c_msipa1971 Founder Member, ANC.
1971-72 Secretary for Foreign Affairs, ANC.
1975 (Sept.) Secretary for Education, ANC (Nkomo).

Cephas Msipa was born at Shabani on 7 July 1931. He was one of 10 children of a peasant farmer who, in order to educate his large family, used to buy chickens in the TTLs and sell them in Shabani.

When Msipa was young, Benjamin Burombo (see biography) used to come and stay with his father and the child idolised this enormous man who was “prepared to work unceasingly for the good· of his people”.

Msipa was educated at Siboza School from 1941 to 1943. He then went to Dadaya Mission where he was taught for a time by the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. He left school in 1949 but returned to Dadaya in 1951 to train as a primary school teacher. During 1953-54 he studied privately for his Matriculation Exemption Certificate.

He taught at schools in Shabani and Que Que from 1953 to 1958. Between 1959 and 1964 he was Headmaster of schools in Harare, Highfield, Mufakose and Tendayi. During 1963 he attended the World Teachers’ Conference in Rio de Janeiro. In the same year he also attended a leadership seminar in Nairobi. He was President of the Rhodesia Teachers’ Association from 1961 to 1964.

During his time as a teacher he became increasingly interested in political affairs. From his earliest youth he had been what he himself describes as “a rebellious type” and when, in maturity, he saw many things which he felt should be put right he could not stand aloof. At first he was interested in the multi-racial Capricorn Africa Society and the CAP. Later he joined the Advisory Board in the Que Que Township and became its Chairman. He also acted as Midlands correspondent for the African Daily News, a job that brought him even closer to the problems of the people. He joined ZAPU in 1961.

In 1964 he was dismissed from the teaching profession by the Government. He was, however, retained by the Teachers’ Association which recognised his value by appointing him its paid secretary. He was arrested in November 1965 and served with a two-year detention order. Early in 1966 he decided to test the validity of the order by walking out of the restriction area. However, when he reached Salisbury (Harare) he was told that his legal chances were nil and that the only courses open to him were either to leave the country or go ‘underground’. He chose the latter course, feeling that to leave the country would make his fellow-inmates in restriction suspicious of his motives in walking out of the restriction area. He remained at large1 for 10 weeks but was then found and sent to indefinite detention in Gwelo (Gweru) Prison. He remained in detention until June 1970, having been lodged at various times also in Fort Victoria (Masvingo) and Gonakudzingwa. While in detention he studied for an external degree with the University of South Africa and graduated B. Admin.

During 1971 he obtained employment with a textile firm as a Public Relations Officer. In November 1971 Sir Alec Douglas-Home expressed a wish to meet some of the former detainees and Msipa was invited by Josiah Chinamano to accompany him as a representative of ZAPU2.

The meeting with Sir Alec was also attended by Dr Edson Sithole and Michael Mawema and a discussion document (prepared jointly beforehand) was presented to the British Foreign Secretary. This document formed the basis for a new African political group, the ANC – and contained a paragraph to the effect that, once the new constitutional proposals had been put to the people, the group would disband.

The four moving spirits behind the new group decided after a series of meetings at Josiah Chinamano’s house to ask Bishop Muzorewa to become the leader. According to Msipa, a major reason for the choice was the Bishop’s sudden prominence and popularity following his banning from the TTLs in September 1971.

Cephas Msipa was appointed to the ‘shadow’ post of Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the ANC, but his employment with the textile firm made it impossible for him to play an active part and he resigned from the ANC in 1972.

He maintains that “politics is not my line” and that his main interest is in administration – “the practical implementation of good ideas”. In his job he is responsible for the employment of girls as pattern demonstrators and this work takes him constantly into the TTLs. He believes deeply in the need to bring the TTLs into the cash economy and, therefore, finds his work particularly satisfying.

At the ANC congress on 27-28 September 1975 he was elected Secretary for Education. On 10 December 1975 it was announced that he had been appointed a member of the ANC delegation to the constitutional conference in Salisbury (Harare).

On 31 January 1976 he left Salisbury (Harare) (with Clement Muchachi) on a mission to brief the Governments of Ghana and Nigeria on the progress of the conference. It was announced on 13 October 1976 that he had been appointed as a member of the delegation from the ANC (Nkomo) to the Geneva Conference.

His wife, Charlotte, is a teacher of Domestic Science at Gwinyiro in Mufakose. They have five sons, three of whom are at school.

Cephas Msipa is close-bearded and moustached with a round, serious face which breaks readily into a smile when he talks. He is convinced that progress in Rhodesia should come about by negotiation, by “controlled and planned change, with the maximum benefit to all the people”.

He is an ardent reader, principally of biographies, politics and economics. His hobbies are gardening and raising poultry.

1 With Guy Clutton-Brock.
2 Chinamano did not actually attend this meeting, since he was scheduled to see the Foreign Secretary on a separate occasion with Joshua Nkomo.