was Heroes’ Acre in
“I’ve told my sons that if they ever try and take my body to that place they are to open fire! I’ve given them guns. They must open fire and stop me being buried next to those crooks and sycophants who destroyed
One of the regrets he took to his deathbed was the failure to “liberate” his closest friend and longstanding political colleague George Nyandoro from what he always called “that place.”
With great bitterness in his voice, he told me: “George died in July 1994, unexpectedly. His dying wish was to be buried next to his family but no! Mugabe, who so hated George in life, wanted to nationalise him in death. The day they buried him and sang their songs of praise I got so drunk. ‘George, I said, my brother – one day I will take you away from that place. How I will do it, I do not know. But one day …'”
Chikerema was born at Kutama Mission on April 2, 1925, the son of Joseph Dzeneza Dambaza and his wife Antonia Sekai Dambaza. In all, there were 12 children but five died. Charles, the Marxist former editor of The Herald, was the family’s youngest.
All were brought up a strict Roman Catholics and when he was 13 years old Chikerema left Chishawasha Mission Station and went to Kutama Mission where his contemporary and nephew Robert Gabriel Mugabe was being educated by the Jesuits.
Said Chikerema in 1996 -“They taught me the meaning of the words Love and Truth. I abandoned Catholicism when I saw how so called Christians treated blacks when I lived in
In his late teens he left
There he was befriended by a large Jewish family who took him in, helped pay for his education and introduced him to Zionism and Marxism.
In his early twenties Chikerema read bits of Das Kapital, joined the Communist Party and got to know men like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
Upon his return to white-ruled
It was those two who invited Joshua Nkomo to head up the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC), which put life and spirit into the black fight for parliamentary representation in a country in the midst of Federation involving the ‘partnership’ between three African countries, the two Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
Chikerema and Nyandoro were the darlings of the black masses in the then Harare Township of Rhodesia long before Robert Mugabe came on to the political scene. In 1959, both were arrested in an Emergency that paralysed the Federation and moved it centre stage for the first time.
Upon their release from prison in 1964, Nkomo sent Chikerema and Nyandoro to
Chikerema was the acting president of ZAPU and in that capacity addressed crowds of hundreds of thousands in Peking and went to
Weary of watching internal feuds eat up the energies of ZAPU and the 1963 created ZANU, Chikerema, Nyandoro and Nathan Shamuyarira formed the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) in 1971.
In December 1974 Chikerema (FROLIZI), Bishop Abel Muzorewa (UANC), Ndabaningi Sithole (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo (ZAPU) signed a Unity Accord organized by President Kenneth Kaunda of
That morning at State House, Chikerema tried to draw a pistol from his holster and shoot dead the man he always said murdered Chitepo – Josiah Tongogara, head of the Mugabe wing of ZANU. “You will never get way with this,” he yelled as policemen surrounded the clearly out of control Chikerema.
Robert Mugabe’s ruling party never ever forgave him.
After the collapse of the massively publicized but basically ludicrous détente exercise between Kenneth Kaunda and John Vorster of
At first he supported Bishop Muzorewa and became co-Minister of Transport in the short-lived Rhodesia-Zimbabwe Government (March –November 1979)
But later he broke away from the bishop’s party and formed the Zimbabwe Democratic Party (ZDP) supported by a small group of MPs who included some of the great names of the liberation struggle – Professor Stanlake Samkange, Dr Enock Dumbutshena and Steven Parirenyatwa, who was tragically killed in a car accident shortly before
In 1980, Chikerema contested the country’s first one person-one vote elections but got nowhere. For 13 years he walked the political wilderness always hoping that one day the call would come and he would, somehow, miraculously take over and shape the new
The call never came but debt collectors did and Chikerema went to work for his old financial backer Tiny Rowland of Lonrho, returning only briefly to the political arena in 1995 when he joined the Forum party led by Enock Dumbutshena.
James Chikerema often attacked Mugabe in print. But when the septuagenarian re-married in 1996, Chikerema sent him a bull as a wedding present and in 1999 surprisingly served on the Constitutional Commission that was so massively rejected by the people of