1973-75 Deputy Secretary—General, ANC .
1975 (May) External Representative, ANC (Lusaka).
1975 (Sept.) External Representative, ANC (Nkomo) (Lusaka).

John Nkomo (no relation of Joshua Nkomo) was born on 22 August 1934 at Tjlotjo in the Nyamandhlovu area of Matabeleland. His father, who was a Seventh Day Adventist, had worked for some years at St John’s School in Johannesburg. John was the third child in a family of eight (which included twins).

During 1943 and 1944 he was educated at the Methodist School at Mange. He then went to the Seventh Day Adventist school at Mazibisa where he passed Standard I I. This was followed by a year at St Ninian’s, an Anglican School. For Standards IV, V and VI he went as a boarder to Solusi Mission School near Bulawayo.

In 1953 he left Solusi School and went to work as a stores assistant in a clothing factory in Bulawayo. During the next two years he studied privately for his junior Certificate, which he obtained in 1955. He also managed to accumulate enough money to enable him to return to school to train as a teacher. After qualifying in 1958 he returned to his home area, 30 miles
(50 km) from Bulawayo, to teach at a mission school.

John Nkomo gained an early interest in social conditions through witnessing his father’s inability to educate his large family. During 1958 he joined the newly-constituted ANCongress, an act which brought him into conflict with the missionaries. He therefore left the mission school but – because of the general shortage of teachers – was able to get a post at Nkulumane Government School.

Nkomo taught for several years but found that his involvement with children made him increasingly conscious of the tragedy of so many youngsters having to leave school through lack of funds. He joined the African Teachers’ Association and became an office-bearer. This led to an interest in civic affairs and he was Secretary of the local Residents’ Association from 1961 to 1964. In 1964 he formed what was later to become the Bulawayo African United Residents’ Association and became its first secretary. He held this post until 1973, playing an important part in co-ordinating the work of all civic associations in the area. The emphasis was on direct African representation on the Bulawayo City Council. After the ANCongress was banned in February 1959 he joined in succession the NDP, ZAPU and the PCC, being particularly active in the youth wing. In 1965 he became involved in a dispute with the Native Commissioner in his home area and was sent to Khami Prison for 14 days. The following year he was again arrested and, after being held for 30 days in various prisons, was sent to Gonakudzingwa where he remained for 2½ years. He used this period of forced restraint to pass six General Certificate of Education ‘O’ level and two ‘A’ level examinations.

On his release in 1968 he found work as a ledger clerk in a packaging company in Bulawayo – a job he held until May 1975 – but the years in restriction had sharpened his political thinking and he was no longer interested in building a career for himself in industry or in teaching. He did a great deal of political reading and gave up most of his spare time to political work. He joined the ANC on its inception in December 1971 and was appointed secretary of the Education Committee. In 1973 he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the organisation.

He took part in the talks in Lusaka in December 1974 and was actively involved in many of the negotiations during the early months of 1975. In May 1975 he was asked to go to Lusaka to represent the ANC external wing. This led to a great deal of travelling in Europe and Africa during the ensuing months1 He was present at the Victoria Falls talks in August 1975 as a Political Secretary. Thereafter he returned to Lusaka. On 27 September, however, he attended the ANC congress held at the Gwanzura Stadium, Highfield, and was reappointed to the post of External Representative. On 13 October 1976 he was named as Secretary to the ANC (Nkomo) delegation to the Geneva Conference.

John Nkomo was seriously injured by the same parcel bomb which killed Jason Moyo in Lusaka on 22 January 1977.2

John Canda Nkomo is married and has several children, including twin sons.

1 He attended the OAU summit conference in Kampala in July 1975 as leader of the ANC delegation.
2 Sunday Mail, 23 January 1977.