Chief Legal Adviser to ZANU (PF)
1958 Founder Editor of Moto Newspaper
1976-1979 Lecturer in Law at Southampton University
1980 Professor and Dean at Law, University of Lesotho, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Zimbabwe.
“At the end of my secondary school days, I was very religious, and wanted to become a priest”, said Simbi Mubako, “but I left my studies in philosophy because I was torn between this desire and my Nationalist sentiments”.
Still carrying the calm and thoughtful demeanor of a man who has spent many years in study and refelection, the youthful-looking Law Professor talked of his years spent in work, both at home and in exile, and his part in the struggle for his people’s self-determination.
Born of peasant farmer parents in Zaka (south of Fort Victoria (Masvingo), now called Masvingo) in 1936, Simbi was not baptised in the Dutch Reformed Church of his parents, but converted to the Catholic faith at Silveira School in Bikita. He was always a bright pupil and went on to St. Joseph’s School, Chilimanzi, and Gokomere school near Fort Victoria (Masvingo) (Masvingo). There he won scholarships for his early entrance to religious training, at Chishawasha Seminary near Salisbury (Harare) (Harare). When he left, he had the continued support and encouragement of Bishop Haene of Gwelo (Gweru) (Gweru).
“Although I was a bit rebellious and tended to argue with my superiors, the Bishop came to my defense and never wanted to smother my rebellious spirit”.
It was Bishop Haene who persuaded Simbi Mubako to start the paper “Moto” rather than enter actively in Politics in 1958. In the following year, after he had laid the ground-work for the publication, Simbi Mubako obtained a loan from the Federal Government and went to the University of Lesotho. He wanted a profession after gaining his B.A. and, although accepted at Cape Town and Durban Universities in South Africa, he was prevented from taking up a place by the Bantustan policies which came into being at that time. Bishop Haene and some private friends in Switzerland came to his rescue, and he went to Dublin, where he was able to compete for international scholarships and embark upon a long and successful study career.
Before he had finished his studies, he had collected a B.A. in political science and history at Roma College, Basutoland; a B.A. LL.B and a B.C.L. from Trinity College, Dublin; an LL.M and M.Phil in constitutional law at the London School of Economics; and an LL.M at Harvard University.
Throughout his years of study, he retained his interest and participation in the politics and educational system of his country. At Roma in what was still Basutoland, he was president of the student’s association and leader of the Zimbabwe Student’s Association. On his return home for holidays, he took part in political activity. He attended Pan-African conferences at Witwatersrand and Cape Town Universities under the auspices of NUSAS. In Dublin he became president of the Pan-African Student’s Association and chaired a Zambian-Zimbabwean Association with a Zambian secretary. When overseas, he became President of the Zimbabwe Student Union in Britain and Ireland, and organization which had close contacts with the political parties.
When ZANU was formed in 1963 the students joined, and it was this connection which brought Simbi very close to the parties when he later moved to Zambia. He became a close friend of the late Herbert Chitepo. “Chitepo died when I was in the United States, and I returned to find that ZANU was in pieces. The whole High Command and Central Committee was in detention and five in Zambia were in jail in the wake of the Chitepo murder”. Simbi Mubako gave legal advice for all of these men. Also, because of the need to keep up the negotiations to form the Patriotic Front, Mubako, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Taderera would take orders from those in detention, and liaise with George Silundika and Jason Moyo and Dan Madzimbamuto of ZAPU. “Also I drove ZAPU commanders like Nikita Mangena (who has since died in a landmine explosion) and Ambrose Mutinhiri (who has returned to Zimbabwe) to confer with Commander Josiah Tongogara in Jail.” (Tongogara too has died, in Mozambique).
All this took place in 1976, when the unity of ZAPU and ZANU was necessary to restart the war from Mozambique. The Zimbabwe Independent People’s Army (ZIPA) was formed and the negotiations between Mugabe and Nkomo proceeded. ZIPA fought in the field and the politicians forged the PF in time for the Geneva Conference in October 1976. When Mugabe went to Zambia, he included in his team all those whom Simbi Mubako had succeeded in getting released from prison or detention. Mubako was appointed leader of a legal team comprising also S. Chihambakwe, Ona Mukushi and Verengayi Guni. Afterwards Mubako returned to Southampton, but turned out again to advise his party at Malta and Dar-es-Salaam, early the following year.
Simbi Mubako gives the first definitive description of the leadership dispute between Sithole and Mugabe (see updated Mugabe biography) . Tongogara’s part in this dispute was crucial and it was Sithole’s failure to assist in his release from prison which finally brought Mubako firmly to support Robert Mugabe. there followed a delicate task of diplomacy to bring the fighters round to realize what had happened to their leadership and to fill the gap in revolutionary understanding between the army and the politicians. Mubako has written a detailed article on this period up to the Mgagao Declaration on the leadership.
Lancaster House was Mubako’s next place of duty as leader of the legal team for ZANU. He knew that the party had been pressured by the Front Line presidents to reach and agreement and that they had been instrumental in getting the Lusaka Agreement through the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Meetings. He says that, in spite of the inadequacies of the constitution, and the fear that it might constitute a trick to allow an alliance of whites and blacks to defeat Mugabe, ZANU was confident that they could win more than 50 seats. “The risks inherent in the constitution were offset by the strength of ZANU (PF) in the field. I must admit we were, in any case forced to accept it. We rejected the 20 white seats as racial and disproportionate, but the British were adamant. In a make-or-break situation ZAPU buckled under, although we were prepared in the last resort to leave the conference.”
Although the elections, as predicted, yielded a victory for ZANU (PF), Simbi Mubako, like many others in his party, admits to some anxious moments when it appeared that ZANU might be out-maneuvered by the powerful support given to the internal parties. The announcement of his portfolio came after Mubako had already left to return to his post as Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland on 11th March.
Simbi Mubako married Hazel Christie, from Jamaica, in 1970. they have three children, two boys and a girl. His wife is a medical doctor. He is shortly to publish a History of the Zimbabwe Constitution, and has published articles on the Zimbabwe Liberation movement which he hopes to describe in a book. His interest and knowledge of the subject and its participants were increased when he taught part-time in political studies at the University of Zambia.