The Main Political Parties in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF)

**Founded: August 1963 **

National Executive: Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Joyce Mujuru, Simon Khaya Moyo


The Zimbabwe African National Union was a militant organisation that fought against the white minority government in the then Rhodesia, formed as a split from the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). ZANU won the 1980 elections under the leadership of Robert Mugabe, and seven years later merged again with Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU to form ZANU-PF, the current governing party of the country.

ZANU was formed 8 August 1963 when Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere and Leopold Takawira decided to split from ZAPU at the house of Enos Nkala in Highfield. The founders were dissatisfied with the militant tactics of Nkomo. In contrast to future developments, both parties drew from both the Shona and the Ndebele — the two major tribes of the region. Both ZANU and ZAPU formed political wings within the country (under those names) and military wings: the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) respectively to fight the struggle from neighbouring countries – ZANLA from Mozambique and Zambia, and ZIPRA from Zambia and Botswana.

Most of ZANU’s operations were planned from exile, where the party leadership was based throughout the 1970s, and the party had office in Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam, Maputo and London.

There were two splits within ZANU prior to independence. The first was with Nathan Shamuyarira and others leaving to join the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) in 1973 after Shamuyarira’s bid for the party leadership was defeated by Chitepo. Following the assassination of Chitepo on 18 March 1975, Sithole assumed leadership of the party, but faced immediate opposition from the more militant wing of ZANU, as Sithole was a proponent of détente. This crisis grew with the Mgagao declaration where ZANLA leaders and guerillas declared their opposition to Sithole, and led to the effective split of ZANU into a group led by Sithole, who renounced violent struggle, and the group led by Robert Mugabe and Simon Muzenda, with the support of ZANLA, who continued the armed struggle. Both groups continued to use the name ZANU.

Sithole joined a transitional government of whites and blacks in 1979, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. When sanctions remained in place, he joined Muzorewa for the Lancaster House Agreement in London, where a new constitution and elections were prepared.

Mugabe formed the first independent government and invited ZAPU to join, but then allocated ZAPU only five of the total 36 cabinet seats. The most important was Nkomo’s appointment as minister of home affairs. But the following year he was transferred to minister without portfolio and ZANU’s Emmerson Mnangagwa became chairman of the Joint Command in charge of integrating the armed forces. Although Nkomo was finally allowed to oversee the integration, ZAPU’s position was weakened. The most remarkable reshuffle took place when arms were found on farms owned by Nkomo in February 1982. He was removed from the cabinet along with three other ZAPU ministers. Two days later the only remaining ZAPU minister resigned. In April, Mugabe appointed three ZAPU members to the cabinet.

After the 1985 elections Mugabe allocated no cabinet seats to ZAPU. The only option available for ZAPU leaders, if they wanted to become ministers, was to join the ruling party. The negotiations that later led to the Unity Accord between ZANU and ZAPU started shortly thereafter. They were facilitated by a release of ZAPU prisoners, including Dabengwa. But in mid-1987 the government banned all ZAPU meetings, raided ZAPU offices in Bulawayo and detained some ZAPU officials. In September ZAPU was banned altogether and the six district councils it dominated were dissolved. Meanwhile, the white seats in parliament were abolished as the provisions of the constitution on unanimous voting expired. The 20 vacant seats were filled by ZANU, which had a majority in parliament acting as an electoral college. Subsequently, ZANU occupied 85 seats out of 100. Parliament soon passed an amendment to the constitution creating an executive presidency. After that the Unity Accord between ZANU and ZAPU was concluded and the ruling party’s majority rose to 99 out of 100 MPs. This was the parliament, which appointed Mugabe as the first executive president of Zimbabwe on 30 December 1987.

The aims and objectives of ZANU PF:

  • To establish and sustain a society that cherishes African Values and to create conditions for economic independence, prosperity and equitable distribution of wealth of the nation.

  • To preserve and defend the National Sovereignty and Independence of Zimbabwe.

To Uphold and apply fully the rule of Law, Equality before the law and Equality of opportunities for all people in Zimbabwe, regardless of race, tribe sex, religion or origin.

  • Continue to participate in the worldwide struggle for the complete eradication of imperialism, colonialism and all forms of racism.

  • To support and promote all effects for the attainment of the Pan African goal for the complete independence and unity of African states.

  • To oppose resolutely, tribalism, regionalism and forms of exploitation of man by man.

