1965 – Chief of Staff, ZAPU. Member of High Command ZIPRA
1972 – Military/Political Commissar, ZANU
1973 – Chief Commandant: Training and Personnel, ZANLA.
1977/79 – Secretary of Manpower Planning and Labour, ZANU
1980 – Member of Parliament for Mashonaland West, ZANU (PF)
1980 – Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare
Robson Manyika was born in 1935 in Goromonzi, about 30 kilometers east of Salisbury (Harare) in Mashonaland.
His father was a farmer in the Msingesi African Purchase Area1. Robson went to Chikwaka Primary School and was a boarder at Chiwiza Secondary School near Marandellas (Marondera). He went to Que Que United Mission School and then completed his secondary education by correspondence.
Robson’s interest in politics began in 1958 when he joined the ANYL which was the first organised political grouping in Salisbury (Harare). When the NDP, a union of the Mashonaland and Matebeleland early political groups was formed in 1960, he joined and was elected organising secretary for youth. He continued in this role in ZAPU, the party formed after the beginning of the NDP in December 1961. He was arrested during this time.
Robson Manyika moved early into the armed struggle. In 1965 he was appointed Chief of Staff of ZAPU and operated in Zambia and Tanzania, recruiting and training Freedom Fighters. In those early days he worked with Dumiso Dabengwa, Achim Ndhlovu and others who later became top commanders in the Liberation Armies. He received his military training in the Soviet Union between 1964 and 1965. He has also been to Cuba for a 15 month refresher course.
In 1970, he left ZAPU and joined ZANU. He was placed on probation for six months while in Zambia and he joined the military wing of ZANU. By 1972 he had been appointed as a military and political Commissar and operated between Zambia and Tanzania.
1n 1973 Robson Manyika was appointed chief commandant of training and personnel and by 1976 he was able to move into Mozambique. During this early phase of his military career he had been a member of the High Command (beginning in 1965) and of the military council to 1976. (He had been arrested in Zambia after the Chitepo affair).
From 1977 to 1979 he was appointed by the Central Committee of ZANU to Secretary of Manpower, Planning and Labour.
He bean to play an important role in the political as well as the military organization of the Party. He had gone to Geneva, and had attended the talks at Malta and finally at Lancaster House with the late Commander Josiah Tongogara and Tungamurai to advise the politicians on the military aspect of the settlement discussions.
At the conclusion of the conference, Robson Manyika returned home to win his seat in Parliament for ZANU (PF) in the Mashonaland West constituency, and was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.
Recalling his transfer from the military into the political are of the Party, Robson says:
“We were aware that politics comes first; the military is born from politics. After the war we re-form. The party controls the gun, the gun does not control the party.”
When the peace offensive was underway, Robson Manyika played a vital part in the integration of the ZANLA and ZIPRA armies.
He met and married his wife in Zambia and they have two children. She followed him to Mozambique during the war years.
1 The African Purchase Areas constituted a special category of land ownership under the pre-independence system where Master Farmers could enjoy private ownership of agricultural land. It was not until the abolition of the Land Tenure Act on January 1st 1979 that Africans were able to purchase agricultural land in former whites-only areas.