1957-59 Secretary, Rusape Branch ANCongress.
1963 Organising Secretary, ZANU.
1980 Member of Parliment, ZANU (PF) – Manicaland
1980 Minister of Mines, Zimbabwe
Maurice Nyagumbo was born at Rusape in 1924, one of a family of four boys and three girls. He was brought up by his grandmother who sent him for his early education to St Faith’s Mission. After three years at the mission school he attended St Augustine’s School, Penhalonga, where he reached Standard IV in 1940.
Unlike so many of his contemporaries, who decided to become primary school teachers, he made up his mind to travel to Johannesburg in search of employment. Knowing that his father would object to such a wild idea, he pretended that he was going to a Boy Scout camp in the Matopos. On arrival by train at Bulawayo he managed to obtain a passport by pleading that he had a sick brother in hospital at Kimberley.
The untrained youth did not find work easy to come by in South Africa. From helping vegetable sellers in return for food, he became first a waiter, then a butler and later a ‘bedroom boy’ in Port Elizabeth. In the course of a few months he changed jobs several times before deciding to try his luck in Cape Town. Here, through a chance meeting with William Mashaba, a Rhodesian, he gained introduction to the Communist Party.
He remained a member of this party until it was banned in 1948. Thereafter, in collaboration with James Chikerema1 he helped to form the Central African Social Club, the aim of which was to involve Rhodesian Africans in political activity. When Chikerema was deported in 1953 Maurice Nyagumbo became secretary of the Club. However, two years later he, too, was deported – on the grounds of being in contact with Mau Mau sympathisers in Kenya.
On arrival in Rhodesia Nyagumbo teamed up again with James Chikerema and was instrumental in founding the ANYL, When the ANYL. merged with the ANCongress on 12 September 1957 Maurice Nyagumbo became secretary of the Rusape Branch of the re-formed ANCongress. He was detained on 26 February 1959 and sent to Khami Prison. His detention order was renewed in May and he was restricted to the Gokwe District.
On his release in 1962 he at first joined ZAPU but gradually found himself moving into opposition to Joshua Nkomo. When the split came in August 1963,2 he joined the newly-formed ZANU under the leadership of the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, being appointed Organising Secretary.
ln 1964 he was detained with other ZANU leaders and spent. the next 11 years in various prisons and restriction camps. Released in 1975, he returned to Salisbury (Harare) where he was soon in trouble with the authorities. On 18 September he was indicted under the Law and Order Maintenance Act on charges of recruiting young men for terrorist training outside the country. On 18 November he was sentenced in Salisbury (Harare) to 15 years imprisonment for his part in the recruitment of trainee—guerrillas.
Maurice Nyagumbo was released from prison on the 12th December 1979, just in time to attend the last Ceremony at Lancaster House in London, at the conclusion of the peace talks. He returned, a free man, to his country and was interviewed at the Mushandira Pamwe Hotel, during the course of the February election campaign. He and other ZANU officials were experiencing considerable harassment from other parties, and were especially security conscious, after they had been attacked by more than one element of the former government.
Nevertheless, retaining his customary calm and gentle demeanor, he told of his good fortune in escaping the death penalty for charge brought against him during his trail. He says he was saved by the fact that five witnesses from the Nyamaropa area, who were to testify against him, fled, when released, and other witnesses also refused to come and give evidence. He was sentenced, eventually, to a total of 15 years because his car had been used, according to the prosecution, in transporting four boys going for training in the military camps in Zambia. In fact, he says, on this occasion he lent his car to F. Ziyambi to take his and Ziyambi’s wife to work.
But with the war at an end, and an amnesty for all political prisoners, all of these arguments were left in the past, and Maurice concentrated his efforts on winning his seat for ZANU (PF) in Manicaland. He was successful, and in early March 1980 he was appointed Minister of Mines in the first Independent Government of Zimbabwe.
Maurice Nyagumbo is married, with five daughters.
1 See entry for James Chikerema.
2 At the Cold Comfort Farm meeting.