Movement For Democratic Change (MDC-T)

Founded: February 1999

National Executive: Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Thokozani Khupe, Tendai Biti, Lovemore Moyo, Nelson Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri, Eddie Cross, Roy Bennet


The MDC-T, was endorsed on 26 February 1999 by over 700 men and women from all walks of life who converged in Harare for two days. They set up various committees and subcommittees to examine a whole gamut of Zimbabwean issues, only to resolve that the only way out was the need to challenge Zanu PF politically. During this convention key resolutions were adopted and the implementation of these continued to guide the MDC in quest to address a myriad of issues and imbalances in Zimbabwe. The working people’s convention then gave birth to a political movement, the MDC, seven months later at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.

The MDC was then formed on the basis of carrying on the struggle of the people; the struggle for food and jobs; peace; dignity; decency and democracy; equal distribution of resources; justice; transparency and equality of all Zimbabweans. Against this background, the MDC became a continuation and conclusion of the full realisation of the rights of the children, women and men of Zimbabwe and all those who live in it. On 26 January 2000 the party had its inaugural congress at the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. Morgan Tsvangirai became President. A constitution for the party was adopted. A general election was held on 26 June and the MDC officially won 57 seats against Zanu PF’s 63.

In 2005 the party participated in the parliamentary election which was against a background of massive violence and intimidation and an uneven electoral playing field. The party won 41 seats of the 120 contested seats. The party split in 2005 due to external interference. The group, led by Welshman Ncube favoured negotiating with Zanu PF while the majority preferred to intensify pressure on Zanu PF for change.

On the 16-19 March 2006 the MDC held its watershed congress and substantial resolutions were passed. The congress adopted a roadmap to legitimacy whose signposts and benchmarks led to a stronger party. On 25 August 2008, the MDC officially took control of Parliament and elected the then acting national Chairman Lovemore Moyo as the speaker, a post that was held by Zanu PF since independence in 1980.

On the 11th of January 2009, President Morgan Tsvangirai became the Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe after negotiations mediated by the then President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. With his assumption of duty as head of government, Zanu PF effectively crushed its own spine and has since survived through the control of a mere 37 percent of the organs of the state in a coalition it previously vowed would never be seen in Zimbabwe. The party held its third national congress in April 2011. Apart from the new National Executive and National Council, Douglas Mwonzora, Solomon Madzore and Abednico Bhebhe rose through the ranks into the Standing Committee. Mwonzora is the new Secretary for Information and Publicity; Madzore took over as the youth chairperson while Bhebhe is the new deputy national organiser.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

Founded: October 2005

National Executive: Welshman Ncube, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Edwin Mushoriwa, Goodrich Chimbaira, David Coltart, Frank Chamunorwa, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, Miriam Mushayi, Paul Themba Nyathi.


The MDC, being a social democratic party, with ideals based on the principle of inclusivity and broad-based democratic consultations, was formed by Zimbabweans in order to bring about democratic change and good governance in the country. This would foster peace, stability and socio-economic development for all Zimbabweans.

The MDC has its origin in the labour movement where most of its leadership were drawn from. During the late 1990s, Zimbabwe experienced serious social and economic problems caused mainly by mis-governance, failure to respect the rule of law, unmitigated corruption and state sponsored violence directed at those that were perceived to be enemies of the ruling party, ZANU PF. It became evident that the policies that were implemented by the government were leading the country into total ruin and as such some way had to be found to rescue the nation. As the wave of discontent with the (ZANU PF government’s management) central government’s management of the national affairs grew, so was the desire by Zimbabweans to confront the ruling party and demand good governance and their basic rights.

Unemployment reached unprecedented levels of above 80%. Food riots became a constant feature as the country ran out of food and other basic needs such as medicines resulting in some hospitals closing down. The death mortality rate rose sharply as the government could not provide medicines to hospitals even for some curable diseases. Labour, civic groups, students and church leaders took the centre stage and mobilised people, urging them to stand up and fight for their basic rights.

The theatre for confrontation between the ruling ZANU PF party and civic groups had been set and this became the birth cradle of the MDC. It became imperative that if the civic groups were to make any meaningful political change for Zimbabweans, they needed political space in order to match ZANU PF. They finally came together and officially launched the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in September 1999.

Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU)

Founded-December 1961

**National Executive: ** Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, Emilia Murakatirwa, Ralph Muguni, Achem Nkala, Adv Steven Nkiwane, Bishop MaCrea Chigwereve, Cephas Mswere, Dr Lloyd Musarirambi, Rutendo Musimwa Headman Melusi Gumbo, Edwin Moyo.


The Zimbabwe African People’s union (ZAPU) was formed in 1961 after the banning of its predecessor, the National Democratic Party (NDP). According to its constitution of 1961, ZAPU was formed to fight against the British colonial system for Zimbabwe people’s right of political, social, economic and cultural self-determination and national independence. Furthermore, ZAPU’s constitution states that “ZAPU shall observe, respect and promote human rights contained in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United National Charter.”

