Benjamin Burombo African Nationalist #Zimbabwe Liberation War Hero
President, British African
BENJAMIN BUROMBO (1909-1959)
One of the earliest and most respected of the African
nationalists in Rhodesia, Benjamin Burombo, was born
at Buhera of peasant farming stock. He worked for
many years in South Africa where he came under the
influence of Clement Kadali, the trade unionist.
He came to Bulawayo in the early years of World War
II and earned a living by selling biscuits in the railway
compound. He founded the British African National
Voice Association, a trade union organisation with
political overtones, and became its President. Although
he had never received any formal education he taught
himself the rudiments of law by his own reading.
In 1948 he was largely instrumental in organising a
country—wide strike that led to an urgent examination of
wages by the Native Labor Board. He bitterly opposed
the proposed Native Land Husbandry Bill, and when
the Bill became law in 1951 he successfully challenged a
number of cases where the Act had been wrongly
implemented by native commissioners. His successes in
this direction provided the inspiration for the next
generation of nationalist leaders to mount a full-scale
campaign against the Act in the late 1950s.
Benjamin Burombo was a huge man — 6 ft. 6 in.
(1,95 m) tall and weighing 250 lb (112,5 kg). He had a
great ability to sway his audiences by the power of his
oratory. He earned immense popularity by his
willingness to share fully in the lives and struggles of the
people he sought to help. A big drinker of African beer,
he died in the middle of his useful life at a relatively
early age. Africans in Bulawayo flocked to his funeral in
He was a man without illusions. On one occasion he
said: “Each time I want to fight for African rights I use
only one hand — because the other hand is busy trying
to keep away Africans who are fighting me.”
1 Many of the subjects interviewed in this book spoke with real affection and
admiration for Burombo. He seems to have been possessed of a quality of
leadership which inspired those he met to take a pride in themselves and to
try to make positive moves to improve their lot.