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Goffal or Goffels is a term applied to Coloureds, or persons of mixed race claiming both European and African descent, in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The community includes many diverse constituents of Shona, Northern Ndebele, British, Afrikaner, and occasionally Indian descent.

It is not clear when the term "Goffel" first entered common usage, but among Coloureds themselves it had surfaced by the mid- to late 1970s.[1] The nation with the largest Goffal population is Zimbabwe, where approximately 18,000 still reside.[2] Their precise numbers are difficult to ascertain, due to the fact that some identify exclusively as members of other ethnic groups.[3]



The earliest Coloured communities in central Africa were formed in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), mainly by those who had emigrated as servants of Afrikaners and other white South African settlers from the Cape of Good Hope. Coloured immigration from South Africa spiked throughout much of the early twentieth century, but by the 1930s most local Coloureds had been born in Southern Rhodesia as offspring of British administrators and colonists and local women. The Coloured populace increased to about 24,000 through intermarriage, and by 1969 about 91% were considered Rhodesian citizens, a smaller number being Zambians, Malawians, and South Africans.[3] During World War II, Coloureds served with distinction alongside Southern Rhodesian units during the East African Campaign.[4]

Southern Rhodesia, which had unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia in 1965, classified Coloureds as persons of mixed ancestry who did not follow a traditional African way of life and whose culture was European in origin and form. Coloureds who lived with black African families were notably excluded, as were those who physically passed for Europeans and Asians, respectively.[3] Coloured Rhodesians were heavily urbanised, and the colonial government permitted them to live in segregated neighbourhoods reserved for Europeans. In 1969 the largest proportion of working Coloureds—about 30%— were employed by the Rhodesian manufacturing sector, the remainder being tradesmen or engaged in service delivery.[3]

At the outbreak of the Rhodesian Bush War, conscription was enforced for all male Coloureds of military age, who were expected to contribute four to five months of service to the Rhodesian Security Forces. In 1966, the Ministry of Defence gave notice that it would henceforth extend conscription to all foreigners with residency status, making Coloureds of South African or other nationalities in Rhodesia also liable for military service.[4] Most Coloured recruits were assigned to the Reinforcement Holding Unit (RHU), which was primarily concerned with transport and logistics. They were also tasked with providing convoy security and guarding installations targeted for sabotage by insurgents. In 1978 the RHU was reorganised into the Rhodesian Defence Regiment. As the war intensified, Coloured personnel deployed to operational areas successfully petitioned to receive the same pay as white soldiers.[4]

When Rhodesia was reconstituted as the new Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980, accompanied by the electoral triumph of leading black nationalist Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union, Coloureds numbered about 20,000.[5] Mugabe won the country's first general elections held under a universal franchise, despite facing militant opposition from Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and a number of minority parties. All Coloureds registered in the Rhodesian electoral system prior to December 31, 1979 were permitted to vote, and those that did so overwhelmingly endorsed the Rhodesian Front.[6] As a conciliatory gesture Mugabe later nominated a leading member of the Coloured community, Joseph Culverwell, to the Zimbabwean senate.[6] Nevertheless, ZANU's ascension was greeted with caution. During the bush war, black nationalists frequently decried Coloureds as having benefited unjustly from the colonial racial hierarchy, and those who attempted to join ZANU and ZAPU's guerrilla armies were often detained or executed as spies.[7] Less educated, blue collar Coloured workers were also concerned they would face job displacement from an advancing black workforce once they lost the advantage of preferential employment by white supervisors. Others seemed convinced only blacks would benefit economically under Mugabe's rule, at the expense of themselves and other ethnic minorities.[7] For their part, community activists were disappointed they weren't invited to participate at the Lancaster House talks on behalf of their people, and felt this demonstrated both white and black Zimbabweans were uninterested in Coloureds' future political and social welfare. [7]

Since the 1980s, Coloured Zimbabweans have complained of being increasingly disenfranchised, and being projected as foreigners with limited rights. A Coloured lobby group, the National Association for the Advancement of Mixed Race Coloureds (NAAC), was formed in 2001 to protest what they perceived as severe discrimination against their community by the state.[8] The NAAC has issued a statement claiming that "Coloured people are visibly and verbally treated with disdain contemptuously dismissed with xenophobic comments" urging them to "go back to Britain". NAAC activists have also highlighted the removal of Coloureds from important positions in the public service, usually following complaints by ruling party officials, and the government's steadfast refusal to grant loans to Coloured entrepreneurs. At the height of President Mugabe's land reform programme, Zimbabwean Minister of Education, Sports, and Culture Aeneas Chigwedere demanded that Coloureds be excluded from the redistribution process on racial grounds, insisting that "if we give them land it will be giving it back to the white man".[8]


The main language is a mixture of mainly English with some Afrikaans, local Bantu and slang made up over the years to produce a unique accent which is easily identifiable.


There is no fixed genotype to classify the average Goffal. Over the years there has been the development of several types of Goffal. Categorically they would break down to various mixed races that would include Anglo/Shona, Anglo/Ndebele, Asian/Shona and many mixed race derivatives. Many are unable to trace their direct ancestry.

Goffal Slang[edit]

Goffal Dictionary


  1. ^ Chris Cocks. Fireforce: One Man's War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry (1 July 2001 ed.). Covos Day. pp. 31–141. ISBN 1-919874-32-1. 
  2. ^ "Zimbabwe Population Census 2012" (PDF). Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT). October 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 September 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Nelson, Harold. Area Handbook for Southern Rhodesia (1975 ed.). American University. pp. 80–89. ASIN B002V93K7S. 
  4. ^ a b c White, Luise (1999). "“Other People’s Sons:” Conscription, Citizenship, and Families 1970-80" (PDF). University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg: Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  5. ^ Nelson, Harold. Zimbabwe: A Country Study (1983 ed.). Claitors Publishing Division. pp. xxvii–102. ISBN 978-0160015984. 
  6. ^ a b Gregory, Martyn (1980). "From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: An analysis of the 1980 elections and an assessment of the prospects" (PDF). Braamfontein, Johannesburg: South African Institute for International Affairs. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Muzondidya, James. Walking a Tightrope: Towards a Social History of Coloured People of Zimbabwe (2004 ed.). Africa World Press. pp. 267–290. ISBN 978-0160015984. 
  8. ^ a b Brian Raftopoulos & Tyrone Savage. Zimbabwe: Injustice and Political Reconciliation (1 July 2001 ed.). Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. pp. 226–239. ISBN 0-9584794-4-5. 

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