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Mzingeli, Charles (1905–1980)

Timothy Scarnecchia

Subject History » Political History
Social History » Labor History

Place Southern Africa » South Africa

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics bibliography, civil disobedience, labor unions, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01066.x


Charles Mzingeli was a leading labor activist and organizer in present-day Zimbabwe. Born in 1905, Mzingeli spent his childhood living on a Catholic Mission near Plumtree, Southern Rhodesia. His father had been a military leader under the famous Ndebele leader, Lobengula, whose men fought the Europeans after finding out they had deceived him in the treaties they had him sign. After the defeat of the Ndebele by the British South Africa Company forces, Mzingeli's father moved onto mission land and raised his children as Catholics. Mzingeli started primary school late, and spent one year studying in South Africa before returning home because of poor health. He ran away from his parents' home at the age of 14 and went to work on the railroads as a young apprentice. He would later move to Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia's second largest city, where he came under the political influence of Clement Kadalie's Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU). Mzingeli was trained as an ICU organizer, and in 1929 he was sent to Harare Township, Salisbury, as the ICU's organizing secretary. Mzingeli had some initial success with the ICU in the early 1930s, but the depression and police surveillance and harassment made organizing difficult. In addition, the great cultural and economic differences in the township, between long-term residents with families and the majority of relatively short-term ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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