1948 Vice-President, African National Congress.
1960-61 NDP Executive Member.
1962-72 ZAPU Executive Member (London Representative).
1972-74 FROLIZI Official.
1975 (Sept.) ANC (Muzorewa) in Lusaka.
Enoch Dumbutshena was born on 25 April 1920 at Marshall Hartley Mission near Makwiro. His father, Job Dumbutshena, was a member of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union1 during the 1930s. His mother, who was prominent in the Methodist Church, was divorced when Enoch was very young and it was his only sister, Anne, who gave up her own chances of education so that funds could be available to send her brother to school.
Enoch Dumbutshena received his early schooling at Marshall Hartley Primary School and at Waddilove Institution. He went on to Adams College in Natal, South Africa, where he gained a certificate as an elementary teacher in 1946.
He had hoped to study at the University of Cape Town in South Africa but failed to get a teaching grant. Returning to Rhodesia, he taught at St Augustine’s, Penhalonga, at Old Umtali (Mutare) Mission and at Mzilikazi School in Bulawayo. During this period he studied for an external degree with the University of South Africa, graduating B.A. (History and Politics) in 1950. He then enrolled at Fort Hare University College in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. There he obtained a Diploma in Education in 1951. From there he moved to Khiso High School at Pietersburg in the Northern Transvaal where he combined teaching with private study for a Bachelor of Education degree with the University of South Africa.
He first took an interest in politics while teaching in Bulawayo in the late 1940s. He was one of the first to join the old African National Congress2 in 1947 and was soon appointed Vice-President. He was actively involved in the General Strike of 1948. In the following year the African National Congress decided to support the Subversive Activities Bill and Dumbutshena, who had not been present during the discussion and who did not believe that international communism presented (at that time) a threat to Africans, resigned his position. He moved to South Africa but remained a member of the African National Congress.
Shortly before his departure he had been persuaded by Stanlake Samkange to join the All—African Convention3 but this body was soon overtaken by the establishment of the Central African Federation. Dumbutshena returned to Rhodesia in 1955 to teach at Munene Secondary School, Belingwe, and then moved to Salisbury (Harare) in 1956.
Annoyed by what he considered to be the meagre wages paid to Africans at the time, he joined Herbert Chitepo and Nathan Shamuyarira who were pressing for equal pay for African nurses. When this campaign succeeded he proceeded to urge the Southern Rhodesian Government to give equal pay to African teachers. Pay conditions were improved but Dumbutshena left teaching, never to return. When the African National Youth League (ANYL) was formed in 1955, Dumbutshena was approached by George Nyandoro and James Chikerema who were looking for university—trained men to lead it. He refused, believing himself to be too impatient by nature for the life of a political leader. He willingly joined the League, however, and worked hard at the organisation of cultural and social activities, lectures and debates in Harare Township.
For his livelihood he had been selling insurance and had moved into journalism. He worked as a free-lance writer for Drum and for the Central African Examiner from 1957 to 1959 and wrote under the pseudonym of Rimbo.
In 1959 when the African National Congress (the combined old AN Congress and the Youth League) was banned, he joined with Herbert Chitepo, Stanlake Samkange and Dr Parirenyatwa and Dr Pswarayi (the only two African doctors in the country) in warning that the policy of proscription of political organisations was short-sighted.
In the same year Enoch Dumbutshena received a specialist grant from the United States Government to study journalism in America. He spent five months with the Camden City Globe and the Mason City Gazette and in traveling around the country. In December 1959, having returned to Rhodesia, he tried to get permission to travel to West Africa. He got as far as London where the Federal authorities refused to issue him with the necessary travel documents.
Having been advised by a journalist friend not to return to Salisbury (Harare) and risk detention, he decided to study law. He applied unsuccessfully to the Middle Temple (Rhodesia House having refused him a recommendation) but eventually, through the good offices of Garfield Todd and Dingle Foot and with a strong recommendation from Mr Justice Murray (of the Federal High Court) he was admitted to Gray’s Inn.
