Clement Muchachi

1961-64 National Organising Secretary, ZAPU and PCC.
1963-71 Director of Youth and Culture, PCC.
1975 (Sept.) Secretary for External Affairs, ANC (Nkomo).
1976 Delegate to Geneva Conference
1980 PF M.P. for Midlands
1980 Minister of Public Works, Zimbabwe Government

Clement Muchachi was born at Selukwe (Shurugwi) on 19 August 1925. He was the eighth child in a family of nine — and the only one surviving. His mother was a devout Anglican churchgoer: his father was a dip-tank supervisor who was active in local affairs and a respected Karanga elder.

In the 1930s there was little enthusiasm on the part of the people in his area for sending their children to school (they preferred them to herd cattle) and Muchachi had a late and often interrupted education. He began in 1936 at the Tumba Primary School where he remained (with the exception of a year’s break in 1937) until he completed Standard III in 1941. Lack of money then forced him to go to work until 1943 when he found a place at Gloag Ranch Mission1 where he stayed until Standard VI.2

Clement Muchachi then moved to Goromonzi Secondary School where he particularly recalls his science and maths teacher, G. M. Miller, “a wonderful Christian gentleman”. He was, says Muchachi, “a man of charismatic character who influenced both his staff and his pupils with his fine example”. Another teacher who left a favourable impression was A. P. Knottenbelt, who he regards with affection and real respect. A third was a teacher of physiology and hygiene, G. D. Mhlangu.3 “I would be a mean and immoral nationalist,” says Muchachi, “if I said a bad thing about these men.” At A Goromonzi he revealed qualities of leadership and became a prefect as well as chairman of the Debating Society.

From 1951 to 1955 Muchachi worked for the Native Education Department as a clerk. He then moved into commerce, working for an Indian wholesaler in Bulawayo as a despatch clerk. He first took an active interest in politics when, in 1952, he became Branch Secretary of the Bulawayo Branch of the old ANCongress (under the chairmanship of Aaron Jacha). These were exciting days, with many anti-Federation meetings in the Stanley Hall and elsewhere.

In 1955, however, the Government clamped down on teachers who took part in politics and the Minister, Sir Patrick Fletcher, sent out a circular in which he referred to ‘dogs that bit the hand that fed them’. Muchachi remained inactive for some time, but at last decided to give up teaching. He obtained a post as Organising Secretary of the Bulawayo African Municipal Workers’ Union in 1960 and was thus free “to enter the fray”.

When the NDP was formed in January 1960 Muchachi was elected to the interim committee for the Bulawayo African Townships4 He was responsible (together with Edward Ndhlovu, B. Mandlela, P.Ndebele, P. Dabengwa and Bernard Mutama) for building up the party’s organisation and creating new branches in the townships. With the formation of ZAPU in December 1961 Muchachi became National Organising Secretary. With the banning of the party in September 1962 he was restricted for a time to within 15 miles (24 km) of his home in Selukwe (Shurugwi) and required to report to the police each week.

In April 1963 he travelled to Dar-es-Salaam for discussions on the possibility of setting up a ‘party-in-exile’. These discussions led directly to the challenge to Joshua Nkomo’s leadership, to the suspension of several dissidents, and to the Cold Comfort Farm meeting of 10 August 1963. Muchachi remained loyal to Nkomo and followed him into the PCC.

During his term of office as Organising Secretary for ZAPU Muchachi gained much insight into the feelings of the ordinary people. Working from Vanguard House in Salisbury (Harare) he travelled through the provinces, helping in the formation of new branches and dealing with the problems of those already in existence. He describes African political organisation as being of necessity different from that of Europeans. Because, in most cases, there is no constituency organisation, there is no need for the processes of selection and the grooming of candidates for parliamentary election. The object of the party leaders is to rally as much support as possible, and to educate the people about their political rights. Office-bearers are the link between the ordinary members and the top-level committees. Thus the restriction order served on Muchachi in 1962 stifled “the most effective way of holding the organisation together”.

Muchachi was served with a second restriction order in March 1964 and sent to Wha Wha for three months. He was re-arrested in August and set to Gonakudzingwa for 12 months. He was at liberty from August to November 1965 when he was again arrested (just before UDI) and detained at Khami Prison. Because of high blood pressure he was not sent to Gonakudzingwa with the other ZAPU leaders, but spent the next eight years at Wha Wha and Gwelo (Gweru) Prison. He did, however, spend some time at Gonakudzingwa in 1973-74, but his stay there was interrupted by the Portuguese coup of 25 April 1974 — an event which resulted in his being moved to Salisbury (Harare) Prison for greater security.

He was released in November 1974 and flown to Lusaka for the ‘unity’ talks leading to the Lusaka Declaration. After the split in September 1975 he again remained loyal to Joshua Nkomo and attended the special congress held at Gwanzura Stadium on 27 and 28 September. He was elected Secretary for External Affairs.

On 15 November he left Salisbury (Harare) by air for Lusaka (via Blantyre) in order to meet Nkomo. His non-appearance at Lusaka caused some fears that the recent episode involving Dr Edson Sithole5 was to be repeated, but it emerged several days later that Muchachi had, in fact, boarded the wrong flight at Blantyre.

He was appointed a member of the ANC delegation to the constitutional conference which convened in Salisbury (Harare) on 15 December.

On 31 January 1976 he left (with Ariston Chambati) on a mission to brief the Governments of Nigeria and Ghana on the progress being made in the talks with the Rhodesian Government. During the period from May to September he was constantly in attendance on Nkomo during the latter’s various journeys abroad.

On 13 October he was appointed as a delegate to the Geneva Conference.

After the failure of Geneva, Clement Muchachi remained in Salisbury (Harare) (Harare) as Secretary for External Affairs for ZAPU.  He was given the additional responsibility of Secretary for National Organization. 

On the 12th September 1978, the day that senior members of the party slipped out of the country after Smith’s “liquidation” threat (following the first Viscount downing) Clement Muchachi was detained together with most other senior ZAPU men still in the country.  They were kept at Chikurubi Prison and Wha Wha.

Muchachi was one of the last to be released; too late to attend the Lancaster House Conference. 

In December 1979, he returned to Bulawayo and campaigned for his parliamentary seat in the Midlands.  He was successful and was appointed Minister of Public Works in the Zimbabwe Government of 1980.  

Clement Muchachi became manager of the Happy Valley Hotel in Bulawayo after his release from detention in November 1974. His private life suffered as a result of his many years in prison and he is divorced from his wife. He has two children, one of whom is a teacher. 

1 A Presbyterian school built on a farm bequeathed by a Scot.
2 One of his teachers was Wellington Chirwa, the Nyasaland (now Malawi) politician
3 Now over 70, but still teaching at an F.2. School in Sabi Valley.
4 He became chairman at the inaugural congress.
5 See entry on Edson Sithole.