Rhodesian Swimming Provinces, Towns and Schools

Rhodesia was an important province in the history of aquatic sports in southern Africa. From 1953 - 1963 it included Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Malawi as part of its territory, then known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Swimmers from all of those places competed in the annual South African national aquatic championships. There were numerous swimming pools as well as other locations where history was made.

Rhodesian and Zimbabwean schools can be either state or private, and many private schools are also religious schools. By 2019 there are over 1000 private schools in the country - operated by religious groups, private companies, farms, mines and other groups. Some are expensive, elite schools, with world class facilities, often located in remote areas. 

The history of schools and their swimming pools is a key element to the history of aquatic sports. These are grassroots sports, where elite competitors have to start training at a young age - in primary school.

See the map for the location of the swimming pools and other locations. Most of the minerals are found along the Great Dyke, on the central plateau, which is also where most of the towns are located. The road from Cape Town to Cairo ran via Kimberley in the northern Cape, to Bulawayo, north west to Victoria Falls and Lusaka in Zambia. Beyond that lay the copper mining towns of Norethern Rhodesia - Ndola, Kitwe, Luanshaya and Chingola, which all had swimming clubs.

Rhodesian provinces, towns and their schools


Towns include the capital Salisbury, Sinoia, Gatooma, Marandellas and the Kariba Dam. 

Swimming, diving, water polo and to some extent, synchronised swimming, were all poplar sports in Rhodesian schools. Since 1937 boys competed for the Crusaders Shield inter-schools water polo trophy, while the girls compete for the Players Trophy.

Rhodesian aquatic Olympians

Rhodesia sent two boxers to the Olympic Games in 1928 and athletes in 1960 and 1964. During the interim years many Rhodesians represented South Africa.

In 1960 Natalie Steward of South Africa and later Rhodesia, swam for Great Britian and won a silver medal in the 100m backstroke.

The 1964 team included three were divers and two swimmers, of which four were women and one man.

In 1964 Northern Rhodesia sent it's own team. The country changed name to Zambia during the Games. 

After declaring its independence form Great Britian in 1965, Rhodesia was banned from the Olympics, until it again sent at team - as Zimbabwe - in 1980. Kirsty Coventry was to become Zimbabwe's most famous swimmer - winning two Olympic gold medals.

"Most of my life in one way or another I have been involved in swimming whether I have been taught or I have been teaching and coaching swimming. I have taught many thousands of people to swim. The estimated number is around 85, 000 and I would love to hit the 100, 000 Mark but I am running out of time. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents and what they did for me and for many others. My late father got started in swimming when he became vice-chairman of our swimming club in Luanshya, Northern RHODESIA (ZAMBIA). The club was the Roan Antelope Amateur Swimming Club. I remember him saying to my Mom that the club needed to strengthen their financial base. My Mom got involved with swimming and fundraising. Either way, she organised cake sales and many other fundraising ideas. She eventually ran a national lottery to raise money for the improvement of not only oh club but for all those selected for our country that swam in the Rhodesian Swimming Championships and for those who were good enough to represent Rhodesia at the Currie Cup. Her aim was to be able to see the best in our swimmers without them having to quit because their parents could not afford the galas. She also got involved with the training of officials and she did an excellent job. My father moved to being Treasurer for Northern Areas and then eventually to being the Treasurer of the National swimming boards. I thank them for all they did for swimming and the Boy Scouts. Yes, the spent a lot of time on the sport and they got their recognition but they did it out of their own free will. This as possibly the reason why NR had good swimming teams. Of course they were helped by other people who made it all possible. Thanks, Mom and Dad."

Myself and Neville Davies renewing their friendship. Neville was at Milton and I was at TTC Bulawayo. Neville still plays water polo at the age of 72 in the SA Mssterd Water polo tournament currently being played at the Joan Harrison Swimming Complex. I have been in Masters Swimming for the last thirty-five years. So great to meet again.