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Early Factionalism in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle  

Brooks Marmon

The course of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle was fundamentally shaped by tensions among competing nationalist factions. The impact of this dynamic is typically observed from 1963, when Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)-Patriotic Front, was founded following a fissure in the liberation movement. Earlier instances of intranationalist competition in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) have generally escaped scholarly attention despite their pioneering contributions to the dynamics of political pluralism in Zimbabwe and the presence of noted political figures amidst their leadership. In 1961, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement experienced its first significant split with the formation of the Zimbabwe National Party (ZNP) which broke away from the National Democratic Party. The ZNP, in turn, experienced its own rupture a year later when the Pan-African Socialist Union (PASU) was formed. Although these were the two only two nationalist challengers of note in the early 1960s prior to ZANU, several other short-lived Black-led political parties emerged at this time in settler-dominated Southern Rhodesia. The ZNP and PASU appealed to rising grievances with the prosecution of the anticolonial liberation struggle. They were also a consequence of the changing geopolitics wrought by Africa’s decolonization. The two parties sought to consolidate their position by appealing to the emerging cohort of African anticolonial leaders across the continent. These efforts induced extensive backlash from the main wing of the nationalist movement, then led by Joshua Nkomo. Both the ZNP and PASU were short-lived, effectively collapsing by 1963. While neither party was able to effectively overcome these intense assaults, their comparatively fleeting existence shaped the political environment by influencing tactics and providing a template for subsequent nationalist contenders seeking greater longevity.


Clements Musa Kadalie and the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa  

Henry Dee

Between 1919 and 1929, Clements Musa Kadalie rose to worldwide fame as secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU). Under his leadership, the ICU transformed Southern Africa’s labor movement. Organizing black railway, dock and factory workers, miners, domestic servants, and farm laborers across South Africa, South West Africa (modern-day Namibia), Basutoland (Lesotho), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) into “One Big Union,” the ICU led a number of strikes, challenged pass laws and unionized anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 members. Over six foot tall and always dressed in an immaculate suit, Kadalie regularly addressed mass meetings of thousands of people across rural and urban South Africa. Kadalie was born in Chifira, Tongaland, British Central Africa Protectorate (modern-day Malawi) around 1895. After being expelled from the local mission school, he migrated via Southern Rhodesia to South Africa. He was elected as the ICU’s secretary at its first meeting. The ICU took a leading role in the 1919 Cape Town dock strike and won wage increases for dock workers in 1920. By 1925, the trade union had over 50 branches across Southern Africa and a widely circulating newspaper, The Workers’ Herald. In 1927, Kadalie toured Europe, calling on the international labor movement to campaign against a raft of repressive legislation. Amid fractious internal disputes, however, Kadalie’s “czarlike” character, frivolous expenditure and “foreign” birth were publicly denounced by rivals, and the financial contributions of ICU members collapsed. Kadalie led a breakaway Independent ICU from February 1929 and called a general strike in East London in January 1930. He passed away on November 28, 1951, leaving a complicated legacy. The ICU’s radical rhetoric and mass mobilization, nevertheless, demonstrated both the possibility and necessity of organizing black workers and inspired black leaders across the world for decades to come.