Leopold Takawira was born at Chilimanzi in the Victoria District in 1916. He was educated at primary
schools in Southern Rhodesia and at Marianhill in Natal. He qualified as a teacher and, after serving for
several years as an assistant teacher, was appointed Headmaster of Chipembere Government School in Highfield.
He gave up teaching in order to join Col. David Stirling’s Capricorn Africa Society, of which he became Executive Officer. In late 1959, hearing that a new nationalist party was being planned to replace the banned ANCongress, he approached the sponsors and expressed his keenness to join. He became a foundation member of the NDP and was elected Chairman of the important Harare Branch. He was shortly afterwards co-opted to the central executive of the party. On 19 July 19601 he was arrested on charges of belonging to an unlawful party (ANCongress) but acquitted.
At an executive meeting on 21 September 1960 he was elected Interim President in place of Michael Mawema2 At the party congress in November he stood for the post of President but was beaten by Joshua Nkomo. One of Nkomo’s first acts was to appoint him as his replacement as Director of International Relations (with headquarters in London).
In February 1961 Takawira sent a strongly-worded cable to Joshua Nkomo condemning the acceptance by the NDP delegation of the proposals for constitutional change3 This led to an emergency trip by Nkomo to London and to a reversal of the NDP’s stance. Leopold Takawira joined ZAPU on its foundation in December 1961 and was appointed Secretary for External Affairs. During the following year, however, he became progressively disenchanted with Nkomo’s leadership4 When matters came to a head in April 1963 he adhered to the breakaway movement of the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and was ‘suspended’ by Nkomo in July of that year. In August he joined the newly-formed ZANU and was appointed Vice-President. He was detained in late 1964 and confined at first to Sikombela. From there he was moved after UDI to Salisbury (Harare) Prison, where he remained until his death in 1970.5
Leopold Takawira is recalled by his colleagues as having a most amiable disposition. They say that he had the ‘common touch’ and always made himself accessible to all who wanted to consult him. During his lifetime he was regarded as the leader of the Karangas and it is significant that, since his death, no generally acceptable replacement has been found.
1 His arrest (with that of others) provoked the ‘march of the 7000’ on Salisbury (Harare).
2 Notwithstanding the proximity of the inaugural congress, a majority of the Executive felt that a change was necessary.
3 See Crisis in Rhodesia (Shamuyarira).
4 He was one of those who criticised Nkomo’s appearance in Dar-es-Salaam in September 1962 after the banning of ZAPU.
5 He suffered from diabetes (Official Health Record).