1960 Youth wing leader NDP St. Augustines High School,

1962 Secretary of a Harare Youth Branch of ZAPU

1977 Central Committee ZANU, in charge of Education and Culture.1

1980 MP (ZANU PF) for Midlands

1980 Minister of Transport and Power, Zimbabwe.

“The struggle was bitter and hard.  We will always remember those who fell.  Their spirits are with us still. Those who live will have the chance of being free.”

Ernest Kadungure has been a soldier longer than he has been a politician.  Now, immaculate in his business suit and looking from the window of his Minister’s office, he is a little restless as he confines his powerful frame in an arm chair.  His memories of the war are still so clear that he becomes unconsciously poetic in his thoughts of the past and his dreams for the future. 

He is one of twin boys, born to an Anglican missionary teacher and his wife in the Charter District, in 1943.  His was a large family of seven boys and five girls, and his father saw to it that his children started their education as soon as they could.  He was six years old when he started his primary schooling at St. Thomas, Daramombe Mission in the Charter District (near Chivhu, formerly Enkeldoorn (Chivhu)) where the family lived.  He went on to Lorento Mission school where he completed Standard VI and then attended the Anglican Church school of St. Augustines  in Penalonga, near Umtali (Mutare).  He was amongst the “last batch of us” to sit the Cambridge School Certificate examinations1 in 1960 and because of lack of funds left school to look for a teaching post.  Until 1964 he taught at Narira and Chitsere schools. 

Ernest’s father had resented the inequalities of the system and his son had soon found himself an outlet in the political struggle by joining the youth wings of the emerging political parties.   He was nearly expelled for his activities  at school, and was later dismissed from the teaching service because he had clandestinely participated in political activity.  By this time, he says, “politics (in 1963) had become a family tradition.”  When ZANU was formed in 1963 he was a founder member.  After he lost his job, he decided to leave the country, and in 1964, he went to Zambia. 

He soon found work in the Zambian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and trained as an administrator.  He continued openly in politics, and considers himself lucky to have been in Zambia to witness the independence celebrations in October 1964.  He moved on in 1966 to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to train as a computer programmer, and became a computer section supervisor.  Meanwhile he was studying accountancy, but was not quite finished with these studies when in 1967 he decided to go for full-time military training in Tanzania. 

Two years later, Ernest Kadungure and 10 others returned to their own country.  They were the first to reconnoiter the Zambezi for a possible new crossing point.  The ones that had been used by the previous groups,  he observes, had become known to the enemy. 

In 1971 he went with three others to Tete in Mozambique and again was engaged in reconnoiter activities; this time with the help of Frelimo and with the objective of establishing routes for ZANU into Rhodesia on military missions.  This first ZANU group looked for possible armories and lines of supply; then they began to fight in contacts with both Portugese and Rhodesian soldiers by 1972.  With the help of Frelimo, they continued until 1974 with the armed struggle and then Ernest was posted to train others in Tanzania. 

The Lusaka Accord in December that year was a setback for the ZANLA army, and a few months later after Chitepo’s death Ernest was amongst those who were arrested and imprisoned in Zambia.   “It was an unpleasant period but we reorganized,” he says.  “ZIPRA was initiated by the DARE officials and the High Command2.  Operating from Kabwe prison Comrade Josiah Tongogara and myself were involved from ZANLA’s3 side and those in Tanzania of the High Command made contacts with ZAPU and the ZIPRA forces.  Officials of ZAPU came to see us about resuscitating the armed struggle.  ZIPRA was the foundation resulting from these meetings, and was under the joint leadership of Nkomo and Rex Nhongo.  We were then able to disperse some of our commanders – Nhongo was one of those who went out (to Mozambique).  The war was re-started from the eastern side. ”  All this organization had to take place while Ernest and others were in prison in Kabwe, and it was not until the Geneva Conference, scheduled late in 1976, led to the release of the ZANU leaders from prison in Zambia, that Ernest was able to get back into the field again.

After his election to the Central Committee in 1977, he was involved in the difficult task of managing the slender party funds.  “The Party was never well funded.  Only China, Yugoslavia and Romania (from the Eastern bloc) helped.  A few funding organizations helped us to make ends meet.”  Ernest Kadungure, who had to look for ways and means of finding food and arms for the ZANU fighters, believes that Bishop Muzorewa let them down in 1975 in trying to win support from the soldiers for a negotiated peace when they expected him instead to supply materials to the camps in Mozambique and Tanzania. 

They turned their hopes towards Robert Mugabe who, by now, had been accepted as ZANU leader.  “We respected him for his uprightness – we knew he could never betray us, ” says Ernest.

The war intensified in 1977, and ZANU was determined to win.  “We had the understanding of our people and had instilled in them the love of their country.”  And for the love of country, he says,  the fighters suffered considerable hardship.  There was no money for pay or any comfort.  “If they could get two meals a day it was a lot.  We depended on organizations in such places as Sweden for donations of clothing.  Their staple foods were maize meal, and beans.  Meat was unheard of, and there was very little fish.  they made their sacrifices in a spirit of selflessness and we are so proud of them.”

Lancaster House, says Kadungure, was a trying time for all who were there.  It was a make-or-break conference, and in making decisions, the leaders had to think of those at home in Zimbabwe and those disciplined soldiers whom they knew would accept the deeply considered decisions that they had to make. 

Ernest Kadungure returned home on the 23rd January, 1980 to fight for his seat in the Midlands, and, at the same time to battle with the difficult task of managing party funds which were being obstructed by the local establishment.  “The banks here would not honour our cheques or bank drafts,”  he recalled .  “We were trying to pay our bills and it was the poor who were our friends.  Somehow, by remarkable luck, we managed.  it was a great victory.”

Ernest Kadungure married in 1979.  His wife was one of his “comrades in the struggle” and they have come home together with many of their former comrades to live in Zimbabwe as one large family. 

As minister for Transport and Power, he looks forward to carrying out the promises of the struggle.  He says, “As a government we now have the power to deliver the goods.”

1 The system changed to A.E.B. in 1961

2 High Command of ZANLA forces.

3>ZIPRA was the military wing of ZAPU, ZANLA that of ZANU and ZIPA was to be the combined military wing of the Patriotic Front.