Josiah Chinamano was born at Epworth Mission near Salisbury (Harare) on 29 October 1922. The son of a headman, he was the sixth child in a family of eight (four of whom died in an influenza epidemic while Josiah was still a young child).
He received his early education at Epworth Mission and was then sent to Waddilove Mission School near Marandellas (Marondera). After leaving school in 1940 he taught for two years at the Methodist Primary School in Salisbury (Harare). This was followed by a period (1943-44) as a teacher at the Police Training Depot, Salisbury (Harare), after which he returned to Waddilove for three years (1945-48) as a supervisor of pupil teachers.
In 1949 he went to Fort Hare University College (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa) having already passed his first year examinations as an external student. He graduated B.A. in 1950, his major subjects being History and African Administration. On his return to Rhodesia he was appointed headmaster at Marshall Hartley Boarding School where he stayed for three years. From there he moved, in 1954, to Marandellas (Marondera) where he was appointed supervisor of 26 Methodist schools throughout Mashonaland.
In July 1955 he travelled to England to take up an appointment as Guest Lecturer at Selly Oak College, Birmingham, where his task was to give background courses on African conditions to nurses, teachers and doctors intending to come to Africa to work. During his one-year stay in England he studied for, and obtained, an Education Diploma (UED) at Birmingham University.
He remained at Marandellas (Marondera) until the end of 1957 when he returned again to Waddilove as a teacher. In 1959 he was appointed as an instructor at the Government Teacher Training College, Umtali (Mutare), where he stayed for a year. At the time of his appointment he was General Secretary of the African Teachers’ Association but resigned in July 1959 following a disagreement with G. D. Mhlanga (the President) over the memorandum on the subject of teachers’ salaries which was being prepared for presentation to MPs. He was, however, subsequently elected a Vice-President of the Association.
In September 1960 he was appointed as a programme officer in the political section of the United States Consulate-General in Salisbury (Harare). Although he found the work interesting the contrast between the detached atmosphere of the Consulate and the excitement in the world outside was too marked for a man who always liked to be involved1 In February 1961, therefore, he resigned his post and joined his wife2 in setting up a small business in Highfield where they were then living. His wish to become involved was soon gratified with an invitation to attend the UNESCO conference in Boston, Massachusetts. This was followed by the award of a State Department Leadership Grant and a lecture tour of the US and Canada.
With the formation of ZAPU in December 1961 Chinamano decided to play an active part in politics3 and he was soon afterwards appointed an executive committee member of the new party. In 1962 he testified in New York before the UN Committee on Colonialism.
During the same year he became one of the founders, and first headmaster, of the Highfield Community School – an establishment created by public-spirited householders in the township in an effort to fill the gap caused by the shortage of places in the various Government schools.4 Within a matter of weeks the new school had an enrolment of 2000. It was largely through the efforts of Chinamano5 that accommodation, books and teachers were found for this large number.
As a leading community figure, and a loyal follower of Joshua Nkomo, Chinamano inevitably came under the eye of the authorities and when ZAPU was banned in September 1962 he was searched by the police in front of the pupils at the school.6 Although no other steps were taken against him at this time, the growing leadership struggle within the nationalist movement (and the bitter in-fighting that it provoked) indicated clearly that further police action was inevitable. On 16 April 1964 Nkomo was arrested; Chinamano’s own arrest followed immediately hereafter. Josiah Chinamano, Joshua Nkomo and Joseph Msika were the ‘pioneers’ of Gonakudzingwa which they opened up in May 1964. Chinamano’s original restriction order was for a period of one year, but his release on 13 April 1965 proved only a temporary interlude. He was re-arrested on 18 June and returned at once to Gonakudzingwa.
During the next five years, Chinamano states he thought deeply about the future of nationalism in Rhodesia. The violent rivalry between ZAPU and ZANU, leading to bloodshed and proscription, must, he felt, not be repeated in the future. The only chance of achieving success lay in unity – a solid front of common action.
Chinamano was released on 6 August 1970 and confined to a radius of five miles (eight kilometres) from his house in Highfield. When Sir Alec Douglas-Home visited Salisbury (Harare) in November 1971 he expressed a wish to meet a deputation of ex-detainees. Chinamano was nominated as one of the party,7 and he was asked to recommend a second ex-ZAPU member to accompany him. The intention was that the full party should comprise two ex-ZAPU and two ex-ZANU men, but in the end Chinamano stepped down. He was due also to accompany Joshua Nkomo on a separate visit to Sir Alec and felt that a double trip would be injudicious.
