1960 – A leader in the March of the Seven Thousand, Salisbury (Harare)
1960 – Deputy Secretary-General NDP
1961 – Assistant to Joshua Nkomo
1974 – Member of the Central Committee ANC
1979 – Acting head of ZANU (PF) while awaiting arrival of S Muzenda
1980 – Member of Senate – ZANU (PF)
Minister of Finance, Zimbabwe.
“I am so married to ordinary men because I am an ordinary man; I find my glory there.”
Enos Nkala is an extraordinary man because his identification with the needs of his fellow man have led him to make extraordinary efforts to change the system which oppressed his fellow blacks in Zimbabwe. He occupies a place in the highest offices given to those who gave up the best part of their lives to the struggle. He is Minister of Finance and has a gold and blue furnished office with wall-to-wall carpet which overlooks Zimbabwe’s power house for the leadership – Milton buildings on Jameson Avenue in Salisbury (Harare) the capital city. He is ordinary only in that he refuses to move away, in spirit, from his former colleagues in the political party he serves and likes to spend his leisure hours talking with real people in real surroundings rather than what he calls those boring dinners where formality presides.
He was born on 23rd August 1932 at Filabusi, in Matebeleland. His father, a peasant farmer, was a teacher at the local Methodist mission. He had started his working Life as a cook, then worked for the police in CID (Criminal Investigation Department) and finally retired (soon after Enos was born) to run his own cobbler’s business at Gwanda. He educated Enos and a large family on the proceeds of his labors. Enos’ formal schooling was received at Mizinyati mission near Essexvale, where he attended classes up to Standard 6. He then applied himself to a correspondence course and passed his National Junior certificate examinations. He developed what he calls “A lust for book-keeping,” gaining one diploma after another in the subject. Because so much of his life was spent in detention and in prison, he never ceased to apply himself to the task of studying for ever-higher qualifications, “Reading rather than talking”, he remarks. After O and A levels he studied through the Royal Academy of Arts and gained an Advanced Diploma in Public Administration, Constitutional Law and Administrative Law. He went on to improve his knowledge with Accountancy, Statistics Commercial Law, Principles of Management, and Administrative Practice.
By this time, he had become accustomed to studying many subjects and courses simultaneously and embarked on correspondence courses for an L1. B. through the University of London; at the same time attempting a B.Com through the University of South Africa. He found that he had taken on more than he could manage, and succeeded with the commerce subjects, but not with the law. By 1974, he had abandoned law but persevered with difficult and demanding studies including Economics, Auditing and Accountancy. He found himself handicapped by his insufficient background knowledge of mathematics for the accountancy examinations, but pressed on with zeal. His ambition to excel, finally, by attending a university and giving his wholehearted attention to studies was interrupted by political events. He was released from prison during the 1974 period of detente, and although he returned to his books when he was imprisoned again, he was never given the time to complete the task he had set himself.
It seems natural that a man who was from the outset The Treasurer of ZANU should have been given the job as the country’s first black Minister of Finance when ZANU won the elections.
In 1950, Enos Nkala left school and went to work for Rhodesia Cement at Colleen Bawn, outside Bulawayo, as a laboratory assistant. After a year, he decided to cycle home, 18 miles away, to attend a wedding. He returned to do his night shift duty but was so tired that he fell asleep on the job, and was sacked. Back in Bulawayo he found a job in a clothing factory, but it was his ambition to come to the big city of Salisbury (Harare). 1953 he arrived and started out by selling newspapers in the street. He was moved on to dispatch and simple clerical work; and he remained there until an opportunity, considered golden in those days, arrived for him to make enough money through selling insurance, to afford a car. From an income of 10 pounds per month, to almost 100 pounds, with his commission. “I was better paid than some graduates at that time”, he remembers.
Politics called him in 1961. He could not carry out his insurance work as well as be effective in the NDP committees (he was Secretary General to George Silundika) and so he applied himself full-time to political organization. He was able to sustain himself by writing articles for Parade, Drum and other publications; and his wife, who he had married in 1959, kept them both on her earnings as a nurse, and they were able to keep the car.
Enos openly admits that subversion was his role in the early days of nationalist politicking. He was arrested, tried and convicted of making a subversive statements in 1961. This method of undermining was used with affect again when the split between Sithole and Nkomo came in 1963. “We formed the party (ZANU) at my house; I became the engineer. I became the center of subversion against ZAPU and coordinated with those who were dissenting in Tanzania.
He describes as “the four corners of ZANU” the first office holders Leopold Takawira as vice-president, Robert Mugabe as Secretary-General, Ndabiningi Sithole as President and Enos Nkala as Treasurer. His disenchantment with ZAPU arose after his hopes of an early breakthrough were dashed by the outcome of the 1961 Constitution. He was very impressed at first with the quality of the Reverend Sithole’s mind but by 1974 he had lost faith in his judgment. He moved a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Sithole while they were all in prison.
