Charlton Cezani Ngcebetsha

Charlton Cezani Ngcebetsha

1962 National Councillor, ZAPU.
1971 Founder Member, African National Council.
1972 Secretary-General, African National Council.

Charlton Ngcebetsha was born of Fingo parents at Butterworth, Transkei, on 28 February 1909. Both his parents were school teachers and members of the Methodist Church. He was the second of 10 children.

He was educated at Lovedale, near Alice, Cape Province of South Africa, obtaining first his Primary Teacher’s Certificate and later his Matriculation Exemption Certificate (by correspondence). While at Lovedale he became a member of the Presbyterian Church. The Church Mission at Ntabasinduna selected, him from among the trainees to move north to Rhodesia to take up a teaching post at its mission school there (since renamed David Livingstone Memorial Mission). He taught for nine years1 becoming a headmaster before leaving to take up employment with the Department of Native Affairs.

In 1951 he went into his own business — a grocery store in Mzilikazi Township, Bulawayo. He continued to run the business until his death, living in a small flat above the store.

He entered politics in the 1940s, becoming a member of the old African National Congress (under the Rev. T.D. Samkange and Enoch Dumbutshena). Subsequently his political involvement dwindled as he concentrated on building up his business, but when ZAPU was
formed he joined and became a National Councillor. After the 1963 ‘split’, he followed Joshua Nkomo into the PCC.

Ngcebetsha played a leading part in welding together the old ZAPU/ZANU factions to form the African National Council in 1971, becoming its first Secretary-General. He maintained that all the top appointments in the new organisation were made by Joshua Nkomo from Gonakudzingwa and that he and Josiah Chinamano carried out Nkomo’s instructions2
He was arrested in 1972 and released on 5 November 1975.

He was a journalist for many years, being responsible for the publication of The African Home News from 1953 to 1965. He also had a long career in football organisation, being involved in the formation of the SRAFA —— the forerunner of the RNFL. He started (in 1932) the present Matabele Highlanders, now a top football club in Bulawayo.

For many years he was a member and, on occasions, Chairman of the African Welfare Society in Bulawayo. He was also Chairman of the Township Advisory Board for 15 years3

He died suddenly in Bulawayo on 11 March 1977.

Both he and his wife were staunch members of the Presbyterian Church in which she played a very active part. They had 13 children — nine sons and four daughters. The eldest daughter died and her three children were being raised by Ngcebetsha and his wife. Through his many years of hard work Charlton Ngcebetsha was able to provide a good education for all his large family. Two of his daughters are qualified nurses and one is a teacher. The younger children,
including twin boys, are still at school in Bulawayo.

1 One of his pupils was W. Kona.
2. Ngcebetsha’s own account of what happened is as follows: “Mr Nkomo’s instructions were communicated to the leaders concerned through me, and as soon as I received the instructions in the form of letters I went immediately by train to Salisbury (Harare) to consult with Mr Chinamano. Mr Chinamano and I deliberately kept Dr Edson Sithole in the dark when the original ANC was being formed for fear that he and his former ZANU friends would most certainly have wrecked it had we revealed at that time that Mr Joshua Nkomo was actually the moving spirit behind the formation.” (See also entry on Dr Edson Sithole).
3. During the late 1950s he was the Board’s representative on the Bulawayo Eisteddfod Committee.