1974 – Member of General Staff, ZANLA Army. Medical Assistant
1976 – Commander Chimoio Camp – Mozambique
1977 – Central Committee, ZANU. Secretary for Women’s Affairs.
1980 – M.P. for Mashonaland Cnetral, ZANU (PF).
1980 – Minister of Youth, Sport and Recreation, Zimbabwe.
Teurai Ropa is a ‘Chimurenga’ or war name given to a girl who went to join the armed struggle with the ZANLA army and became a leader. The name means ‘spill blood’ but Teurai has come home to lead her people as a Cabinet Minister, responsible for Youth, Sport and Recreation now that the war is over.
She was born 25 years ago at Mount Darwin in the north east of the country and, as Joyce Mugari, was educated to Form 2 at Howard Institute, a Salvation Army school nearer to Salisbury (Harare).
After passing her examinations in 1973, young Joyce decided to leave for Zambia to join the Freedom Fighters. At that time Mozambique was not free and the ware was being directed from Zambia.
Stopping over to join other Freedom Fighters she met on the journey through the north-east of the country Joyce Mugari changed her life from the sheltered one of a modest Shona girl to the dangerous and difficult life of a soldier. She fought for three months in the bush war and during that time she changed her name.
The Portuguese empire in Mozambique fell early in 1974 and changed the conditions of the war in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). Teurai Ropa set off on her long march to Zambia, but fell ill on the way with malaria and was obliged to rest until her recovery at Chifombo in Northern Mozambique. She arrive in Zambia in April 1974 and began her military career in light infantry. Six women in the ZANLA army who had shown their abilities as fighters were elected in November as members of the Central Staff. She worked also as a political commissar in the province. She also became a political instructor.
During the crisis that arose in ZANU after the death of Chitepo in Lusaka, most of the DARE (leadership) were arrested. Teurai fled to Mozambique where the party was being restructured and revitalized. She arrived at Zhunla camp, one of the first refugee camps in the country. She continued as a member of the General Staff and was second in command at the camp. She was selected as a leader of a small group of fighters to travel through the Tete Province to Villa Pery where Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere arrived from Zimbabwe to continue to lead in the armed struggle.
She was transferred to Nyadzonya camp and worked there as a political commissar until 1976 when she moved on to Toronga Camp and was Political Director for the camp. When Chimoio camp was created, Teurai Ropa was appointed camp commander. This was the largest camp in the country. Rex Nhongo arrived and occupied the most senior position as military commander. Teurai Ropa met him and they were married in September 1976.
In 1977 at the Central Committee elections she was appointed to the position of Secretary for Women’s Affairs. She remained in this role until her return to Zimbabwe in 1980. She was the first woman to be elected to the National Executive of the Central Committee and she worked alone as Secretary for Women’s Affairs until May 1979 when Mrs. Sally Mugabe was appointed her deputy and Mrs. Julia Zvobgo assisted as Administrative Secretary.
Mrs. Nhongo has traveled in many countries; China, Albania, Romania, Yugoslavia and others in search of support for her Party and its liberation struggle.
She has two young children, Priscilla Kumbirai Rungano (2) and Mildred Chio (6 months). Rungano was born in 1978 two days after the attack of July 30 to August 1 on Chimoio camp. Mrs. Nhongo remained at her post as commander, giving directions as the battle was fought.
The youthfulness, strength and purposefulness of Teurai Ropa Nhongo has won her the appointment as Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture after she won her seat for the Mashonaland Central constituency in the February 1980 Elections.