main classified sequence, all held at the ICS.

Geographical Names