During the course of his studies he again became involved in politics. Joshua Nkomo was living in London and Dumbutshena joined the NDP in June 1960.4 He wrote a fortnightly newsletter for the party and circulated it to foreign embassies and university libraries. Originally called RADA (until it was banned in Rhodesia), it was later renamed The Spear. Dumbutshena claims that it gained serious attention as a political journal after it reported on the 1960 riots in Rhodesia.
In April 1960 Dumbutshena — with Michael Mawema, Dr Bernard Chidzero, Paul Mushonga and Moton Malianga — formed a delegation to deliver to the Commonwealth Relations Secretary (Lord Home) a lengthy memorandum stressing the NDP’s disapproval of any suggestion that Britain might do away with the ‘reserved clauses’ of the Southern Rhodesian Constitution.5
When ZAPU was banned in September 1962 it was the influence of Enoch Dumbutshena (from London) and Ndabaningi Sithole which persuaded Joshua Nkomo not to go into exile but to return from Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to Rhodesia and three months restriction6
In 1962 Dumbutshena became London representative of ZAPU. In this capacity he visited New York in October and (with Joshua Nkomo and Nathan Shamuyarira) appealed to the United Nations for support for the nationalist cause.
After completing his studies and taking his bar examinations he returned to Rhodesia and started in practice as an advocate (the third black man, after Herbert Chitepo and Edson Sithole, to do so in Rhodesia). He says that business was slow and that, although he had no racial problems with his colleagues, he came up against discriminatory treatment at the hands of certain minor solicitors with whom he was obliged to work. At the time of the 1963 ‘split’ in the nationalist organisations he tried to resolve the leadership crisis by joining with Matthew Wakatama, Garfield Todd and others to urge a ‘neutral indaba’ between the supporters of Nkomo and Sithole. This was unsuccessful.7 When the nationalist parties were banned and their leaders restricted he turned his attention to working on committees set up to help their families.
In March 1967 Dumbutshena was offered a legal appointment by the Zambian Government but was unable to obtain a passport from the Rhodesian authorities. He decided, therefore, to leave the country illegally and walked through the bush into Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland).8 From there he made his way to Lusaka in Zambia where he took up the proferred appointment. Later, however, he started what was to become a very successful private practice. He found himself involved again in Rhodesian politics when expatriate members of ZANU and ZAPU (PCC) decided that a united effort should be mounted by the insurgency groups of both parties. Dumbutshena became an official of FROLIZI which, in his later view, merely introduced a third grouping to add to the other two.
When the three organisations were formally disbanded on 7 December 1974 and joined under the umbrella of the African National Council by the Declaration of Unity in Lusaka, Dumbutshena reverted to being an ordinary member of the ANC.
He attended the Victoria Falls Conference between ANC leaders and the Rhodesian Government in August 1975 as a legal adviser to the ANC.
After the September re—opening of the old ‘split’ between Nkomo and Sithole, Dumbutshena’s work kept him in Lusaka and in association with most of the leaders of the Muzorewa group who had sided with Sithole.
Enoch Dumbutshena is a tall, slow-moving man. His habit (a characteristic, perhaps, of lawyers) of carefully weighing each word before delivery conveys the impression of a person who thinks deeply on many subjects. He works hard at his offices in Cairo Road and commutes to his pleasant suburban home on the outskirts of Lusaka. He and his wife, a nursing sister, have three children.
The following review of Enoch Dumbutshena’s post-independence career was written by Diana Mitchell and appears in her 2021 memoirs
ENOCH DUMBUTSHENA, THE SUPREME DEMOCRAT
It is almost impossible to explain in my case, how or even why bonds of mutual esteem were forged with my fellow Zimbabweans, black people whose lives and experiences were so utterly different from my own. Certainly this was the case with Enoch. I must add, however, that towards the end of his life at his younger daughter’s wedding reception, he told guests, almost apologetically, that his new, white American son-in-law knew a great deal more than he did about African traditional life and culture.
Over a period of twenty seven years Enoch was for me a constant and recurring influence. I had met him first in Zambia through his friends Mike and Eileen Haddon, while his vivacious second wife, Miriam, fearless and outspoken, was still alive. She died tragically young of cancer and Norah became his partner and caring companion. Our friendship lasted to his end; he breathed his last only a matter of hours after I had stood beside him, offering words of comfort as he lay dying in St Anne’s hospital in Harare. Enoch was buried at Westwood Cemetery in 2000.