The Victoria Falls Conference which followed the release of most of the top nationalist leaders in late 1974 was seen by Enos Nkala as a futile attempt to solve his country’s political problems by half measures. “It had to be destroyed”, he says.
Enos Nkala is outspoken in his view of Bishop Muzorewa and the UANC. He records that he and others used their UANC cover during 1975 to begin recruitment of young people to go to Mozambique and begin their training for the armed struggle. He believes that Nkomo and Sithole were aware of this but the Bishop was not. This strategy, he says, caused ZAPU to march out of the UANC in September 1975. ZANU planned to send the new leader, Robert Mugabe, out of the country of Mozambique so that he could revive the party there after the death, in Zambia, of Herbert Chitepo and the subsequent imprisonment or banishment of most of ZANU’s leaders who were operating in Zambia.
Nkala was arrested after a period of opposing the detente exercise from inside Rhodesia and three more years of prison were to pass before he was released in November 1979 and even before the ban on ZANU – now called ZANU(PF) – was lifted. By then he had resumed his organization activities inside Rhodesia. As Vice-President of the party until Simon Muzenda returned from Mozambique and the Lancaster house conference to lead the party until President Mugabe’s return on 28th January 1980. The fiery Enos Nkala is devoted to his leader. He does not claim close friendship but he says that he and others earlier on recognized him as a great man. “He moves, he is a great humanist, he has a vision and charts his approach. No man has appealed so much to me.”
Organizing with great speed, for there was not much time before the elections, Enos set up his network through house meetings. “Ten people were recruited to convince 10 more. He believes that 60% of the electorate had been convinced by the time Muzenda arrived, and 80% by the time the elections took place1. He was in personal trouble, having accused Muzorewa, the British Governor and the South African Government of being in collusion against ZANU-PF. He was banned by Lord Soames from campaigning during the election period.
He was nominated for and won a seat in the Senate and was appointed to the portfolio of Minister of Finance in March 1980.
Enos Nkala has a vision of his own. he lives for the party and its ideals and gives a great deal of force to the future of his fellow Zimbabweans. He does not like any man to have to accept charity. “They must go back to agricultural work. Those suits are no good”. In this period of reconstruction, he sees the task of a minister to help the ordinary man produce results for himself. He aspires to no riches for himself and he believes that the rich should help the poor so that ordinary blackmen will be transformed. “You have to be harsh to save them” he believes, “and they themselves must deliver the goods”.
Enos Nkala has a powerful will, and says that he can respect, if not admire, powerful men in history who move Heaven and Earth to achieve what they want. He cites Ian Smith at such a man, and adds Hitler to his list of those who he recognizes as having a capacity to mobilize people though he may have been disliked.
Finally, Enos Nkala is not a vengeful man. He believes that nature had its own system for revenge and does not need human agents. “Our role is to help nature to do what it is programmed and to stop when Nature dictates. If you work against nature, it will destroy you”.
The following review of Enos Nkala’s post-independence career was written by Diana Mitchell and appears in her 2021 memoirs
In spite of being among ZANU PF’s top echelon – in fact he claimed he had helped found the party – Enos Nkala had joined Muzorewa’s African Nationalist Council. He later claimed that he helped found the ANC. He rejoined ZANU (PF) but after following his usual turbulent pattern of political activity he was to break ranks yet again with his former comrades. Willy Musarurwa told me that he was no friend of Nkala because he (Nkala) hated Joshua Nkomo. He said that before both were arrested for anti-government activities and held in prison, the two men had developed a deep mutual hostility – rumour had it they’d had some fundamental dispute. The facts are too elusive to describe this much further. The origin of this rumour came from a story doing the rounds that he hated Nkomo because the ZAPU leader, his former political boss, was too close to one of his female relatives while Nkala was in prison. This story was never collaborated by any other of my nationalist friends.
Nkala’s early defection from the ranks of the ruling party after Independence is yet to be fully explained, but my first meeting with him was at a time when he, amongst many other nationalists, was wrapped up with Muzorewa’s ANC. I met Nkala, as I had met many others, being referred by word of mouth to as many leaders as I could reach. It was Eshmael Mlambo who led me to Nkala and others.
