George Bodzo Nyandoro

George Bodzo Nyandoro

Secretary, British African National Voice
1957-59 Secretary-General, ANCongress.
1963 Secretary-General, PCC.
1963 External representative, PCC.
1975 (Sept. 1)Head of the Finance and Property
Committee, ZLC.

George Nyandoro was born in 1926 in the Chiota Reserve to one of the ruling Shona families. His grandfather (Kunzyi Nyandoro) fought against “the BSA Company with great tenacity and courage” during the 1896-97 revolt. His father, Mazhazhe Nyandoro, was deposed from the chiefship in 1946; his clash with the authorities arose in part from a statement that “African ex-servicemen were given bicycles whereas their European counterparts were given farms.”1

Nyandoro was educated to Standard VI at St Mary’s Anglican Mission near Salisbury (Harare). On leaving school he worked at a store in Salisbury (Harare) and used his spare time to teach himself book-keeping and some law by correspondence. He soon demonstrated his interest in public affairs by joining, first, the British African National Voice Association (of which he became Secretary) and later the Inter-Racial Association2

It was not long before he concluded that such organisations would do little to advance African aspirations. He dismissed the Inter-Racial Association as a “cooling chamber” — by which- he meant a place where the ‘steam’ would be taken out of Africans seeking progress for their race. In 1955 he joined James Chikerema and others in founding the African National Youth League (ANYL)3 an organisation which recruited many young urban workers and which was, in effect, the first step in the creation of a full-scale nationalist movement in Rhodesia.

Although George Nyandoro had received no formal education beyond Standard VI he made vigorous attempts to fill the gap by his own efforts. He read widely and in depth, with the result that even those Europeans in the Inter-Racial Association who took fright at his views admired him for his skill in argument and his ability to relax in good humour when the argument was over.“4

By 1956 his involvement in politics was so great that he refused a well-paid job as a book-keeper with an airline company. By September 1957 the ANYL had developed to the point where a broad national movement could be envisaged and a large meeting was held in Salisbury (Harare) to fuse the League with the remnants of the old ANCongress.5 The resultant body (also called the African National Congress) elected Nyandoro its Secretary-General in recognition, perhaps, of his value both as a thinker and a man of action.

In December 1958 he attended the first All-African People’s Conference in Accra. On 25 January 1959 he was present at the famous ‘forest’ meeting in Limbe, generally regarded as the precursor of the troubles that broke out shortly afterwards in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Two weeks later, on 10 February, he was sentenced to four months’ hard labour at Marandellas (Marondera) for a contravention of the Public Order Act arising out of a meeting which he had addressed at Chumachanga on 4 January.

On 26 February a state of emergency was declared and hundreds of active members of the ANCongress and their leaders (including George Nyandoro) were detained. He was eventually released in early 1963 to enable him to travel to England for treatment of tuberculosis of the spine. He was in plaster for eight months, first at Hammersmith and later at Ascot Hospital. Although in London at the time of the Cold Comfort Farm meeting (August 1963), he joined the PCC, and led a team of lobbyists from that group at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in July 1964.

Appointed an external representative of the PCC, he moved to Zambia in 1964 and has lived in Lusaka ever since. In 1971 when James Chikerema formed FROLIZI in an attempt to create one militant body to which external funds could be directed, George Nyandoro supported him and left the ZAPU camp. He signed the Lusaka Declaration in December 1974 as one of the FROLIZI representatives, and was appointed a member of the Central Committee of the ANC.

Addressing the United Nations Committee of 24 in Lisbon in June 1975 he said that African nationalists were preparing for an armed struggle in Rhodesia, while at the same time exploring the possibilities of peaceful change. He accused Ian Smith of playing for time and of not being ‘serious’.6

ln July 1975 he was a member of the ANC delegation to the OAU Summit Meeting in Kampala — at which President Idi Amin of Uganda was elected Chairman of the Organisation.

Nyandoro attended the Victoria Falls talks in August 1975 as a member of the ANC negotiating team. A few days later, on 1 September, he was appointed by Bishop Muzorewa as head of the Finance and Property Committee of the ZLC7 — one of the controversial appointments that made public the deep split in the ANC ranks. He left almost immediately with Bishop Muzorewa on a fund-raising trip to Holland and Germany.

Since late 1975 he has been continuously active in Tanzania and Mocambique in the promotion of a policy of confrontation with the Rhodesian Government. On 15 October 1976 he was appointed to the ANC (Muzorewa) delegation to the Geneva Conference. George Nyandoro is married, but his first wife lives in Salisbury (Harare) and he has scarcely seen her during the past 16 years. He lives with a second wife and family in the suburbs of Lusaka.

He is known as one of the most persistent of all the Rhodesian nationalists. The movement has determined the events of his life. He comes from a background which has made resistance to political domination by whites almost a family tradition.

He is small of stature, has a fiery temperament, mixed with a sense of humour, and exhibits a dynamic forcefulness of personality.

1 He considered that the native commissioners held a status inferior to his own.
2 Led by Hardwicke Holderness, a lawyer and subsequently a Member of Parliament in the Todd administration.
3 Dr Edson Sithole, Nathan Shamuyarira and others recalled the early activities of the Youth League in interviews or discussions with the authors.
4 Interview with Hardwicke Holderness, Salisbury (Harare), July 1975.
5 At that time the ANCongress had little life or meaning outside Bulawayo.
6 The Rhodesia Herald, 14 June 1975.
7 Zimbabwe Liberation Council. This replaced, and was supposed to unite, the three external military wings of the ANC: ZAPU, ZANU and FROLIZI.