1966 – Secretary for Scandinavian Affairs, ZANU.

1967/68 – General Secretary, Zimbabwe Students Union in Europe.

1971 – President, Zimbabwe Students Union.  Official ZANU Representative, Scandinavia.

1977 – Co-opted to Central Committee ZANU.  Deputy Secretary for Health.

1979 – delegate to Geneva Conference.

1980 – MP for Mashonaland Central, ZANU PF

1980 – Minister for Lands, Resettlement and Rural development, Zimbabwe.

Sydney Sekeramayi was born in Chiota on 30th March 1944.  He was the last of his child of his peasant-farmer parents.  There were eight children, but four died in childhood.  His mother was a humble person, very gentle, who was only interested in the truth about people and demanded absolute honesty from her children.

He began his early education at Chiota and completed primary schooling at Waddilove. He went on to Goromonzi Secondary School in 1959 and was expelled in form 3 for demonstrating against the 1961 Constitution. He was offended to see that his teachers who were doing police reserve duties were in some cases, involved in beating up the parents of the children they taught. All but one pupil in his class were expelled that year.  They went to Salisbury (Harare) to seek assistance from the NDP, the party was making preparations to send them out of the country to continue their education when it was banned, and their plans crumbled. Sydney had met Robert Mugabe who was the Secretary General of the party and says, ” He was a star in our minds, and his experiences in independent Ghana dazzled us.

On 8th December 1961 (the NDP was banned on the 10th) Sydney Sekeramayi left the country for Zambia. He was assisted by UNIP to travel to Tanzania. After 2 weeks there he obtained a scholarship and in a March 1962 went to Czechoslovakia where he continued his secondary education.  When the split between ZAPU, the NDP’s successor, and its rival ZANU came in 1963 he joined ZANU. 

In 1964 there were problems internally in Czechoslovakia and he decided to leave and move on to Sweden. He completed the equivalent of his A-levels, taking a great interest in the study of politics.  He never regarded the study of science and politics as in a political groups and by 1973 he had qualified as a doctor (MB.Ch.B.) at the University of Lund in southern Sweden. He completed his internship in 1975 but says he was always impatient to be able to leave and join The Liberation movement in Zambia.  After obtaining a diploma in tropical medicine in Stockholm, he prepared to return to Africa.

1975, he says, ZANU was in serious trouble in Zambia, he decided nevertheless to see what would happen, and he took a post in the department of surgery at the teaching Hospital of the University of Zambia. He remained there for a year and then was about to embark on a specialist course in surgery at London’s Nuffield College of basic medical sciences when news of the establishment of ZANU in Mozambique led him to abandon his studies.  Dr. Ushewokunze badly needed help.  Dr Mvuti who had been a student in Bulgaria, had met Sydney Sekeramayi at a London conference, went with him to Mozambique together with Dr. Muchemwa, and they formed a medical team with Doctor Ushewokune.

“With me”, says Dr. Sekeramayi, “There has always been one consistent trend. I developed a liking for politics As a result of circumstances here and of the inconsistencies in the teaching of the church in practice.  The separation of African and white teachers was always there, I had been too young to comprehend what it meant.  I had been aware of what Todd1 was trying to do, but it was when I came to Salisbury (Harare) that I had to experience the danger of a dog bite if I entered a European area.”  And, he describes the ultimate humiliation when a friend, not permitted to use a white man’s toilet facilities in town, was reduced to urinating in his trousers.

He could not bear to see some of his friends, his teachers and others who were very educated people being treated as inferiors. “When you are begging, you still have to keep on bending, you straighten your back only when you have achieved and won.  Those who were still bending told us we must be humble for education and we saw in our teachers that it had availed them nothing to be so humble” .  He sees this humbleness as “Docility that demands acceptance of oppression.”

Sydney had the opportunity, when living in Europe, of reading widely on the subject of oppression.  He says he read everything, for example, that Frantz Fanon (the anti-colonialist Algerian author) wrote.  As a result of such influences he was impatient to finish his studies and “go and attend to the real needs of the people”.  He was urged to stay on and enjoy the good life in Sweden, but “beautiful as Sweden was, the thought of staying was revolting to me – a betrayal of all I stood for – the help I had received in my education.  I could never stay there for mere material benefits.  I should have become a wreck and would always despise myself for running away.  These words spoken with vehemence are startling as they emerge from a gentle-faced man with an air of sweetness about him.

