Accepted paper:

A Solidarity Network Reconsidered: The Malawi Congress Party and the Rupture of African Nationalist Unity in Southern Rhodesia, 1961 - 64


Brooks Marmon (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the complicated legacy of the Malawi Congress Party's interventions in Southern Rhodesian nationalism. It suggests that the Party's fraught relationship with Rhodesian nationalists was shaped by its trailblazing role in anti - colonial activity in the Central African Federation.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing predominantly on published primary sources and archival material, this paper examines the Malawi Congress Party's support for two breakaway liberation movements in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) in the early 1960s and reconsiders how this assistance redefined existing transnational nationalist networks that had hitherto coalesced in solidarity. The paper considers the seminal role played by H. Kamuzu Banda and his Malawi Congress Party in the emergence of the Zimbabwe National Party (1961) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (1963), both of which were initially backed by the MCP. As Banda's authority and power in Malawi increased, he became increasingly overt in his criticism of Joshua Nkomo's leadership of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe. Banda's support for alternatives to Nkomo incrementally assisted the efforts of Zimbabwe's breakaway nationalist parties to gain a substantive following, both locally and internationally. The paper argues that the successful efforts of Zimbabwe's emerging nationalist parties to obtain backing from Banda both foreshadowed and helped consolidate a culture of political intolerance in both nations, and in Southern Rhodesia strengthened a tendency to rely on pan-African political expression and devote greater attention to external operations. The research also adds new perspectives to early expressions of xenophobia in Africa and ongoing debates about Banda's megalomaniacal tendencies. Finally, for white Rhodesia's political structures, these events provided critical lessons in the 'divide and conquer' tactics that would reach an apogee with the Zimbabwe - Rhodesia internal settlement.

panel His17
Connected decolonisations: networked approaches to anticolonial struggles in Africa, 1950s-80s