On April 24, 1979, the first free
elections open to both black and whites were held
in Rhodesia. The election resulted in the country
being renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia and its first
black government, headed by Bishop Abel T.
Muzorewa as Prime Minister.
Muzorewa's government was immediately
challenged by two other black nationalist
leaders, Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, neither
of whom had taken part in the election. The two
men had been leading separate guerrilla armies
for the past seven years in a war aimed at
ensuring black control of the government.
Claiming that Muzorewa was merely a pawn of the
whites, Nkomo and Mugabe united their forces
under the banner of Patriotic Force and vowed to
In September 1979, Muzorewa, Nkomo, and Mugabe
attended a British-led conference in London,
England, aimed at brining the civil war to an
end. By December they had reached agreement on a
cease-fire, a new constitution, and new
To facilitate the cease fire
and transition to complete independence, the
Muzorewa government voted itself outof existence
and the country returned, temporarily, to the
status of a British colony. The new elections
were expected to take place in the spring of
1980, at which time the country would become the
independent nation of Zimbabwe.
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