The four nominated members of the delegation8 met, however, on many occasions — both before and after the visit to Sir Alec — in order to formulate their case. All four felt strongly that the matter should not be allowed to rest there and that the time had come to create a new African political entity to oppose the constitutional proposals which were, by then, common knowledge. During these discussions Chinamano preached the cause of unity unceasingly. So strongly did he feel on this subject that he was prepared to break with any of his former ZAPU colleagues who would not abandon the old rivalries.9
Out of these discussions (many of which took place in Chinamano’s house) the concept of the African National Council was born. It was clear to all four that such a body could not concentrate on its basic task of opposing the constitutional proposals if it were led by any of the former notables of either ZAPU or ZANU. It was, therefore, decided to approach Bishop Muzorewa (who had not previously been involved in the factional struggles) to serve as President of the new organisation. During December 1971 he indicated his acceptance and the African National Council was brought into being10 with Chinamano as Treasurer.
The Pearce Commission arrived in Salisbury (Harare) in January 1972 and was greeted by a series of violent outbreaks in the townships of Salisbury (Harare) and other cities. Chinamano was at once arrested — on 21 January. In April he was sent to Marandellas (Marondera) prison,11 where he was to remain for over 2½ years.
In November 1974 he was released from prison without warning in order to allow him to travel to Lusaka for the discussions leading to the grouping of the various nationalist parties under the umbrella of the ANC. In December he was appointed to the Central Committee of the ANC and he was also made secretary of the committee set up to prepare for a congress.12
During the early months of 1975 he was heavily engaged in the various discussions between the ANC and the Rhodesian Government. At the same time he was increasingly disheartened at the clear signs of disunity that were developing in the Council. As the official responsible for arranging a congress, at which it was hoped the issue of leadership would be settled, he worked hard, using his particular brand of quiet diplomacy in an effort to reconcile the various attitudes. However, the departure in July of Bishop Muzorewa and the circulation by Dr Edson Sithole of a pamphlet alleging a secret ‘deal’ between Nkomo and the Prime Minister, Ian Smith,13” made it apparent that a split was imminent.
At the Victoria Falls talks in August 1975 a final attempt was made to heal the growing breach. Chinamano attended these talks as a member of the ANC team of consultants. On his return to Salisbury (Harare) he strongly supported Joshua Nkomo’s call for an early congress and was present at the emergency meeting of the Executive Committee in Salisbury (Harare) on 7 September. When it was decided to hold a congress on 27-28 September the burden of organising the event fell to Chinamano, a task which he carried out with a high degree of administrative skill.
At the congress Chinamano was elected Vice-President and in this capacity he joined Nkomo in the various discussions held with the Rhodesian Prime Minister during October and November. He also visited Dr Banda, the President, in Malawi on 9 October, to apprise him of recent developments in the ANC.
On 10 December it was announced that he had been appointed a member of the ANC delegation to the constitutional conference to be held in Salisbury (Harare) on 15 December.
In early March 1976 he travelled to England and the United States, partly in connection with educational matters but mainly to brief the governments of these countries on the progress of the talks in Salisbury (Harare).
On 13 May he was one of a panel of speakers at the Students’ Union at the University of Rhodesia, in Salisbury (Harare). His speech was poorly received by the student audience.
During the absence from Rhodesia of Joshua Nkomo (from May onwards) Josiah Chinamano was heavily engaged in party duties. Most observers believed that, with the breakdown of the talks with Ian Smith in March, the political position of Nkomo had been seriously weakened,14 and the task of retaining, and building up, the party’s following in the country was not an easy one. Chinamano, therefore, lost no opportunity of making it clear that a willingness to talk to the RF Government did not mean any pulling back from the standpoint of ‘majority rule’.
On 13 July he reaffirmed his party’s determination not to talk with the Government, unless it acceded to the principle of majority rule’. He went on to stress that Joshua Nkomo’s aim was ‘to establish a political system in which all people will be able to live harmoniously together’.15
On 13 October it was announced that Josiah Chinamano would accompany Joshua Nkomo to the Geneva conference as a leading member of his delegation.
Although he has never wavered in his support for Nkomo, the quiet dignity and moral strength of Josiah Chinamano have won him respect throughout the nationalist movement. At the funeral of Dr Sam Parirenyatwa in September 1962 the sudden arrival of Reuben Jamela, an ardent critic of ZAPU, provoked the grieving crowd to violence and it was only the silent intervention of Chinamano that 1 prevented the ‘intruder’ from being killed.
Josiah Chinamano married Ruth Nyombolo in South Africa in 1950. They have five children – three girls and two boys. The eldest boy is studying music in England and the youngest (also Josiah) is a pupil at Peterhouse School, Marandellas (Marondera).