Enoch’s immense dignity left me in awe of him while at the same time he seemed to be more of an older brother. In his last years he made no secret of his dependence for political and secretarial support upon me, together with my political protégé, Trudy Stevenson. This was especially so during his last hopeless attempt to re-enter politics as the leader of the Forum Party. Whilst he was still in office as Chief Justice I had given up the effort to help him finish a book, titled The Mad Guerrilla that he was trying to write. There was simply no time to spare for it. The story was his fictionalized account of his life as a young journalist working among nationalists in Rhodesia’s townships.
After he reluctantly retired – the regime found him inconveniently too politically independent – Enoch took on arbitration commissions and circuit judging within Africa and beyond. He was much in demand, internationally, in meetings where conflict resolution was discussed. It was not surprising that as Enoch neared the end of his life I still found it such a huge privilege to have been able to join in trying to restore his sense of being greatly valued. That was particularly after the ruling party treated him with nothing short of contempt, depriving him of the privileges accorded to a retired Ex-Chief Justice. Without a secretary as the regime denied him the simplest privileges afforded to their party loyalists, he had to cope with a great mass of documentation. He needed help with typing and editing his reports. Trudy and I volunteered secretarial services so essential to his livelihood – although we were neither of us accustomed to being anybody’s office secretary. I typed up long reports he produced as a circuit judge in the region. He would make regular visits to Hurworth Road, parking his Mercedes (a relic of his days as Chief Justice) in the driveway, carrying into my office the draft reports set out in his large, faintly childish hand.
With Trudy our later political work with this good man will be described in the post-Independence story of the Forum for Democratic Reform – known as the Forum Party. I knew from the start of our friendship that Trudy’s earnest efforts to break through racial barriers would become as well-rewarded with some sort of political recognition. She was to become the later opposition party’s favoured choice as Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Senegal. Trudy, in her turn, had given him vitally needed shelter in a cottage in her suburban garden at a time when even his little farm had failed. He got no official assistance either from the government, from the ruthless Mugabe or from ZANU (PF), the party he had helped to found. He earned a small pension but he was virtually homeless.
The country’s President, Robert Mugabe, was Enoch’s ‘homeboy’: a contemporary from Zvimba communal land. But this homeboy acted in wilful ignorance of the undeniable evidence that the man’s reputation for absolute integrity as a Chief Justice had gone around all Africa and many parts of the world. In the end, if it were not for Norah, a caring companion, and the moral support that Enoch received from his daughters – he was far too proud to ask for help – he would have been a very lonely and isolated man.
Zimbabwe Tragedy (East African Press, 1975).
1 A trade union with political undertones. Led by Charles Mzingeli.
2 Led by Rev. T. D. Samkange. Two others with a higher level of education than was usual in the 1940s were T. Hlabangana and P. Rubatika (see MP‘s section).
3 A body set up to oppose the proposed Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
4 Nathan Shamuyarira quotes a letter written to him in London by Enoch Dumbutshena, in which the first ‘outright demand for self rule’ was enunciated:
“Our people surprise me by continually harping on things like amendments to State Lotteries, Liquor Act, and so on. These things are useless. What about a majority in the Legislative Council? Have you ever thought of that? If you have, tell the others…”
5 The ‘reserved clauses` entrenched in the 1923 Constitution for self-government for Southern Rhodesia were devised to allow Britain to retain a measure of protection over the rights of the unenfranchised African masses, making it technically possible for any retrogressive legislation to be
blocked by the British Government.
6 His earlier influence on Nkomo was demonstrated in the same year when the latter had, with reservations, accepted the British Government proposals put forward by Duncan Sandys, then British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. Dumbutshena deputised for Leopold Takawira,
who was ill in London, in the drafting of a strong document repudiating the
constitutional proposals which Nkomo read to the press.
7 He later joined the PCC and frequently visited Joshua Nkomo at Gonakudzingwa. During the pre-UDI talks with the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in October 1965 Dumbutshena was a member of Nkomo’s delegation and his legal adviser.
8 His book Zimbabwe Tragedy (East African Press, 1975) vividly describes the long, lonely walk, mostly through wild country and in darkness.