1975 Secretary-General (Vice), ANC (Nkomo).
Ariston Chambati was born on 15 November 1935 in the African township at Sinoia (Chinhoyi). His parents gave him the name Ariston in tribute to a Greek shopkeeper who was a friend of the family and who died on the day the child was born. He was the third child in a family of two girls and three boys. His father was a shopkeeper and a man of independent spirit. His refusal to be subservient to anyone — white or black — was a strong factor in moulding the young Ariston’s character. His mother, an Anglican, was a strict disciplinarian who brought up her children with a deep respect for honesty and integrity.
From 1943 to 1946 Chambati attended the primary school in Sinoia (Chinhoyi). From there he went in 1947 to the Salvation Army’s Bradley Institute, near Bindura, as a boarder. He left there at the end of 1950 and studied for two years at the Howard Institute, Glendale. In 1953 he went to Tegwani Secondary School1 where he passed his General Certificate of Education ‘O’ level examinations in 1956.
The young Chambati found the teachers at Tegwani very broad-minded after the more conservative attitudes at Howard Institute. These teachers, although by no means militant, encouraged the pupils to take part in political debate. Chambati, whose high intelligence had enabled him to win scholarships throughout his school career, revelled in this new freedom.
On leaving school he obtained work with the American Baptist Mission, near Salisbury (Harare), as a teacher of Shona to missionaries—in-training. He remained with the Baptists until early 1961. During this period he studied successfully by correspondence for his ‘A’ levels of the General Certificate of Education.
In April 1961 he joined the United States Consulate where he became a programme officer in the Political Section.2 He remained with the Consulate until 1963, combining his official work with an increasing amount of free-lance journalism. He was then successful in obtaining a Parvin Fellowship3 and left for the United, States to study for a B.A. degree at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs4
Ariston Chambati remained at Woodrow Wilson School for three years, graduating B.A. in Political Science in 1967. He then went to New York University; in New York City where he studied for an M.A. Degree; in Political Science and wrote a thesis on ‘The Process of Transition from Colonial Rule to Independent Status in Tanzania’.5 In 1968 he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study International Relations at Lincoln College, Oxford. For his thesis for the degree of B.Lit. he chose the subject: ‘The Policies of Egypt and Israel in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1956-1970’ — an assignment which made it necessary for him to travel widely in the Middle East during 1970 and 1971. His thesis was presented in 1972.
In June 1971 he joined the Commonwealth Secretariat6 as a Research Officer in the International Affairs Division —— a post which soon put him back into touch with Rhodesian politics. As a young man Chambati had been a member of the ANYL (1957) and an executive member of Harare Branch of the re-formed ANCongress after the merger of September 1957. This work had brought him into contact with many leading nationalists (including Edson Sithole, Terry Maluleke and Willie Musarurwa) and it was a logical development which led to his becoming a founder member of the NDP in January 1960. He moved into ZAPU after the banning of the NDP in December 1961 remaining at all stages a supporter of Joshua Nkomo. His work with the American Consulate,however, did not allow him to participate actively and it was as a disillusioned spectator that he witnessed the growing violence between the factions leading to the split of July 1963.
As a member of the staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat Chambati was involved in the preparation of recommendations to the British Government on the composition of the Pearce Commission (November / December 1971). Not long afterwards Bishop Muzorewa visited the Secretariat and Chambati was called in to take minutes of the discussion. His subsequent talks with the Bishop persuaded him that the time had come to return to Rhodesia in order to make a contribution in the new political atmosphere.
He arrived in Salisbury (Harare) at the end of 1972 to take up a post as Research Fellow at the University of Rhodesia. Later he became a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, the post which he now holds. He worked closely with Bishop Muzorewa and was sent by him on several confidential missions, including one to the OAU. At the time of the Lusaka Declaration (December 1974) Chambati was in England but he returned to Africa shortly afterwards, determined to play an active role. He was greatly distressed to find signs of increasing disunity in the nationalist ranks and he joined an ad hoc committee of 10 which met in Salisbury (Harare) on several occasions in an effort to avert a split. When the split did occur in September 1975 he came to the conclusion that Joshua Nkomo, as a national leader above tribalism, had support throughout the country and that his group, being better organised than that of his opponents, could emerge as an effective organisation.
Ariston Chambati was closely involved in the administrative work leading to the congress at Gwanzura Stadium in September 1975 and soon afterwards became Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC (Nkomo). In this capacity he attended the discussions with the Prime Minister, Ian Smith, in October and November. In mid-November he was present at various meetings between Joshua Nkomo and the Presidents of Zambia and Tanzania. On 10 December his appointment as a member of the ANC’s delegation to a constitutional conference in Salisbury (Harare) was announced. On 31 January 1976 he left Salisbury (Harare) (with Clement Muchachi) on a mission to brief the Ghanaian and Nigerian Governments on the progress — being achieved at the conference. On 27 February he accompanied Joshua Nkomo to a discussion in Salisbury (Harare) with Lord Greenhill, the British envoy. The Sunday Mail of 30 May published a long article by Ariston Chambati setting out the details of the draft constitutional proposals which the ANC (Nkomo) had put forward to Prime Minister Smith as the basis of a settlement.
Ariston Chambati made history on 8 October by being the first African nationalist for more than a decade to appear on the national broadcasting network. He was one of a number of persons asked to give his views on the Kissinger package in a programme called ‘Rhodesia Today’. On 13 October it was announced that he would attend the Geneva Conference as a member of the delegation from the ANC (Nkomo).
Ariston Chambati married in 1957 when he was only 21. His wife, Diana Gunduza, and he have five children (two boys and three girls). The family lives at the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury (Harare). Chambati has taken part in many seminars and discussions, mainly on political and sociological matters. He has addressed meetings at Chatham House, London, St Anthony’s
College, Oxford and in South Africa. He has nearly completed a thesis for a Doctorate of Philosophy at Oxford University, his subject being ‘South Africa’s Outward Looking Policy from Dialogue to Detente’.
1. He was a fellow-student there of Edson Zvobgo.
A previous holder of this post had been Josiah Chinamano.
3 Established by the late President John F. Kennedy (together with Mr Parvin,a millionaire) to promote international understanding by giving scholarships annually to ten mature young men. Although normally awarded only to graduates, exceptions were made in the case of particularly promising young men.
4 Part of Princeton University.
5 From 1966 to 1971 he was also a part-time consultant to Union Carbide Corporation, in which capacity he was called on to prepare reports of economic and political nature on various African countries.
6 The Head of the Secretariat was Arnold Smith.