I was to wait another five years for an in-depth interview for my book when Nkala was seated at his desk in Milton Buildings in Jameson Avenue soon after 1980. A newly installed Minister in Mugabe’s cabinet, my first post-Independence ‘Who’s Who’ interview with Enos Nkala proceeded with a re-acquaintance, a sort of reunion. I remember finding him seated at his empty desk where it became clear that, as Party Treasurer, he was temporarily positioned as interim Minister of Finance. He had acted as book-keeper for the party, which is probably why he was initially expected to keep a watch on the country’s finances since David Smith, the incumbent in Smith’s cabinet had departed in some haste. Nkala was a different man then as he sat, newly, and very briefly installed as Minister of Finance in Mugabe’s cabinet (incongruously because he had insufficient qualifications for the role). His appointment was temporary because Mugabe (Prime Minister as he was then but later changed constitutionally to President) awaited the arrival of Dr Bernard Chidzero. This esteemed Zimbabwean had worked in an international environment at the United Nation’s UNCTAD and was ideally suited to the position.
During this meeting, our post-Independence interview, Nkala gazed out of an office window which faced the then Jameson Avenue where a large statue of Rhodesia’s founding father, Cecil John Rhodes was still standing on its tall plinth. Enos Nkala’s shiny, round face wore a look of absolute triumph at his elevation to high office in the ZANU (PF) party.
This genial character with frightening, rolling eyes and a touch of menace about him was certainly unpredictable. That was before taking on the more dangerous role of Minister of Defence. It was one for which he seemed well-suited. It was then that he was suspected of spearheading the onslaught on Nkomo’s people in Matabeleland. However, it is interesting to report that Nkala in his later incarnation as truth-teller in 2006 was categorically denying any part in the planning or execution of the deaths of thousands of Nkomo’s followers in Matabeleland’s Gukurahundi. There is no disputing, however, that it was on his watch while he was the Minister of Home Affairs and Defence that the national army’s notorious and murderous 5th Brigade was let loose in Matabeleland soon after Independence.
We reminisced about an earlier meeting when Nkala had been a top supporter of Bishop Muzorewa. I had witnessed him with Dr Elliott Gabellah rejoicing over their successful political advancement following their part in the Transitional, Muzorewa-led Government. But there was more of Enos Nkala’s extraordinary political story.
It surprised me that this founding member of ZANU was to be one of the party’s first turncoats a decade after Independence. One of ZANU (PF)’s top echelon – and a founder of the party – Nkala subsequently broke ranks with his former comrades. Equally surprising to me, he was later a clandestine supporter of our Forum Party.
This formerly powerful man later voluntarily resigned and became a ZANU (PF) outcast. My final meeting with Enos Nkala, who I had always viewed with suspicion due to his intemperate character, was twelve years on. Trudy Stevenson and I, representing our anti-ZANU (PF) Forum Party, took delivery of generous funding secretly handed over to us by this enigmatic politician. Here he was, switching allegiances once again. The Forum Party (FP) was one of the first post-Independence opposition parties of any significance. One-party rule had been the order of the day before two other opposition parties had arisen, both led by former guerrillas.
The first to break away from Mugabe was Edgar Tekere, his hard-drinking, former right-hand man, the nationalist who had escaped across the border into Mozambique with him. He led the Zimbabwe Unity Movement which unsurprisingly was not able to counter the power of the incumbent ZANU (PF) in a general election. Tekere, in the war years, had been Mugabe’s friend and top lieutenant. This man too became a notorious maverick in politics and was eventually reinstated as a ZANU (PF) member after fifteen years out in the cold and dangerous world of political opposition to his wartime comrades. Later, Margaret Dongo (who had enjoyed the patronage of Sally Mugabe) with her ZUD (Zimbabwe Union of Democrats) Party suffered a similar lack of electoral success.
Until the emergence of Morgan Tsvangirai and later, the two wings of the MDC, there was no single individual occupying a position of political power or influence in Zimbabwe who had not benefited directly, materially, and most profoundly from showing unswerving loyalty to President Robert Mugabe. There is little doubt – except, perhaps, in the minds of his former political patrons including other African leaders who now choose to ignore the damage he has done to Zimbabwe – that this opportunistic ‘loyalty’ has contributed to the catastrophe that is Zimbabwe today.
Nkala joined our Forum Party in 1992 (in whose founding Trudy Stevenson and I played a part). We secured ex-Chief Justice Enoch Dumbuchena as its leader a decade after Independence. He was a second generation nationalist and hailed from the same Zvimba region of Mashonaland as Mugabe. The Forum Party turned out to be my final political activism.
It was almost surreal to open my draft of this book one day in July 2006 at this precise page, commencing with Nkala, and to read, that day in the independent press, news from Zimbabwe that Enos Nkala has promised that he was going to ‘spill the beans’ about the party’s misdeeds and to reveal all of the secrets of the killings of top nationalists – presumably by their own – in a book which he would allow to be published only after his death.
Whatever his erratic performance in political leadership there is no doubt that in the early days of the rise of African nationalism, he was an important figure.
Postscript: While Nkala was alive at the time of writing, by August 2013, he was dead. We have not seen his book.