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Ndabaningi Sithole (31 July 1920 – 12 December 2000) was an Ndebele, a Methodist minister, and a veteran of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. Founder of Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party in 1963, he spent 10 years in prison after ZANU was banned. A rift along tribal lines split ZANU in 1975, and he lost 1980 Zimbabwe elections to Robert Mugabe.
Sithole was born in Nyamandhlovu , Zimbabwe. He studied teaching in the USA from 1955 to 1958, and was ordained a Methodist minister in 1958. The publication of his book "African Nationalism" and its immediate prohibition by the minority government of Ian Smith, announced his entrance into politics.
In conjunction with Herbert Chitepo he founded of Zimbabwe African National Union party in 1963. In 1964 there was a party Congress at Gwelo, where Sithole was elected president and appointed Robert Mugabe to be his secretary general. ZANU was was banned in 1964 by Ian Smith's government. He spent 10 years in prison after being arrested, alongside Robert Mugabe, for his political activities. While in prison he specifically authorised Chitepo to continue the struggle from abroad as a representative of ZANU. Sithole was tried and convicted for plotting to assassinate Ian Smith. The two were released from prison in 1974.
On 18th March, 1975 Chitepo was assassinated in Lusaka, Zambia with a car bomb. Mugabe, in Mozambique at the time, unilaterally assumed control of ZANU. Later that year there was a factional split along tribal lines, and the Ndebele followed Sitole into the moderate Zanu (Ndonga) party, who renounced violent struggle, while the Shona followed Mugabe with a more militant agenda.
Sithole joined a transitional government of whites and blacks in 1979 called Zimbabwe Rhodesia and led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. Later in September 1979 he attended the Lancaster House Agreement chaired by Lord Carrington which paved the way for fresh elections, but his small breakaway opposition group failed to win any seats in independent elections that swept Mugabe to power in 1980.
Declaring that his life was in danger from political enemies, Sithole went into self-imposed exile in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1983, returning to Zimbabwe nine years later to re-enter the political arena.
He was elected a lawmaker for his tribal stronghold of Chipinge in southeastern Zimbabwe in 1995. In December of 1997 he was tried and convicted for conspiring to kill Mugabe and disqualified from attending the Harare parliament.
He was granted the right to appeal, but no appeal was filed and the case was set aside as his health deteriorated.
Sithole's small opposition group again won the Chipinge seat in June 2000.
The author of three books on African politics, he is survived by his wife, Vesta, and five adult children.
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