The President and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces laid the foundation stone to initiate the construction of the NDC on 16 July 2010.
The activation and operationalization of the NDC were authorized by the Honorable Minister of Defence in terms of the Defence Act Chapter 11:02, Part II, Section 5, Sub-section (a) on 23rd February 2011.

The establishment of the National Defence College  was a result of a  thorough soul searching exercise and environmental scanning process by senior ZDF Commanders.  It had become apparent that there was a need to establish a joint military and civilian institution of higher learning to provide a platform for study and research by senior officers on defence and security issues. Such training was meant to capacitate the officials to be able come up with appropriate response options to diverse national security threats. The Zimbabwe national security dilemma had been made complex by the volatile global political and economic environment, which exerted negative G- forces on national sovereignty. The first recorded initiative for the establishment of a National Defence College was pronounced by the Commander Defence Forces (CDF), General Constantine Guveya Chiwenga, on 18 November 2004 in his Annual Strategic Training Directive.

It was envisaged that the National Defence College would provide senior military officers, senior government officials/civilians and their counterparts from friendly countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with analytical and conceptual tools to formulate comprehensive national security policy. After a series of in-depth studies on the feasibility of establishing an indigenous national institution, the idea of a National Defence College was then crystallised. A group of senior officers was then assigned to undertake study tours of the Pakistan National Defence University, the National Defence University of China, the Kenya National Defence College and many others across the world, in order to draw lessons on their establishment and operational experiences. On 5 September 2008, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, authorised the establishment of the National Defence College following recommendations by the then Minister of Defence, Honourable    E D Mnangagwa. In terms of the Defence Act Chapter 11:02 Part 11, Section 5, sub-section (a) the Minister of Defence authorized the operationalization of the National Defence College establishment concept on 23 February 2011.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the National Defence College Complex at Thornpark Estate was presided over by His Excellency, President RG Mugabe on 16 July 2010, marking the beginning of massive construction activities. Initial preparations for the commencement of the study programme were done at the temporary site formerly occupied by SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre at KG VI Barracks. Posting of key staff members from the ZNA and AFZ followed as well as that of allied officers from China and Pakistan.

Construction of the National Defence College, which was expected to take three years, was completed in a record eighteen months leading to the hand-over of the institution to the Ministry of Defence and National Defence College on 14 September 2012. The hand-over of the completed complex was preceded by the conduct of thorough inspections by ZDF HQ Buildings and Estates Staff and personnel from the Ministry of Local Government National Housing Public Works.  The snags observed during the inspections were documented for rectification during the one year liability period which lasted until 31 August 2013.