1962 – Active with UNIP in Lusaka, Zambia.
1963 – Student leader in ZANU.
1964 – Member of “Crocodile” military group.
1976 – With ZANU (PF) at Geneva.
1977 – Central Committee, ZANU (PF) as Special Assistant, Administration, to the President.
1980 – Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Zimbabwe
By the time he was 17, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa had already been expelled from two schools for political activity, and had helped start a branch of Zambia’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) in Lusaka. He spent a major part of his youth in the former Northern Rhodesia and received all of his education there.
He was born at Shabani in September 1942. His father was from the Mapanzure chieftainship. His earliest education was received at Mumbwa Boy’s School between 1951-54 in Zambia. Between 1958-60 he went to Kafue Secondary School, and then to Hodgson Technical College. Staff at both schools, in that pre-independence era, found his political activism intolerable and expelled him. This left him free to join UNIP as an organizer, and he became a secretary for the Youth League among the workers at the Bancroft (now named Chili la Bombwe) mine. He also helped build up UNIP’s first official branch in Lusaka, where he busied himself with preparations for the first Zambian elections of 1962.
In 1963 Emmerson went with a group of ZAPU members to Tanzania (then still Tanganyika) and on to Cairo for military training. When the rebellion against Joshua Nkomo’s leadership occurred in the same year, he and 12 others of his student group sided with the rebels. They were arrested by the Egyptians and held in a hotel in Cairo. Senior ZAPU men, Msika and Chikerema, were sent by Nkomo to reason with them, but of the 13 who had rebelled, only 2 returned to the ZAPU fold, and 11 refused to change their minds. Mnangagwa became the leader of the group who then joined ZANU.
They returned to Tanzania, and once again it was Emmerson Mnangagwa who led the first group of ZANU students to China to train for military roles. In September 1963 they were in Peking, but by 1964 he was back in Rhodesia to begin the organization of the “Crocodile” group. Many were arrested when the activities of the group became known, but Emmerson escaped and continued to operate within the country. He assisted in getting other people out for military training.
His group then organized sabotage action and succeeded in blowing up a locomotive in August 1964 near Fort Victoria (Masvingo). In January 1965 he was caught and charged with this exploit. Because of his youth, he escaped the death sentence, and served a 10 year sentence in Khami maximum prison, near Bulawayo. He was then detained near Salisbury (Harare) until the release of many political prisoners and detainees in November 1974 allowed him to travel back to Lusaka. His parents claimed him as their charge, and the ZANU political party assisted him to complete his education.
In 1976 Emmerson Mnangagwa qualified with an LL.B in Lusaka and, on becoming a barrister, acted as the contact man between those in prison in Zambia and the ZANU party. When they were all released to go to Geneva in 1976, and he was intending to go to Mozambique to continue the struggle there, his leader Comrade Mugabe decided that he could best serve the party by remaining in Zambia. He rejoined the army in 1977, and in that year was elected to the Central Committee. He became the Assistant to the President and went to Mozambique to carry out his duties there.
He recalls that he was one of the first commanders in the army, having been quartered with Comrade Josiah Tongogara1 when he finished his training. He came to know and work with him very closely in Zambia, and later in Mozambique.
Emmerson Mnangagwa is married and lives in Salisbury (Harare) with his family. He is a youthful looking energetic man who works closely with the Prime Minister in the office adjoining the Prime Minister’s Office.
1 The author first met him in Lusaka in 1975 when he was working as a lawyer in the office of senior nationalist Enoch Dumbutshena. He supplied the details of the life of his uncle, the late Comrade Josiah Tongogara, formerly Supreme Commander of the ZANLA Forces.