In other words, ZAPU was formed to fight against the British colonial system for human rights and national independence, and to create after gaining political independence, a democratic state, a state that respects, promotes and protects human rights, which are contained in the U.N Declaration of Human Rights.

ZAPU spearheaded the armed struggle for 18 years and remained the leading political force in advancing the Zimbabwean struggle for the right of self determination and national independence. ZAPU was instrumental in creating the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front under which all genuine anti-colonial and democratic forces of Zimbabwe rallied in the struggle for human rights and national independence.

In 1979, the British government called for a constitutional conference which took place in London. ZAPU and ZANU (PF) as Patriotic Front participated in this constitutional conference. The conference resulted in the Lancaster House Constitution and cease fire. The Lancaster House Constitution granted Zimbabwe political independence.

The political independence elections, which were supervised by the British government, took place in 1980. ZAPU emerged as a majority opposition party and ZANU with majority seats to form the government. The ZANU (PF) government in the early 1980’s carried out a genocidal crusade carried against ZAPU members in the Midlands and Matabeleland. The British government together with its allies did not raise any voice yet they paraded as the champions of human rights, The genocidal crusade carried out against ZAPU members forced it to sign the Unity Accord of 1987, so as to stop the massacre of its members. ZANU (PF) government did not stop these massacres, but continued to violate human rights, for example, the rights to work and to an adequate standard of living, and the right to freedom of speech. In 2009, ZAPU withdrew from the 1987 Unity accord, Because ZANU (PF) government continuously violated human rights of Zimbabwean people, which they fought for. Violation of human rights is a negation of democracy.


Founded: 2008

**National Executive: ** Simba Makoni, Kudzai Mbudzi


Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn is a Zimbabwean political organisation, founded by Simba Makoni, Kudzai Mbudzi and Ibbo Mandaza. Simba Makoni was the Mavambo candidate, finishing third with 8.3% of the vote in the first round. There were several notable Mavambo candidates who stood for the Senate of Zimbabwe, including Fay Chung, Margaret Dongo, Ibbo Mandaza, Kudzai Mbudzi, and Edgar Tekere, but none were elected.

Since the presidential elections, Makoni has several times indicated his intention to convert his Muvambo/Kusile/Dawn formation into a formal political party. On 22 July 2008, the formation’s national management committee met and agreed to finalise the transformation of the project into a political party, to be known as the National Alliance for Democracy Dumiso Dabengwa ended his support for the Mavambo organisation in 2008, leaving to re-establish PF-ZAPU.

In 2009, a power struggle developed within the organisation, with Kudzai Mbudzi and other leaders declaring they had removed Makoni.

Zimbabwe National African Union-NDONGA (ZANU-NDONGA)

National Executive: Reketai Semwayo

**Summary: **

ZANU-Ndonga is a small political party in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe African National Union was a political party during the struggle for Rhodesia’s (ultimately Zimbabwe’s) independence, formed as a split from the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union. Its founders were the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Herbert Chitepo, who were dissatisfied with the militant tactics of Nkomo in ZAPU.

After Chitepo’s assassination on 18 March 1975, Robert Mugabe, in Mozambique at the time, unilaterally assumed control of ZANU. Later that year there was a factional split along tribal lines caused the Ndebele to follow Sithole into the moderate ZANU–Ndonga party, who renounced violent struggle, while the Shona followed Mugabe with a more militant agenda.

Sithole joined a transitional government of whites and blacks in 1979, led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. When sanctions remained in place, he joined Muzorewa for the Lancaster House Agreement in London, where a new constitution and elections were prepared. ZANU–Ndonga failed to win any seats in independent elections that swept Mugabe under the ZANU flag to power in 1980.

Declaring that his life was in danger from political enemies, Sithole went into self-imposed exile in the United States city of Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1983, returning to Zimbabwe nine years later to re-enter the political arena. Sithole was elected a lawmaker for his tribal stronghold of Chipinge in southeastern Zimbabwe in 1995, as was a colleague. In December 1997 he was tried and convicted for conspiring to kill Mugabe and disqualified from attending the Harare parliament. He was granted the right to appeal, but no appeal was filed.

Sithole again won the Chipinge seat in June 2000, as ZANU–Ndonga’s only representative. Sithole died on 12 December 2000, aged 80, in Philadelphia, after going there for medical treatment.

ZANU–Ndonga’s candidate, Wilson Kumbila, won 1.0% in the March 2002 presidential election. After the parliamentary election held on 31 March 2005, the party remained without parliamentary representation. Along with three other minor opposition parties, ZANU-Ndonga is a member of the Zimbabwe Organisation of Opposition Political Parties.

Source: Wikipedia