Zimbabwe: Josiah Chinamano - Nationalist, Educationist Par Excellence

4 August 2021

FORMER Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) vice president and nationalist, Cde Josiah Mushore Chinamano, is one of the most eminent personalities buried at the National Heroes Acre.

Cde Chinamano was husband to national heroine Cde Ruth Chinamano. The Chinamanos are one of the few power couples whose remains were interred at the national shrine.

He died on October 1, 1984 at the age of 61 after a long illness and was buried at the national shrine on October 6, 1984.

Cde Chinamano was born near Epworth on October 29, 1922 in a family of eight children.

His father was the headman of Chinamano village, who allowed Reverend John White to establish a Methodist Church in his village.

He attended Epworth Mission and later went to Waddilove School where he did his Standard 6.

While at Waddilove, he was persuaded by Rev Fred Rea to take a two-year teacher training course.

After leaving school in the 1940s, Cde Chinamano taught for two years at a Methodist Primary School in Salisbury (Harare) and then proceeded to teach at the Police Training Depot from 1943 to 1944, before returning to Waddilove for three years (1945-48) as a supervisor of student teachers.

Cde Chinamano passed his examinations as a long distance learner in 1949, and like most nationalists of his time, he went to study at Fort Hare University College in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in history and African administration in 1950.

This was the time (1949) that he met his future wife Ruth Lottie Nomonde, a South African national and teacher by profession, while she was holidaying in Port Elizabeth.

The couple got married in King William's Town on September 30, 1950 and shortly after, they moved to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) where the firebrand joined her husband as a teacher at Waddilove Institute.

They had five children.

When he returned home, Cde Chinamano was appointed headmaster at Marshall Hartley Boarding School where he stayed for three years.

In 1954, he moved to Marandellas (Marondera) where he was appointed supervisor of 26 Methodist schools throughout Mashonaland.

This was the time he also started his revolutionary activities.

In July 1955, Cde Chinamano travelled to England to take up an appointment as a guest lecturer at Selly Oak College in Birmingham where he taught background courses on African conditions to nurses, teachers and doctors intending to travel to Africa to work.

During his one-year stay in the United Kingdom, he studied for a Diploma in Education at Birmingham University.

Upon his return, he remained in Marondera until the end of 1957 when he returned to Waddilove as a teacher.

In 1959, Cde Chinamano was appointed instructor at the Government Teachers Training College in Umtali (Mutare) and stayed there for a year.

At the time of his appointment, he was the General Secretary of the African Teachers' Association, but resigned in July 1959 following a disagreement with the association's president Mr G. D. Mhlanga over a memorandum on the subject of teachers' salaries, which was being prepared for presentation to Members of Parliament.

Cde Chinamano was subsequently elected vice-president of the association. In September 1960 he was appointed programme officer in the political section of the United States Consulate-General in Harare.

He resigned from the post in February 1961.

Although he found the work interesting, the contrast between the detached atmosphere of the consulate and the excitement in the world outside was too marked for him since he liked to be involved.

He joined his wife in setting up a small business in Highfields where they were living then.

His wish to be involved was soon realised after he was invited to attend a UNESCO conference in Boston, Massachusetts (USA), followed by the award of a State Department Leadership Grant and a lecture tour of the US and Canada.

With the formation of ZAPU in December 1961, Cde Chinamano decided to play an active role in politics and was soon appointed an executive committee member of the new party.

In 1962, Cde Chinamano testified before the United Nations Committee on Colonialism in New York.

During the same year, he became one of the founders and the first headmaster of the Highfield Community School -- a product of public-spirited householders in the township, in an effort to fill the gap caused by the shortage of placements in various Government schools.

Cde Chinamano identified with successive nationalist organisations in the 1960s and was arrested in 1964 together with other political leaders including his wife, Ruth and they were sent to Gonakudzingwa.

He was rarely out of detention for the next 10 years. After his release from detention, Cde Chinamano went back into politics and became the first treasurer of the African National Council (Zimbabwe) that was led by the late Dr Joshua Nkomo in 1971 and subsequently its vice president in 1974.

In early 1981, Cde Chinamano was nominated by his party ZAPU to fill a vacant seat in Parliament, following his appointment as Minister of Transport.

He subsequently lost the post the following year.

In his long teaching and political careers, Cde Chinamano was dedicated to the future of Zimbabwe and he was respected by colleagues for his role in the freedom struggle.

The Government renamed two roads in Harare and Bulawayo as part of efforts to honour and immortalise his legacy as a nationalist, educationist and freedom fighter.

A Guide to the Heroes Acre: Some Basic Facts about Zimbabwe's Heroes and the Heroes Acre. - Harare: Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, 1986.

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