1965 Political activity through Students Representative Council, University of Rhodesia
1970/1 Secretary, ZANU Students Union, (University of Sussex)
1976 Delegate to Geneva Conference – ZANU
1977 Secretary for Education and Culture, ZANU (Mozambique)
1979 Delegate to Lancaster House (ZANU) PF.
1980 Minister of Education and Culture, Zimbabwe.
At 34, Dzingai Mutumbuka is one of the youngest members of the cabinet of the first Independent Zimbabwe Government.
He was born at Selukwe (Shurugwi) on 16 October 1945. His parents were peasant farmers and his mother, a Roman Catholic, brought him up in her faith. She was a very strict disciplinarian. “She wanted me to grow up honest and hardworking. My sister and I, joking about her strictness, called her a Boer1.” he says. Dzingai received his early schooling at Maponda School at Chilimanzi and then at St. Joseph’s Mission School in the same Victoria area. His mother had taught him to read at home, so he was able to jump two classes and was an unusually young candidate for his O and A level examinations.
In 1965 he enrolled at the University of Rhodesia for a science degree, after doing particularly well in science at Gokomere High School. His Catholic teacher, Father Furer set him high standards of work while at school, he says, and encouraged and motivated him towards further study.
He remembers how, during his first year at University, Ian Smith made his Unilateral Declaration of Independence. “On that day, I was writing a first-year Geology paper. I was baffled and upset, and nearly stopped writing my examinations. But I expected the British to take some sort of action. I was filled with a spirit of hopelessness when they failed to do so”. By then he had begun to participate in student politics. His father had been a political activist while Dzingai, his only son, was at school, and this first stirred his interest . Unknown to his father he joined a youth wing of ZANU that operated clandestinely when he went to the University of Rhodesia. But he concentrated his efforts on graduating in 1967 with a B.Sc. Honours degree in Chemistry and Geology, and he then went to work for the Anglo-American Corporation. The job only lasted two weeks. “They found out they could not employ an African in my grade. In those days, the only job for trained people like myself was in teaching”. He was disappointed at his unsuccessful attempts to get government scholarships and he went to Chikwingwiza Minor Seminary where he taught mathematics and physics for 8 months while he considered his future.
He was frustrated at finding little opportunity to use his talents, when others with not such good grades as his own from University were being taken into industry and he saw through the shallowness of Smith’s promises of “Advancement on merit”. Dzingai applied for, and won two scholarships, and decided to leave the country. He chose to go to the University of Sussex rather than to Germany, not for any love of that country, but because of the language problem. In September 1968, he entered the University of Sussex, and by the end of 1969 he had obtained his Masters degree in Science. By 1973 he had completed his Doctorate in Chemistry and, in the meanwhile, had gone to lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, in Organi-metallic Chemistry.
After completing his studies, Dzingai Mutumbuka went to lecture, again in chemistry and in physical and analytical chemistry, at the University of Zambia until 1975. But after ZANU was banned in Zambia, he decided to move on.
He made his way to London where he worked in the ZANU office until the Geneva Conference was convened in October 1976. ZANU was mobilizing for a protracted war and he returned to Africa to take an active part in the organization of the party in Mozambique. By 1977 he was working as Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity.
His knowledge of education and his talent for organization came to the fore and he was elected to ZANU’s Central Committee as Secretary for Education and Culture. While in Mozambique, Dzingai Mutumbuka found himself faced with the task of organizing an education system for 25 000 children in 9 schools with over 1000 teachers. A teacher training-college was started and its work is still going on after the Liberation armies have come home and the people of Zimbabwe have won their independence.
Another of his responsibilities was to send people abroad for training programmes. Manpower development featured high on ZANU’s planning for the future and Dzingai did a great deal of work for the party in linking it with the activities of international organizations. He traveled widely , keeping in touch with students all over the world.
Of special satisfaction was his participation, with Ariston Chambati, as a representative from the PF with the real knowledge of the national needs in an advisory committee of experts in the production of an “Economic and Social Survey of Zimbabwe”. Chaired by Dr. Bernhard Chidzero. This committee worked with UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, and UNHCR.
It was part of his task to link the work of his department with the knowledge and expertise to be found in the international world. Although the document had not been publicly released at the time he took over as Education Minister, he spoke with confidence and praise of the work done by these experts, while in exile and fighting the war, to help plan the economic future of the newest African state.
In spite of having suffered a serious motor accident, shortly after taking office, Dzingai Mutumbuka lost no time getting back to his desk. Still stitched and bruised, and taking medication, he was carrying out a full-time job, as demanding as any can be. It is no wonder he admits to being to busy to settle down and remains a bachelor. He is good humored and considerate, and has immense vitality for his task. He sees his challenge to produce the best possible education for all Zimbabweans, and his hope is that a common culture will arise in his country where “We are all Zimbabweans”.