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Abel Muzorewa

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Abel Muzorewa
Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa (born 1925), Methodist bishop and nationalist leader, was prime minister of the short-lived coalition government in what was called Zimbabwe Rhodesia. He held office for only a few months in 1979.

In 1971 the British 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 with an inexperienced cleric, 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The proposed referendum was withdrawn; Muzorewa found himself a national leader and an international personality.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 Peoples 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, taken over by Robert Mugabe after disagreements with Sithole, and ZAPU undertook guerrilla warfare, the UANC was the only legal black party since it rejected violence.

On the 3rd March 1978, Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and other moderate leaders signed an agreement at Governors Lodge, Salisbury, which paved the way for the interim government, the leadership of which was an Executive Council made up of Muzorewa, Sithole and Chief Jeremiah Chirau, along with Ian Smith. This Executive Council would run the affairs of state prior to elections taking place. A new constitution was drafted and in a Whites-only referendum which took place in January 1979. There were seats reserved for the White minority, as were a quarter of the Cabinet positions. An overwhelming majority of 85% voted Yes.

Elections were held, and the UANC won. Josiah Zion 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 from the USA and Britain because the external Marxist leaders had not been included in the elections. The civil war that Ian Smith hoped to stem when he worked out the 'internal settlement' continued unabated.

The British government then asked all parties come to London for face to face meetings, including Nkomo and Mugabe, and thrash out a final settlement to the Rhodesian question at the Lancaster House Agreement. For the conference, Nkomo joined with Mugabe as the Patriotic Front (PF). The conference was held from 10th September 1979 until 15th December 1979 under the chairmanship of Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Muzorewa was persuaded to accept fresh elections, to be held in early 1980.

The new elections took place at the end of February 1980, after a campaign filled with much intimidation on both sides. These new elections were resulted in a resounding majority by Robert Mugabe and ZANU, with the UANC only having 3 out of 80 seats reserved for blacks in the House of Assembly. Muzorewa stood against Mugabe in the presidential election of 1995, but was resoundingly defeated.


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