Henry Kachidza was born on 25 June 1909 in the Sipolilo Reserve. He was one of three brothers, their
father being an ordinary peasant. Although neither of his parents had been converted his mother’s cousins were practising Christians.
After an early childhood spent herding his father’s cattle the young Henry was sent to a Methodist School in Salisbury (Harare) in “about 1919”. After passing Standard V he worked for a time from 1931 as an assistant teacher at Tegwani while studying teacher training. After completing the course he went to Waddilove Institution in 1934 to undertake a one-year course in religion. This comprised theology, ethics, psychology and Bible study.
After a short period as a teacher in Salisbury (Harare), during which time he gained his South African Senior Certificate1 he went to work in Seki Reserve as a
candidate for the ministry2 In June 1936 he was accepted for training and for the next three years he studied at Waddilove where he came greatly under the influence of W. M. Tregidjo.
On being admitted to the ministry in 1940 he was posted to the Zvimba Reserve. At the end of 1941 he was transferred to Wankie – a posting which caused some difficulty because his wife (a teacher whom he had married in 1938) was not well and there was some doubt whether she would be able to stand the excessive heat. After one year at Wankie Kachidza was transferred to Shabani where it was hoped that the climate would be more congenial. His wife suffered much here, however, and at the end of 1943 he was once again transferred, this time to Selukwe (Shurugwi).
In 1944 Kachidza was made a superintendent of Methodist Schools in an area which included Gwelo (Gweru) and Umvuma. He remained in this post until the end of 1953 when he was moved to Wedza to succeed the Rev. Rushworth as minister in charge of the area. From 1955 to 1957 he served at Epworth Mission near Salisbury (Harare). After that he was moved into the main office in Salisbury (Harare) as Superintendent of Methodists for Greater Salisbury (Harare).
He spent most of 1962 in England. At the close of that year three possible posts became available to him: with the Christian Council in Salisbury (Harare), a three-year appointment in England, or Secretary of the Bible Society in Salisbury (Harare). He chose the last and took up his work in January 1963. Two years later he was invited to become Executive Secretary of the society, a post which he has retained up to the present day.
The Rev. Kachidza first took an interest in politics in 1944, becoming a member of the executive of the old ANC Congress under the presidency of the Rev. T. D. Samkange. With the rise of militant nationalism in the middle 1950s3 Henry found himself forced by his conscience to make a choice between active involvement in politics and the practice of his ministry. He decided that the former choice would lose him his church following and for the next 15 years he eschewed politics in all but the most general, non-party terms4
At the end of 1971 he was approached by a large number of people to join the new ANC which was being formed to contest the Smith/Home constitutional proposals. After a week of meditation he agreed to serve, having become convinced that God wanted him to play a part. At this time he believed that the ANC would disband after the immediate issue had been resolved, and in May 19725 he offered his resignation. He was, however, persuaded to remain and from that time onwards “my nose was in deep”. He did, however, insist that the idea of violence should be outlawed from the organisation, a stand which he has maintained ever since.
As Treasurer-General of the ANC6 Kachidza attended the Victoria Falls talks in August 1975, being one of the consultants to the main negotiating team. Following the split in the nationalist ranks in September he remained loyal to Bishop Muzorewa.
On 19 November he accompanied Dr Elliot Gabellah on his mission to Dar-es-Salaam and various overseas countries.
He was arrested in his office in Salisbury (Harare) on the afternoon of 17 July 1976 and served with a detention order. He was released on 20 October and included in the delegation to the Geneva Conference from the ANC (Muzorewa).
His wife’s father, Daniel Kariwo, was one of the earliest Methodist evangelists in Rhodesia and it was largely through her influence that Kachidza was extricated “from the jungle”. They have four children: Anna (born 1939), who went to London in 1959 to train as a nurse and who still lives there with her husband, Dr Don Naik: Martha and Mary (twins); and an only son, who is now 22 and who is completing his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. Henry stopped his family at four because, as he says, “I could not afford to educate any more.”
1 The equivalent of Matriculation Exemption.
2 A period of rural work was an essential prerequisite to acceptance for training for the ministry.
3 Particularly the creation of the ANYL in 1955 by Chikerema, Nyandoro and others.
4 With the exception of a short period ln 1959 when he served as a delegate from Harare North to the inaugural congress of the CAP.
5 When the Pearce Commission reported an unfavourable reaction from Africans to the constitutional proposals.
6 From January 1972.