He went to Mozambique fully prepared for what he had to face in the war. There was to be no pleasure and they all might have to make the ultimate sacrifice and perish.  In Mozambique “My whole medical knowledge terms of reference were out of touch with reality. I needed to adapt to a new situation.  First there was psychological adaptation to accept that I was now in this condition and must do my best.  Then the positive aspect: Comrade Ushewokunze and I went for training.  Military training is a cleansing process in a revolutionary situation.  We ceased to regard ourselves as doctors.  Our task was simply to attend to the medical needs of our comrades.  I could travel with my sub-machine gun and stethoscope and face anything.”

There were close brushes with death. “You either become more brave or more cowardly.  You are working with a nurse today, tomorrow she is dead. This hardens you and you say to yourself the comrade is not dead.  He or she has died for me and I have to fulfill that ideal which he or she stood for”. 

Dr. Sekeramyi talks of being hard, but he is far from it.  Probably the most poignant story of the many that the author has heard from all of the participants in Zimbabwe’s tragic war came from his lips. 

“Even more comes of War.  People have talked of unity.  It’s different when you are in Salisbury (Harare), and difficult to know what it is to be united.  You are attached,  propelled by the need to help the injured. The totality of that situation is with you.  You carry each other;  you can never get closer to comrade than that.  When they blew up our offices Maputo in 1978 (Comrade Kadungure was with us)  there was a terrible blast.  Some jumped out of the window.  The office was on fire.  As we escaped we saw a comrade on fire in the telex room. As we carried him to the hospital he could only say, ‘Comrade, Comrade, Pamberi ne ZANU!’  we could not hold his hand.  He had two bleeding stumps.  This is what unites people.”

Dr. Sekeramyi  and his team trained their own officials who came into the country.  They could not leave an injured comrade.  The command structure saw to it that all who could return to Mozambique to be treated should do so.  They could be as much as three weeks on the journey and might arrive in a terrible state with gangrene having set in early on in the journey. 

Equal to the pain and suffering of the war is the measure of the people’s joy at its ending. Sekeramayi, like so many of his comrades, had little faith in the success of Lancaster House, or in the results of laying down their arms. They were in no doubt about the support of the people, but they had little confidence in the “Rules of the game”.   The people only wanted to be taught how to vote (Edgar Tekere confirms this too) but there was a state of virtual unbelief when the gamble came off, Sekeramayi remembers, and still sees the expressions of content and happiness on the faces of those who were there in war.  “The talking never ends – there is no time to sleep for excitement.  It is a marvelous feeling”.

Dr. Sekeramayi’s dedication has never allowed him the luxury of getting married. He would have wanted his children to have security.  All those years he could not give a wife any security.  “How can you go tell the mother of your children to leave the comfort of the town and go into the bush?”  He asks.  “Unless she too is a born Soldier, she cannot go”.

He has won his seat in the Mashonaland Central constituency, and moved into the offices of the Ministry of Lands. Beautifully mounted animal skins, horns, and tranquil pictures of game parks, he is looking forward to the important tasks he has here and in Resettlement and Rural Development – the three divisions of his portfolio which are so closely related.

Hi final observation, was one of peace. “I was teasing them at the hospital (in the bush) when I saw them putting up a uncamouflaged white tents.  I told a little girl there ‘The war is over now, you do not want those tents’  Her reply: ‘There are no more targets now’.”

The following review of Sydney Sekeramayi’s post-independence career was written by Diana Mitchell and appears in her 2021 memoirs


Meeting Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, who had been working as a medical practitioner in Sweden before he joined actively in the nationalist struggle, almost moved me to tears with his story of a bomb that had exploded in his Maputo office building. He told me of a fellow ‘freedom fighter’ who had been carried out of the office on a stretcher, his hands blown off, but the man was still raising a bloody stump and continuing to shout “Pamberi ne ZANU!” (Forward with ZANU). Sekeramayi was to develop a talent for instilling fear into the people in and around Marondera. This was his home ground East of Harare where he held sway as the ZANU (PF) ‘chef’. Except that they remained subject to Mugabe and the party, and participated in election campaigns, these men might be thought to have become like warlords; territorial power men. They could hardly fail to win parliamentary seats with their predilection for acts of violence with impunity towards all who dared to oppose the party.


1 Garfield Todd, former Rhodesian Prime Minister and progressive politician