Abel Muzorewa

Abel Muzorewa
Abel Muzorewa
1st Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia
In office
1 June – 11 December 1979
President Josiah Zion Gumede
Preceded by Ian Smith
Succeeded by Robert Mugabe
Personal details
Born 14 April 1925(1925-04-14)
Umtali, Manicaland, Southern Rhodesia
Died 8 April 2010(2010-04-08) (aged 84)
Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe
Nationality Zimbabwean
Political party United African National Council
Religion Methodist

Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa (14 April 1925[1] – 8 April 2010[2]) served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia from the Internal Settlement to the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979. A Methodist bishop and nationalist leader, he held office for only a few months.[3]


Early life

Muzorewa was the eldest of a lay preacher's eight children and was educated at the United Methodist School, Old Umtali (near Mutare). He was a school teacher at Mrewa between 1943 and 1947 before becoming a full time lay preacher at Mtoko between 1947 and 1949. He then studied theology at Old Umtali Biblical College (1949–1952) and was ordained as a Minister at Umtali in August 1953. He was a pastor at Chiduku, near Rusape, from 1955 to 1958.

He obtained an M.A. from Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States. Later he obtained an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion from the Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri.

In July 1963, Muzorewa became pastor of Old Umtali. A year later he was appointed National Director of the Christian Youth Movement and was seconded to the Christian Council. In 1966, he became Secretary of the Student Christian Movement. In 1968, at Masera in Botswana, he was consecrated as the United Methodist Church's Bishop of Rhodesia.

United African National Council

In 1971 the British government struck a deal with Ian Smith that provided for a transition to "majority rule" in exchange for an end to sanctions against the government. Muzorewa joined an inexperienced cleric, the Reverend Canaan Banana, to form the United African National Council (UANC) to oppose the settlement, under the acronym NIBMAR (no independence before majority rule).

The proposed referendum was withdrawn and Muzorewa found himself a national leader and an international personality. The liberation movements—the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) of Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) of Joshua Nkomo—both placed themselves under the UANC umbrella even though they had some doubts when Muzorewa founded a national party.

After ZANU (led by Robert Mugabe after disagreements with Sithole) and ZAPU undertook guerrilla warfare, the United African National Council was the only legal Black party, since it rejected violence.

Internal Settlement

On 3 March 1978, Muzorewa, Sithole and other non-exiled leaders signed an agreement at Governor's Lodge, Salisbury, which paved the way for the interim government, the leadership of which was an Executive Council made up of Muzorewa, Sithole and Jeremiah Chirau, along with Ian Smith.

This Executive Council was to run the affairs of state prior to elections taking place. A new constitution was drafted reserving 10 seats in the Senate and 28 seats in the House of Assembly for the white minority, and a quarter of the Cabinet positions. The constitution was approved in a nearly Whites-only referendum that took place in January 1979. An overwhelming majority of 85% voted yes.

Elections were held, and the UANC won. Josiah Gumede was the first President, Muzorewa became prime minister and the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe Rhodesia. But both Mugabe and Nkomo denounced the arrangement, the war continued, and no international recognition was forthcoming because their parties had not been included in the elections. The internal settlement was also condemned by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 423 of 1978, declaring unlawful any "internal settlement" in Southern Rhodesia.[4] The civil war that Ian Smith hoped to stem when he worked out the "internal settlement" continued unabated.

Lancaster House Agreement

Muzorewa pictured on a UANC campaign T-shirt, 1979

The British government asked all parties to come to London for negotiations to find a lasting solution to the Bush War. Nkomo and Mugabe attended the conference under the "Patriotic Front" (PF) banner. The conference was held from 10 September to 15 December 1979, under the chairmanship of Lord Carrington, the British Foreign Secretary. Muzorewa was persuaded to accept fresh elections, to be held in early 1980.

The elections took place at the end of February 1980, after a campaign filled with much intimidation by Mugabe's ZANU. The British government briefly considered disqualifying ZANU from participating in the elections for flagrant violation of the Lancaster House Agreement, but in the end did nothing. On 4 March 1980, the elections resulted in a resounding majority for Mugabe and ZANU. The UANC won only three out of 80 seats reserved for Africans in the House of Assembly. Under Mugabe, "Zimbabwe Rhodesia" became the Republic of Zimbabwe, or "Zimbabwe".

Muzorewa stood against Mugabe in the presidential election of 1995, and again was resoundingly defeated.

Visit to Israel

Muzorewa visited Israel on 21 October 1983. He urged Mugabe to establish diplomatic relations, saying his political policies hurt Zimbabwe's agriculture and technology industries. The Zimbabwean government arrested Muzorewa on 1 November on charges of conspiring against Mugabe for the South African government. Two days later Mugabe warned Ndabaningi Sithole and Joshua Nkomo against 'conspiring'. Muzorewa then went on a hunger strike, which lasted from 3 to 11 November.[5]

2008 presidential election

On 21 June 2007 Muzorewa said citizens, white and black alike, came to his house and asked him to run for president. He said Zimbabwe was "bleeding, economically and socially. It is painful to listen to them talk."[3] He asked people to pray that negotiations between ZANU-PF and the MDC, mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, would be successful and for Zimbabwe's "salvation." [3] Ultimately Muzorewa did not run in the 2008 presidential election.


Muzorewa died aged 84 from cancer at his home in Harare on 8 April 2010.[6] The Director of Christian Care, Reverend Forbes Matonga, described Muzorewa's legacy as including "his role in the country's transition to independence, the Methodist Church and the founding of Africa University in the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare".[6] Political commentator John Makumbe said Muzorewa's legacy in Zimbabwe would be that of "a man of peace".[6] Throughout the later years of his life he was a fan and frequent listner to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

See also


  1. ^ Cary, Robert; Mitchell, Diana (1977). African nationalist leaders in Rhodesia who's who. Bulawayo: Books of Rhodesia. ISBN 0-86920-152-2. 
  2. ^ http://www.zimtelegraph.com/?p=6885
  3. ^ a b c Lebo Nkatazo (2007). "Zimbabwe: Muzorewa plots political comeback". New Zimbabwe via allAfrica.com. http://allafrica.com/stories/200706210837.html. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  4. ^ s:United Nations Security Council Resolution 423
  5. ^ Kalley, Jacqueline Audrey. Southern African Political History: A chronological of key political events from independence to, 1999. Page 726.
  6. ^ a b c "Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Zimbabwean Transitional Figure of 1970s, Dies in Harare". Voice of America. 9 April 2010. http://www1.voanews.com/zimbabwe/news/human-interest/Zimbabwean-Transition-Figure-Muzorewa-Dies-In-Zimbabwe-of-Cancer-09Apr10-90385914.html. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 

3. Newitt, Louise (ed). Prominent Rhodesian Personalities (Cover Publicity Services, Salisbury, 1977).

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ian Smith
(of Rhodesia)
Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia
Succeeded by
Robert Mugabe
(of Zimbabwe)

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