At various times Josiah Chinamano has been Chairman of the Highfield Traders’ Association, a Committee member of the Rhodesia National Affairs Association, a Governor of the College of Citizenship (which sponsored Ranche House College, Salisbury (Harare)) and Chairman and Treasurer of the African Students’ Travel Fund Association.
The following review of Josiah Chinamano’s post-independence career was written by Diana Mitchell and appears in her 2021 memoirs
JOSIAH CHINAMANO A PRINCE OF PEACE
In life, Josiah was a real prince of peace. I came to know him first through Alfred Knottenbelt and Willie Musarurwa. He was an extraordinarily dignified, highly qualified school teacher and headmaster with a commanding presence and the warmest and friendliest of characters. His charm earned him an impressive list of opportunities to add to his academic credentials and he put to use his negotiating skills where they were most valued. He joined in politics and followed Joshua Nkomo’s call to nationalist unity from the early days of African nationalist resistance to white rule. He worked consistently to achieve that unity among the various parties fighting for independence for Zimbabwe.
Although gentle by nature, the fire in his belly was almost certainly kept burning by his wife Ruth, a fiery and awesome nationalist leader who had suffered with Josiah in Rhodesia’s political prisons and in restrictees’ camps. He had met the fiercely combative South African Ruth on a holiday visit to Port Elizabeth while he was a student at Fort Hare University College in the Eastern Cape Province. In life, Josiah was an outstanding peacemaker, restricted and marked by the Rhodesians as dangerous merely because of his high position in Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU party. “We must build the peace” he said at our first meeting only a few days after his release from the political restriction he had suffered for many years under white rule. On that occasion he was countering the understandable fury of Daniel Madzimbamuto a follower of Nkomo, who, having served 18 years in prison or under restriction was unforgiving of white people.
Two of the wives of the three men I met that day had struggled to raise their families without their imprisoned men folk. Ruth had been restricted along with her husband, leaving their offspring to the mercy of friends, since Ruth had no extended family to help in the country of her adoption. The wives were all angry that day. “Reparations! Revenge!” was the language they had used. And it was in that encounter that I was bowled over by Josiah’s plea for peace. Afterwards, I went about like the proverbial political evangelist, singing the praises of my first nationalist friends, to audiences of bemused white liberals and many disdainful RF loyalists.
Friends inside nationalist circles told me of the terrible things that were going on in the killing fields of rural Matabeleland. Gukurahundi was the terrifying label given to the massacre of Ndebele people in Matabeleland perpetrated by the soldiers of Mugabe’s notorious, North Korean-trained 5th Brigade. The murders shattered Josiah Chinamano, Joshua Nkomo’s right hand man in ZAPU, which at one time represented all of the country’s black inhabitants. Josiah was a Shona with links to a family which had migrated ‘with the wheel’ from South Africa at the time of white settlement at the end of the nineteenth century. If he had lived long enough Josiah would most certainly have been deserving of a Peace Prize.
My view of the sad ending to Josiah’s worthy life was that he was devastated, visibly broken hearted, after trying vainly to stave off the terrible events of Matabeleland’s Gukurahundi. I saw him, ashen-faced, when he returned from witnessing the mass graves, the evidence of entire villages wiped out. He had promised them peace, they laid down their arms and they reaped the whirlwind. His heart gave way after he saw the destruction and heard the cries of the surviving villagers and he died not long after visiting that place of slaughter. It was the place where in the early eighties, the North Korean trained 5th Brigade killed twenty thousand people, the Ndebele people who might or might not have been followers of Joshua Nkomo. Josiah was Nkomo’s second in command during the years of struggle. Ironically, the massacres took place in Matabeleland, whose capital Bulawayo, founded in the mid-nineteenth century by a Zulu King Mzilikazi, means ‘the place of killing’.
1 This was the period of the Monckton Commission and the Federal Review Conference.
2 Ruth Chinamano.
3 Some time earlier he had heard Joshua Nkomo speak, and had been greatly impressed.
4 The new school was a truly joint effort, backed by the Ratepayers’ Association, ZAPU and actively assisted by the African Education Department and many white well-wishers.
5 His quiet manner and dignity evoked a response from all races.
6 This humiliation, according to reports, he accepted with calm distaste,
7 By Jack Grant (see entry on Edson Sithole).
8 Josiah Chinamano, Cephas Msipa, Edson Sithole, Michael Mawema.
9 This fact is testified by Edson Sithole.
10 With the limited intention of operating only until the proposals had been defeated.
11 This was for health reasons, the climate in Marandellas (Marondera) being regarded as especially healthy.
12 According to the Lusaka Declaration, this was to be held within four months.
13 See entry on Edson Sithole.
14 Africa, Confidential, 9 July 1976.
15 The Rhodesia Herald, l4 July 1976.